Bayonne military buildings, built to withstand a bombing

Bayonne military buildings, built to withstand a bombing, imploded for redevelopment. The former Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne came crashing down Sunday morning in a dramatic implosion, officially ending the site’s 79-year history. The two structures demolished Sunday were built during World War II, standing six stories tall and totaling 1.5 million square feet. Originally designed to withstand a bombing, the military operated MOTBY from 1942 to 1999, first as a Navy supply depot until 1967 and then as an Army base.

The implosion was the culmination of several years of prep work at the site. The buildings’s removal makes way for a large UPS distribution center to be built in their place.

“This is the promise we made, was to build the city, develop the city, and bring jobs back to the city, and this is just the beginning,” Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis told NJ Advance Media ahead of the implosion. “And today is just the one day that we get to sit and enjoy blowing something up.”

The 153-acre site was purchased by East Rutherford-based Lincoln Equities Group in 2018, and work has been underway since. The site needed more than 1 million tons of clean fill to raise it above flood levels, mold remediation, and the structures that made it bombproof needed to be removed.

“For Bayonne, I believe that this is a momentous moment, to see advancement and the redevelopment of the peninsula,” LEG President Joel Bergstein said, citing the 1,000 construction jobs the project will create and the 1,800 UPS jobs to follow.

A small crowd of invited guests gathered under a tent set up between the half-demolished building and the newly-built condominiums, sipping mimosas and milling about before the implosion Sunday morning.

A warning signal went off at 10:29 a.m. and the giddy crowd fell mostly silent.

A series out loud booms rang out, and a flock of geese scattered from their perch on the land into the water. A brief moment of silence followed, and the once bomb-proof building came cascading down like liquid, dissolving into a cloud of smoke.

“That was amazing! It worked! It worked!” Bergstein cheered, high-fiving though around him as they whooped and hollered.

But for some, the day was tinged with sadness.

Hasmik “Jasmine” Hammond, and her husband, Thomas, worked in the building together for decades, with offices on the top floor. They both retired when the building closed in the 90s after 40 years of work, and were in the small invited group on Sunday to watch it come down.

“It’s very sad. I know it’s progress, but we spent a lot of time there,” Hammond said.

The Jersey Journal staff writer Ron Zeitlinger contributed to this report.

Three people were taken into custody late Friday after a Jersey City police pursuit ended in a crash at Garfield and Winfield avenues.

The three men, who have not been identified, fled after the 11:20 p.m. crash, but were caught almost immediately, police said in radio transmissions. At least two guns were recovered on Winfield Avenue in the incident, according to the radio transmissions.

It is believed the men were wanted in connection with an earlier shooting. Jersey City police did not respond to requests for more information on the incident and the arrests.

According to police radio transmissions, the suspects’ car crashed into two other occupied vehicles. At least one person in one of the other vehicles complained of pain and was taken to a local hospital. Information on the number of people injured in the crash also was not available.

The debut of skateboarding at the Summer Olympics made a splash from Tokyo, Japan. But here in New Jersey, lifelong skateboarder Jake McNichol, has mixed feelings about it.

McNichols, the founder of Freedom Skate Park, an all-volunteer non-profit that works with urban youth and young adults, told NJ Advance Media the skateboarding he loves isn’t about winning or losing.

“Basically it boils down to, I think the way skateboarding is portrayed in the Olympics is not accurate to the way most people experience it, primarily because skating is not fundamentally competitive. It is more about outdoing yourself and encouraging other skaters to achieve their goals.”

McNichols’ zen approach to skateboarding doesn’t mean he’s against the sport’s new standing, though.

“The Olympics will introduce a lot more people to skating and create a lot of opportunities for people who might not have otherwise gotten into skateboarding, so I think in that way, it’s a good thing.”

Freedom Skate Park, or just plain Freedom, as the local skate community calls it, isn’t concerned with shaving fractions of a second off one’s time or being judged a “10” in tense competition.

Instead, the group does things like working with schools, the Boys & Girls Club, Homefront Family Preservation Center, staging exhibition events and showing up at City of Trenton Block Parties to offer kids, through a skateboard, an introduction to the challenges and rewards of overcoming obstacles to achieve goals.

“And that is a life skill that applies to every other part of a person’s life,” added McNichol. “That will help them in school and a job, with every single part of their life.

“Skateboarding is not about beating somebody else. It’s about outdoing yourself and deciding, ‘I want to do this new thing,’ and then overcoming fear, frustration and challenges to get there and do that.”

An added benefit is the self-discovery and self-improvement happens with the full support of others within the skating community, he said.

At the group’s events, like last June’s live streamed demonstration from the Old Roebling Wire Works building as part of Trenton’s Art All Night, it’s easy to see the signs of encouragement and camaraderie on open display among participants honing their skills, swarming around like bees, taking turns grinding — riding the bottom of their skateboard down a handrail on a section of concrete stairs.

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