View Full Version : Ex-Trash Heap to Be Big Urban Park

May 13th, 2003, 04:38 AM
May 13, 2003

Ex-Trash Heap to Be Big Urban Park


CARLSTADT, N.J., May 11 — The Hackensack Meadowlands, once among the nation's best known trash heaps and a mosquito-infested symbol of environmental degradation, is poised to become something that once would have seemed unimaginable: a watery ecological preserve that would become the region's largest urban park.

Three months after developers agreed to abandon plans for a shopping center in the heart of the tidal basin that stretches for miles in either direction here, an unlikely coalition of business executives, environmental advocates and mayors has tentatively agreed to back a plan that would turn 8,400 acres of swamp, sewage and orphaned landfills into a sprawling green space 10 times the size of Central Park.

The site is two miles from the mouth of the Lincoln Tunnel.

In the past week, state officials, fortified with $8.4 million in acquisition funds, have begun contacting property owners to move forward with the next phase, the purchase of 700 acres for the refuge, which has unofficially been christened Meadowlands Preserve. The state already owns 3,400 acres that it plans to devote to the park, and officials say they have enough money to make the preserve a reality.

"A few years ago, if you had told anyone this collection of toxic dumps and marshes would one day become an environmental park, people would have thought you were crazy," said Representative Steve Rothman, a New Jersey Democrat who helped secure more than $4 million from Congress for the land purchases. Plans for the park, which have percolated for a decade, gained momentum in February, when a Virginia-based company abandoned its efforts to build a two-million-square-foot retail and entertainment center on wetlands here. The company, which spent years trying to win federal approval for the project, has agreed to shift the mall to the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford and donate the 600-acre site to the state.

Extending from the edges of suburban Ridgefield south to the industrial flank of Kearny, the park will include playing fields, fishing piers, golf links and 35 miles of hiking trails, some of which will skirt above the riverine mud flats.

But just cobbling together patches of soupy earth does not make a wildlife refuge. Large swaths of the Meadowlands have long been cut off from the nourishing flow of the Atlantic, and environmental researchers are still trying to figure out how to clean up a landscape once dominated by scores of towering garbage dumps, many of which still leach brightly colored goo into surrounding waters.

Remediating the most damaged areas could cost hundreds of millions of dollars and take a decade or more to complete. Ecologists are unsure how the contamination from heavy metals will play out in the aquatic food chain, which includes more than 260 species of birds that feed, breed and nest in the area. "We're going to have to make the best of what in actuality is a very bad situation," said Bill Sheehan, director of Hackensack Riverkeeper, a group that serves as the Meadowlands's most dogged defender.

Still, as he steered a pontoon boat through the serpentine Saw Mill Creek last week, Mr. Sheehan excitedly pointed out the signs of a thriving habitat. Blue-wing teals and cormorants dipped and dove into the cider-colored waters and diamond-back terrapins sunned themselves on the mud flats. On many days, he said, the brackish Hackensack is now clean enough for swimming. As a boatload of old men cast lines for white perch and striped bass in a nearby cove, Mr. Sheehan and his co-pilot, Hugh Carola, argued over whether the waterfowl reeling overhead were white-fronted geese, a species rarely seen on the East Coast, or simply an escaped pair of barnyard geese.

Mr. Sheehan said that as he was growing up in Secaucus during the 1950's, very few species could survive the industrial effluent and burning trash that fouled the Meadowlands. "In 1995, when I started doing ecocruises, people laughed at me and said, `What are you going to look at, bits of floating garbage?' " he said. Since then, he has taken more than 16,000 people through the marshes, and on weekends, boaters flock to a newly created county park, Laurel Hill, to rent canoes by the hour.

A dozen kayaks are on the way, Mr. Sheehan said, and during the warmer months his office phones seldom stop ringing. "People are having birthday parties on the river," he said. "They're using the Meadowlands in ways they could never have imagined."

Local business leaders, who more recently viewed the Meadowlands as a place better suited to outlet centers and low-rise warehouses, have begun to see the possibilities of ecotourism. James Kirkos, president of the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce, said his group, which spent years butting heads with environmentalists, is planning a marketing effort to promote bird-watching and boating as well as the new golf courses. "We see great promise in it," he said of the park. "We're calling it Meadowlands Miracle Two."

EnCap, a Florida-based company, has already begun preliminary work on a billion dollar effort to transform seven abandoned landfills into four golf courses, a hotel and 2,000 apartments. As part of the project, the company will spend $300 million to seal in the ooze of contamination, which plagues many of the abandoned dumps.

Some local businesses are already trying to cash in on the lure of the place. Later this month, the Red Roof Inn in Secaucus will start putting ecocruise brochures in its rooms. Jim Mastrangelo, the general manager, wants all his employees to take a ride with Mr. Sheehan so they can better pitch the tours to guests. "I think folks will be pleasantly surprised to know they can take a canoe out on a marsh that sits in the shadow of the Empire State Building," he said.

Although the notion of a resuscitated Meadowlands began with the Clean Water Act of 1972 and slowly built over the decades, the biggest turnaround in its fortunes occurred last year, when Gov. James E. McGreevey appointed an environmentalist, Robert R. Ceberio, to lead the state agency that oversees zoning and development in the 30-square-mile Meadowlands district. (A few months earlier, the agency, previously known as the Hackensack Meadowlands Development Commission, changed its name to the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission to reflect its new mission.)

Once largely a vehicle for promoting economic development, which would have included the filling of 2,000 acres of wetlands, the commission has put together a new master plan that virtually eliminates wetlands destruction and steers all future development to brownfields and other upland parcels that have negligible ecological value. Business leaders like Mr. Kirkos said they have been cheered by the plan's growth component, which promises $5 billion in construction and 55,000 new jobs in the broader Meadowlands area outside the park.

He and others, however, want to make sure property owners are fairly compensated for land that is acquired for the park.

