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Old 02-07-2012, 02:03 PM
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Demetrakis's latest

The Center at Fort Lee
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Old 02-08-2012, 12:39 PM
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Re: Demetrakis's latest

Creative bunch running the town in Fort Lee. They told the developers what they wanted built on the 2 large tracts of land. In addition, the developers are building 2 parks, a museum and a movie theatre deeded to the borough at no charge.

Creative idea?: The developers most likely will be excavating thousands of tons of rock and fill to build the projects. The disposal costs would be quite expensive. Let the developers dump all the CLEAN rock and fill in Edgewater for free.

There's a catch: The developers have to build the remaining missing parts of the Edgewater Hudson River Walkway at no charge to Edgewater.
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Old 02-09-2012, 11:34 AM
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Re: Demetrakis's latest

Close your eyes for a minute, and imagine an Edgewater where the mayor and council were actually capable of negotiating something FROM developers at NO CHARGE.

EDGEWATER LOOKOUT AND GARDENS

www.ganbahai.org.il/en/haifa


*****November 8, 2012 - Election Day*****
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Old 02-09-2012, 02:44 PM
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Re: Demetrakis's latest

Some of us have become leery of "win-win" deals.

That was an interesting link. I've been to the Baha'i temple in Wilmette, IL and it is impressive both inside and out.
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Old 02-09-2012, 09:26 PM
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Re: Demetrakis's latest

Wasn`t it Mayor Merse who once said, " beware of greeks bearing gifts " I think we all know nothing comes free in this world, nobodys buying the bs of doing this to leave a legacy.
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Old 02-16-2012, 03:32 PM
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Re: Demetrakis's latest

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Originally Posted by Watcher View Post
Wasn`t it Mayor Merse who once said, " beware of greeks bearing gifts " I think we all know nothing comes free in this world, nobodys buying the bs of doing this to leave a legacy.
Bloomfield opinion: Redevelopment schemes never address blight
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2012 LAST UPDATED: THURSDAY FEBRUARY 16, 2012, 1:59 AM
BY SUE ANN PENNA
GUEST COLUMNIST
BLOOMFIELD LIFE
PAGES: 1 2 > DISPLAY ON ONE PAGE | PRINT | E-MAIL
Redevelopment. It’s a word that brings promises of jobs, economic growth and new housing to areas that have been labeled as "blighted."

Who wouldn’t want to be on board with that promise? But are those promises fulfilled through redevelopment, or is it just another boondoggle of taxpayer dollars?

Redevelopment starts as a way to revitalize a town, bring in businesses, jobs and grow the local economy. Ten years into Bloomfield’s promise of businesses, jobs and economic growth, all there is to show for it are leveled buildings and $20 million in debt through taxpayer-backed bonds.

How is it that this promise of eliminating blight has yet to come to fruition? Not only that, but why is local government using taxpayer dollars for redevelopment? This goes squarely against the principles of the free market and is based on the hopes of "build it, and they will come." Once you learn the process, you can decide for yourself if redevelopment lives up to its promise.

In Bloomfield , the Parking Authority has been used as the instrument for redevelopment. Since it operates under the state, it is out of reach of oversight from the taxpayers. Yet, it is Bloomfield taxpayers who are obligated to pay the debt incurred if the project fails or if the revenues generated from project fall short to pay the obligation.

In short, that means that an authority can be created, board members can be appointed, with salaries and benefits, by the township council, and the ability to incur bonded debt is given without voter approval.

The Parking Authority has at its hands major tools for redevelopment. They have the right to use all tax increases in the designated blighted area, which takes away revenue from the operating budget; they can sell bonds secured against future tax increases; they have the ability to give public money directly to developers and other private business in the form of tax rebates, free land or public improvement; and they have the right to condemn private property, not just for public use, through eminent domain.

Consultants are then hired with the sole purpose of labeling an area as "blighted." Next, law firms are brought in to defend decisions and fight challenges from private property owners on the designation of "blight" and the use of eminent domain. Bond brokers are then brought into the mix to sell bonds that are taxpayer-backed.

The final piece of the redevelopment puzzle is the developer. Under the guise of redevelopment, the Parking Authority can subsidize corporate development. Major developers, and sports teams, are usually the ones to get the money, leaving out the small business owner.

For example, in Harrison, Red Bull Arena was built with the promise of sparking the economy. The town borrowed $39.4 million to buy land for the stadium and to redevelop the surrounding area.

