Jersey City City Hall
Jersey City City Hall

City’s Polish-Americans Unhappy With Effects Upon Katyn Memorial

Members of the Polish-American community from Jersey City and elsewhere appealed in vain to the City Council Wednesday night to prevent changes to the Exchange Place plaza they say will negatively affect the Katyn Memorial, which is located there. The council approved a related budget that would enable the changes to take place.

The memorial commemorates the 1940 massacre of more than 20,000 Polish soldiers and POWs by the Soviet Union.

The Exchange Place Alliance Special Improvement District is seeking to redesign the plaza, a move the speakers fear would make the memorial less visible. Speakers urged the council to delay ratifying the group’s fiscal 2023 budget pending a resolution of litigation aimed at blocking this redesign.

If approved, the budget would enable the Alliance to use $5.5 million in capital reserves to add a semicircular bench and landscaping in front of the monument as part of overall improvements to the plaza and a nearby service road.

At a meeting on May 10, the Jersey City Planning Board, after disapproving the Alliance’s application at a “courtesy review” hearing April 26, subsequently reconsidered the redesign and reversed its prior decision to reject the design.

Elizabeth Cain, executive director of the Alliance, defended the redesign as a way of “creating green space at the plaza,” adding that the June 24 lawsuit filed in state Superior Court by Jersey City resident Jeanne Daly and by the nonprofits Polish American Strategic Initiative (PASI) of New Britain, Conn., and PASI Educational Organization, of Red Bank, against the Alliance and Jersey City Planning Board “has no merit.”

But the legal complaint, filed by the Princeton law firm Lieberman Blecher & Sinkevich, alleges that the Planning Board acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” by disallowing any public comment at the May meeting, among other things, and that the Planning Board violated the Open Public Meetings Act by failing to give proper notice of the May meeting.

At this week’s City Council session, lawmakers heard from PASI vice president Wojciech Mazur, of Stamford, Conn.; Krystyna Piorkowska, of New York; John Czop, of Ridgewood; Andrzej Burghardt, of Maywood; Jan Baginski, of Hackensack; PASI trustee Suzanne Mazurczuk, of Red Bank; and Jeanne Daly, all seeking to debunk the positions taken on the redesign by the Alliance and the Planning Board.

Nonetheless, six members of the council voted to approve the Alliance budget, with two abstentions (by Council President Joyce Watterman and Ward C representative Richard Boggiano), and one member (Councilman-at-large Daniel Rivera) absent.

Cannabis applications

In another matter, seven council members endorsed three applications for Class 5 cannabis retailer licenses for MMD NJ, Inc., at 655 Newark Ave.; Blossom Dispensary, LLC, at 746-748 Tonnelle Ave.; and WR Wellness, LLC, at 150 Bay St. Only Boggiano abstained.

During public comments, Hugh Giordano, an organizer for Local 152, United Food & Commercial Workers, based in Egg Harbor, said the union supports cannabis retailers and opportunities for organizing workers there. Laura Moss, a resident of the Hilltop neighborhood spoke admiringly of MMD but expressed concerns that the city has not created more restrictions on the numbers of dispensaries allowed within any given area nor “a lot of guidance from the city on how they are run.”

“My personal public support for MMD was because they did approach my community with extra care and answered a lot of questions and had a public meeting about neighborhood concerns. I was impressed with how professional they are and the experience they have. That’s the kind of business owners I want I my community. I want the Council to pay attention to the groups coming before them for these approvals as it’s a new industry in NJ with a lot of controversy attached, she said in a follow-up email to the Jersey City Times.

Andres Lorenz, who runs a wellness/personal training enterprise at 150 Bay St., had concerns as well. He expressed displeasure about a cannabis dispensary operating at the same location. It will be “a threat to my business and to the neighborhood,” Lorenz said, as “contributing to violent crime and property crime.”

Residential Property Maintenance

The council also expanded to those homeowners with yards an existing law concerning residential property maintenance in Jersey City. The change requires property owners to “ensure that all bushes and trees in yards are trimmed and that they do not interfere with neighboring properties; grass does not exceed eight inches in height and that all grass clippings are removed; yards are clear of all garbage, litter and debris; and fences surrounding yards are maintained and any broken sections or holes are repaired.”

According to the ordinance, violations are punishable by “a fine of up to two thousand dollars ($2,000.00) and/or imprisonment for a period of up to ninety (90) days and/or a period of community service not exceeding ninety (90) days.”

Car towing fees

To update some rules of the road for motorists in distress, the council revised maximum fees that towers can charge vehicle operators. No licensed operator can charge more than $150 to “tow, transport, convey or otherwise move” a Class 1 vehicle such as a sedan or SUV “from one location within the city to another location within the city” under the newly revised law. The comparable fee for Class 2 vehicles (typically, trucks up to 10,000 pounds) is $200. Under certain circumstances, a tower can charge more for certain services. For more information, check out the newly adopted amended ordinance, listed as Ord. 22-065.

Editors note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Laura Moss is the president of the Hilltop Neighborhood Association and believes Jersey City should have more adult-use dispensaries.

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...