So far, the commission has been offering $10,200 per acre, an amount that Tom Bruinooge, a lawyer for several landowners, says is laughably low. He also objects to the use of eminent domain for seizing parcels from unwilling sellers. "I have yet to see how 50 acres of degraded wetland in a mythical park is a true public purpose," he said. Mr. Ceberio, the commission director, said disputed land values will be resolved by independent appraisals.

In some ways, Mr. Ceberio's career trajectory mirrors the changes in the Meadowlands, an area that once covered 21,000 acres. He first came to the agency in 1981, working in its solid waste division, when 3,000 trucks a day came to pour their wretched cargo over man-made hillocks.

One by one, the agency shut down the landfills and today only one dump, a repository for clean construction debris, remains in operation. The dumping fees there, which total about $8 million a year, help fund an environmental center and restored marsh that sit at the edge of an old dump.

"There's been a complete change in culture and philosophy here," Mr. Ceberio said, sitting in an office that provides a quintessential Meadowlands view: wading egrets, grass-covered landfills and the arc of the New Jersey Turnpike, all of it set against a hazy silhouette of the Manhattan skyline. "I can't tell you how exciting times are right now. It's a little scary."

Dennis Elwell, the mayor of Secaucus, agreed. Nearly enveloped by swampland, the town and its well-being have always been tied to the Meadowlands. Mr. Elwell's 88-year-old father can still recall the days before mosquito-eradication campaigns drained thousands of acres of marsh and a dam in Oradell choked off much of the Hackensack's freshwater flow. During the 1970's, the area received 11,000 tons of trash a day from New York City and towns across northern New Jersey. The stench was bad enough, but things became unbearable in the summer, when uncontrolled trash fires burned for weeks on end.

"Some nights," Mr. Elwell said, "you couldn't sit in your backyard it was so bad."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

May 13th, 2003, 08:02 AM
If they can fix this, they can fix anything.

May 13th, 2003, 10:35 AM
Still unimaginable, but hey, kudos for trying.

May 15th, 2003, 09:16 AM
May 15, 2003

Meadow Trumps Mall in New Jersey

The first thing that travelers from New York see of the Garden State is not a garden at all but a swampy mosquito-breeding wasteland known, counterintuitively, as the Hackensack Meadowlands. Now, however, under a plan being cobbled together by environmentalists, business leaders and state and local officials, New Jersey's worst eyesore — which comes into view just west of the railroad tunnels — may one day become a watery ecological preserve covering 8,400 acres of protected wetlands, wildlife refuges, hiking trails, playing fields and even a golf course or two.

Conservationists have long dreamed of restoring an area that for years attracted only dump trucks and gangsters in search of a resting place for their rivals. But it was only a dream until February, when a Virginia-based developer specializing in megamalls agreed to take a planned retail and entertainment complex elsewhere. The developers owned 600 strategically located acres, 200 of which would have been drained and filled to accommodate the mall. As as long as that project remained on the drawing boards, the larger destiny of the Meadowlands could not be resolved.

There were many important players in this drama, among them the environmentalists, who first argued the ecological case for the Meadowlands; the Clinton administration, which intervened at a critical moment to delay development; and Steve Rothman, a member of Congress who helped secure money to buy land. Donald DiFrancesco, then New Jersey's acting governor, was the first chief executive to speak out against the mall. The current governor, James McGreevey, tilted the leadership of the state agency that oversees zoning in the Meadowlands toward conservation and away from development.

It will take an enormous amount of energy and money to make the Meadowlands fit for human enjoyment, not to mention a more productive environment for the 260 bird species that feed and breed there. For starters, it will mean cleaning up a polluted landscape that once was host to as many as 300 active landfills and took in 11,000 tons of trash every day from New York City and northern New Jersey. But it is worth the effort. From the beginning of this fight it has been clear that the New York metropolitan area needs open space far more than it needs another shopping mall.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

May 15th, 2003, 09:34 AM
The swampy meadowlands isn't the eyesore, rather it's the pollution and industry that surrounds and inundates it.

TLOZ Link5
May 15th, 2003, 09:25 PM
In other news, there's also the park proposal for Fresh Kills...

January 9th, 2004, 12:41 AM
January 9, 2004

Master Plan to Give New Life to Meadowlands Is Approved


LYNDHURST, N.J., Jan. 8 — The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission on Thursday approved a master plan to transform 8,400 acres once known as the state's signature trash heap into an ecological preserve and the largest urban park in the region.

The plan, several years in the making, received high praise from local and state officials and from environmentalists, who said it would preserve the sensitive Meadowlands and benefit the local economy. The 32-acre preserve, 10 times the size of Central Park, was once home to toxic landfills that contributed to the state's reputation as a waste dump.

Susan Bass Levin, who was appointed chairwoman of the commission by Gov. James E. McGreevey, recalled that when she was growing up in nearby Saddle Brook, "we closed our windows when the winds would blow from the east."

"For too long, it was known as a smelly dumping ground, not the national treasure that it is today," Ms. Levin said.

The plan calls for a balance between economic development and environmental preservation in a broad swath of land that includes parts of 14 cities in Bergen and Hudson counties, two miles from the Lincoln Tunnel. The area includes a busy hub of warehouses and sports and entertainment sites along Route 3 and the New Jersey Turnpike, and acres of delicate marshland grasses that grow taller than a man's head, which were disappearing until a few years ago.

"The war over the Meadowlands is over," said Capt. Bill Sheehan, the executive director of Hackensack Riverkeeper, an environmental group, who was credited by many at Thursday's meeting with being a leader of the efforts to preserve the area. "We are now policing the place."

The approval of the plan is the culmination of years of planning and cooperation among scores of federal, state and local agencies and varying economic and environmental interests. The effort began in 1969 when the state first called for a master plan.

"It took a whole change in mind-set, a change in the culture of this organization," said Robert R. Ceberio, an environmentalist, who was named executive director of the commission by Governor McGreevey two years ago. It was under Ms. Levin's leadership, Mr. Ceberio said, that the different constituents vying for a piece of the Meadowlands came together and agreed to abide by one planning document.

The commission now owns or controls 3,600 acres of the parcel, and plans to acquire more, which will be put into a special trust. The master plan calls for preserving much of the land and revitalizing those areas that were blighted by pollution or overdevelopment.

