Two ordinances dealing with redevelopment in Ward F were withdrawn during the Jersey City Council’s Monday caucus meeting, leading to unexpected tensions between two councilmen when they were attempted to be reintroduced last night.
Council President Roland Lavarro explained what happened during the caucus meeting that led to the withdrawal of the first two first readings’ ordinances, both of which call for amendments to the Morris Canal Redevelopment and Canal Crossing Redevelopment plans.
” … On the first ordinance [related to the Morris Canal Redevelopment Plan], there was discussion and debate, and questions raised. Council members then requested that it be withdrawn, and the [Fulop] administration agreed to it,” said Lavarro.
“On the second ordinance [the Canal Crossing Redevelopment plan] there was no discussion. The Planning Department was available at the meeting to answer questions but they didn’t answer because they were informed, like us, that the ordinance was being withdrawn on the day of the caucus.”
Lavarro continued that after the meeting, he raised questions with the developer regarding the community benefits and proposed rezoning, eventually voting yes on the first ordinance but voting no on the second – noting he was under the impression it would not be on the agenda.
“I didn’t even read it, so it would be irresponsible for me to vote on it to introduce it.”
The Morris Canal Redevelopment plan calls for a new mixed-use, eight-story apartment complex with affordable housing at the foot of Woodward Street.
In an interview, Ward F Councilman Jermaine Robinson explained why he made the push to re-add the two ordinances to the agenda, despite the fact they had been pulled at the caucus.
“In the caucus meeting, there were a few questions that needed to be answered, but [the Planning Department] didn’t have those answers with them. The developer actually sent over the answers to the questions today, so I wanted to make sure that these affordable units get on board as soon as possible,” he explained.
“So to keep holding it up just for the questions that we had, to hold it up for four more weeks until the next council meeting I didn’t think it was fair or right to the developer.”
Robinson further stated that Ward D Councilman Michael Yun “doesn’t appreciate the things that go on in Ward F” and that it’s his duty to make sure that the “F” stands for “first”, not “forgotten.”
We then asked Yun to respond to Robinson’s claim that “sometimes it seems that people want to hold up development” and not wanting to evenly distribute redevelopment across the city.
“See, this is the key, that is the problem, on the council side. When you say ‘affordable housing,’ we have to make sure that they [the administration] call the units affordable, but really, priced affordable rents, are they going to provide [them]: yes or no? We have to look into all those facts,” began Yun.
“They don’t even provide us, if we promote affordable housing for one bedroom, they aren’t even telling us what the price will be. That’s not fair to people, doesn’t matter which Ward they are going to build. We talk about issues that impact everybody in Jersey City. Because even though they are building affordable housing in Ward F, Ward B or Ward C, etc., the people that live in Jersey City should have some kind of opportunity to get in. So we have to give fair opportunity to everybody, not just the people living in one ward.”
The final vote to reintroduce the ordinance to amend the Morris Canal Redevelopment plan was 8-1, with Yun voting no, and the vote for the ordinance to amend the Canal Crossing Redevelopment Plan was 7-2, with both Yun and Lavarro voting no.