After hearing constituents’ pleas to keep Jersey City’s two outdoor pools free, the City Council Wednesday night obliged—but only by kicking the can down the road.

At the suggestion of Ward A Councilmember Mira Prinz-Arey, the governing body agreed to defer imposition of entrance fees for the Pavonia Pool and Lafayette Aquatic Center to Memorial Day weekend of 2024—not this year, as initially proposed.

An ordinance, which also proposes hiking entrance fees at the city’s lone indoor pool at Pershing Field Park, also to take effect in May 2024, will get a public hearing May 10. 

In other action, the council toughened its laws governing the illegal operation of dirt bikes, All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) and snowmobiles, held off consideration of a measure to ban open fires and recreational fire pits and endorsed two cannabis retail applications for 155 Newark Ave. and 125 Columbus Drive.

If the revised pool ordinance passes, starting next May the city will begin charging adults $3 a day and $4 on weekends and holidays to swim at Pavonia and Lafayette. Kids ages 17 and under will pay $2 and $3, respectively; and seniors, $1 for each scenario.

Out-of-towners will be charged double those daily rates.

Ward E Councilmember James Solomon and Councilmember-at-large Daniel Rivera said that for now at least, they wanted to ensure free admission for kids. And Ward F Councilmember Frank Gilmore added that the outdoor pools needed to be kept free, particularly since “a lot of people” in his ward are “financially overburdened.”

Gilmore also expressed dismay about the cost of the city’s summer day camps offered at Pershing and Caven Point, formerly offered for free, but now pegged at $150 per child for a 2-week session.  Two city residents—Jessica Taube and Daniel Ali—said the price is a lot to be asking of many parents struggling to survive.

Taube, whose daughter plays city rec soccer, said that while she was impressed with the quality of the programs and staff, “there are too many…living from paycheck to paycheck…who can’t afford” the price of the program which, she added, “should be tax-funded.”

And Ali, a city rec youth program coordinator, warned that the city’s implementation of a fee-based camp program will mean “a further step to gentrification and displacement (of longtime residents).”

“Help keep Jersey City Recreation free and accessible,” Ali urged the council.

At Pershing pool, meanwhile, the ordinance revising the fee schedule specifies that residents would be charged a 6-month fee of $200 for adults up to age 61; and $75 for kids (age 17 and under) and senior citizens (ages 62 and older).  Non-residents would pay twice as much.

The current semi-annual resident rates are: $75 for adults, $50 for kids (ages 10 to 18) and seniors, with out-of-towners paying double those fees.  Other current payment options for couples, with and without kids, would no longer apply under the proposed new rate schedule.

Lucinda McLaughlin, city director of Parks, Recreation & Youth Development, advised the council at Monday’s caucus that to keep the pools operating safely with sufficient staffing, the city had to raise fees.

How the city will manage to do this without the added revenues sought is unclear at this point.

As for dirt bikes, ATVs and snowmobiles, the council voted to amend an ordinance regulating those vehicles by forbidding their operation “along paved roads and highways” and by forbidding local gas stations to dispense gas into a dirt bike, ATV or snowmobile unless that vehicle was transported there in a properly registered vehicle….” 

However, the city will allow an exception if a station owner “reasonably believes that he or she would suffer physical harm by refusing to dispense or allow to be dispensed gasoline…so long as the employee/owner immediately reports the activity to the Jersey City Police Department once safe to do so, but in no instance longer than one hour after the illegally operated ATV, dirt bike or snowmobile have departed the property.”

The new law also forbids a local storage facility owner or employee to “knowingly allow” the delivery of an ATV, dirt bike or snowmobile to or from the facility “that is not transported on a properly registered vehicle” unless the owner/employee “reasonably believes” they would be harmed for failing to allow access so long as the incident is reported to police within a 24-hour period.

Ward A Councilmember Denise Ridley credited Prinz-Arey and Jersey City Police Capt. Joseph Olszewski with laying the groundwork for the new legislation whose goal, she added, “is to keep everyone safe.”

Despite a recommendation by city Public Safety Director James Shea at Monday’s caucus to outlaw open fires and recreational fire pits because “we’re starting to get complaints from citizens” about incidents involving the spread of ashes to neighboring properties, the council voted unanimously to scrap a first reading of an ordinance calling for the ban.

“We haven’t seen enough evidence” to support the ban, Ridley said; Ward C Councilmember Richard Boggiano called on the city Fire Department to “provide data on fires (to structures) caused by open fires.” Solomon agreed, saying: “We need more data to demonstrate the safety risks.”  

On the cannabis matters, the council voted 8-1, with Boggiano dissenting, to provide a letter of support for Cannaboutique By Greenhouse to operate a retail shop at 125 Columbus Drive but split, 6-1-2, on an endorsement for Local Modiv LLC to run a retail business at 155 Newark Ave., with Boggiano opposed and Arey and Council President Joyce Watterman abstaining, the latter due to a conflict of interest.  Watterman serves with the applicant, Chelsea Duffy, on the city’s Women’s Advisory Board. City Corporation Counsel Peter Baker said there is litigation pending on the matter.

During the public speaker portion of Wednesday night’s meeting, Alyza Brevard-Rodriguez, who has secured an approval from the city Cannabis Control Board to operate The Other Side cannabis retail shop at 36 Congress St., and Alexandria Alcala, who also received CCB approval for her Neon Heights cannabis shop at 535 Newark Ave., urged the council to reconsider its upcoming 6-month moratorium on hearing cannabis retail applications. Each predicted that a prolonged delay could spell disaster for their prospective business ventures.

The council had no response.

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...