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HRA Meets Mon. May 13, 2024 To Approve BRG Harrison Lofts Site Plan

May 11, 2024

The Harrison Redevelopment Agency is scheduled to meet on Monday, May 13, 2024, at 1 p.m. in the afternoon.  On the Agenda is a Resolution to Approve BRG Harrison Lofts revised Site Plan that eliminates underground parking among other changes.  The developers of BRG Harrison Lofts have been through the wringer as far as getting this project done. The BRG Harrison Lofts Urban Renewal LLC purchased the property in 2015 and shortly thereafter determined that a company it hired was negligent in failing to question results obtained in testing for mercury in the former RCA buildings which have since been demolished under EPA oversight due to the toxic nature of mercury. 

The property is an entire block between South 5th Street & South 6th Street between Bergen Street and Sussex Street. There is also currently a surface parking lot diagonally across the street from the proposed building on South 5th Street between Bergen and Essex Street. A parking garage is planned for that surface parking lot. It is the lot next to the Seabra’s Supermarket that the Harrison Police Department uses as a staging area for residents who want to gain access to their apartment buildings during Red Bull Arena Games.

Changes to BRG Harrison Lofts Building

In a recent memorandum issued by the Town of Harison’s planner, Heyer Gruel & Associates, significant modifications to BRG Harison Lofts Urban Renewal Corporation's plan for Block 156 have been disclosed. The amendment to the original site plan, presented in meticulous detail, outlines adjustments that reflect a strategic reevaluation of the project's scope and objectives.

Underground Parking Garages & Pickleball Court Nixed

Former GE / RCA Building Demolished To Make Way For New Apartment Building

One of the most notable revisions pertains to the elimination of the previously proposed underground parking garage, a decision that significantly alters the project's landscape. The memorandum highlights that the 55 parking stalls and service use initially approved beneath the residential building on Block 156 will no longer be realized, effectively eliminating the need for a South Fifth Street curb cut or access ramp.

Furthermore, amendments to the parking deck on Block 131 Lot 17 include the removal of the rooftop pickleball court, making space for an additional thirteen parking stalls. This adjustment underscores a shift in priorities, reallocating resources to address pressing needs within the community for parking spaces.

Changes To Types of Apartments

A comprehensive breakdown of the proposed residential building on Block 156, Lot 1 reveals changes in the distribution of apartment units. While the total number of units remains unchanged at 430, adjustments have been made in the breakdown of studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments. The adjustment increases Studio + Den units by an additional 5 units; lowers Studios without Dens by 7 units; increases One-Bedroom units by 2 Units; One-Bedroom+Den is lowered by 1 unit; Two-Bedroom units increase by 1 unit; and Two-Bedroom+Den remains the same. There will be 92 Studio Units; 52 Studio+Den Units; 180 1 Bedroom Units; 31 1 Bedroom+Den Units; 58 Two-Bedroom Units and 17 Two Bedroom Units for a Total of 430 Units.

On-Site Parking Space Changes

In terms of parking provisions, the amended plan introduces alterations in both the quantity and type of parking spaces. While the original plan included 390 parking spaces, the amended version reduces this number to 347, distributed across standard, electric vehicle (EV) ready, ADA, and compact spaces. There is a loss of 43 parking spaces.  Thus there are 430 Units and 347 Parking Spaces. Thus 83 Apartment residents will either not own a car to have 1 parking spot per apartment.  That assumes that the other apartment renters will only have 1 car in each household. Residents in the community around the BRG Harrison Lofts have difficulty finding parking spaces and there is no doubt that an additional 430 apartment units with less than 1 parking space per apartment is going to result in increased frustration for current residents of Harrison who cannot access private parking garages or afford to pay the parking in the Harrison Parking Garage blocks away near the Path Station. It is the new grime reality of HRA’s Commissioners reduction of required parking spaces for developers.

