The Jersey City Council voted to amend the Master Plan to allow accessory dwelling units at last night’s meeting, to the dismay of Ward C Councilman Rich Boggiano.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
“There are problems with the setbacks. We have enough congestion. We have no parking. Yet they’re going to put a home in the back of a home,” Boggiano argued, making a motion for the measure to be carried, but no one seconded the motion.
“Typical of this council. They don’t listen to the people. Shame what’s going on in this city,” the councilman said, drawing some applause.
Charlene Burke was one of a handful of residents who spoke out against the measure during public comment on the ordinance.
“The additional densities that are being added in …. means that instead of just limited to one and two families, it’s adding a conditional use for a third family,” she began.
“That’s doubling the density. We haven’t even addressed the affordable housing overlay. Developers will buy them and will gut them. That’s very concerning.”
Boggiano interjected before the next speaker, again signaling his disapproval for the local legislation.
“Charlene, all we’re doing is encouraging everyone to come from New York City, and rip this city apart,” he said to more applause.
Erica Walker, an aide to Ward F Councilman Frank “Educational” Gilmore, said that the changes would increase the value of homes in the R-1 residential district, which would be both a gift and a curse.
“A blanket ordinance may not be the answer here,” she argued, calling for a six- to 12-month marketing campaign following for passage of the ordinance to allow homeowners to prepare for changes.
“When Jersey City put out a program that said make Jersey City yours, we know they weren’t talking to Jersey City residents,” she declared, also stating that “Jersey City, keep it yours” would’ve been appropriate.
Boggiano once again called for the measure to be carried, causing activist June Jones to tell out “please.”
However, City Clerk Sean Gallagher said they cannot have a motion to carry during the public portion of an ordinance hearing.
“We really wanted everyone to have a mailing. Perhaps we could do a notice on the tax bill that zoning changes are happening. Some of them are good, and some of them are going to destroy neighborhoods,” Pam Andes, an aide to Boggiano, stated.
“People are coming in and kicking us out. Not everybody… goes to meetings. English is not their first language. This wasn’t even offered in different languages. Please consider carrying this.”
For a third time, Boggiano pushed to have the local legislation carried, to which Gallagher said he could make a motion to table but not carry.
“We have to have a plan. They have reached out. They have met with people. There’s some things I’m uncomfortable with. There’s also some good things. How long do we table for? What would be the plan?” Gilmore questioned.
Gallagher said they can table it and bring it back at any time after the close of the public hearing.
“That’s up to the Planning Department,” Boggiano asserted.
“But the Planning Department already did this. They did their homework … for the past year. I get it Rich. It’s been for one year that this has been going on,” Councilman-at-Large Daniel Rivera said, prompting someone from the crowd to yell “not true.”
“Danny, the Planning Department has not listened to the people,” Boggiano exclaimed.
“When [Planning Director] Tanya [Marione] was here on Monday, not one person raised any issue because they knew that she was correct,” Rivera replied.
“I’ll speak to Tanya tomorrow. A New York developer said to me ‘this is great.’ This is going to destroy what’s left of our communities. I’ve watched Ward C being destroyed with all this development. And nobody gives a damn in this city!” Boggiano shouted.
Gilmore said he’d second his motion to table if Boggiano could formulate a plan.
“You have my commitment. I have to go to planning. I gotta sit down with them and let them know what the people are saying. Most of the people in my neighborhood, you got seniors. Most seniors don’t have the computers. Most seniors don’t go online. They put it online … We’ll work it out,” Boggiano argued.
Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey noted that it had already been carried before and should be addressed sooner than later, therefore she voted no.
Ward E Councilman James Solomon said that while it may not be perfect, there are height decreases and major fixes to Bayonne boxes that alone make it worthwhile, and to also consider that thousands of homes are being demolished as is.
“This is an attempt to address many of the problems of developers coming in and buying those things. There’s no simple solution,” he noted.
“The New York housing market is coming over here. There’s no like silver bullet. This fixes a lot of problems. Community outreach can never reach everybody. It is never perfect.”
He said they met with the community and the planning department incorporated their input, and like Prinz-Arey, noted that it was delayed in August and plenty of time has elapsed since then.
Rivera also said there were 11 meeting this summer alone, though Boggiano still insisted concerns of his constituents were not heard.
The motion to table failed 6-2, with Boggiano and Gilmore voting yes and Ward A Councilwoman Denise Ridley absent due to maternity leave.
“The amendments that have come to me … I sent to the Planning Board, and they’ve been implemented. Any other amendments you want us to consider, I will continue to work with you and Planning. This is not an easy process,” Prinz-Arey said.
Ward D Councilman Yousef Saleh acknowledged it had been a long, long process and he’s happy they’re moving forward since “the Heights has been decimated in terms of demolitions.”
“The issue of sustainability… that’s what the ADU is for. People can be able to continue to afford these continuous tax increases, inflation, cost of living. This is what they wanted. If this doesn’t pass, they’re going to continue to demolish the homes and give peanuts to homeowners.”
He also claimed that $2 million condos are being built on the lots of former homes.
A short time later, Solomon said any new development project has to pay 1.2 percent of the value of a home to the city, which will go to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, despite developers lobbying against it.
Councilwoman-at-Large Amy DeGise added that the planning department held walking tours and looked at historic data to formulate the ordinance.
“The developers are already here. They’re building the one and two families and turning them into condos. It encourages the homeowner to stay. It demands green space … a lawn, landscaping,” she stated.
DeGise also said it would also encourage more corner stores, law offices, and doctor’s offices, which will make it more convenient for those who don’t drive.
The measure eventually passed it 7-1, with Boggiano voting no and Ridley absent.
“Half the stuff that these council people said, they don’t know what they’re talking about,” Boggiano declared.