Landfill on short leash?

Observer file photo Entrance to Keegan landfill off Bergen Ave.
Observer file photo
Entrance to Keegan landfill off Bergen Ave.


Kearny is preparing to give a big meadows tenant the boot.

Letters have gone back and forth between the town and its tenant, the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, about whether to extend the multiyear lease for the 100-acre Keegan landfill which ends this year with an option for renewal through June 30, 2016.

“We don’t want it,” Mayor Alberto Santos said last week.

The mayor said the town was led to believe it could expect to see down the road, not only a capped landfill but also the prospect for converting the dump – which accepts construction and demolition debris – into a future public recreation space.

But a year ago, the NJSEA’s predecessor, the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, amended its solid waste management plan to provide additional capacity at the Keegan site by elevating the site from 60 to 100 feet.

“If we allow it to go to 100 feet,” Santos said, “[the recreation use] won’t happen.” The mayor acknowledged that the meadows agency has provided a cap and a pump to remove leachate from the landfill as part of an ongoing site cleanup, “but we should be focusing on the property’s future use, not creating a 100-foot-high mountain that you can’t re-use like the mounds you see along the Belleville Turnpike.”

While the town has benefitted from the lease revenues – which have ranged from $1 million and $1.5 million a year – that it has collected since 2009, Santos said that if the lease is discontinued, “We’re hoping redevelopment will continue and, as it occurs, some revenues will be made up.”

Given that the landfill site is “1,000 feet from [Edward] Russo’s [residential] development [at Bergen and Schuyler Aves.], 500 feet from the Walmart and Wawa, and borders on the Kearny Marsh, the largest freshwater site in New Jersey,” it’s all the more reason why the town should be focused on making the area more attractive to prospective redevelopers, the mayor said.

In fact, Santos said, “we’re going to look at putting out an RFP (Request For Proposals) for redeveloper interest along Bergen,” with the intent of reserving some acreage for public recreation as well.

In the meantime, he said, trucks going in and out of the landfill along Bergen, “the busiest road in Kearny,” are tearing up the asphalt and dragging dirt and debris “that are backing up our sewers.”

On another meadows front, Santos said the town is still waiting for the first two installments of its annual meadowlands tax sharing payments from the NJSEA that were due May 15 and Aug. 15.

“So far, we’ve only received $500,000 so, come Monday (Aug. 17), we’ll be short $2 million,” Santos said. The town is owed a combined total of $3.8 million for the year and the third installment is due Nov. 15, he said.

Over the past year, the state dissolved the old funding formula in favor of a tax on meadows hotels.

According to Santos, the state needs to raise a total of $7 million to pay designated “receiving” communities – such as Kearny and North Arlington – in the meadowlands district.

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