Lawmaker sues to stop move by Christie administration to redevelop property in Trenton
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon) on Thursday unveiled details of a lawsuit aimed at halting an 11th-hour plan by the Christie administration to construct two new state office buildings in Trenton on the grounds that the financing mechanism – in which the EDA would effectively issue millions in new debt without voter approval – is unconstitutional.
“The New Jersey constitution provides that the voters must approve any significant new debt through a ballot measure. This Governor, and the Economic Development Authority (EDA), have been recklessly issuing new debt through sketchy financing mechanisms that undermine the legal protections we’ve established,” Gusciora said.
Gusciora initially objected to the projects on the grounds that the site of proposed construction is outside Trenton’s designated “downtown core” and outside of the city’s transit center.
“This administration is doing a real disservice to Trenton by not giving this project more thought. Trenton needs a groundswell of investment from the state and by only considering state-owned land, and single-use – rather than mixed-use – office buildings, Christie and his cohorts are taking us further away from the vibrant future that the city deserves.”
The Assemblyman raised his objections with the State House Commission in November as a voting member of the body.
“On November 13th, we voted to put this project on hold until the incoming gubernatorial administration had a chance to review it based on its merits and the public had a chance to make their voices heard. Governor-elect Murphy has made a commitment to urban redevelopment and I believe he will recognize the obvious flaws of this proposal. Ultimately, the other members of the Commission agreed with me and we voted unanimously to put the project on hold.
“We considered the matter settled at that time. Governor Christie, however, did not. Within three weeks, he managed to reassemble the membership of the Commission and, despite nearly two dozen advocates and members of the public objecting to the project, they voted unanimously to approve it. This is politics at its absolute worst,” added Gusciora.
December approval by the State House Commission was quickly followed by approval from the EDA, and from the Joint State Leasing and Space Utilization Committee, which acted as the final rubber stamps in a hasty and thoughtless approval process.
“Approval happened so fast, and with so little input from stakeholders and the public, that we’re left wondering who benefits. It’s certainly not the residents of Trenton, or the taxpayers of the State of New Jersey who will be left footing the bill despite the limited benefit it will provide to them,” continued Gusciora.
With limited options for recourse, the Assemblyman, local attorneys, and stakeholders filed a lawsuit in State Superior Court on Monday.
“We’ve exhausted all of our options. We objected, loudly and clearly, on at least four different occasions, and were ignored despite the validity of our comments,” Gusciora explained. “It’s become clear that the state can’t responsibly represent its residents when it comes to bonding and issuing new debt, and developing critical property in its capital city. At this point, unfortunately, we’ll need to fight this out in the courts. It’s our hope that they will recognize the formal importance of citizen input on all future projects of this nature.”