Jersey City Council approves Water Street Redevelopment Plan, NJ Treasury income tax study


The Jersey City Council approved the Water Street Redevelopment Plan and a measure asking the New Jersey Department of the Treasury to due a revenue study for a potential up to one percent income tax to aid the board of education.

By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View

The plan will build on the site of the former 440 Farms and widen Route 440.

The project will contain three buildings up to seven stories consisting of 621 residential units, approximately 28,503 square feet of retail, and a parking garage with approximately 373 parking spaces.

Lincoln High School Principal and former Ward B Councilman Chris Gadsden said the developer, Fields, did not pay the payroll tax.

“How do we continue to reward people who are not held responsible. I understand why they do so much business with Jersey City because things are so political. We have to ensure that affordable housing is in the area of the west side. Affordable housing … hasn’t been built in decades,” Gadsden said.

He also noted they’re a non-union company if they are approved to develop the site.

“You’re transferring density or height or square footage to a project. The IZO [Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance] should be triggered. There should be affordable housing if you’re now granting this extra square feet,” Jeanne Daly said.

“To think that a developer could somehow access so many floors and stories without triggering that IZO is really a travesty. Does anybody know if the IZO is going to kick in?”

Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey asked for clarification on who was developing the project.

“Katerra is not the developer of this project. Katerra went out of business over a year ago and they never had an interest in this project. It has always been solely Fields Development,” Jim McCann, Fields’ attorney in the matter, replied.

“I can assure you … they have paid every single quarter of every payroll tax they owed. They realized they made a mistake,” he said regarding Fields.

Last year, shortly after the council delayed their vote on amendments to the plan, it came out that Katerra was behind on their payroll tax payments.

Regarding the IZO, McCann said, “Its’ not triggered because it’s a transfer of floor area. This project is not asking for any additional area. That floor area is already there. We’re just asking to move it across the street in exchange for the dedication of those two properties and for the development of Water Street.”

Corporation Counsel Peter Baker noted that planning board approved this project back in November 2020 and the new IZO was not adopted until this passed December.

Still, Ward F Councilman Frank “Educational” Gilmore expressed that the developers should go above and beyond.

“The developer can’t find it nowhere in his heart, even though it doesn’t trigger the IZO, to do no amount of affordable housing?,” Gilmore asked.

“This would be a market-rate project,” McCann replied.

“So, the answer is no,” Gilmore added.

“That is correct,” McCann responded.

Prinz-Arey chimed in that the IZO would be applied if it were applicable here, also noting they were previously able to secure affordable housing at 16 Bennett St. with a 20-year tax abatement.

“Unfortunately, that tool is no longer available to us,” Prinz-Arey said, continuing that the upcoming Bayfront project will have 35 percent affordable housing. In addition, University Place has five percent affordable housing when the developer asked for more density.

“To say that no affordable housing is being built in the area is quite frankly false … [This project] is not additional density in the technical term.”

The councilwoman continued that this project would be a huge turnaround for the neighborhood from when 440 Farms closed since it caused violent crime and prostitution to rise.

“They’re all in favor of this because this will make their neighborhood safer. Do I wish the IZO would apply? Yes. I agree 100 percent it’s an issue,” Prinz-Arey concluded.

During the roll call, Ward C Councilman Rich Boggiano urged his colleagues to “keep an eye” on the developers since they were a problem in his ward before voting yes.

“The plan makes sense the way the building is currently awkwardly sandwiched between the two roads really does a disservice to the community. Do I wish there was more affordability? Yes,” said Ward D Councilman Yousef Saleh.

“You can’t really develop your way into getting affordable housing units. We don’t have enough affordable units across the city,” he added.

Gilmore still had further questions before casting his vote.

“The principal owners of 100 Water Street … you’re saying Katerra is not connected?,” he asked.

“The principals of 100 Water Street are the Caulfields: Rob and James. They are no longer associated with Katerra. This project was never associated with Katerra,” McCann replied.

Gilmore questioned how moving the density didn’t trigger the IZO before saying he trusted Prinz-Arey’s assessment of the project.

“I trust she’s representing everything articulated in that community. We just have to be very cognizant of past behaviors, not repeating mistakes we made,” he noted before voting yes.

The second reading passed unanimously (8-0), with Council President Joyce Watterman absent.

Additionally, Gilmore’s resolution to possibly bolster the BOE’s ailing budget, after a discussion that largely echoed what happened at Monday’s caucus, passed 7-1, with Saleh voting no.

“I don’t see, even if the feasibility study came out that the resident could stomach this, especially at this time, I think our efforts are best spent talking to are legislative representatives about repatriating the funds that were cut,” he began.

“The state received CARES funding, and as a stipulation of that CARES Act funding from the federal government, they weren’t supposed to cut funding to at-need districts. So the state needs to repatriate those funds for at least two years and we should be lobbying the Department of Education on the federal level, and also the state level, to make sure they give us that money back.”

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