The Journal Square PATH station in Jersey City
By Joshua Burd
Jersey City and Kushner Cos. have settled a two-year-old lawsuit over a massive residential project in the city, ending a bitter public feud and clearing the way for construction.
The lawsuit, which the developer filed in 2018, alleged that Mayor Steven Fulop sought to derail the project because of former CEO Jared Kushner’s connection to President Trump, his father-in-law. The battle threatened to derail a project that would bring more than 1,500 units to the resurgent Journal Square neighborhood, but the city this weekend announced the resolution of the litigation, noting it would not grant a tax abatement as part of a new redevelopment agreement.
“This has always been about what is best for our taxpayers and Jersey City,” Fulop said in a prepared statement. “Fortunately, after many years and many prior developers who left this property to stagnate, the city’s great team and Kushner Companies have been able to set aside their differences and collaborate to reach common ground. Now this long-delayed and much-awaited project can move forward.”
The two-tower, mixed-use project known as One Journal Square has been in the works since 2014, when Kushner and KABR Group entered into a redeveloper agreement with the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency. But the relationship between the developers and the mayor began to deteriorate in 2017, after the city denied a tax abatement for the proposal.
Fulop has sought in recent years to end the large tax breaks that were once needed to lure developers to the city. But Kushner Cos. alleged the denial was meant to curry favor with the city’s heavily Democratic constituency after Trump took office in 2017 and tapped Kushner as a senior White House adviser.
The now-settled lawsuit named Fulop as a defendant and included the city, the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency and Kushner Cos. In announcing the settlement, Fulop noted that his administration has not granted a tax abatement in nearly four years.
The statement also said the two parties will now move forward under a modified and “intensely negotiated” redevelopment agreement, with construction on two 64-story towers set to begin next year. The Associated Press first reported the settlement on Friday.
“Let’s be clear,” said Eugene T. Paolino, counsel to Kushner Cos. and a partner with Genova Burns. “The citizens of Jersey City are the winners here. Kushner Companies is eager and ready to move forward shoulder to shoulder with Mayor Fulop and the people of the great city of Jersey City, and get to work building this landmark development to advance the revitalization of Journal Square.”
Each of the two towers will consist of 52 stories dedicated to residential units above a 12-story base building, which contains ground-floor retail space, amenity space, additional residential uses and structured parking, according to the city. The project includes modifications such as reducing the height of the buildings to 710 feet from 758 feet, replacing five stories of office space and one story of retail space with residential space, removing the WeWork and WeLive concepts and re-envisioning the façade of the towers.
Expanding upon original negotiations that began in 2014, the updated redevelopment agreement includes a $2.5 million investment in local arts initiatives and will require the developer to focus on hiring locally, including local workforce sessions to further local residents’ development and opportunities, the city said.
“This is a big win for all involved,” Council President Joyce Watterman said. “I’m pleased we were able to reach an agreement to further build upon the city’s revitalization efforts in Journal Square as we can finally start construction on this property which has sat vacant for far too long and provide the opportunities to the local workforce that is critical now more than ever before.”
One Journal Square could become the latest project to move forward in the city despite the pandemic. In June, Fulop’s team unveiled the developers that will kick off the 100-acre Bayfront project in western Jersey City, paving the way for nearly 1,100 units on 16 acres.
“The JCRA is pleased to have this matter come to a satisfactory resolution,” JCRA Director Diana Jeffrey said. “With this settlement, the renaissance of Journal Square can continue.”