Jersey City Together today called on Mayor Steven Fulop to show the “political courage” necessary to ensure that the $170 million Bayfront project dedicates at least 35 percent of its units to affordable housing – though the administration says their outlook on this issue has never changed.
“Do you prefer a community like Newport, driven by developers, or a neighborhood that looks like Jersey City where at least half of the housing is affordable,” Rev. Dr. Willard Ashley, of the New Brunswick Theological Seminary, began during a press conference on the steps of City Hall.
“And what makes sense: 50 percent affordability for new police, firefighters, teachers, recent college graduates, hard working families invest – and 95 percent of the people agreed with us.”
The Bayfront project is a 95-acre former industrial site that used to be heavily contaminated with chromium.
Back in June 2017, Jersey City Together called on Honeywell Industries, who owned the land at the time, and Fulop to bring housing and jobs to the site.
Then in October of the same year, JCT held a mayoral debate between Fulop and then-challenger Bill Matsikoudis, with the discussion limited to public safety and affordable housing.
While JCT thought they were on the same page with the mayor since then, as far as the Bayfront is concerned, a recent rift has occurred over the amount of affordable housing the project will include.
JCT has actively pushed for 35 percent, but they now claim Fulop is willing to settle on as little as 20 percent – which they claims would be a loss of over 1,200 units.
“Now we all don’t really know what is going on in the mayor’s head, but it seems to me that he is afraid. Maybe he’s afraid because he doesn’t want to anger the neighbors next door in a gated community,” exclaimed Pastor Jessica Lambert, of St. Lutheran’s Church.
“Maybe he’s afraid because he wants to make developers who don’t know how to do affordable housing happy. Maybe he’s afraid simply because he lacks the political courage to do what he knows is right.”
City spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione indicated that the press conference was “surprising” given that JCT has not seen the request for proposals (RFQ) for the Bayfront project – which contains language that has been consistent throughout the process.
“The Mayor has tremendous respect for JC Together and views them as a partner, but he finds their comments surprising being that JC Together is holding press conferences without ever seeing the RFP itself,” she said.
“To be clear, the language in the RFP is EXACTLY consistent with the language in the Resolution that the City Council voted on to acquire the property, and is EXACTLY consistent with the Resolution that JC Together endorsed at the City Council meeting. Nothing has changed.”
Last October, the Jersey City Council approved a measure allowing the city to bond for the $170 million needed to acquire the Bayfront property.
The resolution that first went in front of the council on June 27th, 2018 says that the goal of the site developer is to “bring the largest number of affordable housing units to the area, with a minimum of 20% and a goal of 35% affordable units.”
While Jersey City Together said in a joint statement they were disappointed Fulop was trying to “pass the buck” to a volunteer, unelected advisory board for the project, Wallace-Scalcione responded that this will “make sure the entire community decides the outcome.”
“The goal for the entire site remains 35% and we are hopeful we can achieve that … Mayor Fulop has been adamant on making this redevelopment project the largest mixed-income property in New Jersey, and is proud of the work they have done,” she concluded.
In a joint statement, Ashley and Lambert made it clear that they were not swayed one bit by the city’s argument.
“If the city wants 35% of the units at Bayfront to be affordable, they should demand developers submit proposals where at least 35% of the units are affordable. To do otherwise makes no sense and demonstrates a severe lack of leadership.”