McCarthy vs Lazar: It’s About Bloomfield Development

The long-standing issue of Bloomfield’s downtown development could be the deciding factor in the mayoral race between three-term Democrat incumbent Raymond McCarthy and Republican challenger John Lazar.

McCarthy has been a champion of the development, but the project has been stymied by legal and political battles. The Republicans say he’s had his chance to push it through and are peddling an alternative idea to the existing plan; that of building a hotel conference center in downtown.

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  1. It baffles me that Bloomfield would allow the demolition downtown without a solid, fully financed plan to rebuild in place. There were viable stores in those buildings, even if they were wierd ones. Now, it seems like the war zone motif will be semi-permanent….at least until real estate market recovers.

  2. 9 years as mayor, three different town councils, and all McCarthy has to show for it is holes in the ground and war-like motif, not to mention the $5,000,000 judgement against Bloomfield (Forest City) as well as the eminent domain lawsuit.

    Saw in the paper today, Bloomfield lost out on a grant they were depending on to build the flagship of downtown redevelopment: a parking garage. Now what, Mr. McCarthy?

  3. Regarding the demolition, there is no law I’m aware of that prevents private property owners from demolishing their own property – they just need a demolition permit and that’s it. The buildings that were demolished had all been purchased by a private owner prior to demolition. Unless the legislation is changed, the town could not prevent the demolition (since having a plan for the downtown is not a prerequisite for demolishing one’s private property).

    As for the mayor, not all of the mess is his fault,in all fairness. While I decry the length of time it has taken to try to get something done in the Center, I believe the whole eminent domain thing was actually done before his tenure and its failure in court was the reason for the eventual suit by Forrest City Daly. (Please someone correct me if that is wrong; it’s what I remember). But reading the plan that Lazar would have for the downtown really concerns me. Trying to get a hotel and conference center in the location by the train station would be a disaster. First of all, what hotel would be willing to come to Bloomfield? Secondly, it would mean starting from square one on the redevelopment. All the planning that has been done to date has been predicated on a parking garage and commercial/residential building similar to Montclair’s (successful) downtown paradigm. Do we really want to start from scratch here? We’d be talking another ten years before that got done. Plus, in my opinion, a hotel would not be an appropriate use of the area in the first place. Would be interested to hear others’ thoughts on this.

  4. I really wish Baristanet would stop calling it downtown Bloomfield. Bloomfield has no downtown. What Bloomfield has is The Center, and I wish you would call it that. It is one of the little things that is special about Bloomfield.

  5. Kit,

    The debacle of the downtown redevelopment is a useful example of why governments should stay out of the real estate business. The charter of local government is not to use eminent domain to aid real estate developers and Bloomfield has had loss and continues to have exposure to further loss because it has acted in the interest of private developers.

    As the developers have all the upside exposure to gain, they should have all the risk exposure to loss.

  6. “that of building a hotel conference center in downtown. ”


    it will be charging by the hour in a matter on months !!! If that is the plan he just lost my vote – again !

  7. A hotel and convention center?? Unless they plan to have casinos in the Center (I will try not to say downtown) I don’t see why anyone would want to have a convention in Bloomfield.

    It would be great to have a fresh produce store near the train station. And a book store, Bloomfield has no bookstore.

    How bout a chicken farm and people could get farm fresh eggs?

  8. Mimi, you are right that private owners are allowed to demolish their properties, although this demo seems to have been encouraged by the town in preparation for a major redevelopment that failed to materialize largely as a result of political incompetance by elected officials.

    I agree with your opinion that a hotel complex would not be the best model for the site. Didn’t Bloomfield win an award for their master plan? Did their master plan include a hotel?

    I don’t envy the voters of Bloomfield their choices in this election.

  9. “…Bloomfield has had loss and continues to have exposure to further loss because it has acted in the interest of private developers.”

