Steve Hyman Gets Another Chance to State His Case for Tearing Down the Embankment

In a decision handed down last week, Superior Court Judge Maurice Gallipoli says that developer Steve Hyman is entitled to a new hearing before the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) regarding his petition to tear down the 6th Street Embankment.

The ruling comes as Hyman appears to be inching closer to a deal on the sale of the property to Jersey City, with the City Council planning to vote tonight on the introduction of an ordinance authorizing a bond issuance of up to $7.7 million to purchase the land.

The decision centers around Hyman’s application for Certificates of Appropriateness and Economic Hardship related to his application to demolish the elevated former rail line. Both applications were denied by the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) last spring, and Hyman appealed the decisions to the city’s ZBA, which denied his appeals last August. Hyman then filed suit, arguing that he deserved a fresh, or de novo, hearing on his applications, and that he should have been allowed to present his evidence and state his case before the ZBA.

In his nine-page decision, Gallipoli agrees.

“Fairness dictates that [Hyman] be afforded a de novo hearing before the ZBA,” he writes. Referencing the ZBA’s decision to deny Hyman’s appeal and affirm the earlier decision based on the testimony given to the HPC, Gallipoli says “that was not the role the ZBA was required to perform.”

Instead, he says, “the ZBA was required to determine the case ‘completely anew’ and, while giving due deference to the findings and conclusions of the HPC, it was not necessarily to be controlled by them.”

Gallipoli is calling for a remand hearing before the ZBA to be “scheduled, conducted and concluded as expeditiously as possible.”

In addition to the potential settlement, this legal battle continues to run parallel to the one in federal court over whether or not the Embankment is a rail line that was improperly abandoned by Conrail, who sold Hyman’s wife the land in 2005.

City spokesperson Jennifer Morrill says Jersey City is confident they will win the federal court fight. If so, this and other state Superior Court decisions “will be rendered moot,” she says, and the “conveyance of the Embankment from Conrail to Hyman” would be considered invalid.

Hyman could not be reached for comment today.

June 18, 2010 Ruling RE: Embankment in Jersey City

Jon Whiten

co-founded the Jersey City Independent. He is currently the Deputy Director of New Jersey Policy Perspective.