The plan's zoning regulations, which will govern planning for the next 25 years, will allow 24 million square feet of commercial space and 2,750 hotel rooms. When added to other redevelopment initiatives already under way, officials said, the regulations will help add $73.1 million and 56,000 jobs to the area's economy.

One of the projects already in the planning stages is the $1.4 billion Meadlowlands Xanadu sports and entertainment complex, to be built on the current site of the Continental Airlines Arena. That project was approved last month by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.

The plan received some criticism because officials have yet to work out details on the transportation aspect to make sure the ecological preserve is not disturbed by the burdens of future traffic needs. Ms. Levin said it could be several months before a transportation plan is adopted, after public hearings are held.

"The last thing the Meadowlands needs is more cars and trucks," said Jennifer Siegel, the New Jersey coordinator for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a regional planning group. Ms. Siegel said there were too many unknowns about the impact of traffic changes in the area.

Commission officials said they would meet with Ms. Siegel's organization to discuss transportation concerns before approving a plan.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

November 8th, 2007, 04:38 AM
Trump Steps In as Partner for Troubled Meadowlands Project

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2007/11/08/nyregion/08trump-600.jpg Todd Heisler/The New York Times
Donald J. Trump surprised many Wednesday with the news that he would be a 50-50 partner in a development in the New Jersey Meadowlands.

By CHARLES V. BAGLI (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/b/charles_v_bagli/index.html?inline=nyt-per)
Published: November 8, 2007

The developer Donald J. Trump (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/t/donald_j_trump/index.html?inline=nyt-per) pledged yesterday to rescue the troubled EnCap golf and housing development in the New Jersey (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/national/usstatesterritoriesandpossessions/newjersey/index.html?inline=nyt-geo) Meadowlands, saying he would come up with a new design, a world-class golf course and more upscale housing.

The New York Times

Donald Trump says he will find
a new master plan for the housing
and golf course to be built at the
Meadowlands in New Jersey.
Critics were wary of Mr. Trump’s
involvement in the project.

Mr. Trump said in an interview that he had signed a deal to become a 50-50 partner with the current builder, Cherokee Investment Partners, in developing 785 acres covering four garbage dumps stretching across Lynhurst and Rutherford, N.J. The developer said he had already started interviewing five firms to find a new master planner for the project.

“This has the potential to be one of the great jobs anywhere in the world,” Mr. Trump said about 30 minutes after he signed the deal. “We’re going to make it that.”

But Mr. Trump’s sudden involvement caught many politicians and public officials by surprise and did little to mollify environmentalists, politicians and other critics who have described the project as a dangerous boondoggle.
“We don’t have any information concerning Mr. Trump, nor has anyone at this agency been approached by Mr. Trump,” said Christopher Gale, a spokesman for the Meadowlands Commission.

The commission, which serves as the planning agency for the 30 square miles of swamps, streams and land that make up the Meadowlands, selected a division of Cherokee Investment Partners, EnCap Golf Holdings, to develop the property in 1999. But in September, the commission put EnCap on notice that it had defaulted on its agreement and ultimately set a Nov. 20 deadline for EnCap to remedy a long list of financial and environmental problems.

“It doesn’t matter if they bring in Trump but do not change the cleanup plan,” said Jeffrey Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/s/sierra_club/index.html?inline=nyt-org). “It’s still a bad project. They’re putting over 2,000 units of housing on top of a toxic landfill. Landfills are unstable.”

At a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Jon S. Corzine (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/c/jon_s_corzine/index.html?inline=nyt-per) declined to comment on Mr. Trump’s possible involvement in the Meadowlands. But he did say that the project needed a new developer. “I think a takeout of the current developer is a good idea,” Mr. Corzine said.

The possibility of a deal between Cherokee and Mr. Trump was first reported by The Record of Hackensack yesterday.

Cherokee Investment Partners released a statement last night confirming the deal with Mr. Trump.

“Cherokee Investment Partners has signed an agreement with the Trump Organization for complete operational management of the Meadowlands Redevelopment Project,” said David J. O’Neill, a Cherokee vice president. “Cherokee is committed to the remediation and redevelopment of the Meadowlands in a manner that is safe and environmentally responsible and that produces economic benefits for the surrounding communities. We believe that the Trump Organization is the right partner to accomplish these goals.”
It is unclear whether Cherokee will provide additional money for the project. But a real estate executive briefed on the negotiations said that Cherokee had paid Pulte Homes $8 million to $10 million to buy out its $150 million contract to develop 2,000 apartments and town houses on the site.

Much is at stake for Cherokee, which is based in North Carolina and describes itself as the largest private equity fund in the world specializing in the remediation and redevelopment of brownfields. Its EnCap division was supposed to have cleaned the site of contaminated soil and capped the four garbage dumps before building two golf courses, a hotel, 2,580 housing units and stores.

After cleanup costs soared in 2005, the state provided $212 million in loans rather than allow the project to stall or collapse. But the company has come under fire for failing to clean the site properly. And environmentalists say that the site cannot sustain so much housing.

Cherokee may have approached Mr. Trump because of his success in developing the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster and because he may attract new capital. Mr. Trump enjoys riding to the rescue as he did in the 1980s, when he rebuilt the Wollman Rink in Central Park after city officials had bungled the job for years.

“This is a large-scale Wollman’s skating rink,” Mr. Trump said, adding that he would like to build even more housing units than EnCap had envisioned.
Cherokee may have also sought Mr. Trump’s help because the state has approached other developers to replace EnCap.

But State Senator Loretta Weinberg, a critic of the project, was unimpressed with the latest maneuver.

“I’m not prepared to think of new ideas until I figure out what happened with this bad idea,” Ms. Weinberg said. “This has been such a huge boondoggle that the Legislature and people we represent have a right to know how we got here and who should be returning money to the state. All that has to be taken into consideration in terms of bringing in a new developer.”
Jeremy W. Peters contributed reporting.

