Town’s witness says land at station is overpriced not worth the millions some say

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — In a Newark Superior Court trial which is again attempting to determine how much Bloomfield should pay an investor for his land, a six-member jury heard testimony from a township witness on Monday morning, Dec. 17.

Maurice Stack, a real estate appraiser, under friendly questioning by attorney Kevin McManimon, representing the township, told the court he did not think the $3.2 million appraisal by Jon Brody for the .62-acre parcel of sloping land between Lackawanna Place and the NJ Transit station was reliable.

Brody had appraised the land for investor Howard Haberman, who had envisioned a development on the land of 34 residences above 12,500 square-feet of retail space. But the township had envisioned a more modest development and had the land appraised for $440,000, condemned it and took title in June 2012.

In the first trial to determine how much the land was worth, a jury decided 5-1 on $2.9 million. But Bloomfield won an appeal based on its argument that one of its crucial witnesses had not been permitted to testify because of a lower court ruling.
Stack took issue with the amount of retail space in Haberman’s proposed development. He said Brody’s appraisal had offered no market analysis for it.

“There’s a difference between what the town will allow you to do and what is marketable,” Stack said. “There’s retail space all over the area. I don’t think it would sell.”

He also said the property was a unique piece of land because it contained an historic train station and had engineering concerns for the excavation of a slope abutting an operating railroad station.

“You have to incorporate the train station into your plan,” Stack said. “It’s not what you want. It’s not an asset.”
When McManimon’s questioning concluded, Judge Robert Gardner dismissed the jury for lunch. The cross-examination of Stack by attorney Anthony Della Pelle, who represents Haberman, was expected following the recess.