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WOODBRIDGE, NJ-Developer OENJ Cherokee, based in nearby Bayonne, NJ has set its development sights on turning a heavily contaminated waterfront site here into a sprawling marine terminal for imported cars, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has given the company the go-ahead to at least clean up the site. The project, if completed, could create upwards of 300 jobs.

The project still faces a series of approvals from the local planning board, and the remediation process itself is expected to take a year or more once it starts. Township officials haven’t yet released a schedule for the approval process. Local objections to the project have focuses on traffic issues, both vehicular and rail, as well as the remediation procedure.

Under the company’s proposal, the 290-acre site in the Port Reading section of this Middlesex County township would be turned into a marine terminal for ocean-going vessels shipping in imported cars. The site is on the Arthur Kill, a waterway that separates New Jersey from Staten Island, NY.

The plan also calls for refurbishment of an existing pier, and the site’s capacity would be in the 20,000-vehicle range, although no other details, including cost, have been released. OENJ Cherokee has made a career of rehabbing brownfield sites, including major tracts in Elizabeth, NJ, which was redeveloped as the Jersey Gardens Mall, and another one in Bayonne.

According to state DEP officials, the site, which is owned by PSE&G, is contaminated with a variety of heavy metals, arsenic, PCBs and other substances. The remediation plan involves using dredge materials from New York Harbor to raise the site by some eight feet, after which is would be “capped” for containment purposes. OENJ Cherokee’s site remediation plan also calls for filling in about 20 acres designated as wetlands, but compensating for that by creating a similar amount of wetlands acreage elsewhere in the tract.

“This permit from the DEP will allow us to solve the environmental problems, and to create a healthier environment for this community,” according to Irving Cohen, CEO of OENJ Cherokee.

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