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Is there any THERE, there?  

If so, WHO was "burned" by the impromptu Traffic Gridlock?  And more importantly WHY would Christie Staffers even care, let alone intentionally create "some Traffic Problems in Fort Lee" -- at the simple 'drop of an hat email', back on August 13, 2013?

And WHY would David {"I barely know him"} Wildstein simply carry out multiple days of municipal chaos, early last September, with a snap-to-it Yes-Ma'am, 2-word reply:  "Got it."

In the famed words of Woodward and Bernstein, someone needs to "Follow the Money!" (Because here's a Clue: The Mayor of Fort Lee, apparently is ...)

Christie Bridge Jam Inquiry Will Probe $1 Billion Projects (1)

by Terrence Dopp, David Voreacos and Tim Jones, Bloomberg News -- Jan 16, 2014

It’s a huge development so close to the bridge and the fact that the mayor was concerned about the issue of traffic and that development is something that needs to be looked at,” Sweeney said. “You don’t ignore areas that could make sense. You don’t ignore things that are possibilities.”

[ The Modern ]

One project, known as The Modern, involves two 47-story glass towers, each with 450 luxury rental apartments. The developer is Fort Lee Redevelopment Associates LLC, a partnership of SJP Residential Properties; attorney James Demetrakis; and real-estate investment firm Palisades Financial.

Hudson Lights

The other project, known as Hudson Lights, is a mixed-use development that would offer 1 million square feet of retail along with luxury apartments. The developers are a joint venture of Tucker Development Corp., Ares Management and Kushner Real Estate Group.

[... pg 2 ...]

“What do I do when our billion-dollar redevelopment is put on line at the end of next year,” Sokolich [Mayor of Fort Lee] said in the e-mail. “Its profound and adverse impact on our community is of paramount importance to me.”

Steve Kornacki of MSNBC first floated this "follow the land-development money" theory, last week:

The billion-dollar development at the center of ‘Bridgegate’

by Steve Kornacki, -- 01/13/14

The common understanding of the story thus far has been that the town’s Democratic mayor, Mark Sokolich, was apparently targeted by members of Christie’s team for retribution, and that that retribution took the form of snarled traffic and all of the administrative headaches that came with it. But as the status of the those access lanes was up in the air, there was something else for Sokolich to worry about: the fate of a $1 billion redevelopment project at the foot of the bridge -- the largest redevelopment project in the history of Fort Lee and a project that, for better or worse, figure’s to serve as Sokolich’s mayoral legacy.

The project in question sits on what is known in Fort Lee as Redevelopment Area 5 -- a 16-acre parcel of land that had sat vacant for four decades before Sokolich began leading plans to develop it. It is some of the most valuable real estate in New Jersey, thanks to its proximity to the George Washington Bridge, which serves as a gateway to New York City -- and especially because it abuts the very local access lanes that were closed by members of Christie’s team.

There was good reason for the project to be on Sokolich’s mind. The redevelopment of the land has been laying out in several phases. Twin 47-floor towers are currently under construction on half of it [The Modern], with residents expected to begin moving in late this year. But back in September, when the lanes were closed, financing had not yet been finalized for the redevelopment of the second half of land -- a plan to build a mix of commercial, residential and parking facilities [Hudson Lights]. Speedy access to the George Washington Bridge -- and to those access lanes in particular -- is what made the land particularly valuable, both to developers and potential tenants. A study commissioned by Fort Lee a year earlier had stressed that, once the site was redeveloped, anyone living or working at it would be able to drive to the bridge expeditiously even during rush hour. And in a brochure, the lead developer of the second half of the project -- a development called Hudson Lights -- played up its proximity to the bridge.

This was not a mere conjecture. Real Money was on the Line. Real Deals, hinging on the "portability" of Fort Lee, New Jersey to New York, New York.  Deals which were finally sealed, the week after the GW Traffic Gridlock dissipated.

