Jersey City Says it Has Found a $15M Buyer for City-Owned Land Behind Medical Center

Jersey City may soon be home to a proton therapy cancer treatment center — one of only a handful in the country — pending City Council approval of a $15 million land deal for the property behind the Jersey City Medical Center.

The property in question has been the subject of debate and controversy since April, when Ward E councilman Steven Fulop began to question whether the city could actually receive $15 million for it, as it had estimated in its 2011 budget. A few months later, a state official said the city was “highly unlikely” to fetch the full price.

But now it appears that it may, with the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency (JCRA) having lined up Tessler Developments as the designated developer for a massive complex that would include not only the region’s first proton therapy center, but also commercial space and about 1,000 market-rate apartments, some earmarked for those undergoing treatment.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the procedure is somewhat controversial in medical circles:

The treatment involves using a proton beam to precisely deposit a cancer-treatment dose near a tumor or affected area with less scattered radiation to the rest of the body, said Dr. Glen Gejerman, co-division chief of urologic oncology at Hackensack University Medical Center. It has so far been studied on brain tumors and on lung, pediatric and prostate cancers.

The controversial therapy is supported by some doctors who say it targets tumors more effectively than conventional radiation and is safer on surrounding tissue and organs.

Others have been critical, saying the relatively new therapy hasn’t been subjected to enough peer-reviewed research.

The City Council will vote next week on a resolution transferring the land to the JCRA, after which plans and engineering drawings would be submitted to the city’s Planning Division for approval, a process city spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill says will take between 9 and 12 months. She said the city expects construction to start by the end of 2012, or early 2013 at the latest.

The administration is still hoping to include the $15 million in this year’s not-yet-passed budget, but Morrill says they are still “working with the state” on that.

Fulop, who has criticized the land-sale process, says that he and his colleagues haven’t yet seen any plans for the site.

In addition to City Council and Planning approval, the project still also must be licensed by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services as an ambulatory care center. No application has been submitted, the agency tells the Wall Street Journal.

But Yitzchak Tessler, Tessler’s owner, tells the paper he’s requesting licensing. To help fund construction, he says he has lined up $250 million in private investments, as well as signed contracts for $90 million worth of equipment and software.

Rendering of the proposed development courtesy of the JCRA

Matt Hunger

is a former staff writer for the Jersey City Independent.