Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Sleuth Saves City Years of Hassle

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Sleuth Saves City Years of Hassle

Article excerpt

HACKENSACK -- A multimillion-dollar redevelopment of a 4.3-acre parking lot near the Hackensack River was facing years of delays because of missing property records and a set of Colonial-era state laws.

But a history-minded city employee made a discovery that may spare the city years of waiting and expense to get the project moving.

The parcel, known as Lot C, is prime real estate for a mixed-use residential, commercial and retail property that may include up to 350 housing units, 25,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, and a public plaza, officials have said. It's part of a larger citywide redevelopment that is still taking shape.

But the land's proximity to the river threatens to hold up progress because of long-standing laws that give the state a claim to land along navigable waterways.

In addition, city redevelopment attorney Brian Nelson could not find evidence that the parcel still belonged to the city, casting the ownership of the land into doubt, and promising to delay the process even longer.

Records showed that the city gave the property to the Hackensack Parking Authority on June 20, 1951. The authority ceased to exist a few years later. There was nothing in city records to show that the property had been returned to the city's ownership.

The absence of that proof meant that Nelson would have had to begin a costly years-long process to establish the city's ownership of the site.

Along came Al Dib, city legal analyst and historian.

"He was the perfect guy to look back in time to figure out what happened," Deputy Mayor Kathy Canestrino said.

A decade ago, Dib had descended into the moldy, dungeon-like basement room in the bowels of City Hall with the city historian at the time, Richard Lenk, to open century-old ledgers of city records.

The binders contained the recorded history of Hackensack since 1891. …

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