Plans to change zoning regulations in part of a Newark neighborhood to allow for high-rise buildings have enraged some residents and organizations in the Ironbound section of the city’s East Ward.
During its regular public meeting tonight, the Newark Central Planning Board (NCPB) will hear a proposal to amend the Newark Zoning and Land Use Regulations to develop a new zoning district in a small portion of the Ironbound neighborhood. The plans call for creating a Mixed-Use 3 Residential and Commercial Zone (MX-3) just east of Newark Penn Station, specifically for the quadrant stretching west to east from New Jersey Railroad Avenue to McWhorter Street and south to north from Green Street to Edison Place, as well as for several lots stretching south to north between Hamilton Street and Ferry Street and west to east between McWhorter and Union Streets. The MX-3 Zone would also include multiple lots north of Ferry Street between Union Street and Congress Street.
Currently, this area, which largely consists of private parking lots, restaurants, industrial buildings, houses, and small apartment buildings, is designated as a R-5 Mid-Rise Multifamily Residential Zone, which “allows for dense, residential development, permitting low and mid-rise multifamily housing up to eight stories high,” according to the City. Under MX-3, high-rise multifamily buildings can be up to 15 stories tall, while mid-rise multifamily buildings can be up to eight stories tall, low-rise multifamily buildings can be up to four stories tall, and townhouses can be up to three stories tall. Mixed-use structures with ground floor commercial space are permitted.
This proposal comes after the Newark Municipal Council adopted a resolution to establish MX-3 in this part of the Ironbound during its meeting on June 21st and referred the proposal to the NCPB. The resolution states in part that “the Municipal Council seeks to expand housing and economic opportunities along the Downtown Core area’s major streets and transportation corridors and protect adjacent low-density neighborhoods,” “wishes to promote a walkable neighborhood with a vibrant commercial/retail zone,” and “through the Department of Economic and Housing Development, and its Outside Counsel, has drafted a Proposed Amendment to the City’s Zoning Ordinance which establishes the MX-3 Zoning classification.” The resolution claims that MX-3 “builds upon Newark’s strength as a multimodal transportation hub to support the Downtown Core District.”
In the days between the Council decision and today, many activists in the area have organized in opposition to this proposal. The Ironbound Community Corporation created a flyer asking “Is This What We Want in Ironbound?’ and posted that the proposed zoning “was developed without any community participation.” The flyer also states that “our community is not for sale,” and that “this type of development can lead to the displacement of those who make our community great, while ushering those who can afford to live in the ‘new’ Newark.”
In addition, the Planning and Land-use Advocates for Newark (PLANewark) organization posted that “extra density in this area is a good thing, but only if there is a balance between neighborhood and business needs,” adding that “this proposal seems to be all pro-business and no community consideration.”
Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka defended the proposed zoning on Twitter, telling a resident that “we need development desperately,” and that “we need to manage it and extract what we can for the neediest and know that all residents don’t agree always.”
The NCPB’s meeting begins at 6:30pm at City Hall, located at 920 Broad Street.