    Check Mr. Lazar’s record as Chairman of the Zoning Board of Adjustment; if he is elected, they will have to build a “drive-thru zoning adjustment window” behind Town Hall to keep up with the legions of developers and their lawyers. Not that development is, by itself, a bad thing: but there are zoning laws for a reason, and all I have seen during his tenure on that board was zoning laws being trampled into the dirt. Literaly.

  10. I agree with your opinion that a hotel complex would not be the best model for the site. Didn’t Bloomfield win an award for their master plan? Did their master plan include a hotel?

    Just because the latest development plan won an award or two (and I’ll assume that kit is correct on that), it doesn’t mean that the plan is economically viable, especially in this uncertain economy. If an aware was the sole predictor of plan success then those gaping holes in Bloomfield Center would have been filled a long time ago.

    Lazar’s argument in favor of a hotel conference center (I spoke to him personally about this) is that the Bloomfield Center redevelopment zone is ideally situated for something like that because it is mere steps away from the train station, and because Bloomfield is just a few stops away from Newark Airport and the Northeast Corridor. His argument against mixed-use with condos, as favored by McCarthy et. al., is that they will have trouble selling in this depressed and over-saturated real-estate market, and will instead have to be marketed as rental units. Lazar points out that Montclair is contemplating a redevelopment plan for the abandoned DHC site on Bloomfield Ave that incorporates a htoel/conference center, and that we beat could them to the punch.

    I don’t have any particular insight to judge the efficacy of one proposal against another, but I do know that three terms are more than enough for any mayor to serve in office, including Ray McCarthy (and even Michael Bloomberg). And if three terms are enough for a mayor, then four terms are enough for a do-nothing buffoon like Bernard Hamilton.

    I also know that since I moved to Bloomfield about four years ago, my municipal property taxes have increased by over 35% while my paycheck has not.

    Perhaps Lazar’s idea is not the ideal vision for Bloomfield Center, but after nine years of bumbling, stumbling incompetency by the county Democratic machine-backed council, I’m ready and willing to give a new group of individuals an opportunity to demonstrate how they can lead Bloomfield to affordable and prosperous quality of life.

  11. Seems to me there’s enough room in the demolished area for both to occur.
    The impediment is financing, and whether there would be sufficient demand to fill a hotel. I wonder what Lazar’s position on tax abatements to developers is?

  12. I wonder what Lazar’s position on tax abatements to developers is?

    Not as generous as McCarthy’s. McC wants to give a developer in another part of town at 25 year abatement, and Lazar thinks that is far too much of a sweetheart deal. I would agree.

  13. Why are politicians offering plans for development? Let private investors propose projects, not mayoral candidates. A conservative republican like Lazar should be proposing to let the market decide what’s built. Or is Lazar one of those rare republicans in favor of government economic planning?

    Tax abatements? Oh good, more corporate welfare.

    If the only business Bloomfield center can support without tax abatements, or other charities is a parking lot, so be it. Maybe if the area became a nice grassy knoll you’d have the surrounding property values increase. Increasing property values dies not equate to building more properties.

  14. McCarthy wanted to give a 30 year abatement to the Oakes Pond developer at 225 Belleville Ave, where my business is located. The council voted against it 4 to 3, but those members are not returning, and I fully expect him to try again next year, unless Bloomfield residents show up at council meetings and organize against it. I agree that it’s bad policy.

  15. In articlem McCarthy seems to be hanging his hat on a town council that will cooperate, instead of split votes, to get things done.


    If he had the skills necessary to create a cohesive team, instill civility on our council, create a working machine focused on teamwork and not selfishness, you wouldn’t need to “hope” for a council that would work together. As an effective leader you would have created that environment, and most importantly would have lead by example.

    This clearly did not happen. And is likely something he is not capable of.

  16. Regarding demolished buildings: most were not inhabitable as-is, and were demoslished to stop paying taxes on a structure that would never be used. If I were an owner, I would have done the same thing.

