Jersey City being sued by good gov’t group over ‘unreasonable’ City Hall plan

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The Jersey City Council acted in an “arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable” fashion when they adopted a resolution approving a redevelopment plan for City Hall, according to a lawsuit asking for the measure to “be null and void.” 

Jersey City City Hall

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Civic JC, Inc., a non-profit organization founded in 2002 and currently spearheaded by Esther Wintner – a former council candidate – dedicated to promoting good government in Jersey City, filed a lawsuit in Hudson County Superior Court on August 28 to halt the proposed City Hall redevelopment plan.

The Jersey City Planning Board is also named in the suit, since they decided back in June that the area in question meets the requirements for a “non-condemnation redevelopment area.”

The lawsuit argues that the plan in question does not meet state statutes that identify a non-condemnation redevelopment area as one that presents “substandard, unsafe, unsanitary, dilapidated … living or working conditions.”

The resolution approved by City Council on July 15 includes City Hall (280 Grove St.), 179 Montgomery St. and 202 York St. – the latter which is owned by Paul and Eric Silverman, of the local Silverman real estate group.

Jersey City Board of Education candidate John Reichart works for Silverman, initially making at least a few education advocates apprehensive of his qualifications to sit on the board, but he has since won over the Jersey City Education Association and has earned their endorsement.

“The idea that City Hall and an adjacent parking lot constitute urban blight is preposterous – this is prime real estate,” Wintner said in a statement. “It is an extreme example, but only one of many examples, in which the redevelopment process has been used inappropriately by the city to up-zone and to give tax breaks to redevelopers.”

“Ultimately,” Wintner added, “the taxpayers pay the price for these redevelopment deals — and the tax abatements that go along with them.”

Cynthia A. Hadjiyannis, Civic JC’s attorney in the matter, said in the same statement that on top of violating state law, the potential plan “is inconsistent with Local Redevelopment and Housing Law.”

“And even if it were consistent, the City’s efforts to extract developer ‘give-backs’ to fund public projects haven’t worked all that well historically,” she concluded.

When Fulop was a Jersey City Councilman, he worked with Civic JC to reform the pay to play statues in Jersey City (h/t The Jersey Journal).

City spokesman Ryan Jacobs did not return an email seeking comment.

A copy of the lawsuit can be read here.