A judge ruled Friday Bloomfield Township has eminent domain rights over the dilapidated Lackawanna train station, ending a months-long legal battle between the township and developer Howard Haberman.
The ruling justifies the township's decision to condemn 14 Lackawanna Pl., a crumbling eyesore located at the heart of Bloomfield's downtown redevelopment project. Under eminent domain, Bloomfield had planned to fix up the station to make it safer and more convenient for commuters.
"Bloomfield's stated purpose for the condemnation of the train station is to provide safe and convenient public access to the NJ Transit platforms," wrote Judge Patricia Costello in court documents. "Nothing in the record demonstrates a motive to the contrary.
"The utility of the condemnation is especially evident when considering the train station's current decrepit and unused state and its proximity to the train tracks," Costello also wrote.
Lackawanna Place station, owned by Haberman's Bloomfield Daval Corp., is an active New Jersey Transit train station.
At one time, redevelopment plans of the train station included a $150 million project with housing, a parking deck and supermarket on land surrounding the station, Bloomfield Life reported.
Haberman, whose family has owned the concrete station structure and tower since 1964, previously expressed wanting to redevelop the site into a retail and restaurant complex and argued the township should've negotiated with him.
The township has countered it "acted in good faith in its dealings" with Haberman, said Glenn Domenick, Bloomfield's director of community development.
In May, Bloomfield offered Haberman and his BDC $440,000 to purchase the train station, according to court documents. Bloomfield Life reported the two sites may head back to court to negotiate the price tag. Haberman can also appeal the decision, though no decision has been made yet.
"The township was justified in condemning this property and allowing it to be rehabilitated," said Mayor Raymond McCarthy in a press release. "With the parking deck construction already underway, the face of our community is going to drastically change for the positive in the coming months."
Across the street from the NJ Transit station, a 468-spot parking garage is in the process of being built as part of the township's downtown redevelopment project. An appeal against the development of the site was filed in August.