Redevelopment

Apparent Conflict Brings Performing Arts Center Project Back to Planning Board

17ad40eeb36295cbcc87_cultural_center_may_3.jpg
An architect discusses on May 1 plans for a downtown performing arts center in New Brunswick.
17ad40eeb36295cbcc87_cultural_center_may_3.jpg

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — A Planning Board member who voted in favor of the coming downtown performing arts center should have recused himself, according to the city.

That board member, an alternate named Steven Lujan, has made plans to step down from the panel after voting on the application, which gained the board’s unanimous support in April. Lujan has worked for the New Brunswick Parking Authority, a stakeholder in the project, which officials claimed represented an apparent conflict of interest.

“No discussions were had that were on the record with this board member,” said Aravind Aithal, the board’s attorney, referencing Lujan’s level of involvement in scrutinizing the application. “In the interest of justice, this board has decided to rehear the application.”

Sign Up for E-News

The developer—a subsidiary of the New Brunswick Development Corporation, or Devco—returned before the board this week, on May 1, and once again won the required approvals through a unanimous vote.

Devco and its experts repeated testimony and added no new information. Plans for the project haven’t changed since it first got the green light.

The performing arts center would consist of 22 stories on Livingston Avenue, two “state-of-the-art” theaters for all kinds of performances, a shared lobby, several rehearsal spaces, offices and concessions and 207 residential apartments. It would also connect to a seven-level, 344-space parking garage on Bayard Street.

“While I may be prone to hyperbole from time to time,” Devco’s president, Christopher Paladino, said during the meeting, “this is the most significant redevelopment project in the history of New Brunswick.”

He also touted the extensive public-private partnership that was forged to make the project possible. A number of entities, from the city and Devco to Rutgers University and the New Brunswick Cultural Center, have signed on to push it forward.

Shortly before the Planning Board was set to vote again, a resident brought up what he alleged was another potential conflict of interest.

Rutgers University has agreed to contribute $17 million to the redevelopment project.

One board member, Manuel Castenada, works as a part-time adjunct professor at Rutgers’ Newark campus. The resident—Charlie Kratovil, editor of the activist community newspaper New Brunswick Today—claimed Castenada should recuse himself from hearing the application due to his relationship with Rutgers.

But the board’s attorney disagreed.

“We don’t have a direct conflict of interest,” Aithal said. “It’s not a tenured position—it’s a part-time adjunct position—and I would imagine it probably has nothing at all to do with this application.”

Taking the board attorney’s advice, Castenada decided to vote on the application.

Had he opted to step aside, the board would not have had a quorum. That would have prevented a vote, and Devco would have had to return again.

The $167.8 million redevelopment project would provide new homes to the George Street Playhouse and Crossroads Theatre. Their venues are slated for demolition this spring and summer.

It would also bring the American Repertory Ballet to New Brunswick.

Officials expect construction to end in July 2019.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

New Brunswick

The Jaffe Briefing - April 18, 2018

OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

PATERSON - At campaign rallies, why not just cut to the chase? That's what's happening in the Silk City, where a local social media celebrity was handing out $20 bills to would-be voters at a rally on Sunday for mayoral contender Pedro Rodriguez. Our favorite entertainer of all time, Fatboy SSE, had a thick wad of cash, which he was passing out ...

The Jaffe Briefing - April 17, 2018

OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

AT THE POLLING BOOTH - Guess what? New Jerseyans don't like the Trump tax plan. It's also not surprising that a potential voter revolt could flip all five of the state's Republican House seats, according to a new Monmouth University poll. NJ.com reports that the new federal tax bill disproportionately hurts taxpayers in New Jersey ...

The Jaffe Briefing - April 16, 2018

OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

TRENTON - As Gov. Phil Murphy was in Cleveland to celebrate his buddy, Jon Bon Jovi, who entered the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on Saturday, the paperwork is piling up at the office. NJ.com is quick to note we are approaching the end of the first 100 days of the Murphy Administration and there are a gaggle of bills to sign or reject. Lots of ...

The Jaffe Briefing - April 13, 2018

OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

STATEWIDE - One would think Gov. Phil Murphy, as our powerful chief executive, would be paid among the highest of all state employees after, of course, the Rutgers head football coach. But the Asbury Park Press has revealed a startling fact: there are more than 1,060 government employees who earn more than the governor. Murphy makes a ...