TODAY’S DEALS:  Tucker Development-Led Partnership Closes on $218M Financing for Hudson Lights

Multi-Housing News Online -- Sep. 17, 2013

Fort Lee, N.J. -- A joint venture partnership of affiliates of Tucker Development Corporation, Ares Management and Kushner Real Estate Group announced that it has secured $218 million in financing for Phase I of Hudson Lights, a large-scale, 1-million-square-foot mixed-use redevelopment of a prominent eight-acre site located at the base of the entrance to the George Washington Bridge in the heart of downtown Fort Lee, N.J.

The U.S.-based unit of international real estate services firm, Savills, arranged the debt and equity capitalization, including a $117 million construction loan provided by Sovereign Santander Bank. The financing will allow for construction to proceed on the first phase of Hudson Lights, comprising approximately 143,000 square feet of retail space, 864 parking stalls and 276 luxury apartments that feature numerous amenities for residents including a pool, lounge, fitness center, rooftop terrace and gardens. Phase I of Hudson Lights will total approximately 517,000 square feet of commercial and residential space, exclusive of structured parking.

Tucker Development is constructing Hudson Lights with its development partner, KRE Group. Tishman Construction Corp. is serving as the development’s general contractor. KRE Group will also assist with property management for the development’s residential component upon completion. Robert K. Futterman & Associates is serving as the development’s exclusive retail leasing agent.

This Deal Sealing was not pre-planned, nor encouraged, by anyone on Governor Christie staff. If not for the diligence of NY Civil-authorities, the Tucker Development project may have reverted back to the Fort Lee 'drawing boards', like so many grand plans before it.

Documents:  Christie appointees stonewalled queries into lane closures

by Doris Taylor, CNN; -- Jan 10, 2014

(CNN) -- [...]

In a terse e-mail, the executive director of the New York and New Jersey Port Authority [Patrick Foye] expressed anger for not being told about the lane closures in New Jersey that led into the George Washington Bridge. He used his authority to override the decision four days after traffic logjams crippled commutes.

“Reversing over 25 years of PA (Port Authority) GWB (George Washington Bridge) operations, the three lanes in Fort Lee eastbound to the GWB were reduced to one lane on Monday of this week without notifying Fort Lee, the commuting public we serve,” wrote Patrick Foye, the executive director, on September 13 [2013] to other Port Authority officials. “I am appalled by the lack of process, failure to inform our customers and Fort Lee and most of all by the dangers created to the public interest.”

Steve Kornacki goes on to make a few conjectures based on what Bill Baroni {resigned Cristie Staffer} and even Chris Christie himself, had to say about "Fort Lee's 3-access lanes to the GW Bridge" -- and its lack of 'common sense appropriateness' ("fairness") ...
Baroni, in an appearance before the state Assembly committee investigating the matter in late November, also argued that Fort Lee was getting special treatment with the access lanes.  Taken together, his comment and Christie’s suggest the administration may have been looking at permanently closing or reducing the access lanes back in September.
MSNBC Video -- Important new developments in New Jersey’s 'bridgegate' scandal -- Steve Kornacki, 1/12/14

For "not knowing anything about" the supposed Traffic Study, that Christie Staffers themselves ordered and carried out, these colloquial slams against Fort Lee's 'selfish claim' on 3-Bridge access lanes, does appear strangely "out of context."

Please allow me to fill-in some of that 'missing context' ... grab a cup of coffee, or save a bookmark for a more thorough review later. (Many Thanks, for the tips and recs, too)

There is a Back-Story, HERE -- regarding this long-running New Jersey soap-opera, currently known as "Redevelopment Area 5."

I would summarize the overarching plot-line simply like this:  

If you are an overly-ambitious, hastily conceived, Real Estate Development firm [aka. Fort Lee Redevelopment Associates] -- what looks better to you, one-half of, or TWO-haves of this very valuable Billion Dollar development Pie?  (also known as "Redevelopment Area 5.")
Because at one point in time, not so very long ago, they [FLRA] had just that -- the Whole Pie ... all to themselves. Thank you very much, to a very compliant Fort Lee Borough (City) Council, no doubt.

