Lloyd Goldman, the owner of the former artists' residences at 110 and 111 First St., has a lawsuit pending against the city for $100 million for stopping his intended demolition of the one million square foot 111 First St. building in order to build new housing on the site.
At the same time, Goldman has to contend with over $70 million in fines levied by the city's Fire Department for various building code violations.
City Council President Mariano Vega said on Friday that the City Council at their next meeting this coming Wednesday may approve a resolution for the two parties to drop any litigation between them and come to a settlement.What the settlement would entail
Vega said the settlement would call for amendments to the city's Powerhouse Arts District (in which both properties are situated) that would allow for three 40-plus story towers to be built, with two on the 110 First St. property and one on the 111 First St. and other measures.
The city's top lawyer, Bill Matsikoudis, and the attorney for 111 First St. owner Dan Horgan, both declined comment last week because there is ongoing mediation regarding the legal disputes between the two parties.
Mayor Jerramiah Healy said he couldn't comment on a possible settlement because of the ongoing mediation.
However, some residents and politicians in recent months have had private discussions with Matsikoudis about a possible settlement. Some of them are speaking up against it.
Also, Ward E City Councilman Steven Fulop on Thursday addressed questions and concerns on the future of 110 and 111 First St. at a meeting of the recently formed Powerhouse Arts District Neighborhood Association (PADNA). Vega: Fines would be forgiven
Vega has been privy to the negotiations, which have taken place since late last year, according to various sources.
Vega said the settlement would call for amendments to the Powerhouse Arts District to allow Goldman to build the towers, since current zoning prohibits such height.
"This has to come to an end sometime soon. There's too money and too much time being spent on this issue," said Vega. "But I think there's a settlement that will be beneficial to all sides."
Vega said the settlement would call for fines to be forgiven, for a 30 percent discount on any luxury apartments in the towers if they were built to accommodate artists, and at least a million dollars to be paid to the city's Affordable Housing Trust Fund, as well as affordable housing units to be built within the towers.
He also said that at Mayor Healy's request, a "world-class architect" would be retained by Goldman to design the towers.
When asked about his reaction to the settlement idea, Vega said that this is what is best for the city.
"At the end of the day, I know there will be displeasure especially from the residents who live in the Powerhouse Arts District," he said, "but I have to look out for all the residents not just a narrow band of people." A Powerhouse of frustration and anger
Charles Kessler has lived in Downtown Jersey City with his wife since 1982. Kessler has been involved in the Jersey City arts scene for over 20 years and has worked with city planning to create what is now the Powerhouse Arts District (see sidebar).
He says he would not like to see the end of an area that could be a showcase for the city.
"The city should be defending their zoning," said Kessler. "The thing that bothers me is that the Powerhouse Arts District will be thrown out the window, and it is thriving now."
Kessler cited new residents moving into the recently opened buildings in the district, such as 140 Bay St. and 150 Bay St., as well as two art galleries. Also, there are future projects approved by the Planning Board for the area.
Another major concern is that allowing Goldman to build the towers would send a signal to other developers who are planning to build in the district that they should also be allowed to build highrises instead of complying with the zoning.
Kessler said much of what he has learned about the pending settlement has been from Matsikoudis, with Kessler coming away frustrated whenever he tried to impress upon Matsikoudis the need to save the district.
"There were two one-hour conversations and several informal conversations, and it seemed to me when we were talking, that he was practicing his arguments for court," said Kessler. "I would tell him 'Bill, you are not listening.' " But Kessler conceded that Matsikoudis may have his hands tied by Mayor Healy and by the lawyers for Goldman. He complimented him for beating Goldman in court last year when Goldman was pushing to get 111 First St. demolished. Powerhouse neighborhood organization
They may have only moved into the Powerhouse Arts District in the last year, but the residents there are making themselves known to the larger community.
They have formed the Powerhouse Arts District Neighborhood Association (PADNA), with Rich Tomko as their president.There are 90 active members of the PADNA.
There has been $75-$100 million of private capital invested in the district in the last three years.
Tomko, who lives with his wife in the Morgan Lighthouse building at 143 Morgan St., led a PADNA meeting that took place on Thursday at the Nobis Art Gallery on First Street.
At the meeting, about 30 members of the PADNA were in attendance to question Ward E City Councilman Steven Fulop about the proposed settlement with Goldman. Fulop said that the feedback he was getting from them would be relayed to Matsikoudis and Vega in a morning meeting on Friday.
Carrie Craft-Chu and her husband Robert moved into 140 Bay St. in November. Craft-Chu, when hearing about the settlement, uttered the prevailing sentiment, "That's sucks."
She suggested that there should be litigation against the city by the residents.
The couple later said they may consider moving out, since they were attracted to the Powerhouse Arts District by the lack of highrise buildings, the arts element, and the cobblestone streets. Legal fund
Jill Edelman, an architect who also lives in 140 Bay St., said after the meeting that a legal fund has been forming for possible future litigation.
Many residents came to a consensus that they will appear at the council meeting this coming Wednesday to speak out against the settlement. Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at email@example.com Sidebar Powerhouse Arts District in jeopardy
The Powerhouse Arts District is 10 blocks of historic warehouses that have been designated as an arts and entertainment district, plus two more adjoining blocks. The City Council approved the district in October 2004.
The district is designated to be a 24-hour, pedestrian-friendly environment with loft-style condos and rental units, restaurants, clubs, galleries, theaters and of course work/live spaces for artists.
The district is bound approximately by Marin, Washington, Second and Morgan streets.
The current redevelopment plan calls for height limits of approximately 12 to 14 stories. Ten percent of all new residential units in the district are required to be affordable for low and moderate-income artists. About 12 percent of all ground floor space has to be set aside for art galleries.