Jersey City Council OKs pool fees for next year on 1st reading, votes down fire pit ban


The Jersey City Council approved pool fee increases beginning next year following a floor amendment, with the governing body also unanimously (9-0) voting down a fire pit ban.

By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View

Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey said she spoke with Recreation and Youth Development Director Lucinda McLaughlin on the pool fees ordinance.

“Because we’re using Green Acres funding for projects past and present, our public pools have to be open to all residents in the area, so we know that’s going to effect how people come and swim in our city,” she noted, a point McLaughlin said several times at Monday’s caucus.

“So we do need to look at some sort of fee structure there, however, we’re gonna be adding an effective date so that these will not go into effect until 2024, that will allow us time to look at alternative ways to find low and no cost solutions.”

She then asked Corporation Counsel Peter Baker if this would be considered a non-substantial change between first and second reading.

“The substantial analysis isn’t require here since this is just the introduction,” Baker replied.

After conferring with Prinz-Arey, City Clerk Sean Gallagher said the date the new fees would go into effect would be established sometime this morning.

The ordinance proposes $3 fees for adult residents (18 to 61), $2 for children, and $1 for seniors. Adults and children would pay $1 extra on weekends and holidays, while senior fees would remain the same.

Non-resident adults and children would double, with the holiday and weekend fees raising to $8 and $6, respectively, while senior fees would remain stable at $2.

“I agree with Mira 100 percent. I would like that 3.1 (the fire pit ordinance) be pulled,” Ward C Councilman Rich Boggiano said.

A short while later, Gallagher called a vote for the ordinances up for first reading.

“The ordinance, as it is, leaves a lot of loopholes. I know we just received something in like the last two minutes from public safety with a whole list of I guess what the current rules are. And I just kind of think that we need to kind of look at it more,” explained Ward A Councilwoman Denise Ridley.

“The ordinance as it is doesn’t really encompass a whole lot and we we haven’t seen enough evidence to I guess make this decision,” she said before voting no on the fire pit ban.

Prinz-Arey also voted no, citing enforcement concerns, as she did at the caucus.

As for Boggiano, who was outspoken against the measure at caucus, he said he wanted the fire department to present data to the council to justify a fire pit ban before it was considered before he voted against.

“Ultimately, we need more data. We obviously take public safety concerns at the highest degree, but we need more data and information to really demonstrate there’s a safety risk and that the ordinance is well drafted to address that safety risk,” Ward E Councilman James Solomon stated regarding the fire pit ordinance.

“I do have some major concerns on 3.3, I do appreciate the additional year, it will give us more time to adjust. We want to work very closely because I do think having a free admission for children is really important. I understand Green Acres makes that a little more difficult, but I do think that we really want free activities for kids in the summer, it’s good for them, so happy to continue the conversation,” he noted regarding the pool fees.

Ward F Councilman Frank “Educational” Gilmore pointed out that the summer camp fees had been removed from the agenda, prompting him to ask Business Administrator John Metro when the council has jurisdiction on fees.

He replied that the council has jurisdiction on matters that are already encoded.

“This is something already codified. The city’s not allowed to quote unquote profit from any program,” he explained.

“Does that go directly to the Department of Recreation?” Gilmore asked.

“It’s recognized as a revenue generator,” Metro said, noting that the pool fee pays for the maintenance.

“We take an analysis and look at that,” he added.

Metro said they look at the cost of fees relative to wages and other issues.

Councilman-at-Large Daniel Rivera agreed with Solomon that the three municipal pools should be free for children.

“We’re now amending it that the fees won’t take place this year. We’ll push it. At some point, we have to enact that with respect to the Open Space, Green Acres funding. I’m happy to work with the Council on that,” Metro added.

The revised pool fee ordinance was approved unanimously (9-0) on first reading, while the fire pit ban was voted down unanimously (0-9).

“People living check to check don’t have that kind of money. You can’t let these fees go forward. We have to go back to being a city that’s friendly to middle- and low-income folks,” Jessica Taube said during the public comment period.

“I call it a crime of commission and omission. I think it’s a further step … into gentrification,” added Daniel Ali about the fees.

Gary Murphy said that kids and their parents should still be allowed to swim for free, while Edwards Perkins said this was an insult to minority groups in the city.

“I was really hurt by it. It’s another example of you pushing us out. Black and Brown people will be the most affected. You need to reconsider. Our public pools … should be free to all our residents,” Perkins noted.

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