The Jersey City Council voted to approve a $44 million City Hall Annex plan for Ward F last night, but not without a vigorous debate as Councilmen Richard Boggiano and Michael Yun voted against the project.
The proposed project, which has already had $24 million invested in it, in the Bergen-Lafayette neighborhood will be built by the same developer, Brandywine, that built the first annex.
The project has irked the two most anti-administration councilmen, particularly Yun, because of how the project is being financed.
He claims that it leaves the city on the hook in the event that repairs are required over the next 25 years that the city is leasing from Brandywine before owning it outright.
“When you buy a brand new car, the first thing you ask is what type of warranty will I have. If you pay $5,000 for a new roof, you want to make sure you get a guarantee from the roofers that the new roof will last at least 10 years,” he said.
“The point is you should have at least a minimum guarantee required. Today, Jersey City is building a second annex that will cost over $85 million over 25 years and yet we don’t even have one piece of a guarantee that if something happens to the building while we are leasing it from the developer, the developer is held responsible.”
During the vote, Boggiano said the project was a waste of taxpayers money.
“No, because the first building should have been built properly and to me this is just a waste of taxpayers’ money,” Boggiano exclaimed.
When Ward’s F’s HUB was rebranded as Jackson Square about three weeks ago, officials said the financing arrangement will save the city $700,000 in rent per year, and “in comparison to a traditional general obligation bond approach, the City will save $16 million through the lease-purchase agreement.”
Nevertheless, others on the council took exception to their colleagues who voted no, especially Ward F Councilman Jermaine Robinson.
He said that the construction of the new annex is significant for the entire city because it represents an investment in parts of the city that have been ignored for too long.
“My part of the city needs development. Jersey City needs Ward F to be developed because if we are going to be the best mid-size city in the country, we need Ward F to not just perform, but over perform,” Robinson stated, reiterating what he said at the ribbon cutting.
“If we have to take some risk as a city to make sure that we grow as a whole then I’m willing to take that risk.”
Additionally, some members of the public expressed frustration that the financial arrangement with Brandywine hurts taxpayers.
One public speaker, who is a chief financial officer in the private sector told the council, “When you get into a deal where the developer doesn’t get hurt if they don’t build the building on time and we have to start paying rent, that’s a bad deal for the taxpayers.”
The measure passed by a vote of 7-2, with Yun and Boggiano voting no.