November 9th, 2007, 09:42 AM
Sounds like a great plan. Can't they siphon off the gas and use it as energy. They do that at some landfills, collecting the gas and getting it out of there.

November 13th, 2007, 12:57 PM
Sounds like a great plan. Can't they siphon off the gas and use it as energy. They do that at some landfills, collecting the gas and getting it out of there.

Yes, the NJMC currently collects methane gas.

November 14th, 2007, 10:45 PM
Trump lends name, not money, to Meadowlands project

by Maura McDermott and George E. Jordan/The Star-Ledger Wednesday November 14, 2007, 8:49 PM

Donald Trump is putting his name on the troubled EnCap development in the Meadowlands, but not his money.

In fact, Trump will be paid $15 million over three years to overhaul the project's design and rescue the plans that would transform nearly 800 polluted acres in Bergen County into a luxurious development of homes and a golf course, according to a signed agreement released today.

This is a typical strategy for Trump, who often lends his name to projects and promotes them aggressively without actually putting up his own cash.

"Trump is the master of self-branding, he's never been afraid to put his name in big gold-leaf letters everywhere," said Joe Weinert, a consultant for the gaming industry who has advised Trump. "He's done an excellent job of promoting the brand but not putting -- relatively speaking -- significant sums at risk."

Trump saw EnCap as a "challenge," when he learned of the project's faltering finances and its environmental problems from a front-page Star-Ledger article several weeks ago, said Michael Cohen, executive vice president for the Trump Organization.

"This thing needs my touch," was his comment, Cohen said.

The cost of his involvement -- which could rise, depending on sales and other factors -- is in line with other Trump licensing deals, Cohen said.

Trump will rename the development "Trump National," overhaul its design and marketing, and oversee cleanup and construction, according the agreement between Trump and the current developers, which include EnCap Golf Holdings and its parent company, the private equity firm Cherokee Investment Partners.

Don Eisen, a long-time player in the northern New Jersey commercial real estate industry, said the Trump name generates excitement despite the company's troubled Atlantic City casino and failed mortgage business.

"The name still carries some panache. It brings value because people know that brand," Eisen said. "Everything he touches does not turn to gold. But the residential side of his businesses have all done well."

November 30th, 2007, 01:02 PM
Trump at the dump
Friday, November 30, 2007


Donald Trump prides himself on building and acquiring world-class real estate. But on Thursday his stage was decidedly less appealing -- a garbage dump in Lyndhurst.
The day after his new partners paid $5 million to clear the way for Trump to put his stamp on the troubled EnCap Golf site, he offered his trademark bravado about the future of the forlorn stretch of garbage dumps and swamps in south Bergen County.
"Yes, it looks terrible to a lot of people, but we will improve it quickly," Trump said, during a quick tour of the 785-acre site. "Tractors do amazing work. The site will soon be in good shape."
Trump -- who is expected to rename the plan to his "Trump National" brand -- once again promised to build a "spectacular" 18-hole golf course. But this time, he had further details.
Renowned course designer Tom Fazio already has completed the layout of the holes, Trump said, and he will get started with construction "almost immediately."

"The golf course could open in less than two years," Trump said. He also insisted that the layout will "blow away" both Bayonne Golf Club and Jersey City's Liberty National course.
And while those private clubs feature six-figure initiation fees and steep annual dues, Trump vowed that his course will be open to the public, on a pay-per-round basis.
Trump did not offer an estimated cost for playing a round.
Trump's vision halves the number of golf holes originally planned at EnCap.
"Instead of two terrible courses, it's going to be one great championship course, and it's also going to give us some extra land to work with," Trump said.
And after vowing earlier this month to tear up the entire EnCap plan, Trump seems to have changed his tune.
"We're going to leave a lot of components of the plan similar to what it was before, though at a much higher level, because we don't want to go through a whole new remapping of everything," Trump said. "We have a job that's been approved; now all we have to do is get it done."
Sticking with the current plan -- 1,780 units in Lyndhurst and 800 more in Rutherford -- might allow Trump to avoid seeking new approvals from the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission. The state agency, which has a Valley Brook Avenue office within sight of Trump's proposed 12th hole, declared EnCap Golf Holdings in default in May and threatened to terminate the project at the end of this month.
Cherokee Investment Partners -- EnCap's parent company, and Trump's new partners -- got a 45-day extension Wednesday by putting up $5 million, money that will be used to control methane and toxic leachate emissions at the site.
"The area that [the commission] really wants cleaned up, we can do that in 90 days, maybe sooner," Trump said.
Trump maintained that the project would continue to be eligible for what's left of a $211 million package of interest-free and low-interest loans from two state agencies, the Department of Environmental Protection and Environmental Infrastructure Trust. Also still in play, Trump said, are deals with Rutherford and Lyndhurst that entitle the developers to 40 percent of the future tax revenues from the project.
But for all the optimistic talk Trump offered Thursday, some major obstacles remain. The project has been plagued by cost overruns, with the more than $100 million already spent seemingly producing little progress. Some areas are more polluted than ever -- the result of EnCap's long-standing acceptance of contaminated toxic fill from throughout the region and its failure to complete the installation of required environmental controls.
In particular, Trump has yet to persuade Rutherford Mayor-elect John Hipp, an environmental attorney, to accept any housing in the borough -- much less 800 units. Hipp also plans to fight the revenue-sharing deal.
"I spoke to John Hipp, and I think he's terrific," Trump said. "He wants to protect people, he's seen what's happened here, and he wants things done right. But don't forget, this isn't something that hasn't been approved. It's been approved ad nauseam. So the town is committed. But more importantly, the town gets tremendous tax revenues that help reduce people's taxes, and I imagine they'd want to have that happen."
Hipp responded that the $5 million payout "doesn't begin to address the myriad environmental issues resulting from the use of improper materials at the site." He said he wants to meet with Trump's technical experts so they can try to explain how housing can be built on these landfills.
In Lyndhurst, Trump said completion of local recreation ballfields was a priority.
But Trump said it could take a couple of months before the rest of the site plan is finalized. New components could be added, he said.
"You could see office, you could see retail, and you could certainly see hotel," Trump said.
Also in the works is a "downtown mixed-use area" in Lyndhurst where the golf meets the housing. Trump pictures a replica of the famed Spanish Steps, an 18th-century, 138-step stairway in Rome, as part of a parklike setting.
Trump said the golf course would be European-style, à la the famed Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland, with rustic touches that would be "very much in the flavor of the Meadowlands." Each hole will have five tee boxes, with the championship tees at 7,245 yards

January 11th, 2008, 05:47 PM
State extends EnCap clean-up deadline by 4 months

by Maura McDermott/The Star-Ledger Friday January 11, 2008, 4:59 PM

The state Attorney General's Office has given EnCap four more months to keep cleaning up 785 polluted acres in the Meadowlands.

