The Jersey City Council approved the 70th tax abatement of the Mayor Steven Fulop administration, a fact that was not lost on critics who turned the ordinance hearing into a mock celebration.
A 20-year tax abatement for a mixed-income residential rental project at what will be 160 Clark Ave., located in Ward B, created headaches for the Jersey City Council last night.
It would take hours before the vote was called, as former Board of Education Trustee Ellen Simon criticized the governing body for once again short-changing the public schools and not living up to a 2013 campaign promise.
“New real estate cash revenue should be allocated, in equal proportions, to the county, city and board of education. Instead, the city allocates 100 percent of revenue collected through tax abatements to municipal expenditures,” Simon said, reading a 2013 statement from Fulop.
“Under Mayor Fulop, that policy will change immediately … it never did.”
Brigid D’Souza, another longtime Fulop critic, echoed Simon’s sentiment about funding the public schools.
Sangeeta Ranade, a former board of education president, added that Fulop and council candidates running on his ticket said they would allocate one-third of the revenue from payment in lieu of taxes agreements to the schools – something that hasn’t happened.
“Council members and the mayor committed that one-third of the PILOT funding, related to this abatement, as the previous 69, should go towards public schools. In this case, none of this abatement, PILOT money, is allocated towards the schools,” she stated.
When it came time to vote, Ward A Councilman Frank Gajewski said he actually did think the 70th tax abatement was worth celebrating since development has come to Wards F, A and B.
“You know, I don’t have any party hat on, but I do want to celebrate the fact that the city’s policies have brought development down to the FAB Wards. I think we know what the FAB Wards are: F, A and B.”
Furthermore, Ward E Councilwoman Candice Osborne said that while the council is often criticized for approving abatements, she said the information brought forth by the public doesn’t always tell the whole story.
“52 percent of the tax abatements we’ve given have been five years, so I think that’s worth bearing. I know it’s kind of fun to say a larger number, it’s sounds sexier, but those are kind of guaranteed by state law,” she explained.
“Nine percent were 10 years and 39 percent were more than 10 years,” Osborne added.
Meanwhile, Ward F Councilman Jermaine Robinson was a surprise no vote, citing concerns with with the project labor agreement and the project employment and contracting agreement.
The council ultimately approved the measure by a vote of 6-2-(1), with Ward D Councilman Michael Yun joining Robinson in voting no and Ward C Councilman Rich Boggiano abstaining.
In an email, city spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill said the administration has done their part in looking out for the public schools.
“We appreciate the critics, but we have expanded after school and recreation programs every year since 2013, we have increased payments into the school every year, and we have leveraged the abatements to help start construction on a new $25 million dollar school.”