The Jaffe Briefing - April 12, 2018

OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

TRENTON - Senate President Steve Sweeney wants to teach the new governor who is really in charge of the Statehouse, blocking confirmation votes for at least two of Gov. Phil Murphy's Cabinet members. This smack down could delay the approval for at least two months for Lamont Repollet, the acting education commissioner, and Zakiya Smith Ellis, ...

The Jaffe Briefing - April 11, 2018

OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

TRENTON - Sure, New Jersey loves the idea of free community college and expanded pre-K education. But are we willing to pay for it? Gov. Phil Murphy's proposed $37.4 billion budget is now getting picked apart in the state Legislature - with criticism even coming from Democratic circles. That's because of a net $1.5 billion in tax increases ...

Upcoming Events

Thu, April 19, 10:00 AM

Middlesex Vocational and Technical School, Piscataway

Middlesex County Veteran Stand Down 2018

Giving Back

Carousel_image_f91ed86077ea29dfd56e_image

Thu, April 19

Plainsboro

Project Feeder Watch

Green Home & Garden

Thu, April 19, 8:00 PM

State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick

George Thorogood and the Destroyers

Arts & Entertainment

Rutgers professor named Pulitzer Prize finalist

April 19, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - For Evie Shockley, poetry – and her professorship at Rutgers University–New Brunswick – are central to her engagement with a world that needs change and central to the ways she prepares students to do their own engagement.

This week, Shockley was selected as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in the poetry category. The Pulitzer ...

Rutgers Professor Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

NEW BRUNSWICK - Helen M. Berman, Board of Governors distinguished professor emerita of chemistry and chemical Biology at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Berman is among 213 people elected to the academy this year, including author Ta-Nehisi Coates, actor Tom Hanks, President Barack Obama, Supreme ...

Questions now swirl around reported Rutgers theft

NEW BRUNSWICK - A crime alert issued by Rutgers police about an armed robbery on Tuesday April 10 has turned out to be false. 

Upon further investigation, police said the alleged incident in front of the Campbell Hall dorm on George Street did not happen as was initially reported. Police had said initially that the suspect showed a handgun, ordered the ...

NB Public Schools task force takes on chronic absenteeism

April 19, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK – Being absent for just two days each month means a student will miss 10 percent of the entire school year – enough to negatively impact that student’s academic performance.

It’s sobering information, and a clear demonstration that chronically absent students are at a tremendous educational disadvantage, one from which many of them will never recover.

High-Tech Gadgetry Fuels the 35th Anniversary of the World Series of Birding

April 6, 2018

BERNARDSVILLE – For any real competitor, there’s the ultimate competition: think the Final Four. Or the Super Bowl. Or the biggest cucumber at the state fair.

For birdwatchers, the not-to-miss event is the annual World Series of Birding, to be held Saturday, May 12. It’s a proud New Jersey exclusive.

Individuals and teams fan out across the state for a ...

OPINION

Safe Sleep for Babies Requires Effort from All

April 10, 2018

For more than a decade, my organization, Keeping Babies Safe (KBS), has sounded the steady drumbeat of safe sleep awareness, which in turn has created bans on dangerous products and has helped enact laws that work to ensure babies are sleeping safely.

In 2018, KBS kicked off its latest awareness campaign designed to promote safe sleep practices and products ...

Spring Boutique in East Brunswick April 22nd

April 15, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK - Come and shop for Mother's Day, Father's Day and End-of-Year gifts for your favorite teachers & school staff. The Sisterhood of Temple B’nai Shalom will host its Spring Boutique on Sunday, April 22, 2018, from 9:45 am to 3:00 pm.  A variety of vendors will be participating.  Items available for shopping will include fashion jewelry, handbags, ...

Why People Should Visit Black Churches and Black People Should Welcome Them

March 29, 2018

Dear TAPInto New Brunswick,

In New Jersey, segregation is a cultural issue that demands the immediate attention of Christians. Nearly 87 percent of Christian churches in the U.S. are either made up of only white, or only African-American parishioners. When we worship in the comfortable bubble of segregation, we miss the opportunity for racial reconciliation, as mandated by Jesus:

"A ...