Jersey City Issues Moratorium on Demolition Permits

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bayonne box jersey city
A row of ‘boxes’ in Jersey City

As Jersey City continues its revitalization, many acknowledge the need to preserve what makes its neighborhoods great. Recently, the mayor’s office took a step they believe will help keep more of the city’s important structures intact and combat a form of architecture that is sometimes maligned.

Mayor Steve Fulop signed an executive order late last week instituting a six-month freeze on the acceptance of demolition permit applications for any 1-4 family structures in all of Jersey City’s neighborhoods. The order also directed the Division of City Planning to conduct a review of the municipal code that controls demolition permits.

The order applies to all 1-4 family homes in the city that are structurally sound, even if they are vacant. Any demolition permits that have already been issued are still valid and emergency demolition work can still occur if engineering reports say a collapse is imminent.

“During the past several years, due to an increase in development, the city has seen many older homes that are important to the character of each neighborhood be demolished for multi-family box style homes,” the order stated. Fulop’s tweet about the freeze was blunter, opining that “we’re losing many of our great/old homes + being replaced w/the architectural marvel known as ‘The Bayonne Box.’”

The exact definition of that term is hard to pin down, but the Bayonne Box is generally a housing style that accommodates cars by setting a house, sometimes a multi-family one, back from the street to allow for a small private driveway. The design is polarizing and some argue outdated, but the style still persists throughout several of New Jersey’s more urbanized areas.

Palisade Avenue The Heights Jersey City Vacant
Abandoned building along Palisade Avenue near Riverview Park. Photo by Chris Fry/Jersey Digs.

The order says that the concern about historic structures being demolished was discussed at length during a Ward D State of the City Community Meeting on March 20. That area covers The Heights, where Mayor Fulop lives. Some Bayonne Box-style homes, usually complete with curb cutouts that eliminate street parking spaces, have been popping up there in recent years, partially due to R-1 zoning restrictions and a generally older housing stock.

The Heights has seen significant property appreciation and a fair amount of development, but abandoned structures and vacant properties stubbornly persist. How best to redevelop the neighborhood while still preserving the character has caused a great deal of debate, unlikely to end anytime soon if last quarter’s Market Report is any indicator.

During the demolition freeze, the city will conduct a comprehensive review of the Municipal Code that governs the permit process (known as Chapter 105, Article I) “to better protect the City’s culturally, historically and/or architecturally significant structures.” A Facebook post from Fulop says that process will likely take two months, at which point the order will be rescinded.

In justifying the order, Fulop further explained yesterday that the current demolition ordinance allows the city the ability to only protect houses that are over 150 years old, claiming that this is not consistent with policies elsewhere. He wants to see the code revised to give the city the ability to deny demolition permits for houses of “architectural significance” that are older than 50 years.

The mayor also said modifications will likely be coming to the city’s R-1 zoning later this year that “will make some changes to no longer encourage the Bayonne Box-style home and the curb cut that it allows.”

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30 COMMENTS

  1. This is nonsense! I buy a property, I realize that to rebuild will be more economical. It’s my property, I can do whatever I want on it. Government should stay out of my property. The Mayor should not be a part of this issue. We had a situation in our block, where there is an old multi family house, previously abandoned, which was purchased to improve the block. The new owner calculated how much it would cost to fix it from the ground up, however realized quickly that it would make more sense to demolish and built new. This new owner advised the entire block of his wishes. All other owners on the block gave thier options about the “culture” and what seems to be best. Everyone agreed, it was time to demolish and build new.

    Now with this freeze, this abandoned property only attracts homeless intruding into the home, (which cause many issues such as burning the house down to keep warm and etc.) and illegal drug trafficking.

    This suspension is ridiculous and completely unnecessary. This is an insult that the mayor, with his own bias and agenda in his own neighborhood is punishing every other resident and owner of our great city.

    SHAME ON YOU MAYOR FULOP!

