The city council opted not to endorse a sewer connection application the developer of the Paterson Vista site needs to submit to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) in order to move the $25 million project forward.
In a 6-0 vote on Tuesday night council members came out against the controversial Vistas at the Great Falls steadfastly backed by mayor Jose “Joey” Torres, but detested by environmentalists and supporters of the new national park.
“It’s a complete undermining of the local community,” said Michael Jackson, 1st Ward councilman, in whose area the 13 three-story residential buildings with 156 apartments is being built.
Jackson said he visited the site and was verbally attacked and abused by a construction worker there.
Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, said the design of the buildings remind him of a notorious public housing project that became a crime magnet and was torn down. “It reminds me of the of the Alexander Hamilton projects that we took down,” said Morris. “They are literally just square buildings.”
Law director Domenick Stampone warned council members to consider the application on its engineering merits.
“Albeit it’s a sewer connection, if the council does not approve this particular application this project does not move forward,” said Morris. He then focused his remarks on the engineering aspects of the project.
Morris said he was not comfortable with the city engineer’s recommendation of this project. He said he will need the engineer to appear before the council to answer questions.
Alex Mendez, councilman at-large, worried the development violates the city’s agreement with the National Park Service. The federal government has said in a letter to the mayor project will “degrade” the Great Falls National Park and urged him to use his authority to suspend approval for the development.
Torres after ignoring the calls to cancel the project convened a three-day meeting with various concerned parties to hammer out a compromise. The first day of those talks was yesterday. Stampone said “positive” progress is happening at the talks.
Torres received a $1,050 campaign contribution from the developer Green Tree Development Group last year, according to campaign filings.
There’s also a lawsuit filed by the Friends of the Great Falls to kill the project at 1 Jasper Street.