  17. I would like to see a pentagon like structure with an open courtyard in the middle, open air second floor with partial outdoor seating and yes, a rooftop bar/restaurant. Botique shops on the ground floor, (maybe a franchised company on the corners, taking up space as large as 7 hills) with maybe a cafe on the station property (where pizza depot used to be). The parking lot on Washington st can be decked and the station itself redone. I would really like to see the big lamps that used to be on the overpass of Washington and Glenwood

  18. While Im playing designer, lets change Lackawanna too. Take each store and upgrade accordingly. Payless = Saks off fith outlet, etc Maybe turn Pathmark into a Whole Foods, Popeyes into Urban Chicken, and turn the rest into a Dave and Busters. Montclair needs a Dave & Busters

  19. Neither redevelopment plan sounds perfect. I agree that MacCarthy-plan condos won’t sell in this market, and doesn’t McCarthy’s plan include turning most of Bloomfield Center into a supermarket which would turn the remaining space into a supermarket parking lot?

    If Lazar can find a developer who wants to finance and build a small conference center, go for it. I think it would attract a lot of business to town. I’d rather have the centerpiece of the redevelopment be a hotel than a supermarket.

    The challenges of a redevelopment project like this require a group of people with an intelligent, business approach, working together as a team with the interests of Bloomfield residents in mind. I think the Lazar team has more of those skills and are motivated by a desire to improve the town. McCarthy and his team have proven they don’t have those skills and I can’t figure out what motivates McCarty and Hamilton, but it doesn’t seem to be the interests of Bloomfield residents. I thought the point of bringing new business into town was to increase tax revenues from the business. Tax abatements will increase the tax burden on residents.

    As far as the rest of the Line A team, have you seen the on-demand videos of the candidates on WBMA TV? A couple of Hamilton’s key initiatives related to the “financiability” of the town are 1) “bring the fruition through” and 2) “add new nuances to increase the financiability.” (I hope I spelled financiability correctly – I couldn’t find it in the dictionary)

  20. The idea that a conference center in Bloomfield would be a success is silly. We aren’t Montclair, and we aren’t on the pulse of the business area. We are a nice little commuter town, and we need to start thinking like one instead of trying to do whatever Montclair tried 5 years ago.

    What would the draw be around this hotel/center? A good mexican restaurant and a strip club? Shop at our value chain stores? I love this town but lets all get a grip.

  21. Jimmytown for business development director! A planned and unified approach is needed. A look. Otherwise there will be too many nail salons, pizza-by-the slice, wholesale beauty product, cell-phone retailers in a 6 block area. When Church street started, unplanned and no apparent vision, it had 4-jewelers, 4-opticians, 3-antiquers, one diner, and assorted unimaginative retailers, even a yarn store. Hire Jimmy and makeit work. And I don’t even know the guy.

  22. Hey Kit.

    It’s actually a 35 year tax abatement. A 5 year abatement to build and get a certificate of occupancy and another 30 year tax abatement on top of that.

    Is McCarthy CRAZY?

  23. Dear mayoral candidates & Bloomfield-ites: Take into consideration the revitalization of Brooklyn’s DUMBO, Fort Greene and Manhattan’s Chelsea and SOHO. These areas suffered from neglect and mismanagement. After artists moved in (swayed by cheap housing & studio space) braving poor & unsafe conditions, a slow and organic redevelopment occurred: small businesses, galleries, restaurants followed the artists, with improved housing and chain stores years later. Instead of putting hopes on a large ticket item (hotel/ condos, etc.) and wholesale razing to lure growth and change, start small with grants & tax breaks to artists, galleries, creative types–to pave the way for others to follow (restaurants, small shops). Work w/ local property owners and NJ and Federal grants to create incentives to bring in emerging creatives. You have an abundance of pre-War apt. buildings around town, a college, and some unique buildings (PNC Bank, Masonic Temple), a huge draw for those in the creative fields. Imagine an art district only 35 minutes from NYC via train and minutes from Newark, Montclair Museums. There are some good bits & pieces around this town that with the right guidance, could be the seed for a great redevelopment. Create a community w/unique character using your strengths (and not what other towns have) then let the development grow gradually without wholesale purging. It will work and be exciting as well.

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