Jersey City City Hall
Jersey City City Hall

During its Monday caucus, the City Council mulled over construction projects that will collectively cost over $100 million.

In the smallest project, the City Council is being asked to award a $254,800 contract to Louis Gargiulo Co. Inc., of Jersey City, for exterior repairs to the Van Wagenen House (also known as The Apple Tree House) at 298 Academy St., which dates to 1740. Van Wagenen House is one of the city’s oldest buildings.

The building may have served as a meeting place for the Marquis de Lafayette and George Washington in 1779, according to Wikipedia, and takes its name from a former apple orchard and cider press on the property. It’s listed on both the national and state registers of historic places.

Jersey City acquired the property, formerly occupied by the Quinn Funeral Home, in 1996 for $450,000. With some financial assistance from the New Jersey Historic Trust, the city spent more than $3 million on interior renovations of the building. That work was completed in 2014.

But at Tuesday night’s caucus, the City Council was told by Brian Weller, director of the city’s Division of Architecture, that the building needed repairs to stop deterioration of the structure’s exterior.

A memo Weller prepared for the council said the contractor would be asked to execute “removal of existing shutters and lattices for repair and/or replacement, repairing and painting of all exterior wood surfaces, landscaping maintenance of surrounding plant life, and regrading at the building foundation to improve drainage.”

When council members wondered whether any of the work would go above and beyond prior structural improvements, Weller said it would not. “It’s just ongoing maintenance,” Weller responded.

Ward C Councilman Richard Boggiano, who represents the Journal Square area containing the historic property, wondered about the quality of prior workmanship on the building. “That new roof they put on was imported from overseas, wasn’t it?” he asked.

According to city worksheets, Gargiulo’s bid was the lowest of four submitted. Other bidders were Paragon Restoration, of Kenilworth ($261,000); Mark Construction, of Wallington ($353,000); and P&K Contracting, Inc., of Jersey City ($659,450).

Although the price projected by Gargiulo was $254,800, the Division of Architecture is recommending allowing a “20 percent contingency” to be added on if deemed necessary. This which means that the total contract could go as high as $305,760 if permitted by the council.

In other business, the council discussed bonding $124,450,000 for various capital improvements including $23.75 million for the Loew’s Theater to transform it to a state-of-the-art entertainment center; $22.8 million to expand and repair the north and south police districts; $14.25 million to upgrade and relocate the 911 call center to the new Public Safety Building on Martin Luther King Drive; $14.25 million to reconstruct the municipal court on Summit Avenue; $11.4 million to renovate parks citywide; $9.5 million to resurface streets citywide; $4.75 million to help develop the new Skyway Park on the West Side; and $2.85 million to convert the City Hall plaza and rear parking lot to park space.

The City Council’s regular public meeting will take place tonight at 6 p.m. at 280 Grove Street.

Ron Leir has been a journalist since 1972. That includes a 37-year stint as a reporter, copy reader and assistant editor with The Jersey Journal, followed by a decade as a reporter with The Observer in...