Grist for the Mill: The Eminent Domain Edition

When it comes to thievery, Hoboken is developing a reputation. Back in the day, the word was to avoid the president named streets, seen as opportune locations for a mugging.

These days, it’s the snatch and grab antics of the local government, up to its ears brimming with, “That’s a nice property you have. Shame if someone took it.”

Snatch and grab is making the City of Hoboken famous, or infamous, depending on how you view the local government’s thirst for seizing property through eminent domain.

One of the active cases involving Academy Bus in southwest Hoboken found its way as these cases inevitably do to Hudson Superior Court.

The Assignment Judge Peter Bariso is disturbed by the antics of the City of Hoboken in this case. The  judge is also cognizant of the earlier eminent domain case for the Southwest Plaza (park).

To say the judge is not fond of how the City of Hoboken is going about eminent domain would be an understatement.

In a 27 page transcript of the hearing, Judge Bariso is nothing short of scathing about the misleading appraisal brought by the City of Hoboken and less than enamored with its fulfilling a requirement under the eminent domain statute for good faith negotiations with Academy Bus.

In the balance, if not the eventual outcome of eminent domain, the landscape of Hoboken’s southwest and many, many millions of dollars.

Previously, Academy Bus saw leaked its offered plan to build a park with a large redevelopment including hundreds of residential apartments and a public school facility at no cost to taxpayers.

The owners were miffed when their negotiating efforts were leaked and misapplied. Their discussions with the mayor’s office were miscast even as they conducted them in good faith seeing invites to Hoboken Board of Education trustees as part of a conversation in meetings to build a public school.

Oddly, accusations from Ravibot Central took the opportunity of the public leak to falsely accuse City Council President Jen Giattino and Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher of meeting with Academy Bus and negotiating for the City of Hoboken without consent of the mayor’s office. Add that ruse to the pile of legal brouhaha.

The public backfire is rumored to have occurred when former mayor Dawn Zimmer and her husband Stan Grossbard were incensed at the prospect of a development in eye shot of their home which has been up for sale for some time.

Cue the chorus, “What about the children?” The BoE badly needs space for its growing lower grades.

Mayor Ravi Bhalla got an earful of yelling from his predecessor and backed off from considering the Academy Bus redevelopment plan featuring a park and a new school built as community givebacks.

One of the problems Judge Bariso points to is what he clearly sees as an untrustworthy effort by the City of Hoboken in its appraisal process he called “disturbing.”

He will conclude at the end of the hearing that the parties should negotiate a fair outcome but if they don’t, he’s seen enough and will write a legal opinion.

His admonition to the City of Hoboken foreshadows further complications. Of the City of Hoboken’s actions to date with Academy Bus, Judge Bariso concludes, “It doesn’t pass the smell test.”

Take a gander yourself but fair warning, it ain’t pretty. In the end, it may cost Hoboken plenty.

More to come.

Grist for the Mill is MSV’s rumor column but its success makes it the most popular column in all the Mile Square City. Have a tasty carrot for Horsey? Send it to and be assured your confidentiality is protected with MSV’s State of NJ Shield Law protections upheld repeatedly in Hudson County Superior Court.

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