The Jersey City Council voted unanimously to lift Mayor Steven Fulop’s executive order to halt demolition of one-, two-, three- and four-family homes for six months as they continue to work on how to preserve the city’s historical structures.
The council voted in favor of 8-0 to overturn the mayor’s executive order, with Councilwoman-at-Large Joyce Watterman absent due to a death in the family.
Before voting yes, several council members explained that they are in favor of allowing demolitions to continue while strengthening the new ordinance that protects the city’s historical structures – but with a caveat.
For example, Ward E Councilman James Solomon said that he had some concerns with the process of how the city will determine which structures can or cannot be demolished, namely that the city’s lone historic preservation officer will be the only official making a decision.
He emphasized that the city and planning board would have to work closely with the council to ensure the integrity of the historic preservation officer’s decisions on impending demolitions.
Council President Rolando Lavarro agreed with Solomon, saying it was important to preserve the city’s cultural legacy. But he also said the significance of the updated ordinance allows the backlog of 29 permits for demolition to continue.
“This ordinance will go into effect immediately, rather than the normal 20 days. By doing that, it allows for the [mayor’s] executive order to be lifted in order for the demolition permits to be reviewed and processed,” said Lavarro.
Lavarro checked with Business Administrator Brian Platt for verification, who said that as long as the council voted on the ordinance, the mayor would be signing an executive order on Thursday morning rescinding his original executive order on the demolition moratorium.
Fulop signed an executive order last month that put the brakes on demolishing any homes between one to four stories, but he explained at a Ward E community meeting on April 4th that this was only meant to be temporary.
“As we have continued to explain to developers and residents alike, the demolition Executive Order puts a temporary moratorium on demolition permits until the City Council can rework the existing ordinance, a process that will likely take two months,” Fulop said at the time.
Lavarro lashed out at real estate companies who he said were engaging in “fear mongering” by sending letters to homeowners telling them that the value of their properties would drop because the city is preventing them from renovating their homes.
“It was irresponsible of them because the ordinance we are voting on tonight is strictly within the realm of demolitions,” Navarro said.
Many people in the audience were holding up orange placards with messages of support for preservation and restoration, not demolitions.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, almost all of the speakers spoke in favor of the council’s efforts to strengthen the current ordinance on demolitions.
But the first speaker, Daniel Sicardi, wasn’t convinced.
In an interview with Hudson County View, he echoed the concerns of Solomon and Navarro about the Historic Preservation Commission being entrusted with the decision-making of what homeowners of historic homes can do with their properties.
“If the rules of what you can do with a piece of property are changed after you buy a piece of property, there’s something wrong with that. That’s the only reason I oppose it,” said Sicardi.
Sicardi owns and resides in an home that was constructed in 1887 and has no plans to demolish it to replace with a new structure. We noted that based on that, he seemed to be in agreement with the ordinance rather than opposed.
“I love the idea and the whole concept of preserving anything historic. What I don’t like is when the city says you can’t do something that you could do after you bought it,” Sicardi said.