Deal Reached to Relocate Katyn Memorial, Renovate Exchange Place

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Exchange Place Jersey City Katyn Memorial
Katyn Memorial, Exchange Place, Jersey City. Photo by Chris Fry/Jersey Digs.

A war of words that caused a chain reaction of controversy appears to have subsided for now, as plans to relocate a memorial to those slain during WWII-era Poland have ended with an agreement that will move the statue memorializing that history to a new park along the Jersey City waterfront.

Last week, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop sparked a debate about the future of the Katyn Memorial, a 34-foot tall bronze statue that depicts a bound-and-gagged soldier being stabbed in the back by a bayonet. The memorial, a staple of the plaza outside the Exchange Place PATH station since 1991, commemorates the massacre of over 22,000 Polish prisoners in 1940.

Jersey City, in partnership with the Exchange Place Alliance Special Improvement District, was seeking to move the memorial during a $5 million renovation of the plaza that would add green space and recreational areas. Fulop’s tweets about current Polish officials and their reactions to the move were highly critical, and he later clarified that the statue would be permanently moved to a location several blocks west outside of the Post Office.

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Two lawsuits were filed over the relocation plans, with one arguing in Federal Court that Fulop “has unlawfully sought to usurp the City Council’s authority and move the Katyn Memorial without any public input.” The mayor than tweeted the actual plans for the Exchange Place plaza renovation last Thursday, which hadn’t been released publicly before then.

Exchange Place Jersey City Renovated Plaza
The future of Exchange Place. Rendering via Mayor Fulop’s Twitter.

A protest took place over the weekend over the Katyn Memorial’s removal, but cooler heads have prevailed among decision-makers on the matter. Earlier this week, Fulop and several Polish officials held a press conference announcing that the Katyn Memorial will be moved to York Street along the waterfront. As part of the deal, a second park with green space will be renovated as a partnership between Jersey City and the Polish government.

Fulop then tweeted a rendering of the new plaza that will surround the Katyn Memorial. Under the plan, the city will convey the new parkland to the Polish Counsel under a 99-year lease agreement via a new ordinance, which will be voted on by the city council at their next meeting on May 23.

York Street Jersey City Renovated Plaza Katyn Memorial
Above: Proposed renovation of York Street waterfront plaza and future placement of Katyn Memorial. Below: Current condition of York Street along the waterfront. Rendering/image via Mayor Fulop’s Twitter.

Some in the public crowd jeered the announcement during Monday’s press conference and several local officials, including Councilman Rich Boggiano, remain against the move. Despite some questions being raised about transparency and how much sway developers have over city hall, both the moving of the statue and the park renovations are scheduled to commence construction this summer if the ordinance is approved by the council.

While the process to get here has created opportunities for criticism, the spruced-up green spaces in Exchange Place should come in handy in the future. Also via Twitter, Fulop announced that Jersey City’s 4th of July celebration, which had to be moved from Liberty State Park last year following a state government shutdown, will be permanently moved to Exchange Place going forward starting this year.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. Good to see Fulop fighting the important battles in JC!! While he’s busy fighting to move a “gruesome” statue, he continues to ignore the real gruesome violence happening daily in Greenville and Bergen Lafayette. If only he exerted a quarter of the energy he puts out for his developer buddies downtown…

    • Completely disagree. Can’t compare a statue to gun violence done by a community. Actually I think this ended up really nice. A dead-end is now dedicated to this cause and another park/ seating area. Sometimes a mayor needs to do what’s right for the city. (since the city is not paying for it anyways)

      • I’m not comparing the statue to gun violence. I’m speaking to the Mayor’s agenda and what he focuses on and what he pushes and what he ignores. When was the last time you saw him talk about the shootings and violence in Greenville and Bergen Lafayette? He seemed very passionate about this statue, going off on twitter. How about he shows some passion about the rest of the city?

        His solution is build around the crime areas like City Hall Annex and hope to price out the locals rather than address the actual issues. Gentrification can’t be the solution to everything.

        • I again completely disagree. Recently more police officers were hired. More patrolling the streets and installing cameras throughout the neighborhood. Along with the Annex plus other 2 municipal buildings being added to an arguably worst area in JC. Seems pretty bold attempt at change in the area you are mentioning.

    • Sal G: I follow Fulop on Twitter and he tweets about pulling illegal guns off the streets of JC all the time. And I’m saying this as someone who has mixed opinions about the mayor… I’m not a booster of his.

      • Right. I’m not a huge fan of some of his decisions. Like his bias with 1JSQ. However, overall everyone will agree that he is doing a good job as our mayor. We cant have something we all agree on.

        • he’s overrated. He’s getting a lot of credit for things that were going to happen anyway (i.e. JC blowing up). He just happened to be at the right place at the right time. When he took office US was coming out of the worst housing recession in US history with historically low prices and rates. At the same time NYC boroughs had already exploded so it was just a matter of time JC was going to blow up just because of the close vicinity to NYC. He’s not a complete flop but he’s also not as great as he thinks he is. The guy has the personality and charisma of a rock.

  2. My feeling is that the mayor and the planners for the new park really fumbled the communications strategy on this, but the end-result is a compromise which is acceptable to everyone. The mayor’s initial messaging about the statue was confusing and unclear while the comments by the Mack-Cali head (“gruesome statue”) were needlessly inflammatory. As a result, the immediate impressions among residents were uncertainty about whether the statue would be kept at all, where it would be moved to if kept, what would replace the statue, and that this was a decision being pushed by a developer as opposed to elected representatives. The fact that the information answering all these questions only came out in dribs and drabs underscored the poor communications management. In the end though, the statue is only moving a block and is in a comparably prominent location and residents get two new parks on the waterfront instead of one.

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