SOOO, let's unwind some of that recent "Redevelopment Area 5." history -- for those of us who haven't caught every episode of this modern-day soap opera. I have consolidated some of the key sub-plot points, more or less in reverse chronological order ... (Breaking Bad, just may have met its real-world match ... depending on the Enforcers staying on the "follow the money" case, that is.)

Ground Broken at Fort Lee’s ‘Redevelopment Area 5’

The developer of the eastern half of the 16-acre property held a groundbreaking ceremony for its $500 million development Wednesday. The western half may still be months away, according to Fort Lee’s mayor.

by Erik Wander (Editor), October 18, 2012

The groundbreaking was for the roughly eight-acre “East parcel” [The Modern] upon which SJP [SJP Residential Properties], in partnership with Prudential Real Estate Investors, Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Bergen County attorney James Demetrakis and investment firm Palisades Financial, plans to build two 47-story glass towers with 900 luxury rental apartments called “The Modern,” along with a public park, water features, a 7,000-square-foot restaurant with indoor and open-air dining and a refreshment kiosk, among other amenities.

SJP will also develop a 13,000-square-foot building it will donate to the borough to house a public theater and a public museum.

I just feel like we just summited Mount Everest after a long, hard climb,” said SJP president Allen Goldman. “Today we’re celebrating groundbreaking for an extraordinary, $500 million redevelopment that will forever change the Borough of Fort Lee and the skyline of New Jersey.”

In March [2012], the Fort Lee Planning Board approved Fort Lee Redevelopment Associates (FLRA)’s plan for the East parcel -- a project known at the time as “The Center at Fort Lee.”

In June [2012], the Fort Lee Planning Board also unanimously approved Tucker Development Corporation’s mixed-use site plan for Redevelopment Area 5’s West parcel -- a project the developer was calling “Hudson Lights,” which includes more than 165,000 square feet of retail space, a 175-room hotel, about 477 residential units and parking for about 1,200 cars.

But [Fort Lee Mayor] Sokolich told Patch groundbreaking on the western half may still be months away, calling it an entirely different animal” because financing for retail and commercial uses, as opposed to residential, poses more of a challenge.

Fort Lee, NJ -- Borough Council Calendar -- August 2013   {"Got it!"}

Mayor & Council Regular Meeting Agenda - 8/15/2013 (pdf)


7:00 pm. EXECUTIVE SESSION (Meeting Begins in Open)


Personnel: Building Department
Police Department Extra Duty Employment
& Communications Center

Contracts: Tucker Development
Brown & Brown Metro Inc.
COAH-Affordable Housing Funds – Fort Lee

Housing Authority Property Acquisition: 1363 Inwood Terrace, Block 2253, Lot 2

Mayor & Council Regular Meeting Agenda -- 10/06/2011 (pdf)

7:00 pm. EXECUTIVE SESSION (Meeting Begins in Open)


Personnel:  EMT’s
Police Department Civilian Position
Senior Citizen Director

Tax Appeal Litigation:  LI Trust, Block 1551, Lot 1
Enterprise 46, Inc. at 1630 Bergen Boulevard

Redevelopment Area 5 Settlement Agreement and Conditional Designations

R-13 Authorizing a 4th Amendment to the Settlement Agreement With FLRA and Tucker Extending the Time Period for Adoption of Amendments to the Redevelopment Plan for Redevelopment Area 5

R-14 Authorizing the Extending the Conditional Designation of Tucker as Redeveloper for the West Parcel

R-15 Authorizing the Extending the Conditional Designation of FLRA as Redeveloper for the East Parcel

N.J. developer breaks ground on $500 million residential development
Glass towers will house 900 rentals -- October 17, 2012

Fort Lee Redevelopment Associates [FLRA] broke ground this morning on a $500 million luxury rental project set to transform Bergen County’s Fort Lee.