Today was the deadline for EnCap to make "measurable progress" on fixing the long-standing environmental problems at landfills, where the builder hopes to create a golf course and thousands of homes. If EnCap failed to meet the deadline, the state could have thrown it off the project.

EnCap and Donald Trump, who took over management of the project in November, "have demonstrated good faith to date in undertaking the environmental remediation work," Robert Romano, assistant attorney general, wrote today to attorneys for EnCap and Trump.

Mitsu Yasukawa / The Star Ledger
A worker sprays a fibrous substance embedded with grass seed and fertilizer yesterday to stabilize the surface of a landfill in Lyndhurst. The mixture will help contain contamination, according to Edward Russo, who is overseeing Donald Trump's cleanup at EnCap.

The state will allow EnCap to keep working until May 9, as long as it continues to make progress on the cleanup and keeps an escrow account funded with at least $4 million, according to Romano's letter.

EnCap also must finish building ballfields in Lyndhurst by May 1, among other requirements, Romano wrote.

EnCap, a North Carolina-based firm, hopes to build nearly 2,600 homes in Lyndhurst and Rutherford, as well as 1,600 homes in North Arlington. Work largely stopped at the site stalled early last year and resumed in November, after Trump signed on.

Trump is being paid $15 million to lend his name to the project and oversee its day-to-day operations.

The project has received $300 million in publicly-backed financing, and state taxpayers could lose $50 million if EnCap fails.

January 25th, 2008, 11:43 PM
Trump wants more land for EnCap project

by Maura McDermott/The Star-Ledger Friday January 25, 2008, 9:28 PM

Now that the state has given Donald Trump four more months to get the long-troubled EnCap project back on track, Trump wants to add 120 more acres to his Meadowlands portfolio, according to the real estate mogul's attorney.

The Trump Organization is negotiating with EnCap's biggest investor to add land in North Arlington to the "master plan" for the Bergen County project, according to Trump's attorney, Michael Cohen. Trump already oversees day-to-day operations at 785 acres of contaminated land in Rutherford and Lyndhurst.

The North Arlington land is the subject of litigation between the borough and EnCap's biggest investor, Cherokee Investment Partners of North Carolina. Cherokee has sued the borough, charging that it has violated a redevelopment agreement.

Cohen said Trump will try to end the legal battle.

"Not only are we looking to incorporate North Arlington into the overall site map, we are also intent on figuring out how to resolve the litigation," he said. "I want to have an open dialogue, something that nobody has had to date with the towns."

But North Arlington's spokesman said even if Trump does take over management of the disputed site, local residents will still oppose construction plans there.

"We still have the same problems," said Thom Ammirato, the North Arlington spokesman. "Number one, you still have to demonstrate you have the financing to do this project. Number two, the town doesn't want the project. They don't want 1,600 to 1,800 homes."

Read more in the Saturday Star-Ledger.

February 29th, 2008, 03:30 PM
There is a picture of the project here, as well as the article below:http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/29/nyregion/29encap.html?ref=nyregion
Sharp Rebuke for Developer in Big Project at Landfills

By KEN BELSON (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/b/ken_belson/index.html?inline=nyt-per) and DAVID W. CHEN (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/c/david_w_chen/index.html?inline=nyt-per)
Published: February 29, 2008

