Jersey City Historic Preservation Commission votes down demolition of St. Peter’s buildings

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The Jersey City Historic Preservation Commission voted down a measure last night that would’ve allowed St. Peter’s Prep to demolish two historic buildings on York Street.

The meeting started at about 6:15 p.m. and ran until around 10:45 p.m., with the six-member commission spending the first two hours of the meeting listening to a presentation from an attorney and engineers for St. Peter’s.

This inevitably led to a number of questions from the governing body.

“I’m a little confused about the $122,000 spent on boiler repairs and then $181,000 spent on boiler relocating and replacing,” asked Commissioner Paul Amatuzzo.

” … Would you agree that water has been the main undermining factor in the condition of these two buildings?”

Richard Southwick, an architect for St. Peter’s who was identified as a “reservation preservation expert,” said water is almost always the “worst enemy” for a building.

“What I would say though is that water coming up from the ground is more catastrophic than water coming down from the sky.”

Southwick’s presentation throughout the evening argued that both buildings, located at 137-155 York St., suffered extensive damage during from Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and that saving them “would not be practical” given the costs and time involved.

Southwick and attorney Charles Harrington provided the bulk of the presentation for St. Peter’s last night, but apparently nothing they said was enough to sway Ward C Councilman Rich Boggiano – who was steadfast in that the buildings should remain.

“No disrespect to these gentleman here, but they’re paid to come here, and the attorneys, to come here and say all the negative things. There’s no reason why that place should be torn down. Over the last 20, 25 years we’ve destroyed the history of Jersey City,” he exclaimed.

” … We’ve got to stop it, I blame the church, the Catholic Church – who has more money than anyone else – for not taking care of this building over the last 10 years.”

While it appeared that the commission was leaning against allowing the buildings to be torn down prior to public comment, over a dozen residents decided not to leave anything to chance spoke out against the concept well into the late hours of the evening.

“This gentleman said they bought in 2005, he was hired, this fellow, in 2007, he was a custodian for all of St. Peter’s and only now we’re getting approached by these people telling us a sob story – ‘oh it’s in horrible condition,'” stated resident Jeanne Daly.

“‘Everything’s sinking’ – and if I hear something about a sub-straight sinking one more time I think I’m gonna throw up.”

The board voted down the measure unanimously (6-0), opening up the possibility for an appeal in front of the Jersey City Zoning Board of Adjustment.

St. Peter’s, who purchased the buildings back in 2004 and have suggested putting a parking lot on the property, had to go before the preservation commission since the property is a part of the Paulus Hook Historic District.

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