What’s the result? Harrison ’s ability to pay this debt has come into question. That has resulted in the cutting of town services and a reduction of municipal employees by 80 percent, and its rating with Moody’s has been downgraded. Taxpayers are on the hook and saw their municipal taxes go up 7 percent last year.

In the past 10 years, Bloomfield residents have experienced a 110 percent increase in municipal taxes. Of Bloomfield ’s total tax revenue, $7 million comes right off the top pay for interest on debt.

The problem in the whole scheme of redevelopment is that it never addresses or decreases blight, which is its only reason for being. Rather, redevelopment takes an ever-growing share of property taxes, reduces town services and incurs millions of dollars in debt.

In the meantime, developers gain financially and small business owners hurt. It’s a shell game with our tax dollars with nothing to show for it. It’s a tangled web of consultants, attorneys, bond issuers, developers and political campaign contributions.

How does this scheme continue? Lack of public awareness.

What can be done? One answer is to stop incurring new debt, sell assets and pay off existing principle as soon as possible.

The other answer is that Bloomfield may have to consider filing bankruptcy.

The writer is a Bloomfield resident and executive director of Citizens for Limited Government.
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Old 02-17-2012, 12:16 AM
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Re: Demetrakis's latest

Fort Lee moving a step closer to gridlock
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
By MIKE KELLY
RECORD COLUMNIST

Well, thank goodness for the American Revolution.

After twin skyscrapers are built on the last stretch of vacant land in Fort Lee, at least residents will have a patch of forest at an old Revolutionary-era fort overlooking the Hudson River to experience birds and trees and the smells of spring.

Fort Lee is slowly completing a total pave-over — which is the municipal equivalent of a makeover. Borough officials are now studying a $500 million project to essentially concretize a 16-acre tract adjacent to the tollbooths on the upper level approach to the George Washington Bridge.

Think of the land as chum — the bait that creates a feeding frenzy among sharks.

The developers are hardly sharks. But like sharks in a frenzy, they seem remarkably blind.

Indeed, something seems to be fundamentally wrong with this plan. And to understand that problem, all you have to do is take a ride to the site on Main Street.

Fort Lee may consider itself a cosmopolitan town, but its Main Street, essentially a two-lane thoroughfare, is choked with traffic during business hours. Other roads, including Lemoine Avenue, are wider. But far too many nearby roads — including a two-lane portion of Palisade Avenue — were designed when Fort Lee was a quiet town of single-family homes and Model Ts.

The new project will include two towers, each with 47 stories and 900 apartments. But when asked whether this kind of project might clog nearby roads, an attorney for the developer estimated that only 1,200 people would live in the 900 apartments and that the impact on local traffic would be minimal.

Really?

On an ordinary day, the infusion of 20 extra cars on Main Street is enough to cause a traffic jam. Imagine rush hour when the residents from two 47-story towers hit the road.

And exactly how many people will live in these apartments anyway? The 1,200 figure was tossed around amid questions about the buildings’ traffic impact. But when another important issue — sewer capacity — was raised, the developers estimated that more than 1,500 people would live in the towers.

Did I mention that the parking garage for these towers will be aboveground and will rise four stories? And did I mention that the plans also call for a pricey restaurant, a museum and a three-screen movie theater?

No right-minded urban planner would consider such a large project without completely changing the roads. But that kind of big-picture thinking appears to be absent in Fort Lee.

The man in the middle of this plan is James Demetrakis. For the past three decades he has earned a reputation as the go-to lawyer for developers along the Hudson River and atop the Palisades.

Indeed, if you want to understand the problems in store for Fort Lee, just look over the cliffs to Edgewater, which Demetrakis played a major role in modernizing, and the traffic along its main thoroughfare, River Road.

From the 1970s, when he first emerged as a key development voice, Demetrakis’ style was to agree that River Road needed to be upgraded, but not at the cost of delaying projects.

Demetrakis was not a big-picture guy. So River Road was altered piecemeal — a widening here, a new traffic light there, small detours now and then depending on the new development.

But no one addressed the overall concept.

Fort Lee faces the same problem now. Will it look at the big picture? Or will it play small?

Before they vote, Fort Lee’s officials need to take a rush-hour ride down Main Street.

Email: kellym@northjersey.com Blog: northjersey.com/kelly
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  #8  
Old 02-17-2012, 12:19 AM
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Re: Demetrakis's latest

Road Warrior: Iconic gateway in Fort Lee or unnecessary monster?
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Last updated: Wednesday February 15, 2012, 10:23 AM
By JOHN CICHOWSKI
ROAD WARRIOR COLUMNIST

Arms crossed on chests, many in the Fort Lee crowd were unimpressed by renderings of two gleaming towers that seemed to pierce the sky — even the park, theater and museum within the project that the developer was donating to the borough "in perpetuity."