The Modern will include 900 luxury rental apartments in two 47-story glass towers on eight acres near the entrance to the George Washington Bridge. Fort Lee Redevelopment Associates is a partnership of real estate developer SJP Residential Properties, Bergen County attorney James Demetrakis and real estate investment firm Palisades Financial.

The new development, slated for completion in 2014, [...]

Tucker Development Receives Site Plan Approval for Hudson Lights, a One-Million-Square-Foot, Mixed-Use Development
Press Release brought to you by Tucker Development Corporation -- June 11, 2012

Tucker Development Corporation, a leader in the development of shopping centers and mixed-use properties, today announced that Hudson Lights -- the company’s mixed-use development planned for more than eight acres in the heart of downtown Fort Lee, N.J. -- has received site plan approval from the Fort Lee Borough Planning Board.

“We are pleased to have secured approval to move forward with this state-of-the-art, mixed-use development that is a key part of the dynamic and transformative plans for this Gold Coast community,” stated Richard H. Tucker, President and CEO of Tucker Development. “We collaborated with the Borough of Fort Lee, and we thank Mayor Sokilich, Planning Board Chairman Herbert Greenberg, and the entire Planning Board and their consultants for their thoughtful diligence in securing all necessary approvals for this exceptional development. We’ve worked to create a vibrant shop, dine and live quality environment; one of which, when completed, we will all be proud.”



The comprehensive view of real estate, design and construction -- VOL. 6, NO. 3 Fall 2012 Issue

Cover price $6.00

…New Jersey’s Hottest Projects

Fort Lee Redevelopment Associates (FLRA), a partnership of leading real estate developer  SJP Residential Properties, attorney  James Demetrakis and Palisades Financial, has broken ground on The Modern, a luxury residential development highlighted by two 47-story, iconic towers that will rise near the George Washington Bridge. Daibes Enterprises is constructing The Alexander, a ten story, 280-unit luxury apartment building along River Road in Edgewater, successfully transforming an abandoned industrial site into a vital new use.

SJP Residential Properties
Strategic Partnerships

Over the last three decades, SJP has forged long-term relationships with many leading financial institutions, including Prudential Insurance, Lend Lease, TIAA-CREF, JP Morgan Asset Management, Bank of America, PNC Bank, Northwestern Mutual, HypoVerins Bank and many others to produce some of the most successful joint venture developments in the history of New Jersey.

Greater Fort Lee Chamber of Commerce -- NEWSLETTER (pdf)
Centuria Property Update:  Mayor Sokolich Cautiously Optomistic About Resolving Dispute -- FALL 2010 --

by Craig Weinstein, Esq.; GFLCOC Immediate Past President

In July 2009, four proposals were submitted to the Fort Lee Mayor and Council for the development of Redevelopment Area #5, formerly known as the ‘Centuria property’ and before that the ‘Helmsley property’. The tract is a 15.7 acre parcel located at the foot of the George Washington Bridge, which has been vacant for over 40 years.

On April 15, 2010, the governing body announced that Fort Lee Redevelopment Associates (FLRA) had been chosen as the developer for the entire property. FLRA is the owner of the eastern half of the property. Tucker Development and Acquisition Fund (Tucker Development) owns the western half of the property.

In June 2010, Tucker Development filed a 25 Count Complaint in Bergen County, seeking to block FLRA’s development plans. Among other things, Tucker Development alleges it was deprived of the “benefit of their substantial economic investment in real estate.” Fort Lee countered by arguing that the choice of FLRA was legal and rational, and vowed to continue work on the project with FLRA despite the lawsuit.

According to Mayor Sokolich, the Boro of Fort Lee has been working diligently with both developers in an attempt to effectuate a settlement of the dispute. “Not a day goes by that I am not in contact with both Tucker Development and FLRA,” Mayor Sokolich said.

Mayor Sokolich said he is confident an agreement with the developers will be reached shortly, so that construction on the project can begin. [...]