The inspector general of New Jersey (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/national/usstatesterritoriesandpossessions/newjersey/index.html?inline=nyt-geo) sharply criticized a developer and a politically powerful law firm, accusing them of bungling a billion-dollar project to clean up landfills in the Meadowlands and replace them with golf courses and houses. The official asked the state attorney general to determine whether a criminal investigation was warranted.
In a long-awaited report issued on Thursday, EnCap Golf Holdings LLC, a subsidiary of a company based in North Carolina, was accused of deliberately misleading several government agencies about the progress of its cleanup work and its ability to finance the decade-old development despite receiving at least $315 million in loans from local and state agencies.
Gov. Jon S. Corzine (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/c/jon_s_corzine/index.html?inline=nyt-per) requested the inspector general to investigate the project’s finances more than a year ago, after EnCap asked for an additional $450 million in bonds backed by the future tax revenue of several towns near the landfills. After EnCap was declared in default by the state, various banks that invested in the project reached out to Donald J. Trump (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/t/donald_j_trump/index.html?inline=nyt-per) to take over its management. In November, Mr. Trump resumed cleanup of the site.
“Our report revealed significant misrepresentations of qualifications and financial support on behalf of the private entity contracted to perform the remediation and redevelopment of the Meadowlands project,” the inspector general, Mary Jane Cooper, said in the blistering 277-page report.
The report also was sharply critical of the role played by a lawyer for EnCap from the firm of DeCotiis, FitzPatrick, Cole & Wisler, whose partners have long counseled Democratic governors in New Jersey. Among other things, the inspector general accused members of the firm of strong-arming state regulators.
Yet for all of the problems encountered along the way, and the criticism leveled in the report at EnCap and its lawyer, Eric D. Wisler, it spared government officials from any criticism, saying simply that there was a “lack of communication among government entities,” and offered suggestions for how to avoid similar problems in the future.
Critics accused the inspector general of pulling punches by not holding accountable the lawmakers or regulators who backed the project, which includes building golf courses, hotels and more than 2,000 homes on the dumps.
“How can you study this for a year and find no wrongdoing other than the people at EnCap and absolve everyone in state government?” asked Thom Ammirato, a spokesman for the Borough of North Arlington, which is being sued by EnCap over a bond agreement it backed out of. “We elect people to protect us from EnCap, not to be complicit with them.”
Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for the attorney general, Anne Milgram (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/m/anne_milgram/index.html?inline=nyt-per), said that the Justice Department was reviewing the report but declined to comment further. A spokeswoman for the governor said that Mr. Corzine “remains committed to cleaning up the site and protecting the area communities.”
Sections of the report amounted to a sweeping indictment of New Jersey’s political culture, in which large developers work with well-connected law firms to lobby state agencies for the purpose of waiving environmental regulations and other rules.
Mr. Wisler said in the report that his firm had suggested to EnCap and a major investor, Cherokee Investment Partners, “that they make tactical contributions,” but he said that neither donations that members of his firm made to politicians nor those the developer made “were tied to any action or event happening during the project.”
But the report said state employees and others believed that members of the DeCotiis firm “have had the opportunity to meet with elected officials concerning the project as a result of their campaign contributions.”
As Ms. Cooper put it in the report, “the project is a study in what can go wrong when a public body with high-minded public policy goals and compelled by its status to engage in fair dealing joins forces with a private entity whose primary goal is to maximize its profit.”
The report said that EnCap regularly tried to deceive state representatives. After the company signed an agreement with the state to take control of the landfill, one of the biggest backers of the project was replaced without the state’s knowledge, giving a false impression of the company’s fiscal health. EnCap then claimed at different points to be underfinanced even though Cherokee, a private equity firm that specializes in environmental cleanups, has more than $2 billion under management.
Over time, state representatives lost trust in EnCap, the report said, because the company tried to squeeze more out of the state by pleading poverty.
“EnCap represented more than once that they could not make some pending payment without state concessions,” the report said. “However, when state representatives refused to make the concession, private funds materialized.”
For its part, EnCap issued a statement that said it had made “a number of mistakes implementing and managing the project,” but that it “strongly disagrees that it intentionally misled any public agency or constituent group over the past eight years.”
Still, in the report, William H. Gauger III, the president of EnCap, told the inspector general that “while he did not make contributions with the expectation that they would generate a certain outcome or a particular benefit for the project,” he understood that by making a contribution it could help “to make sure something bad doesn’t happen because you were not involved in the political process.”
A beneficiary of the company’s political contributions was State Senator Paul A. Sarlo, Democrat of Wood-Ridge. In one example of how EnCap worked with lawmakers, the report said that Mr. Wisler gave Senator Sarlo a measure that the senator then co-sponsored.
Mr. Sarlo said on Thursday that he had not yet read the report, but when a reporter read key passages mentioning his role, Mr. Sarlo said that the bill, pertaining to the $450 million bond deal, had never moved forward and that he “didn’t feel comfortable with it.” Mr. Sarlo, a member of the Senate Regulatory Oversight Committee, said the panel would hold hearings on the report next month.
State Senator Kevin J. O’Toole, Republican of Cedar Grove, said the state had “a black eye” for allowing “this financial debacle to go forward” and that indictments would not surprise him.
Kareem Fahim contributed reporting.

March 26th, 2008, 09:08 PM
Trump pays $293G in back taxes on EnCap properties

by Maura McDermott/The Star-Ledger
Wednesday March 26, 2008, 7:43 PM

Donald Trump paid nearly $293,000 in back taxes today on four North Arlington properties that are part of the EnCap development in the Meadowlands.

If Trump had not made the payment, tax liens on the land would have been sold at an auction today, North Arlington officials said.

Trump made the payment to demonstrate his commitment to EnCap and prevent the land from being tied up in tax liens, according to the developer's attorney, Michael Cohen.

The funds came from Trump's personal account, Cohen said.

The $1 billion EnCap plans call for the cleanup of four Meadowlands landfills, and the construction of a golf course and 2,600 homes in Rutherford and Lyndhurst, as well as 1,600 homes in an industrial section of North Arlington.

The North Arlington land is the subject of a court fight between the borough and EnCap's biggest financial backer, North Carolina-based Cherokee Investment Partners, which accuses the borough of breaking its agreement to allow construction of 1,600 homes.

In November, Trump agreed to manage EnCap's day-to-day operations for three years, in exchange for $15 million.

So far, all payments to an escrow account controlled by the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission to fund the landfill cleanup have been made by Cherokee, according to the commission.

April 17th, 2008, 10:46 AM
Trump may buy out Meadowlands investor

by Maura McDermott/The Star-Ledger
Wednesday April 16, 2008, 8:01 PM

Donald Trump is in talks to buy out the biggest investor in the long-troubled EnCap golf-and-housing development in the Meadowlands, according to the real estate mogul's attorney.

Trump is "in substantive conversations with Cherokee to acquire their interest in the Meadowlands site," Michael Cohen said today. North Carolina-based Cherokee Investment Partners is EnCap's main backer.

The deal would call for "a capital infusion by Mr. Trump personally," as well as funds from "major lenders," Cohen said.

Trump hopes to find out whether funds will be available by May 9, the state's deadline to get EnCap's finances and environmental cleanup back on track.

The EnCap plans call for a golf course, hotel and thousands of homes on 785 acres of polluted Meadowlands landfills.

The project has faced delays, cost overruns and environmental violations. It was the subject of a 277-page report by the state's inspector general, Mary Jane Cooper, who found its leaders exaggerated their financing and skills.

In November, Trump took over management of the project, in exchange for $15 million. Trump already has invested his own money in EnCap, Cohen said.

He spent $2.5 million for construction vehicles and nearly $300,000 to pay off tax liens for four properties targeted for development, Cohen said. The payments were made by Meadowlands Development Venture, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Trump Organization, Cohen said.

But in order for the project to succeed, Trump would need to build more housing units, Cohen said.

