Trial starts over price of property alongside station

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — The price Bloomfield must pay a private developer for a parcel of land containing the historic train station on Lackawanna Place is about to go before a jury for the second time.

Attorneys Kevin McManimon, for the township, and Anthony Della Pelle, for the developer, received pretrial instructions from Judge Robert Gardner, in Newark Superior Court, on Monday, Dec. 3. The second trial will incorporate the same facts of the first trial, Gardner said. He also heard motions from both attorneys.

Della Pelle argued that an additional expert witness in real estate appraisals should be allowed to testify for the developer to rebut an additional witness for the township who had not been allowed to testify at the first trial. But McManimon complained that the developer’s first-trial witness was “boxed-in” with his testimony and now “needed to be rehabilitated.” Della Pelle implored the judge to allow his witness to testify, otherwise he would be defenseless against testimony from the township witness. Gardner agreed with Della Pelle.

Gardiner and the attorneys also discussed how the testimony of a witness in the first trial would be presented to the jury. That witness has since died.
The land in question is .62-acres of sloping land which abuts the NJT train station along its westbound track. The township acquired title after having it appraised for $440,000. The private developer, Bloomfield Daval Corp., of which Howard Haberman is principal, however had it appraised for $3.2 million. This figure was based on the land being developed with 34 residential apartments, 12,500 square-feet of retail space and no on-site parking. A 5-1 jury verdict in June 2016 determined the land to be worth $2.9 million. The township appealed the decision based on its argument that a key witness had not been allowed to have his appraisement of the land heard. The Appellate Court agreed and sent it back to be retried.

Prior to the Appellate Court decision, the township had been responsible for paying Bloomfield Daval Corp. interest on $2.9 million retroactive to June 26, 2012, when title was acquired, minus the $440,000 the corporation had been paid from the condemnation proceedings. Interest will again have to be paid if the second jury determines the land is worth more than $440,000. Gardner said he wanted the trial completed by Dec. 21.