      • Wrong. I care about historic homes, I live in historic district and live in an one. I had renovated from head to toe in order to preserve.. I’m referring to eyesores and abandoned properties used for drug trafficking and a oasis for the homeless …

        • It’s not a ban on demolitions, it’s more restrictions on the process. I’m sure if a building is risk to the neighborhood will get approval to get demolished. Most developers coming into the city don’t care about aesthetics or historic buildings, they just do the math and if the cost is more to renovate they will knock it down. I’ve seen multiple beautiful, old homes in my neighborhood (Bergen Lafayette) get knocked down recently and the lot is now just sitting empty for about a year. They just recently knocked and entire building down on Enos Pl by JSQ…this was badly needed.

          • And I’m in Bergen Hill. Now you have said something that I’ve been saying for awhile as well. Prior to demolition, the developer must prove that there will be something built(and give a clear deadline when construction should begin and anticipated completion). On Monticello, communipaw, MLK, way too many lots empty without a plan on sight.

            The building is not a “risk” however it’s an eyesore which sits on weeds bigger then average children. That needs to go, and I was glad to find out it was panned to go. I don’t really care what is built there. I would rather see a “Bayonne box” then have this eyesore and attraction with negative people who don’t belong there, anyday…

      • So glad you asked.
        Problem is the neighborhood full of old school heights saviors of some sort (the true assholes) keep rejecting proposals from big time developers who hire professional archetitects to construct innovative designs for empty lots. So that leaves it to the little guys to move the neighborhood forward but now we have a freeze on demolitions. I guess it’s good. Now if my 4 year old gets bored watching the crack deal happen in the crumbling historic masterpiece 2 family to the right, he can watch the homeless gentlemen masterbate in the empty lot on the left. #commonsense

  2. Bayonne Boxes are the perfect example of people trying to bring the suburbs into a city. People who decide to move into a city or live in a city have to learn to be less reliant on cars and if you absolutely need a car, you have to deal with street parking or paying for private parking. But having its own driveway and garage is a nuisance for everyone else in the neighborhood because you are eliminating a street parking spot.

    • All new buildings have to have space for parking though per city code. So until that requirement is removed, the Bayonne Box will be the best bang for the developer buck.

    • @CommonSense, You demanding people to live a certain life and advise them/know what their needs are? We have different neighborhoods, with a different character(zoning) in order to best accommodate the people living/buying there. People use cars either for children, especially infants, people with disabilities(disability permits or parking in their own home), Elderly who will not look for parking when they OWN THIER HOME. This is a free country, for people to choose their lifestyles and what best suits them. Who gives you the right to dictate what people’s needs should be? I agree with you that highly populated areas like “waterfront and Journal square in the future” in their zoning should limit parking and enforce parking permits and or use parking lots, which they do.

      However, this argument is dealing with the heights where zoning do not allow large buildings and are less populated area, where transportation is not like it is in more populated areas. Same goes for Greenville, Bergen/Lafayette, heights should be allowed to build any single family home and should they need a driveway for their home they paid for and pay in taxes to the city and state, then they should be allowed to.

    • It’s almost like not everyone who lives in Jersey City works in a Manhattan office or downtown JC… like there might be jobs elsewhere in the state not accessible by public transit.

  3. Mass transit sucks in Jersey City. Having a car is vital. Eliminating the curb cut, and thereby the ability to safely park your vehicle is assinine and will lead to more congestion and less people moving to JC.
    If you don’t build designated parking, AND eliminate the curb cut, AND not improve mass transit…you are begging for disaster.

    • I don’t get why you live in a city if you are so reliant a car…honestly not trying to tell you to move. But I know if I was so in need of space and parking I would just move to a suburb close by…problem solved. But it sounds like you want to have your cake and eat it too at the cost of the rest of the neighborhood.

      Mass transit doesn’t suck…I live in Bergen Lafayette (not downtown right by the path). I use buses, light rail, citibike, PATH…and if in a rush an $5-8 uber/lyft can get me anywhere in JC. I have a car and pay for private parking but before that we would have to search for street parking…welcome to city life.

  4. The abandoned building pictured next to the park should be torn down if the owner does not rehab it because it is leaning over and structurally unsound. This building has been put under the APRA act for NJ and the city will eventually take it for redevelopment if nothing is done. The “Box” housing can be redesigned without curb cuts and the facades can be varied to blend with the neighborhood. Don’t think this is so hard to do. Historic homes should be rehabbed if practical to do as they add character and avoid monotony of most modern housing.

