By Joshua Burd – It was 1971 when Joe Panepinto, an aspiring criminal lawyer, took a job representing patients at a newly established methadone clinic in Jersey City.
In less than a year, he found himself with an offer for a much different type of legal work. Dr. Paul Jordan, the 30-year-old co-founder of the clinic, had won the city’s mayoral election against the infamous Hudson County Democratic machine and asked Panepinto to become the planning board attorney.
Admittedly, Panepinto knew nothing about real estate, but Jordan insisted on having someone he trusted in a position that had been especially prone to corruption.
“I was a young lawyer,” Panepinto recalled. “I said, ‘Sure, I’ll take it.’ ”
As it turns out, his first exposure to real estate came as Jersey City began to devise plans to redevelop its tired industrial waterfront with Mel Simon, Herb Glimcher, the LeFrak family and other titans of the industry. And it quickly became a passion for Panepinto, a native of the city, who would eventually transition to private practice and his own development firm.
“I just liked the positive approach,” Panepinto said. “You’re building something, you’re creating, actually benefiting the whole community and you’re employing a lot of people. So I started representing different developers and started developing myself.”