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Sean Ryan is associate editor of Real Estate New Jersey.

TEANECK, NJ-A list of remediation reforms for the state of New Jersey will be delivered to Trenton within the month, Lisa Jackson, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection told a buzzing crowd at RealShare New Jersey, held here yesterday. She stated that the DEP was aware of the lengthy approval process developers endure and wanted to streamline it without taking away its teeth. Whether the New Jersey State Legislature approves any of them will be another matter.

The fifth annual RealShare New Jersey conference drew more than 600 attendees to the Glenpointe Marriott. RealShare is produced by Real Estate Media, publishers of GlobeSt.com and Real Estate Forum.

“We see far too many plans that aren’t, for lack of a better word, baked,” said Jackson. Problems with water, sewer and endangered species are just some of the DEP flags that slow developments. Drawing up environmentally friendly plans will get quicker approvals, because, she said, “you’ve already done some of our work for us.”

Brownfield redevelopments take highest priority for the DEP, Jackson said. Higher real estate prices and cheap capital have made many of these sites–some of which have sat untended for decades–economically feasible for redevelopment. Most also are in urban areas, exactly where the state wants to encourage development.

The DEP is a relatively small part of the state government, which Jackson said explains the lag time with some approvals. “There’s 16,000 contamination sites, and 200 or so managers. Do the math.”

Michael Desiato, group publisher and editorial director of Real Estate Media, opened the event. Real Estate New Jersey editor Eric Peterson led a Town Hall Meeting on the state of the New Jersey market. Much of the talk during the meeting, however, focused on New York City’s recent successes, and how it could lift New Jersey’s futures.

Kenneth Krasnow, executive vice president of Trammell Crow, said that the seemingly insurmountable problems with the New York of 15 years ago were addressed, leading to a current Midtown market with rents at $100 per sf. Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s approach of fighting crime and fixing lots of small problems could also work across the Hudson, he said.

“We’ve got the dumbest legislature in America,” stated Charlie Klatskin, chairman and CEO of Lee & Klatskin. “We’re 54th of 50.” He expressed fear that current tax legislation will make long-time employers like Johnson & Johnson leave, further eroding New Jersey’s title as the country’s medicine chest.

Mitchell Hersh, president and CEO of Mack-Cali, expressed hopes for the Corzine administration, in no small part because of Gov. Corzine’s business tenure at Goldman Sachs. Hersh was able to have several high-ranking administrative officials lobby with him for potential Deutsche Bank office space, a move that resulted in 1,200 jobs in New Jersey.

Investing in New Jersey can be “very frustrating,” said David Welsh, managing principal of Normandy Real Estate Partners. Prospects in Boston and other parts of New England are better, despite the massive rent differential between New York and New Jersey. “There has to be a spillover effect,” he stated. “But it hasn’t gone to fruition yet.”

Michael Fasano, regional manager of Marcus & Millichap, reported that New Jersey has the aspects in place to challenge Manhattan for a lot of office prospects. “We can compete with price,” he said, “and we can compete with transportation.” Between the PATH train, ferries, buses and the recently-built light rail, the Hudson waterfront has many mass transit options.

“What does New Jersey have?” he asked. “Location. It’s the best location on earth, with the worst government.”

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