Rejected Developer Sues Over Town's Choice

by Merry Firschein, Staff Writer, The Record -- June 7, 2010

FORT LEE, NJ — [...]
Sokolich announced April 15 [2010] that FLRA had been selected as redeveloper of the site, which borough officials have labeled the linchpin of Fort Lee's downtown revitalization. Applicants were invited to submit proposals for the entire site or just the eastern or western parcels.

Tucker Development bought the western half of the vacant parcel from the previous redeveloper, which defaulted on a loan related to the project. Tucker's project, called Hudson Lights, focused solely on that property.

Tucker was the only applicant that followed all of the borough's rules in its initial proposal, the suit contends.

"The FLRA [Fort Lee Redevelopment Associates] proposal was inconsistent with the regulations set forth in the borough's redevelopment plan" including seeking a larger ratio of building-to-property coverage than allowed, a larger amount of residential units per acre than allowed, taller buildings than allowed, and proposing a hotel for the eastern parcel, also not allowed, Tucker says in the legal papers.

FLRA is a "shell company" created by [Allen F.] Goldman, Demetrakis and SJP solely to win the designation, the suit says.

The borough, by selecting FLRA, violated the state's Local Redevelopment and Housing Law because the firm's proposal does not comply with the borough's current redevelopment plan, a requirement of the state law, the suit states.

The selection also violates state Municipal Land Use Law because the borough's Planning Board did not review FLRA's plan to make sure it fits with the borough's master plan, according to the lawsuit.

The borough also erroneously labeled the western parcel, owned by Tucker, as blighted when the property does not fit all of the state's criteria for the label, the suit contends.

Tucker said Thursday that borough officials made their decision to select a redeveloper based on incorrect information: that the company wasn't willing to develop the eastern parcel, and that the firm would need public assistance to finance its construction. Neither was true, Tucker said.

Whew!  There is much more to the sordid history of this Prime NJ Real Estate -- but what you just read (hopefully) is enough for now.

It should be clear, that anyone interested in NJ Development Projects would have been at least partially aware of the fits-and-starts, wheeling-and-dealing, that has been swirling around this "Economic Opportunity," locally known as "Redevelopment Area 5." It should also have been clear to those same NJ movers-and-shakers, of what vital importance of the Fort Lee access lanes to the GW Bridge were, in the valuations of any future income, to be gained by the Developers and Partners (and Financiers) of this Prime NJ Real Estate.

Take away that "easy access" to the GW bridge, and you may very well take away the "easy financing" -- financing that the litigious boy-scout of a Re-developer, aka the Tucker Development Corporation, was still in the process of trying to secure, as the GW lanes were being shuttered.

And IF Developer No. Two's financing falls through -- who is standing in the wings, ready and willing, to take over the Eastern Half of that Billion Dollar NJ Pie?  That would be Developer No. One, the once-alleged "shell company" also known as Fort Lee Redevelopment Associates. Afterall they will be completing their Western slice of the Pie [The Modern], sometime this year.

SO, WHY would Christie Staffers even care, who gets to "eat" which half of this local Fort Lee Real Estate Pie? ... That is still the question, that needs to be asked (especially since numerous multi-national concerns seem to "care").  Why did the NJ Port Authority executive, on instructions from NJ Governor's senior staff, decide to gridlock the GW Bridge, in the very same week Developer No. Two, Tucker Development, gets the "green light" on his Contract [Hudson Lights], from the Fort Lee Mayor and City Council (presumably) ...

I would imagine, given the history of graft and political kickbacks in the burbs of NJ and NY, that some creative financial engineers, could find an international way to divvy up the Pie, to the political wheel-greasers, if only the Partners of Developer No. One, are given another Half-Billion-Dollar income stream to divert into their many income-oriented Banks.  You see, FLRA is much, much more than a simple "shell of a company" NOW.

Could it be, that FLRA & Partners are simply looking for more "easy clams" in the years going forward?  Inquiring Investigators, should really dare to ask them (and perhaps subpena their Modern pie-making Bank records, too).

Just a pre-emptive litigious thought, or two.

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