Ward C Councilman Rich Boggiano on the Future of Journal Square

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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.


Richard Boggiano Jersey City Ward C
Jersey City Ward C Councilman Rich Boggiano (right) with Councilman Michael Yun at City Hall. Photo via Rich Boggiano Facebook.

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.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Boggiano is unresponsive to the people he represents. I’m surprised you were able to get a hold of him for this interview. He has no idea how to fix problems. Yes, he can say, “Hey, that’s a problem.” But pointing out what everyone sees doesn’t fix it.

  2. Gail – Have you ever just called him (at 201 988 1164) when you needed help? He won by a landslide, despite running against the also-popular mayor’s candidate, precisely because he’s helped so many people in the community.

  3. he is always pessimistic , never offers solutions, wants the area to not to go forward, hasn’t brought one great development I can think of , laments laments laments all the time….

  4. My first impressions of Boggiano is that he comes off as being an angry old man that has a knack for pointing out problems but offers nothing in the way of proposed solutions. Time has passed, and I’ve learned that Boggiano does in fact love Jersey City and takes his positions based on feedback received from the community he represents, especially the Hilltop neighborhood were I live.

    I put the blame on us for not speaking with Boggiano to share what is most concerning in Journal Square along with steps the city should take to address those concerns.

    Journal Square has seen incredible improvements in the last 5 years. However, rents are starting to rise. There definitely needs to be more of a provision for affordable housing. I would rate that as the number one issue facing the area. And I’m not just talking affordable rental housing. I wish there was some modestly-priced condo units being built in addition to all the rental, so folks that want to lay roots and live in the area aren’t forced out to the suburbs. It seems like everything built today is geared towards ex New Yorkers and the luxury market.

    I wish Boggiano would fight tooth and nail to promote city policies that would see more affordable housing, both for rental and home ownership opportunities, being built in Journal Square. Have a summit and invite the city planners, affordable housing advocates, and the developers to discuss and find a real solution to make this happen! That would be my plan of action.

    • That’s just an impossible ask…it just doesn’t make sense when you look at it logically. JSQ has been pretty much non-existant for the past 30+ yrs. There was zero development, high crime, high drugs, high vacancies so naturally the rents and housing prices would be low.

      How would you expect the area to develop but rents and prices stay flat? It doesn’t make sense. Why would any developer be interested in building a building that is mostly affordable housing? Why would any investor be interested in that? How would that even be fair for the landlords who invested in JSQ…some decades ago waiting or a return on their investment..you think they want to keep their rents low?

      With development and interest in JSQ, naturally rents and prices are going up no matter what you do. It’s a class shift from lower class to middle/upper class. So you will see more lower income people leaving and more middle income moving in and over time higher income will take out the middle. It has been happening in JC for centuries.

      So I think it would be time better spent focusing on solving realistic issues rather than being so focused on the impossible.

  5. Once all these buildings are built and the congestion and bad planning are obvious is when improved mass transit will happen. It’s just how we do things here…backwards. It’s easy, just rubber stamp approvals for whatever buildings developers want and because you can’t control infrastructure, let that get figured out later. Goofy but true.

    • True statement. The only way transit improvements happen in this country is when there is a crisis. If there was no development this past decade, guaranteed PATH service would have been cut from 24 hours and we’d have old shoddy trains.

  6. interesting article…all he did is point out the obvious solutions and say…yeah that’s a problem, we need to fix it. But zero solutions…another Captain Obvious…was that his title in the police force?

  7. The 2060 redevelopment plan should me mended. This is a must. The square is now filled with crazies trying to flip contracts for insane amounts of money. If we grant these developers approvals we should make sure they are putting a shovel in the ground within a certain time frame. For example: a lot on Academy Street listed for 13 million dollars and trying to be flipped. We should make this person suck it up and build or take away his approvals on the site. This is an example of a “crazy”. Rich please bring this to the attention of the city. This is only setting Journal Square back. Get rid of this person and the others like him.

  8. I am a small property owner in Journal Square. The proposed real estate tax increases are understandable to a degree. Those of us who own properties if they are scheduled for tax increases , these increases should be implemented on a gradual based not all of a sudden like sticker shock. This would be a more reasonable procedure of tax increases. In addition, I called the tax department recently to ask if my building was in the zone for increase taxes , the woman on the other end had no idea at all. Tax appeal should be made readily available to the home owners in a more transparent way, not that the home owner must seek out attorneys at law to save their homes from unreasonable real estate tax increases. Development is one thing but do not push us out of the area with insane tax increases so the developers take over our homes.

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