- Associated Press - Thursday, October 27, 2016

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - A New Jersey appeals court awarded New Jersey Transit a new trial in its land battle against the family of a convicted mobster that has threatened to cost the agency millions of dollars.

NJ.com reports (https://bit.ly/2fbKLVI ) a state appellate court overturned a Hudson County jury’s October 2012 decision that slapped a value of about $8 million on the two-acre parcel.

The family of Carmine Franco, a Genovese crime family member nicknamed “Papa Smurf,” owned the land near the northern New Jersey waterfront.

NJ Transit acquired it in early 2010 by condemnation for about $1.6 million with plans for a since-canceled rail tunnel project estimated to cost $9 billion. The family said it deserved more because of the land’s redevelopment potential, and the transit agency appealed the award.

A three-judge-panel ruled the higher land value was inappropriate because the landowners didn’t show the land could likely be rezoned.

NJ Transit initially offered to pay the Franco family about $934,000 for the property, but later revised the figure to $1.65 million. The agency took possession of the land in June 2010, about four months before Gov. Chris Christie scrapped the Access to the Region’s Core project.

New Jersey, the federal government and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey were to fund the project on the industrial site that sits in parts of Weehawken, Hoboken and Union City.

The project was 15 years in the making when Christie pulled the plug over concerns of cost overruns.

More than a half-billion dollars already had been spent for engineering, construction and environmental studies, and the government tried to force New Jersey to pay back $271 million. The state negotiated that figure down to about $95 million.

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Information from: NJ.com, https://www.nj.com

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