NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Opponents of the plan to raze a 60-year-old school and build a new $55 million one on Jersey Avenue have been thrown for another loss in court.
An appellate division judge has denied their emergent appeal seeking a stay in the New Brunswick Board of Education’s plan to sell Lincoln Annex School, which was home to about 750 students in grades 4-8 this past school year.
Earlier this month, Superior Court Judge Arthur Bergman tossed the first three counts of a five-count lawsuit after attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that the board could not sell the school at 165 Somerset St.
Bergman ruled that deed restrictions placed on the property could only be enforced by the Catholic Diocese of Metuchen, which sold the old St. Peter’s school to the city for $7.4 million in 2013.
A steering committee comprising a board of education member, nine parents of Lincoln Annex School children, three community members, three district administrators, three Lincoln Annex staff members and the school's principal has recommended that the board go ahead with the plan to sell the school.
The fate of Lincoln Annex is only part of a sprawling, $750 million plan that will ally RWJBarnabas, the New Brunswick Development Corporation (DEVCO), the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the school district and the city.
RWJBarnabas plans to pay to have the school razed and build the state’s first free-standing cancer hospital on the site. The 12-story hospital will be connected to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey via sky bridges.
RWJBarnabas will work with DEVCO and the board to build a replacement school on a 4.25-acre lot of vacant land at 50 Jersey Ave. While construction ensues, the students will attend the district’s Pathways Campus on Van Dyke Avenue.
Attorneys for LatinoJustice had filed the lawsuit on the behalf of four plaintiffs. Three of the plaintiffs, Maria Juarez, Julio Herrera Vivar and Maria Chiquito, filed on their own behalf as well as on the behalf of a minor child. A fourth plaintiff, Lilia Fernandez, is a Rutgers professor and activist.
The final two counts of their lawsuit remain unresolved.
The fifth count of the lawsuit pertains to the Board of Education’s submission of a long-range facilities plan to the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education before it was reviewed by the city’s Planning Board.
The Planning Board voted at its July 6 meeting that a plan to build the school was consistent with the city’s master plan as amended by the Jersey Handy redevelopment plan.
The Planning Board was moved to make a ruling under Section 31 of the land use laws based on correspondence between the Board of Education’s architects and the New Jersey Department of Education concerning the land acquisition of the 50 Jersey Ave. site.
It’s unclear if or how the fourth count, which alleges the Board of Education violated the Open Public Meetings Act, is affected by a prior court ruling over the same matter.
Middlesex County Superior Court documents dated July 14 show that Judge Vincent LeBlon dismissed with prejudice four counts charging the board with violating the laws that have served as guidelines for public meetings and ensure their transparency since being adopted in 1975.
Three of the plaintiffs, Maria Juarez, Julio Herrera Vivar and Maria Chiquito, filed on their own behalf as well as on the behalf of a minor child. A fourth plaintiff, Lilia Fernandez, is a Rutgers professor and activist.
Opponents of the school's sale have been vocal at Board of Education, City Council, Planning Board and Middlesex County Freeholder meetings over the past several months. Their concerns range from fear that the students' education will suffer by attending the Pathways Campus to the fact that the lot at 50 Jersey Ave. is contaminated and is in need of remediation.
The Board of Education is being represented by Vaughn McKoy of the Parsippany-based firm of Inglesino, Webster, Wyciskala & Taylor.