The City of Jersey City is moving forward with plans for a new $120 million public safety complex at Jackson Square, which will offer a centralized location for the police and fire departments, as well as 911 dispatch operations.
“Police, fire and parking all used to be separate: they had separate missions, and they supported each other, but really – they were separate. With the new challenges that are going on in the world: terrorism, active shooters, everything else – they work together a lot more,” Public Safety Director James Shea said during a small media sit down yesterday.
“Even fires have become more complex as we have more high rises, which require crowd control, which require safety [measures]. So putting all of our chiefs, decision makers, in the same building, is going to make them interact on a daily basis, and if there is a critical incident, we have everybody together.”
When asked if having all the high-ranking public safety officials in one place could actually be a detriment in the case of a natural disaster, terroristic threat or any other type of imminent danger, Shea said that the public safety department has “redundancy” – meaning that a number of people in the chain of command are familiar with contingency plans if necessary.
Mayor Steven Fulop, who also sat in on the question and answer session, said that the goal of Jackson Square Hub, which already includes the $24 million City Hall annex on Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, is to turn the area into an “employment central.”
The City Hall Annex will contain the departments of Housing Economic Development and Commerce, Health and Human Services, with the Women, Infants and Children program set to have an office behind that – along with a parking deck and additional offices – the new public safety building, as well as the Holloway Building and Housing Office.
While the campus will end up costing approximately $188 million overall, the mayor explained that the city has already come up with a plan to save money in the long run.
“We’re paying about $350,000 now in rent and then we have properties that are not used to their best case scenarios. Look at where the fire headquarters is, we’re gonna put ratables on there, which will be substantial for the city,” said Fulop.
“Look at where the property the fire department has on Newark Avenue: not best use for what we want to see on a restaurant row on Newark Avenue. This will ultimately put everyone under one roof, we’ll no longer be renting space, we’ll be owning our own assets.”
The city is also projecting that by selling their fire headquarters, South Street Fire Union Offices and the Gong Club they will receive around $30 million in new revenue.
Furthermore, the public safety complex is expected to initially staff 200 people on a daily basis, according to Shea.
Construction is slated to begin in roughly six months and be completed by 2022.
The Jersey City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance on the new building at last night’s meeting by a vote of 7-1, with Ward C Councilman Rich Boggiano voting no and Ward D Councilman Michael Yun absent.