    • Totally agree with you. In terms of building certain homes and should the neighborhood feel a certain way about the plan and wish to enforce changes, they can. That’s what block associations are there for…

      Any conversations regarding curb cuts and type of homes should be in neighborhood zoning and by the actual residents/home owners on that particular block. Those are the people that are “convenienced or inconvenienced” who actually live there.

    • Yasssss 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽 This building has been sitting abandoned for years. It’s an eyesore and an invitation for squatters and derelicts.

  5. As a resident of Jersey city Heights for 16 years if you don’t like the culture of the neighborhood don’t move and build here. These horrible cookie cutter box architecture are a eyesore. Don’t erase a neighborhood character so you can justify parking your crap car in a drive way

  6. Good ! Especially this idiot with the gaudy exterior brass . Pouring foundations in the dead of winter. Compromised cement. 4 cars parked in a two car driveway.Terrible brick work. Go to Paterson and build your 120 day homes

  7. I totally agree with Val, it is not the Mayors job to tell home owners what they can and cannot do especially when those rules already exist via zoning, so in essence the mayor is over stepping his authority. Not only does this effect the home owners rights but it also hurts the small scale developer, once again Mayor Fulop is standing for big business and disregarding the small scale businesses of Jersey City.

    • Thanks Bill. I along with my fellow neighbors actually have a block association where we discuss what we as owners of the block, want for the block. It’s amazing how hard it is to get something you want for your own block. The mayor shouldn’t have any say what we do on our block as long as it’s allowed via zoning and legal…

  8. The cookie cutter box 2/3 family is disgusting. It is cheap to build and has flooded jersey city. As the older jersey city crowd moves on 2/3 family box “developers” have picked off these properties for nothing and RE built for nothing and made a killing. Nothing against anyone making money but enough is enough. Time to move onto other areas of NJ. Last thing we need are big beautiful towers sitting next to ugly $200,000 piles of crap. And here’s the worst.. send any of these “developers” (awful term because that’s not what they are) a property they’ll look at the numbers and say oh no that’s way too expensive to build what we want. Why? Because it’s a cheap formula.. buy the land for a steal build the building for less than $200,000 sell it for $700,000. Same building same formula same thing all over Jersey City. Now some of them are nice glass facade etc. but the old ones have to go and the cheap bastards building them don’t have the right to call themselves developers get rid of them too. Finally! Go knock on a door of any of the old ones with the running paint facade or the new ones and see all the problems these buyers have with them. It’s a joke it’s got to go.

  9. I live in the heights, have a huge condo across the street that was recently finished earlier this year and has a vast amount of parking but the residents park in the street taking up all the parking and making it a nightmare for the rest of the residents in the neighborhood and with the meter maid driving around at odd hours of the night giving tickets its been a pain parking in a place that always had parking. They need to enforce those residents or the owners of the condo to make the parking more accessible to them if that’s the problem, so they don’t park on the street.

  10. What century do you live in? Brand new is beautiful and modern and people want it, that’s why they pay 700K+ for it. Old needs to go, those ugly railroad layouts are not efficient and outdated. Unless a building has true “historic significance” here is no point to keep it, no one wants to live in old. That’s why there is a huge price appreciation in the heights, because those developers made it happen. Big thank you to them, no one even knew about the heights before, now people want to be there because there are lot of new buildings that attracts better demographics. Developers understand where demand is, nothing wrong with it. Bottom line prices are rising in heights more than anywhere else precisely because people want to move to those new buildings and pay a top $ for them.

  11. What century do you live in? Brand new is beautiful and modern and people want it, that’s why they pay 700K+ for it. Old needs to go, those ugly railroad layouts are not efficient and outdated. Unless a building has true “historic significance” here is no point to keep it, no one wants to live in old. That’s why there is a huge price appreciation in the heights, because those developers made it happen. Big thank you to them, no one even knew about the heights before, now people want to be there because there are lot of new buildings that attracts better demographics. Developers understand where demand is, nothing wrong with it. Bottom line prices are rising in heights more than anywhere else precisely because people want to move to those new buildings and pay a top $ for them.

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