"We don't need a museum," one old-timer griped at Monday night's Planning Board session. "We need another firehouse."

"Why does Fort Lee need two 47-story buildings?" asked a white-haired woman who has lived in the borough since the 1960s "when it was still nice."

With a $500 million deal on the line, the developers' veteran attorney brushed away these 20th-century objections. James Demetrakis insisted that the 900 luxury apartments and a ground-floor restaurant would bring $10 million in 21st century tax ratables, undo 40 years of downtown blight and provide an "iconic gateway" to the place where Routes 46, 4, 9W, 1&9, 80, 95 and the Palisades Interstate Parkway all converge.

But many in the Community Center audience had spent lifetimes coping with the 300,000 cars that these roads carry each day to and from the George Washington Bridge.

For them, one "iconic gateway" per lifetime was enough. (One woman called the project an "iconic monster.") They feared parking for the biggest redevelopment project in Fort Lee history was inadequate, sewer capacity would be compromised, residential garages should be pushed below ground, glare from the glass buildings would blind drivers, and a pool in the park would promote unseemly swimming and unwanted mosquitoes.

Here are questions and answers gleaned from the session:

Q. Will the 35 parking spaces designated for the three-screen theater be enough?

No. The borough must find additional spaces for the 300-seat theater. "I wouldn't be supportive if the theater was short of parking," said Mayor Mark Sokolich.

Q. Where are the 100 spaces on the project site that were leased to the borough Parking Authority?

They're gone. The developer, Fort Lee Redevelopment Associates, took them back.

Q. Why can't the four-level garage be built underground?

The hard rock of the Bergen Palisades is great for anchoring bridges, but not for digging for underground garages. If you're a developer, "you might as well shoot yourself in the head," Demetrakis joked.

Q. What will the borough pay to improve drainage and sewer capacity?

Maybe nothing. The FLRA has covered half the $3 million in improvements in the project's Phase 1. Another $1.5 million will likely come for Phase 2, either in developer contributions or grants. Drainage improvements should allow Fort Lee to meet historic two-year, five-year and 100-year flood standards, said Borough Engineer Kevin Boswell.

Q. Won't the sun bounce enough glare off the glass buildings to annoy neighbors and blind drivers?

FLRA's architect displayed photos of similar buildings in Manhattan and Boston, where glass façades were designed to reduce glare as much as 70 percent. Demetrakis pledged to conduct further research, including the use of interior shades.

Q. Is there a plan for protecting the reflective municipal pool from swimmers and mosquitoes?

Sokolich pledged surveillance. FLRA's engineer, Joseph Fleming, said water circulation would prevent infestations.

Q. Will the project worsen downtown traffic?

Demetrakis said the project's 1,200 expected residents would make minimal impact, and future mass-transit demand would cover additional needs — issues to be addressed at a Feb. 27 hearing.

E-mail: cichowski@northjersey.com
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Old 02-29-2012, 02:29 PM
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Re: Demetrakis's latest

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike View Post
Some of us have become leery of "win-win" deals.

That was an interesting link. I've been to the Baha'i temple in Wilmette, IL and it is impressive both inside and out.
Hey Mike,

I recently got an opportunity to skim over the developer’s agreement for the Center at Fort Lee project and cronyism politics is alive and well in Fort Lee.

The developer is getting a “Sweetheart Deal”. So, the Fort Lee taxpayer’s will “PAY” whiles the politicians’ “CRONIES PLAY”.

If you can get your hands on a copy, it would be a great service to taxpayers if you post a copy of the developer’s agreement on this site. It is a perfect example of “in your face cronyism”.

"Beware of greeks bearing gifts - "the taxpayer’s of Fort Lee should be outradged!
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Old 03-25-2012, 04:02 PM
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Re: Demetrakis's latest

OK, I did an OPRA request and received an instantaneous response, on the weekend, from the borough clerk, Neil Grant.

