NEWARK, NJ - Residents implored the planning board yesterday to ensure that a new development in the Ironbound’s MX-3 zone keeps its affordable housing on-site.

The 11-story mixed-use building with 133 units will be located on 59-65 McWhorter St. An attorney representing the Lakewood-based developer told the planning board the building would have to adhere to Newark’s inclusionary zoning ordinance, but that there were “caveats.”

“There are caveats to the ordinance where you can off-site provide affordable housing,” said Michael Oliveira, of the Chiesa, Shahinian & Giantomasi law firm.

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City council in 2017 approved the inclusionary zoning ordinance, which requires all new developments with more than 30 units to set aside 20 percent of apartments as low-income housing.

Planning Board Chairman Wayne Richardson responded to Oliveira at the meeting by stating “You found loopholes” to the inclusionary zoning ordinance.

“I didn't write the ordinance," Oliveira replied. “Not me. But we intend to comply with affordability requirements of the city.”

The planning board approved the project in the city’s new MX-3 zone, which allows buildings that are 145-feet to be built in a section of the Ironbound that is marked by three-family homes and churches. The creation of MX-3 was initially knocked down in court, but city council re-instated a new version of it despite concerns over gentrification.

Four dissenters were heard for the McWhorter Street application, but most did not take issue with MX-3. Instead, they wanted the planning board to make sure the required affordable housing units would be located in the new building, not somewhere else.

“I would like for you to consider passing this only if the affordable units are attached on-site,” said Newark resident Dan Wiley. “This is in the East Ward. The East Ward is becoming very expensive right now and these affordable units aren't only for East Ward residents.

They're building transit-oriented developments big right now, and people throughout the city need access to Penn Station.”

Another resident also asked about the affordable units, but the planning board chairman said compliance with the inclusionary zoning ordinance doesn't fall within the planning board's jurisdiction.

“That's not this board's purpose,” Richardson said. 

The attorney for the applicant said the developer is still in talks with the city's affordability office to make a final determination about compliance with the inclusionary zoning ordinance.  

The application for the project shows the owner of the property is Supreme Ink Company, which sold ink products and was founded in 1976. But a public notice for the planning board hearing says 59-65 McWhorter Holdings was the applicant for the project.

State Department of Treasury records show the registered agent of 59-65 McWhorter Holdings is Issac Genuth, who is based out of a Lakewood address. Tax records do not show that Genuth’s company has bought the property from Supreme Ink.

The building would rise to 125-feet, about 20 feet lower than what is allowable in MX-3.

Lorrie Sciabarasi, of Comito Associates, said the ground level would have a residential lobby, three residential units and commercial/retail space such as a restaurant. The plans also include a courtyard on the south side of the building and a gym.

The remaining floors would consist of studios and one-bedroom apartments, Sciabarasi said. There will also be an outdoor terrace space on the roof with seating and a green roof, which complies with a sustainability requirement of MX-3.

A public notice for the project's hearing at the planning board called for several variances, but the attorney for the application said the project would only need one for the front yard area. The plans were going to be amended so that no other variances would need to be requested, Oliveira said.

The project is located about a five-minute walk away from Penn Station, and on-site parking is not required in the MX-3 zone. A traffic study that was conducted by Stonefield Engineering on Sept. 5, 2018 - a weekday - found there were 91 parking spots available out of 424 at a peak evening period within a 500-foot radius of the project.

The traffic study conservatively estimated that 40 percent of tenants wouldn't have a vehicle based on the most recent Census data. The project does not target a specific age-group, the attorney for the applicant said.

“The concept is -- and that's the idea behind the MX-3 ordinance -- is that it's proximity to Penn Station will attract the same kind of people you get in Harrison, the same kind of people you get in other areas that are in close proximity to a transit station,” said Oliveira.  

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