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Without Notice, City Drafts Central Avenue Redevelopment Plan

RNA recently learned that the Jersey City Division of Planning has drafted a redevelopment plan for the entire business district on Central Avenue and parts of Cambridge Ave. The Central Ave SID (Executive Director David Diaz) and Ward D Councilman Michael Yun had several meetings with the Jersey City Planning Department to come up with this draft without any consultation or input from Heights neighborhood groups or the community at-large. While the plan as currently drafted does not allow for condemnation of property, it opens the door for high rise development in the Heights and indeed recommends high rise development in the center of the proposed redevelopment area.

Download the complete plan here: Central Avenue RP DRAFT 10272015

Here are some of RNA’s major concerns about the draft Redevelopment Plan and this approach to zoning in the Heights:

1. Any broad redevelopment plan in the Heights wipes out the protections of the zoning variance process. If the redevelopment plan is implemented, it could be easily amended without significant community input: all it takes is the submission of an application for an amendment to the planning board along with the associated $1000 fee, and then getting five members of the City Council to support it. There is an exhaustive history and precedent in Jersey City for Redevelopment amendments being recommended by the planning board and easily passed by the City Council despite community opposition.

2. This plan opens the door and sets a precedent for HIGH RISE DEVELOPMENT in the Heights, there is already a proposed zone that would allow at least one 14 story building (higher if they include office space) and it would be relatively trivial to start adding other areas to that zone via amendments. The most predominant zone allows for 7 stories with virtually unlimited density.

3. This plan was drafted behind the community’s back with no local groups being alerted as to what was happening or asked to weigh in.

4. The Redevelopment Plan approach up-zones the entire Central Avenue Business District and parts of Cambridge Ave without going through a master plan analysis to figure out if a zoning change is even needed.

5. The draft Redevelopment plan does not make a convincing case that adding height to Central Avenue will accomplish the stated objectives more than the current Neighborhood Commercial zoning. The NC already has virtually unlimited density up to 4 or 5 stories.

6. Many other business districts in New Jersey have used programs like incentives, grants, support to revitalize commercial strips without seeing the need to up-zone for high rise buildings (currently, the Innovation Team is working on programs in the form of small business renovation grants, incentives, online permitting/licensing portals, and market needs analysis assistance)

7. The plan does not consider that our infrastructure (roads, sewers) and schools most likely can’t handle this dramatic increase in density.

8. Our public transportation system in the Heights is already at capacity during the rush hours and this plan does nothing to address alternatives to vehicles. We don’t see how the current bus lines could possibly handle this increase in density and NJ Transit has refused to add service.

9. We have not seen a lot of variance requests for Central Ave which would be the typical sign that the zoning is not working and might need to be examined.

10. Central Avenue is not at capacity currently.

11. We have seen that Heights businesses who make the investments to improve and provide a quality product are able to be successful in the Heights today.

12. Redevelopment will accelerate the displacement of the existing lower income community.

We do agree that Central Ave businesses need help and are open to discussing revitalization strategies that don’t involve redevelopment, such as expanding the permitted uses in the existing Neighborhood Commercial Zone, Restaurant Row overlays, Furthering the programs that the JC Innovation Team is developing to assist and/or provide incentive to existing businesses in their own rehabilitation and make it easier for new businesses to assess neighborhood needs and get their doors open for business more easily and in less time. We also fully support local beautification efforts that don’t depend on promised improvement projects and monies from developers.

For these reasons and more, RNA is against this draft Redevelopment Plan (as well as any redevelopment plan in the Heights), Other community groups in the Heights have also made it clear that they are completely opposed to High Rise construction in the Heights (buildings over 75 feet/6 stories).

We are asking all residents in the Heights to take a stand against the possible introduction of Redevelopment Plans in the Heights. Please email the City Council and the Mayor with your concerns and opposition to opening the door for high rise development in the Heights:

Michael Yun (ward D councilman) – MYun@jcnj.org
Rich Boggiano (ward C councilman – RBoggiano@jcnj.org
Rolando Lavarro (councilman at large) – RLavarro@jcnj.org
Joyce Watterman (councilwoman at large) – jwatterman@jcnj.org
Daniel Rivera (councilman at large) – DRivera@jcnj.org
Khemraj Ramchal (ward B councilman) – KRamchal@jcnj.org
Candice Osborne (ward E councilwoman) – COsborne@jcnj.org
Diane Coleman (ward F councilwoman) – dcoleman@jcnj.org
Frank Gajewski (ward A councilman) – FGajewski@jcnj.org
Mayor Fulop’s office – fulops@jcnj.org

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