Keegan’s fate still uncertain

Photo by Ron Leir Compactors and bulldozers operated by a contractor hired by the NJSEA level out wastes unloaded at Keegan Landfi ll in Kearny.
Photo by Ron Leir
Compactors and bulldozers operated by a contractor hired by the NJSEA level out wastes unloaded at Keegan Landfill in Kearny.


While Kearny awaits the results of a study to plot out the “future use” of the 100-acre Keegan landfill, the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority is pressing to extend its current use.

Despite protestations by Mayor Alberto Santos that the NJSEA is standing in the way of the town from converting the site to parkland and/or industrial use, the NJSEA says it’s performing a valuable public service.

And, even if it does continue operating the landfill beyond its June 30, 2016, lease closure for “three or four” more years, raising the mounds of dirt, from the current 65 feet to 100 feet, that won’t prevent the town from, eventually, developing the site for recreational space or solar farms there, the NJSEA says.

Whatever the outcome of the debate, there is still the matter of both sides coming up with the multi-millions of dollars both agree will be needed for closing Keegan and monitoring it post-closure.

Meanwhile, on Oct. 13, the Kearny governing body voted to hire engineering consultant Hatch Mott Mc- Donald, of Iselin, for $31,200 to do a “feasibility/future use analysis” of the landfill.

As part of that study, HMM “is authorized to retain the services of a qualified real estate expert to perform [a] market analysis ….”

According to Santos, the firm that HMM will partner with on this project is the Los Angeles-based CBRE Group Inc., which, this summer, marketed the sale of some 700 acres of the former EnCap meadows site and now known as the Kingsland Redevelopment Area.

The firm bills itself as “the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm.” Among its subsidiaries are REI Limited, the international arm of Richard Ellis, and Trammell Crow Co.

“We want to assess the landfill as to what portion can be developed and what would be the best uses for it,” Santos said. “Once we get that information – whether the recommendation is for recreational fields, an active or passive park, or industrial – we’ll put out an RFQ (Request for Qualifications).” Results of the study are due back by the end of this year.

The NJSEA expires June 30, 2016, but the NJSEA – which is a co-owner of part of the site – has been pushing for an extension for “three or four” more years and to raise the landfill’s elevation to 100 feet, according to Thomas Marturano, the authority’s director of solid waste and natural resources.

“The region really needs our air space,” Marturano said. “We are the only landfill in North Jersey licensed to take construction debris and during the post-Sandy period alone, we took in about 100,000 tons from towns that were hit – about two-thirds more than the 340,000 tons we normally get a year, on average.”

And, Marturano said, as he toured the landfill with The Observer, the NJSEA is running a clean operation at Keegan. Its predecessor organization, the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, spent $22 million to stop the spread of leachate from the landfill into the adjacent Kearny Freshwater Marsh when “nobody else was willing to make the investment for an orphan landfill,” he said.

The NJSEA has pledged to meet its obligations under its lease to finance landfill closure costs, including capping the landfill at a cost estimated at $3 million. Kearny is required to fund post-closure costs which could reportedly total close to $30 million over a 30-year period.

Under the lease provisions, the NJSEA is required to deposit $1 for every ton of wastes collected into an escrow account dedicated to post-closure expenses, which, as of September 2015, totaled about $2.2 million by the authority’s accounting. If the lease provisions hold, Marturano said that Kearny would continue to get other benefits. He said the town received an upfront payment of nearly $6 million for lease obligations for 2007 and 2008, along with an annuallandfill host fee averaging around $1 million a year and the right to free dumping at the site.

Under a proposed lease renewal that Marturano said both sides were ready to sign in December 2014, the NJSEA was prepared to increase the host fee – currently $3.60 per ton of collected wastes – but when the state “consolidation” bill (which was to replace the meadowlands municipal tax sharing formula with a hotel tax) was dropped, that suddenly put the lease negotiations in limbo.

Despite Kearny’s claim that the current landfill – and the prospect for an even higher dump site – is impeding development, Marturano said its presence has neither discouraged Carlstadt developer Ed Russo from putting up new apartments on Bergen Ave. nor has it dissuaded Walmart from building a retail facility nearby.

And, he said, regardless of what height the landfill is, there’s no impediment to Kearny putting “ballfields, a park or a solar farm” on top. A warehouse, however, would be out of the question, he said, because “there’s no way to get utilities up there.”

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