Jersey City council amends development plan to allow for 15-story building

Jersey City council amends development plan to allow for 15-story building

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By Michaelangelo Conte | The Jersey Journal 
on October 09, 2014 at 2:51 PM, updated October 09, 2014 at 2:53 PM

Jersey City Council President Rolando Lavarro cast the deciding vote to amend the Tidewater Basis Redevelopment Plan to allow for construction of a 15-story building in a Downtown neighborhood were buildings had been limited to 7-stories, today, Oct. 8, 2014.

After hearing more than a dozen Downtown Jersey City residents speak against an ordinance that would allow construction of a 15-story building in a neighborhood where seven stories is the limit, the City Council voted 5 to 3 last night to allow the building to go up.

“On the whole I think it is good for Jersey City and good for the neighborhood there so I vote aye,” said City Council President Rolando Lavarro who cast the deciding vote to amend the Tidewater Basis Redevelopment Plan to allow for construction of the building.

The redevelopment area along Van Vorst Street south of Sussex Street had been zoned for office and residential use and had a height limit of seven stories. The amendment allows for additional uses such as retail, cafes, restaurant, etc. The city has given the developer an additional eight stories in exchange for various infrastructure and neighborhood improvements.

The area borders on historic Paulus Hook and a few representatives of that area’s neighborhood association spoke in favor of the amendment. Speakers opposed to the amendment received loud applause from those in the packed council chamber.

“Why are you just going property by property giving ad hoc benefits that many residents don’t believe in?” one resident asked the council before the vote. “This is a historic zone. We love the area and then all of a sudden there is a 15-story building going up across the street. … We ask you to vote no on this amendment.”

Michael Catabano said “I was promised, when I bought, a certain thing, and a lot of the promises have been broken. … When does the next building come. Where does it end? You want to be the sixth borough? You think this would ever get through on Park Slope or Brooklyn Heights? No way. I think you should take into consideration what you are doing to people."

One man noted “We voted in a whole new council for a reason.”

He said if a plan is in place it should be left alone because people buy their homes because they like the neighborhood. “The simple thing is, don’t sell us out. Because we may vote you out.”

Nakone Toure told the council members, “You buy with an expectation and now that expectation is changing.”

She complained of traffic in the area already being heavy and said she has been getting calls from real estate agents asking her to sell. “I’m going to get the hell out of Jersey City. … Expectations. Expectations.”

James McCann, a representative of the developer, touted the project for its plaza for passive recreation with retail lining it. He also noted that the building is set back to minimize the impact of its height, will have a restaurant, a dog run and parking spaces that residents can rent if available.

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James McCann, a representative of the developer, touts the project for its plaza for passive recreation with retail lining it, improvements to infrastructure it will include, he said the building is set back to minimize the impact of its height, will have a restaurant and a dog run.Michaelangelo Conte | The Jersey Journa

“This a fairly abandoned part of Paulus Hook,” McCann said. “You will have more people in the neighborhood, which make that part of the neighborhood a little more safe, probably a lot more safe. … This is not a historic district. It never was a historic district. It borders on a historic district and that makes a big difference.”

A handful of residents spoke in favor of the amendment and one noted how the high rises around Paulus Hook had helped that neighborhood prosper.

Downtown Councilwoman Candice Osborne, who lives a half block from where the high rise is to be built, voted against the amendment.

Council members Michael Yun and Richard Boggiano also voted against the ordinance while Lavarro, Joyce Watterman, Chico Ramchal, Diane Coleman and Daniel Rivera voted in favor. Frank Gajewski did not attend the meeting.