The Jersey City Planning Board approved 42-story and a 58-story buildings at 50 and 55 Hudson St., respectively, as part of the Colgate Redevelopment Plan downtown in the fact of public opposition.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
The complex being constructed by Tishman Speyer at 50 and 55 Hudson Street would consist of two skyscrapers.
The first would be a 42-story mixed-use tower containing 924 dwelling units, 12,017 square feet of retail, a garage with 467 parking spaces, amenity spaces, and a publicly accessible plaza.
The second would be a 58-story mixed-use tower containing 1,017 dwelling units, 37,175 square feet of retail, 25,574 square feet of retail on the third floor, a new parking garage with 378 parking spaces, and tenant amenity space.
Neither would have an affordable housing component.
Board Attorney Santo Alampi noted that neither proposal would require variance relief.
“These are the last two parcels in the Colgate Redevelopment Area Plan, which was drafted about 30 years ago,” attorney George Garcia said.
“It’s a huge project, and to the best of my recollections, there have been other projects of this magnitude that were as of right that went through the community participation process,” explained Ward F Councilman Frank “Educational” Gilmore.
“While everyone didn’t agree at the end, everyone did at least have the opportunity to voice their concerns.”
Gilmore also noted that Ward E Councilman James Solomon previously represented the area and had not met with the developer. He asked if the hearing could be postponed.
“We do have a timeframe we have to work under when an application comes before us. Under the state MLUL we can’t mandate that they meet with everyone,” Planning Board Chair Christopher Langston said.
“My client is willing to have whatever additional discussions with the councilman or anyone in the adjoining neighborhoods as this process moves forward. We’re willing to work with the community on any issues they might have as we go forward. This is just the preliminary start of it,” Garcia said.
Gilmore responded that he was dismayed to have only heard the matter was going before the planning board the day before, stating there was very little time for anyone to understand the nuances of the project.
“There’s the creation of a lot of open space, a large pedestrian plaza along Morris Street. “There’s open space as well on Hudson Street. These are all consistent with the redevelopment plan. This plan has a lot of history to it,” chimed in Planner Planner Ed Kolling, of Dresdner Robin.
He noted it was previously a closed industrial complex that Colgate operated a plant on the site for more than 100 years, closed in the 1980s, and was adopted in 1989.
“The planning has gone on for almost 40 years. These are the last two pieces of this picture,” Kolling added.
During public comment, several stressed that they wanted to see community input on this project before it received a vote.
“Members of the community came to a request a meeting because they were the ones that told us about the project. I don’t believe the plans for the building are as old as the redevelopment plan,” said Erica Walker, an aide to Gilmore.
“I would like to understand the history. I believe the community has many questions they would like answered. They would like more opportunity to engage.”
Victoria Gousee, who said she lives four blocks away, also pushed for community feedback since it would have a significant impact on the area.
Furthermore, members of the Historic Paulus Hook Neighborhood Association objected, citing the lack of community input, parking, greenery and the impact of skyscrapers on their sunlight.
“You don’t bring the board of education into this to see if the kids can actually go to school,” Vincent Jacaruso, Jr. said, arguing that the local schools are already overcrowded.
“As a neighborhood association, we were only brought this project a few days ago.”
Garcia replied that their team believes it would be a great project for the city.
“I understand the community loud and clear. You want more time. I wish the applicant met with the community groups. We have no legal standing to make them do it. This is what is in front of us tonight,” Langston said.
Alampi also chimed in, explaining that the redevelopment plan dictates what is possible for the site, and if an applicant is not seeking a variance, it makes it difficult to turn them down.
“You still have your council people. You still have your city people to talk to. It can be changed,” Commissioner Joey Torres added.
“I wanted to hear if the entire public plaza would be open 24 hours a day,” Supervising Planner Matthew Ward said.
“It is 24 hours,” Garcia said.
“They’re coming in under the max density allowed on that site,” Ward noted.
He noted the state owns the land by the Colgate Clock that prevents the construction of a park.
“We cannot mandate community involvement. This meets the goals of the Colgate Redevelopment Plan and the city’s Master Plan,” Commissioner Vidya Gangadin said before voting aye.
“We have an as-of-right project, and I strongly recommend you still talk to the council and the developer,” Torres said before voting aye.
“I suppose those who are looking for a postponement are disappointed. There has been a substantial amount of community input. He is on record saying he will meet with the community,” Commissioner Steve Lipski stated.
Langston also pointed out that it’s an as-of-right application, and while he would have preferred the developer met with the community beforehand, they had no way to mandate that before voting yes.
The project was approved unanimously (6-0), with Vice Chair Dr. Orlando Gonzalez recusing himself and Commissioner Jeff Green absent.