April 24th, 2008, 10:46 AM
State seeks more data on EnCap
Meeting with Trump is already scheduled

Thursday, April 24, 2008
Star-Ledger Staff

The state requested more information about Donald Trump's Meadowlands landfill development plans yesterday, saying his recently submitted $125 million budget left too many unanswered questions.

The budget documents for the EnCap project "do not satisfy the requirements set forth in prior correspondence from this office," Assistant Attorney General Robert Romano wrote in a letter to Trump and Michael Cohen, executive vice president of the Trump Organization.

Romano invited Trump and Cohen to meet with state officials to discuss the spending plan.

"It's just a question of getting some answers and getting some clarifications," said Robert Ceberio, executive director of the state Meadowlands Commission, which signed the redevelopment deal with EnCap.

A sit-down has already been scheduled, Cohen said yesterday.

"We don't take it as being positive and we don't take it as being negative," Cohen said of Romano's letter. "Robert Romano was kind enough to invite Mr. Trump and myself to address the open issues and contingencies."

EnCap faces a May 9 deadline to get its financing and environmental cleanup back on track, or the state could remove the corporation as project developer. The state stands to lose more than $50 million if EnCap fails.

The Trump-managed project met the state's April 18 deadline to submit a new budget.

However, the budget assumed an $82 million influx of state funds from sources that have been frozen. It also proposed municipal bonds that would be backed by future property tax revenues from EnCap. Gov. Jon Corzine has said he would oppose the use of such bonds, calling them too risky.

Trump took over day-to-day oversight of the project last year. He is in talks to buy out the project's main backer, North Carolina-based Cherokee Investment Partners, according to Trump and Cherokee.

The EnCap plans call for a cleanup of four Meadowlands landfills and the construction of a golf course, hotel and thousands of homes.

Staff writer Maura McDermott may be reached at (973) 392-7964 or mmcdermott@starledger.com.

April 27th, 2008, 05:53 PM
A indepth look by the Bergen Record at the the Trump deal with EnCap. Showing a slide show of the site and a picture of one of two new softball fields in Lyndhurst, Trump built and named one of them "Trump Field".


May 7th, 2008, 12:21 PM
Officials end project for Meadowlands houses, golf courses

by Maura McDermott/The Star-Ledger (mmcdermott@starledger.com) Wednesday May 07, 2008, 10:55 AM

The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission voted this morning to sever ties with EnCap, ending the developer's beleaguered quest to build houses and golf courses atop former landfills.
"EnCap is over," said Joseph Doria, chairman of the Meadowlands Commission.
The commission will use $6 million set aside by the developer to start cleaning the landfills in Rutherford, Lyndhurst and North Arlington, said Robert Ceberio, executive director of the Meadowlands Commission.
The Commission will also begin the process to collect a $148 million performance bond posted by insurance giant AIG, Cebarrio said.
The plan to build a golf course and 2,600 homes in Lyndhurst and Rutherford on 785 contaminated acres was approved in 1999 and has been plagued with cost overruns, delays and environmental violations since EnCap broke ground in 2004.
The state inspector general harshly criticized the project in a 277-page report released in February, saying its leaders exaggerated their financing and skills.
Real estate magnate Donald Trump took control of the project in November.
Trump made progress during his month overseeing the work, but EnCap was unable to muster the necessary financing to complete the cleanup, Ceberio said.
"The action we took here today was really an action against EnCap, not against Trump," Ceberio said.

May 7th, 2008, 01:59 PM
So will they re-bid the Meadowlands project? There's no way they will just let that land sit.

May 8th, 2008, 09:42 PM
Meadowlands agency scraps EnCap project
Cites failings by landfill developer

Thursday, May 08, 2008
Star-Ledger Staff

After years of delays, cost overruns and diminished expectations, the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission yesterday killed an ambitious $1 billion project to build golf courses, a hotel and thousands of homes atop capped garbage dumps in Bergen County.

The commission's members, contending developer EnCap Golf Holdings showed it cannot successfully finish the project, said they will seek to collect a $148 million performance bond meant to guarantee the cleanup of landfills in Rutherford and Lyndhurst.

[b]The ultimate fate of the land -- some 785 acres -- has not been decided.

"EnCap is over," commission Chairman Joseph Doria said after the board's 4-0 vote in Lyndhurst. "We, I think, have given EnCap and all its entities the opportunity to perform. They have not been able to perform."

In January, the commission granted EnCap the latest of several extensions to shore up its financing and to address environmental problems at the work site. The Meadowlands Commission's vote yesterday morning to sever its relationship with EnCap came two days before the company's latest deadline tomorrow.

New Jersey taxpayers stand to lose $51 million -- the amount loaned to EnCap without repayment guarantees -- as a result of the project's failure.

Last night, in a brief meeting with reporters, Gov. Jon Corzine said the state would seek to recover its investment.

"First of all, we have to finish the remediation and hopefully be able to get to a conclusion that will allow us to get all of the money back," Corzine said. "But there are legal agreements that are in place, so it's not as easy as just saying we want to get our money back. We have to complete the remediation. We have to figure out what the long-run uses are going to be."

It was not immediately clear whether EnCap and its majority owner, North Carolina-based Cherokee Investment Partners, would file suit against the state, either to block the commission's move or to recoup the tens of millions of dollars it has spent on the plan.

In a statement, Cherokee spokesman David O'Neill said the firm was "extremely disappointed" in the decision and contended the state had defaulted on its commitments. O'Neill said the company would continue to seek money for the project.

"We will continue to do whatever we can to support efforts to advance the project and to ensure that the commitments made by all parties are adhered to," the statement said.

Donald Trump, who took over management of the project on behalf of EnCap in November, called the commission's decision "very unfair" and predicted a lengthy legal fight to come.

"This job will sit in court for years," Trump said. "Lawsuits are being drawn up already. It's a very sad ending to something that could have been great."

He added: "This is why New Jersey doesn't work."

Trump said he expected the state will not be permitted on the land -- which EnCap bought at the project's outset -- to continue the cleanup with a new contractor.

"It's not their land," Trump said. "I think the courts won't allow that."