Attached are both the developers agreement and redevelopment plan. They are searchable. I know that some of you have expertise in municipal land use and hope you will comment if anything stands out.
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Old 03-26-2012, 02:10 PM
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Re: Demetrakis's latest

The clerk also sent me the attached, with the comment
Quote:
Attached is an amended redevelopment plan; even though; it incorporates both sides of the project the amendments all related to the west side (Tucker) and not (FLRA), but this would be considered the latest redevelopment plan
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Old 03-28-2012, 01:13 PM
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Re: Demetrakis's latest

Fort Lee Planning Board OKs two 47-story towers
Tuesday March 27, 2012, 12:15 AM
BY LINH TAT
STAFF WRITER
The Record

The Fort Lee Planning Board voted unanimously Monday to give final approval to the first phase of a massive $1 billion downtown redevelopment project, clearing the way for the construction of the tallest buildings in Bergen County.

The redevelopment area — 16 acres south of the George Washington Bridge — is bounded by Bruce Reynolds Boulevard, Central Road, Main Street and Lemoine Avenue. Fort Lee Redevelopment Associates LLC will build the eastern half, known as Phase 1, which the Planning Board gave final approval Monday. The western half would be developed later by Illinois-based Tucker Development Corp.

Phase 1 will feature two 47-story luxury residential towers with a total of 902 units, as well as a restaurant, snack kiosk, museum, three-screen movie theater and a public park.

The vote came despite the continued objections of residents who take issue with the size of the towers, which are projected to rise 498 feet.

“Has anybody considered that we are a suburb and not a suburb of Manhattan?” asked resident Ruth Adler. “The fact that they’re going to be the tallest buildings in Bergen County is not a plus. … Maybe Manhattan needs those buildings. I don’t think Fort Lee does.”

Another resident, Nina Levinson, said she worried that building such tall structures would make Fort Lee a “target,” alluding to terrorist attacks.

Because the Borough Council previously negotiated a redevelopment agreement with the developer that set the height for the buildings, the Planning Board had no say on that matter.

James Demetrakis, an attorney for Fort Lee Redevelopment Associates, said he initially presented a plan that called for three buildings of 42 to 44 stories each, and that the Borough Council had rejected that plan. The developer then returned with plans for two taller, slimmer structures.

Planning Board Chairman Herbert Greenberg acknowledged that the project may not appeal to everyone but said that the town needs the tax revenue the project will bring.

“Is it exactly what we all wanted? I don’t think so,” he said. “But is it something we could live with? … No one wants 47 stories. But at least if we got 47 stories but [the buildings are] not as wide, we come out ahead.”

Mayor Mark Sokolich, who made redeveloping the area south of the bridge a focus of his bid for reelection last November, said Monday that it was time to bring the process to a close.

“This town needs a renaissance,” he said. “We’re tired. We need a resurgence. We need to restore this town back to being the envy of Bergen County.”

Footsteps from one of the world’s busiest bridges and with views of the New York skyline, the site is among the most prime real estate in the nation. Yet it has remained undeveloped for more than 45 years as numerous attempts by different developers to build on it have failed. The setbacks involved organized crime, bribery and foreclosures. Over the years, locals have questioned, perhaps only half-jokingly, whether the land is cursed.

During their successful bids for reelection last November, Sokolich and Councilmen Armand Pohan and Michael Sargenti vowed to make the parcel, known as Redevelopment Area 5, one of their priorities. Sokolich and Pohan are also voting members of the Planning Board.

Supporters say the project will breathe new life into Fort Lee’s downtown and pump tens of millions of dollars annually into the local and regional economy.

Ken Bruno of the Greater Fort Lee Chamber of Commerce called the project “a great boon for the community.”

Denis Glennon, a borough resident who grew up in Bergen County, said Fort Lee once stood as a beacon, as high-rises like the Horizon House appeared, but that the undeveloped tract became an eyesore over time.

“There was a time when there was a certain fascination” with Fort Lee, he said. “Fort Lee was considered cutting-edge, cosmopolitan. … This project could bring back the revitalization to Fort Lee, not only in terms of Bergen County, but in terms of the Eastern Seaboard.”

But critics say the project will dump hundreds of new cars into the area, adding congestion to streets and highways that are already choked with traffic at peak hours. Once both halves of the project are built, an additional 800 to 1,200 vehicles would be on the road, the borough’s traffic engineer told the board Monday.

“We’re not talking about doubling of traffic by any means, but we’re not talking about an insignificant number, either,” he said.

As a condition of the Planning Board’s approval, the developer must continue to work with the borough engineer to address traffic concerns.

The Planning Board will meet on April 9 to review Tucker Development’s application to build the second phase of the project. Preliminary plans for the western half of the land call for about 175,000 square feet of retail, 475 high-rise residential units, a 175-room hotel and a 25,000-square-foot movie theater. The board also could schedule public hearings for the second phase of the redevelopment.

Email: tat@northjersey.com
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