Journal Square. Photo by Aaron Morrill

Pompidou, helicopters, bike lanes, parking and education spending were also discussed

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop predicted that over the next four years Journal Square will become a mecca for new residential high-rises, new entertainment and cultural venues, and a “blue chip” shopping market, causing Ward C homeowners to see “a significant escalation of property values.”

One such skyscraper, the long-awaited Kushner Properties project at One Journal Square featuring twin 52-story towers over a 12-story base, should break ground in two months, Fulop said. The building will accommodate 1,700 apartments and 40,000 square feet of retail space.

Beyond that, the mayor said, there are plans for four or five 60-story buildings and multiple 20- to 30-story buildings with various residential/retail combinations coming to the ward, including a structure proposed for the C.H. Martin building next to the Loew’s Theater.

And representatives of the world-famous Centre Pompidou in France will be coming here in three weeks, Fulop said, to continue talks on moving what he called “the largest collection of art works in all of Europe” from Paris to a Sip Avenue location in Jersey City.

The museum and the Loew’s, which is currently undergoing a $100 million renovation expected to be completed by early 2025, “will be the catalysts for night life” in the ward, Fulop said.

The mayor also noted that after the new county courthouse on Newark Avenue is completed, the city will demolish the county Administration Building and begin construction of a new park for which $17 million in the capital budget has been dedicated.

Fulop touched on these and other city-wide issues in an hour-long discussion on Saturday at the St. John’s Apartment Complex hosted by the condominium associations representing 10 Huron, 225 St. Paul’s and 201 St. Paul’s Aves. Journal Square resident Steve Lipski moderated the gathering.

In another matter related to Ward C, Lipski said Stop the Chop, a nonprofit pushing to ban nonessential helicopter flights over the region, had reached an agreement with a Kearny-based heliport to redirect New York City-bound flight paths “north and higher.”

Asked later for more details, Lipski demurred, saying that the new flight routes were still being designed and that pilots needed a few weeks to assimilate the changes before making them part of their new routes. Lipski said he has witnessed helicopters flying at the level of or below  his 12th-floor apartment at 201 St. Paul’s Ave.

Fulop said the flight paths of the big jets flying into and out of Liberty International Airport in Newark get priority in the skies over the region, thereby placing air space restrictions on smaller aircrafts. Enforcement of those rules is a federal issue, he added.

In late 2017, Helo Holdings, Inc., the owner of the Kearny heliport, added a second hangar to accommodate a sharp growth in helicopter traffic. New Jersey lawmakers introduced bills in the legislature to reduce the number of chopper flights in the region to improve safety and air quality while reducing excessive noise but these efforts went nowhere, Lipski noted.

Federal legislators, including U.S. Congressman Albio Sires, meanwhile, are pressing for passage of the Improving Helicopter Safety Act of 2021, which “prohibits nonessential helicopters (unrelated to emergency, medical, or public interest flights) from flying in a covered airspace of any city with a population of over 8 million people and with a population density of over 25,000 people per square mile—including waterways—within the city’s jurisdiction.” The bill (H.R. 4880) would direct the Federal Aviation Administration to update helicopter flight charts to show allowable airspace as covered by the new law.

According to FAA rules, no aircraft may fly below an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft, but helicopters are permitted to fly lower than that “if the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface.”

Rules do allow the FAA to prescribe routes or altitudes specifically for helicopters, but critics say the FAA has been lax doing so with regard to congested areas like Jersey City.

Residents at the meeting also had a lot to tell Mayor Fulop about ground transportation in Journal Square. Commenters called for bike lanes and complained about motorized bikes speeding on sidewalks and about drivers double-parking outside schools and elsewhere.

The mayor said he does not currently support bike lanes on Summit and Baldwin Avenues because he was “not willing do something that will have a dramatic impact on parking.” Ward C Councilman Richard Boggiano agreed, saying, “There’s too much traffic now on Baldwin and Summit. Nobody wants [bike lanes there] right now.”

As for unruly operators of 4-wheelers and dirt bikes, Fulop said police have been instructed “not to chase them because someone can get hurt. There’s no perfect answer here.”

Acknowledging that “speeding, double- and triple-parking are serious public safety hazards,” Fulop said he asked the City Council to introduce an ordinance at its next meeting that would create a new “Division of Parking” within the Public Safety Department to provide “a more linear command” structure to remediate the problem.

Fulop also took to task the Board of Education for complaining about being short-changed by the state while itself demonstrating “very little accountability” to taxpayers. “The day after the board approves the city school tax rate (to support a $955 million budget), the entire board goes to a conference in California.”

Other board decisions Fulop questioned included approving teacher payroll costs that, he said, are 30 percent above the state average; ignoring his administration’s recommendation to gradually privatize its janitorial staff in order to save money; and turning down an offer by the city to purchase various board properties and lease them back pending the outcome of litigation over the amount of state aid received by the district.

“Investment in our public schools is crucial,” Fulop said, “but it shouldn’t be a blank check.”

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...