The clatter of construction is starting to define Jersey City neighborhoods that haven’t seen a building boom in generations, and emotions are strong on both sides of development issues. The rapid pace of growth has led some of our readers to ask how they can get more involved in determining the city’s future, and there are many ways the public can make their voices heard on development topics.
It can get a little confusing, as there are many agencies and boards in Jersey City that have a say on what gets built and where. The two most obvious are the planning board and the zoning board, which can approve or deny property owners submitted applications that are listed on publicly available agendas. The planning board meets twice a month on Tuesdays starting at 5:30 p.m., while the zoning board meets bi-monthly but on Thursdays starting at 6:30PM. Both boards’ meetings take place at City Hall, are open to the public, and allow residents time to speak about certain applications if they wish.
Before development proposals get voted on by these boards, curious residents can keep themselves informed of new projects via Jersey City’s various neighborhood associations. The role of these associations covers quite a bit and many of them meet with developers to discuss their proposals before they officially go before the city’s boards.
New developments can sometimes be shaped and molded following input and feedback from neighbors, and the city’s planning and zoning boards encourage builders to meet with the community beforehand about potential projects. Jersey City is blessed with a ton of active neighborhood associations, the most notable of which regularly host meetings and include:
Hamilton Park Neighborhood Association
Powerhouse Arts District Neighborhood Association
Harsimus Cove Association of Jersey City
Village Neighborhood Association
Historic Paulus Hook Association
Van Vorst Park Association
Greenville Neighborhood Alliance
Another entity that plays a part in JC’s building boom is the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency, whose Board of Commissioners meets on the third Tuesday of every month at 66 York Street. Their role includes a variety of responsibilities like land acquisition (an example of which is the recent purchase of 25 Journal Square for a museum) and entering into redevelopment agreements with companies.
The City Council, which meets on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month, can get called on to approve certain development-related issues including awarding tax abatements, which are first requested by developers through the Mayor’s office. The Council’s other responsibilities include approving any changes made to affordable housing requirements and signing off on any modifications made to the city’s many redevelopment plans. Jersey City officially lists 93 redevelopment plans on their website, and you may live in or near one and perhaps not even know it.
Changes to a redevelopment plan would mean that properties within the plan’s zone would have new rules for potential projects, and some examples of what the city could change include building heights, density, or conversion of allowable uses from commercial, residential, or industrial designation. The planning board generally initiates the changes, but the council must vote to approve before anything becomes official. A recent example of this process is the creation of the Emerson District within the Jersey Avenue Park Redevelopment Plan, which was first approved by the planning board in February and green-lit by the council in March.
Residents will also have another chance to voice their feelings about development and other issues at the polls later this year. While Jersey City’s mayoral and city council elections were held last week and some winners were declared, certain races failed to have a candidate win 50 percent of the vote. As a result, runoff elections will be held in Wards A, B, C, and E on December 5.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency is responsible for awarding tax abatements to developments. Those duties fall to the Mayor and City Council. We have updated our article and regret the error.