Bloomfield’s Controversial Oakes Pond Project

After a contentious summer of fits and starts, Bloomfield’s town council resumes its weekly meeting schedule tonight with two major issues to discuss: Its long overdue budget, which shows no sign of a final passage, and the planned mega conversion of Bloomfield’s former National Starch Factory complex at 225 Belleville Avenue — across from Oakside Mansion.  Recently christened “Oakes Pond,” a developer is proposing a high-end housing development with 390 rental units to replace a mix of about two dozen light manufacturing and back office facilities.

Nearby home- and business-owners can be expected to objet. And there’s also the fact that the council is considering a 30-year tax abatement for the developer. But Tuesday’s meeting could also bring out  commuters from other Baristaville towns, such as Nutley and Belleville.  Oakes Pond happens to be close to one of the few free entrances to the Garden State Parkway (northbound) in Essex County. Morning and evening rush hours are frequently a scene of gridlock as a growing number of frustrated Belleville Ave. commuters try alternate routes through side streets to avoid traffic backups. When Bloomfield’s Oakside Cultural Center or Bloomfield High School have big events, delays can quickly multiply.  Along with flooding and tax abatement concerns, the addition of a fifth set of traffic lights in the 200 yards between State Street and the GSP entrance may be a concern.

The current plan by Garden Commercial Properties is to create two buildings along the lower bend of the Third River, four stories each with a parking deck beneath, to serve as luxury one- or two-bedroom apartments.  The developer has said that the properties could begin as rental units and potentially become condominiums when the real estate market improves.

Reminded that she approved the bill when it first came up (along with the rest of the council), Council Janice Maly replied that the full scope  of the project was not made clear. “I feel snookered,” she said when summarizing her traffic concerns at last month’s conference meeting.”I was made to think that this was all taken care of…I felt I was lied to.”

As residents in neighborhoods affected by the development become aware of the potential for increased traffic congestion on Belleville Ave, concern about the project is growing. Tonight may be the last time they may have a chance to air their concerns in front of  the council before plans are brought to the the Essex County Planning Board and then Bloomfield’s Planning Board.

The council meets at 7:30 PM at Bloomfield Council Chambers on the 2nd floor of Town Hall.

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  1. For god’s sake and Bloomfield taxpayers’ sake do not give a 30 year property tax abatement. Why should other property taxpayers subsidize this development? Would any of the people who live there use the town’s services? If so, they have got to pay.

  2. There are so many reasons why this is a bad idea. I own a business at 225 Belleville Ave., in the front building which is owned by another party. The developer of the rear buildings (whose last name is Wolfe and who is reputed to be an owner of the Vikings) emptied his buildings which were fully occupied, and threw all the businesses out as a precurser to getting the site labeled a “blighted area”. My building is still fully occupied, housing 14 businesses and at least a hundred jobs, many of them local residents. While the town of Bloomfield considers a 30 year tax abatement for Wolfe, they have doubled my landlord’s property taxes.

    The site is hard on a creek, as the photo shows, which is full of muskrat, turtles, trout, carp, and all manner of itinerant birds. During Hurricane Floyd, it flooded — the water rising not from the creek in front of the building, but from the bend around the back.

    Belleville Avenue can often be as conjested as Broadway in Manhattan, and the intersection at Belleville and JFK is the site of frequent accidents.
    The last thing Bloomfield needs is to forsake businesses and jobs for luxury housing….which, given its location on the Garden State Parkway in Bloomfield, is unlikely to become a hot seller.

  3. I agree Kit. That location is not the place for a project of this size. It is not close enough to the train or bus to be the commuters dream it is being hyped as, and the traffic is a nightmare at that intersection almost always.

    Also the tax abatement is one of the worst plans ever. It reminds me of the grand idea to let Bloomfield the tax exempt College to develop half the town. Way to not generate tax revnue town hall !

  4. Tax abatements have been in place for every NYC luxury high rise for years, under the 421 program, and prior to that, for renovations, under the J51 program. They eventually expire and the projects go to full taxation. Perhaps Bloomfield is cloning the idea.
    The big difference is, as hrhppg says – transportation – the NYC highrises have mass transit nearby, and the Bloomfield project apparently does not.

  5. Those will not be luxury apartments. They will be section 8 housing. There’s 0 demand for luxury apartments in Bloomfield. What would luxury be anyway? 2 bed, 2 bath with granite counter in the kitchen, overlooking a polluted stream or the parkway. Wake up town elders and smell the coffee.

  6. bebopgun , you are absolutely correct. “Luxury” is one of those words that are abused more than those other pathetic bloodlust words, “socialist” and “patriot”.

    A POS apartment with crappy aluminum windows, granite countertops (granite is usually quarried from some 3rd world country these days) , low end stainless steel appliances, and paper-thin walls, usually fits the bill for “luxury” these days. An obsequious concierge ( in Haband pants ) usually helps the suck-up image, too. ( Nellie, could you please contact the sponsor about this – at least offer to suggest a nice color that won’t fade??)

    If I were a “luxury” buyer, I’d avoid Bloomfield, or even cathar’s Clifton, like the plague, and head straight to Central Park West (Okay cathar, so you have great shashlik and halvah over there, plus some very chic burka shops, too, so you get the door prize, and you can petition for Clifton and Ramallah to be sister cities, too)

    Most likely, the sponsors will attempt to market these units as condos, but will flop and already have a fallback for rentals that barely cover the expenses.

  7. give them a 30 year tax abatement. in a year we discover that they are costing the town a cool million or so. then we raise taxes to make up that cool million. when do we learn? this is how we get in trouble!! why not tax them fairly and every one gets a tax break. make sense dummies?

  8. Civic update: The Bloomfield town council voted down the 30 year abatement, 4 to 3. Kelly Conklin and I and three other residents spoke against it; but clearly the 4 council members who voted it down — my first Bloomfield council meeting — mostly all the women — already had misgivings.

    Kudos to the bright members of the Bloomfield Township Council who have a pretty good read on where things are headed. Not in luxury housing in this real estate market in an old industrial site. I’ll try to consult my notes and add more later.

  9. That’s good news. Thanks for the update Kit. Bloomfield+luxury apartments+30 abatement, just doesn’t add up. Glad at least 4 of the town council members had the same math.

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