At Thursday’s meeting, the City Council voted unanimously to approve two ordinances that recommend the Sixth Street Embankment be designated a redevelopment area and an ordinance enabling telecom companies to install 5G equipment throughout the city. Separately, Councilperson-at-large Lavarro pushed for affordable housing and jobs in a Community Benefits Agreement for the redevelopment of Laurel Court. Lavarro also chastised Mayor Fulop for neglecting to make his acting directors permanent.
Two Resolutions Passed Unanimously to Recommend the Creation of the Sixth Street Redevelopment Area
The City Council passed two ordinances, which taken together, recommend the Sixth Street Embankment and several parcels in Harsimus Cove as “an area in need of redevelopment, a “non-condemnation area” without the powers of eminent domain.”
This is the next step in a lengthy battle the City has been in with Conrail and Victoria Hyman. Hyman’s husband purchased the land from Conrail in 2003 in order to develop it. The city has argued successfully in court that this sale was improper but is awaiting a ruling on the use of the land. Jersey City hopes to develop the corridor as an open, public space.
Patrick J. McAuley, Esq. of the law firm Connell Foley called in to object to the ordinances, stating, “we submitted an objection letter on why the city is not authorized to include the Conrail parcels in any redevelopment.”
Ten residents called in to express their support, including the president and the executive secretary of the Harsimus Cove Association.
Stephen Gucciardo, of the Embankment Preservation Coalition, also called in to voice support. “We strongly support these areas being designated as in need of redevelopment. They have long laid fallow. The railroad sells off portions when it’s convenient for them. … These resolutions pave the way for creating a redevelopment plan that preserves this important corridor as open space.”
Council Amends Ordinance to Facilitate the Installation of 5G Small-Cell Wireless Facilities
The Council approved the amendment of an ordinance to facilitate telecom companies’ installing small-cell wireless facilities in rights-of-way, namely for 5G service. With Councilperson Solomon yet to arrive, the amendment was approved 8-0.
Small-cell wireless facilities are typically small antennas (3-4 feet tall) that are placed on existing infrastructure (such as utility poles) and accompanied by equipment cabinets installed lower on the pole. They generally handle large amounts of data over short distances, so many small cells may be installed in a neighborhood to improve coverage.
In keeping with the existing ordinance, this encourages installations on existing wireless communication towers, existing water towers, and existing utility poles. The goal is to minimize adverse impact on streetscapes, vistas, and historic sites.
Councilperson Solomon, who joined the meeting late, asked that the implementation date be extended from the usual 20 days after passage to 90 days “to give time to review all the telecom provider comments.” He said that the comments, which were received on Tuesday, “were substantial and are the type that require real conversation.” The Council approved this change unanimously.
Council Authorizes Community Benefits Agreement with Laurel Court Developer Amid Strong Comments by Lavarro
A resolution was passed unanimously authorizing a Community Benefits Agreement with LMC Laurel-Saddlewood Holdings, LLC in connection with the redevelopment of the entire Laurel Court area, the blocks bounded by First Street, Manila Avenue, Second Street, and Marin Boulevard that consist of dozens of suburban-style houses. A community benefits agreement requires developers to provide amenities to the immediate neighborhood in return for the right to build.
Councilperson-at-large Rolando Lavarro voted for the agreement but warned it might not require enough of the developer.
“With regard to the water and sewage infrastructure,” he said, “all of that is important, but we just passed legislation requiring this as an obligation of the developers. It shouldn’t be factored in as a benefit; it is a necessity. It shouldn’t be horse traded away for things like affordable housing.”
With regard to affordable housing, Lavarro pointed out, “When you break down the rents — studio rents at over $1,350 — is not affordable by any standards of working families in Jersey City.”
Last year, the developer made a deal with the 37 homeowners to buy their homes for agreed-upon prices. In their place, the developer will build a 50-story high-rise with 810 rental apartments and 14,000 square feet of retail space, a new public park, an expanded Filipino Veterans Plaza, and a new public school for 300-350 children.
Lavarro Abstains from Approving Acting Directors for Another 90 Days, Citing Fulop’s Disregard for the Law
The acting directors were approved, 8-0-1, for another 90-day term, with Councilperson-at-large Lavarro abstaining. Lavarro chastised Mayor Fulop for neglecting to make his acting directors permanent.
Lavarro said, “The law is that the mayor’s acting appointment is only permitted for 90 days and then has to come to council for approvals. There is a reason for requiring the acting appointments. If they are permanently appointed, the City Council can override any termination by the mayor. We can’t do that with acting appointments, so they are beholden to the mayor in that regard. That threat for anyone in that position is you have to continually appease and please your immediate boss. These acting appointments flaunt the law. … We see this all too often under this administration.”