Mayor Fife Is For Toxic Sludge in Harrison

At the Tuesday, April 23, 2024, Mayor & Council meeting Mayor James Fife who is also the Chairman of the Harrison Redevelopment Agency pointed out, when asked “Why he was in favor of the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to bring Toxic Dioxin Laden Sludge a by-product of Agent Orange into what is now a residential community in Harrison.”, that the EPA had safely removed mercury from the RCA property [proposed BRG Harrison Lofts property now].  Mayor Fife has known for at least 2 years that the EPA planned to dump Toxic dioxin-laden sludge in Harrison across the street from luxury apartment buildings (i.e. Steelworks, Vermella Harrison, Cobalt Lofts, and The Wyldes). Mayor Fife’s statement on EPA removal of toxic Mercury from Harrison does not equate to EPA, tasked with Environmental Cleanup, bringing toxic dioxin-laden sludge into what is now a residential community in Harrison NJ.

Councilman Anselmo Millan (now former) and the late Mayor Raymond J. McDonough

Councilman Anselmo Millan Was Telling The Truth

Two years ago Mayor & Chairman of HRA, James Fife accused then Councilman Anselmo Millan and local attorney and stakeholder John M. Pinho of lying about the EPA’s plan to dewater Toxic Sludge in Harrison. Mayor Fife said at the time it was a campaign ploy to win votes for Millan who was running against Mayor Fife for Mayor of Harrison. Mayor Fife also sought and got support from Councilman, former Superintendent of Schools, now Director of Personnel of Harrison Schools, Commissioner at Passaic Valley Sewerage Authority, Chairman of the Harrison Democratic Party, and de-facto Campaign manager James Doran to make a flyer and letter stating both Councilman Millan and local attorney John M. Pinho were lying about EPA Sludge Dumping plan and convince stakeholder developers who manage the new modern apartment buildings to email literature stating the lie to residents. The disinformation (a lie) worked despite a clear statement by Mayor James Fife at the HRA Meeting on August 29, 2022, that he knew Toxic Sludge was coming to Harrison.

BRG Harrison Lofts Urban Renewal Has Gone Through A Lot

Overall, the unveiling of these amendments signifies a proactive approach by BRG Harrison Lofts Urban Renewal Corporation to adapt to evolving needs and priorities within the community. BRG Harrison Lofts Urban Development has gone through a lot to get to this point in their development project.  By engaging in a transparent and collaborative process, stakeholders aim to ensure that the project continues to serve the best interests of residents and the broader community alike. Not building a 55-car underground garage in the scope of what BRG Harrison Lofts management has gone through to get this project off the ground is an acceptable change although it does impact the neighborhood.  The Big Elephant in the room however is the impact of EPA’s Toxic Dioxin Sludge dewatering plant on the future of Harrison.

Lies, Hiding the Truth The Two James

Mayor and Chairman of the Harrison Redevelopment Agency James Fife, however, for some unknown mysterious reason has hidden from Harrison residents EPA’s plan.  After clearly stating at an August 29, 2022 HRA meeting that EPA planned to use the PSE&G property for dewatering Toxic dioxin-laden sludge, Mayor Fife accused with the assistance of Councilman (et al.) James Doran that Councilman Anselmo Millan and local Attorney John M. Pinho were lying about EPA’s plans.  Time has revealed that stakeholder developers were used by Mayor James Fife and Councilman (et al.) James Doran to perpetuate a lie and to put their substantial investments in the Town of Harrison NJ at risk.  Who wants to live across from a Toxic Sludge Dewatering plant?  What happens to property values if there is an accident at the Toxic Sludge dewatering plant?  Is Harrison the next East Palestine, Ohio?

Residents and Stakeholders are encouraged to reach out to  Mayor James Fife and Councilman (et al.) James Doran (The Two James) for comment. Ask the Two James whether they support the EPA Toxic Sludge Plan in Harrison.  Attend the Harrison Redevelopment Agency meeting if you are available at 1 p.m. on Monday, June 13, 2024.  Or attend the next Mayor & Council Meeting scheduled for Tuesday, May 21, 2023, at 6:30 p.m. (6:15 Caucus Session also Open to Public).  Both meetings are held at the Harrison Town Hall located at 318 Harrison Avenue, Harrison NJ. Call the Mayor at Harrison Town Hall (973) 268-2444 or email at [email protected]. Call Councilman James Doran at his office (973) 483-4627 or email at [email protected]

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