Editor’s Note: This is part six of an ongoing interview series with Jersey City’s nine city councilpeople. Jersey Digs has invited all city council members to participate in the Q&A about their outlooks on topics ranging from development and crime to transportation and the tax revaluation for their respective wards. Q&A sessions were conducted by Joanna Arcieri, Huma Moid, and Darrell Simmons; the interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity and length.
Once the site of Jersey City’s only skyscraper, Journal Square is now in the midst of a remarkable transformation. Since the spring of 2017, Journal Squared and boundless project proposals have brought new life to the area. As restaurants and cafes spring up throughout the neighborhood, the city has also made plans to revitalize the arts in Journal Square with the purchase of a building for a much-needed art museum.
Still, the city’s central transportation hub, named after The Jersey Journal, faces a long journey before it reaches its full potential. One Journal Square, with its promise of 1,500 rental units, remains stalled and plagued by national politics. The restoration of the Loew’s Jersey Theater, which would be monumental for the area’s revitalization, was also stalled by local politics. Residents in Journal Square have concerns surrounding affordability, traffic and congestion, as well as how to assist the area’s homeless population.
Ward C Councilman Rich Boggiano has represented Journal Square since 2013; he won reelection during the December runoffs. A retired Jersey City police officer, Boggiano is one of three independents serving on the City Council. During his four years in office, Boggiano has become known for his blunt honesty about the direction of the city, telling Jersey Digs, “Four years from now, everybody wants to be mayor — not me — but they all want to be mayor, so maybe they’ll start thinking for the people.”
Boggiano, who is protective of the Hilltop community where he lived and served as the neighborhood association president for 30 years, knows that Jersey City’s next wave of development has arrived in Journal Square. “I’m tired of hearing about how it’s all about downtown,” says Boggiano, who wants to ensure that the development coming to Journal Square benefits the community.
Jersey Digs: What are your priorities for your second term?
Rich Boggiano: One Journal Square. I want those buildings built. I want a supermarket, either a Trader Joe’s or a Whole Foods because we have nothing in that area. I want some nice restaurants. I want to see change. I’ve been waiting for four years. I’m tired of waiting. I want to see the Loew’s finished and done right.
For future developments, they’re going to have to start doing some stuff with the infrastructure because — I’ll be honest with you — they’re gonna put 7,500 units just in Journal Square in that one area and I don’t think the infrastructure can handle it.
Pershing Field is one of the nicest parks in the city. I want the tennis courts done right. I want the basketball courts done right.
JD: We’ve seen Downtown develop quickly. With Journal Square being the next hub of development, are there ways you can do it better?
RB: Change the [Journal Square] 2060 Redevelopment Plan. I want to keep everything on the west side of Journal Square. I live in the Hilltop and I want to keep our neighborhood the way it is. One- and two-family homes. We’re losing a lot of the older people and the kids don’t stay here anymore. They can’t afford to live here and it’s a shame.
JD: What are your thoughts for tax abatements for Journal Square?
RB: I voted for the one for KRE to get it started. I don’t believe in 30-year abatements anymore. Let’s cut it out. The city’s coming back. I want to see the city get its proper publicity that it should be getting.
JD: How do you draw people’s attention from Downtown?
RB: It’s getting there. We don’t have to draw the attention anymore. It’s happening. Listen, I remember Downtown. I worked in the police department. I used to work in the Second Precinct before all this happened and I’ll tell you Downtown was great. We used to have the greatest restaurants in the world on Newark Avenue and it was great. Downtown, the railroad yards. It was a mess but it was nice in a way. We had neighborhoods. We had people. Families were outside. Now you don’t see anybody outside.
JD: As Journal Square develops, what are your ideas to maintain affordability?
RB: We need affordable housing. My main thing is for seniors because what’s happening now is seniors are getting screwed. These people have been here all their lives and they’re being thrown out of their houses and it’s wrong. I want to see it stopped. We need more affordable housing for the working people.
JD: Hudson County has the second highest percentage of homeless men, women, and children in the state. What’s being done to address the homeless problem in Journal Square?
RB: That’s a problem. Bill O’Dea has been working on it. But something has to be done. We gotta stop the BS. I just can’t stand to see people out there in 10-degree weather, sleeping in the street.
JD: What’s the status on the Robinhood development?
RB: We lost in court twice. I do not want that there. That’s why I ran for office. It doesn’t belong there.
[Editor’s note: On Feb. 28, the City Council voted 7-1 to give a portion of West Street to Hap Investments, the company seeking to build the 42-story high rise.]
JD: How do you feel about how the city has been rebranded and become a buzzword over the last couple years?
RB: It depends how you look at it. I look at the traffic. I look at the congestion. I look at the filth in the streets.
JD: Councilman Yun discussed the overcrowding on the 119 bus that goes from Journal Square through The Heights. What measures are you working on to increase bus service from Journal Square to deal with overcrowding?
RB: Years ago, we had several bus companies. I don’t personally like the jitneys, but they provide a service. But we should have more bus service. If we want to keep on building, they got to provide bus service.