Robert Ceberio, the Meadowlands Commission's executive director, said the agency would take legal action if EnCap seeks to bar the commission from the site.

The commission is expected to seek new bidders for the remaining work. Ceberio said the commission will begin withdrawing $6 million from an account funded by Cherokee to keep the cleanup going.

EnCap's firing brings to an end a long and difficult relationship that began with great promise. The state opened negotiations with the firm eight years ago. By the 2004 ground-breaking, the plan called for hotels, thousands of homes and top-notch golf courses.

It was to have been luxurious and eco-friendly, with impenetrable landfill covers, a sophisticated water-filtration system, solar panels, possibly even windmills.

"People have talked about this for 25 years," then Gov. James E. McGreevey said at the time. "It's a landmark opportunity in investment. It's a landmark opportunity in environmental protection."

Since then, little has gone according to plan. The landfill cleanup alone is far behind schedule and has been riddled with problems, from leaky liners to uncontrolled emissions of methane gas, a byproduct of rotting trash.

EnCap also had mounting financial troubles, despite $212 million in loans arranged by the state and an additional $103 million in bonds issued by Bergen County.

In February, state Inspector General Mary Jane Cooper issued a blistering assessment of the project, contending in a 277-page report that EnCap significantly misrepresented its financial wherewithal and its qualifications.

EnCap, Cooper said, "proceeded in a stutter-start, disorganized" manner and entered into a series of "failed, broken, mismanaged, or unmanaged contracts."

The state Attorney General's Office advised the Meadowlands Commission throughout the process. Yesterday, in a letter to Trump, Assistant Attorney General Robert A. Romano said granting further extensions to EnCap "would not serve the best interests of the people of the state of New Jersey."

Commission members stressed yesterday their problem was not with Trump but with EnCap, saying the real estate mogul made improvements while at the helm.

Doria said EnCap and Trump still had not come up with a solid plan to finance the cleanup. Moreover, Doria said, Trump was demanding changes in the development plan, looking to make it bigger, grander and more expensive.

The cleanup also would have taken too long under Trump's plan, with a completion date of 2011, Doria said.

Local officials and environmentalists hailed yesterday's vote.

"It took a lot of courage," said Rutherford Mayor John Hipp, an environmental attorney who recently clashed with Trump. "Saying no to Trump, I can tell you from personal experience, has consequences. But it really was never about Mr. Trump. It was about the cleanup. The cleanup now comes back to us."

Jeff Tittel, head of the New Jersey Sierra Club, called EnCap's firing the end of a "nightmare."

"This was a bad project from the beginning," Tittel said. "At every turn they either missed a deadline or did something wrong."

He said he expected the cleanup to drag on for some time, in part because of tainted work. EnCap, for instance, carted in fill materials contaminated with dioxins, he said. He also questioned whether yesterday's decision would produce a "legal battle royale."

"It could become a lawyers' permanent employment act," he said. "But on the other hand, the state had to do what was right, and they did."

Staff writer Claire Heininger contributed to this report.

May 9th, 2008, 06:41 PM
Fired Meadowland cleanup company wants to finish job

by Maura McDermott/The Star-Ledger Friday May 09, 2008, 6:07 PM

The company behind a failed $1 billion Meadowlands landfill development project remains "committed to ensuring the completion of the project," despite being fired by the state on Wednesday, according to an affidavit filed today by project's manager.

EnCap has spent $317 million on the effort, including $253 million in private funds, James Dausch stated in the affidavit, which is part of EnCap's Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding. The company filled for bankruptcy protection on Thursday.

The much-criticized landfill cleanup is almost complete, including systems to keep methane gas and contaminated liquids from escaping the site, according to Dausch.

Dausch laid much of the blame for the project's failure on the state's refusal to allow EnCap to either increase the size of the project -- which was to include a golf course, hotel and 2,600 homes in Lyndhurst and Rutherford -- or collect an upfront payment backed by future tax revenues.

The state agreed to allow the upfront payments in 2005, but then backed off that promise, Dausch stated.

Representatives of Gov. Jon Corzine's office and the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, which voted to throw EnCap off the project this week, did not respond yet to requests for comment.

The Meadowlands Commission chose EnCap as developer of four Meadowlands landfills in 1999, but the project languished for years in delays, cost overruns and environmental violations.

Donald Trump took over day-to-day management in November, and recently expressed interest in buying out EnCap's main backer, Cherokee Investment Partners.

Michael Cohen, executive vice president at the Trump Organization, said if EnCap succeeds in reviving the project, Trump would remain involved as well.

He also said the environmental cleanup is further along than Dausch stated.

"I think we're actually more than halfway done in the remediation," he said. "Mr. Trump has been clear that a substantial amount has been done."

May 12th, 2008, 06:22 PM
Trump blasts state for backing out of EnCap project

by Maura McDermott/The Star-Ledger
Monday May 12, 2008, 4:54 PM

New Jersey broke its promise to help finance the $1 billion EnCap development in the Meadowlands that collapsed last week, Donald Trump wrote in a scathing letter to a top-ranking state official today.

"I do not believe the courts will allow you to get away with this," Trump wrote in the letter to Gary Rose, the state's economic development czar.

The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission voted on Wednesday to sever ties with EnCap, and the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection the next day. Trump, who joined the project as manager in November, had recently expressed interest in buying out EnCap's main backer, Cherokee Investment Partners.

In the letter, Trump accused Gov. Jon Corzine of reneging on a commitment to allow an upfront payment backed by future tax revenues from the site.

The state's decision to pull the plug on EnCap last week was "unfair and wrong," Trump wrote.

State officials have said they never promised to allow such a payment. Corzine has said such a deal would burden the towns that would host the EnCap development with too much financial risk.

"The administration is not interested in name-calling or theatrics but only in protecting the taxpayers and the environment," the governor's spokeswoman, Lilo Stainton, said in a prepared statement. "We strongly disagree with the characterizations and positions asserted in Mr. Trump's letter."

EnCap's plans called for 2,600 homes and a golf course on 785 acres in Lyndhurst and Rutherford, as well as another development in North Arlington.