Healy, Sires call for gas pipeline guidelines to better protect urban areas
Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy and Rep. Albio Sires are calling on the U.S. Department of
Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to better protect highly-populated urban areas from the explosive threat of natural gas pipelines. Arguing that PHMSA fails to safeguard densely-packed large urban populations, the officials are specifically demanding that PHMSA adopt new rules regarding the construction and operation of natural gas pipelines.
“As they presently stand, PHMSA pipeline safety regulations fall woefully short of protecting dense urban areas,” said Mayor Healy. “The agency imposes its strictest safety standards on pipelines in cities that have as few as two four-story buildings. In Jersey City, we are home to the state’s five tallest buildings and have hundreds of residential and commercial buildings well above four stories in a small geographic area which is not even contemplated by this regulatory agency.”
Under PHMSA regulations, Healy said, cities as different as Jersey City and Huntsville, Alabama, receive the same consideration for pipeline construction, even though Jersey City’s population is about 20 times larger than Huntsville.
Healy’s plea to PHMSA comes as another federal agency is considering whether to green-light a proposed natural gas pipeline that Texas-based Spectra Energy hopes to build. If approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the proposed pipeline would include 19.8 miles of new and replacement pipes, six new stations, and other related modifications in Linden, Jersey City, and Bayonne. In Jersey City, the underground pipeline route would run through nearly every municipal ward and near such sensitive areas as Jersey City Medical Center, several schools, the Holland Tunnel, the New Jersey Turnpike, and transportation infrastructure near the Jersey City-Hoboken border. Because of the pipeline’s close proximity to sensitive areas, local activists and city officials have argued that a natural gas explosion could cause mass casualties and significantly damage important transportation infrastructure.
To ensure that PHMSA’s regulations better reflect and protect urban areas the city, with the backing of Rep. Sires, has filed a petition asking PHMSA to change its pipeline safety regulations.
The city’s proposed regulatory changes include the addition of new classifications to PHMSA’s rules that reflect cities with mid-rises, high-rises and skyscrapers, and the significant increases in population density that correlate with those structures, and the development of more stringent safety standards to protect large cities.
In response to the city’s request to PHMSA, Spectra spokeswoman Marylee Hanley told the Reporter, “Spectra Energy is committed to building one of the safest natural gas pipelines in North America to help meet New Jersey and New York’s energy demands. The New York-New Jersey Expansion Project meets and often exceeds the highest federal safety requirements. For example, in several places in Jersey City we are exceeding Class 4 code - using HDD’s in the most densely populated areas to bury the pipe up to 180 feet deep, using thicker wall pipe and have added an extra mainline valve.”
But William Schulte, an attorney at Eastern Environmental Law Center who represents Jersey City’s No Gas Pipeline, said, “We often see companies claim that they are being safe and responsible because they are meeting regulatory requirements. But the fact is sometimes we see that the requirements themselves do not adequately protect public safety and welfare. We commend Jersey City in its efforts to achieve more stringent safety standards for pipelines in ultra-dense urban areas such as Jersey City.”
Report: Developer wants to convert old downtown church into condos
According to a local news report a developer has asked for permission to convert the old Methodist church at 306 Pavonia Ave. into a nine-condo development. While much of the façade of the building would be retained, some local residents are reportedly upset that Mohammed Hammami plans to remove some of the church’s stained glass windows.
Hammami said, however, that construction codes require that windows be able to open, which the church’s stained glass windows cannot do.
According to the report residents are also concerned about the impact the development might have on parking in the Hamilton Park area, where the church is based.
Former North Bergen Mayor Peters Mocco’s companies file for bankruptcy
Three companies controlled by former North Bergen Mayor Peter Mocco have filed for bankruptcy in connection wit the Liberty Harbor development in Jersey City, according to a local newspaper report.
The bankruptcies are apparently rooted in a dispute between Mocco and a family who once owned land on Jersey Avenue that was seized in 2004 to make way for the Liberty Harbor development. The family was reportedly offered $4 million for their land by the Jersey City Redevelopment Authority, although a jury later concluded the land was actually worth $18.6 million. The matter has been in dispute since 2004, with the family now owed about $21 million, including interest.
Mocco told the local daily newspaper the bankruptcy filing would help resolve the matter.
Assembly Committee on Law and Public Safety coming to JC
The monthly meeting of the state Assembly’s Law and Public Safety Committee will be held in Jersey City on Wednesday April 25 instead of its usually committee room in Trenton. The meeting was moved largely thanks to committee chairman and Assemblyman Charles Mainor (Dist. 31 – Jersey City) in response to recent concerns over crime in Jersey City.
The meeting will take place at 11 a.m. at New Jersey City University, 2039 Kennedy Blvd., in room 129.
Jersey City Reservoir Preservation Alliance looking for volunteers
The Jersey City Reservoir Preservation Alliance will hold a meeting for prospective volunteers for the 2012 season on Monday April 23 at 7 p.m. At the meeting Alliance members and those with an interest in volunteering this year will begin to plan and coordinate events and activities for this season. Those with an interest in recreation (particularly kayaking, hiking, and fishing); grounds-keeping; education; the arts (painting, creative writing, photography); preservation; or fundraising are encouraged to attend this meeting. The Reservoir Alliance is also currently in need of a treasurer and will discuss the duties regarding the role and duties of this position at the meeting.
The Alliance is looking for people who would like to be a part of planning, operating, and coordinating events and activities this season. While the organization has some events planned it is also looking for good ideas. Come share your thoughts and find out how you can help make the season great.
The meeting will be held at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Community Center in Pershing Field. For more information, visit www.jcreservoir.org.
York Street Project to hold fundraiser
York Street Project will host its annual spring fundraiser on Thursday May 3 at 5:30 p.m. at Liberty House in Jersey City, 76 Audrey Zapp Drive, inside Liberty State Park. Individual tickets are $150 per person and sponsorship opportunities are still available. Sixty percent of the ticket price is tax deductible and all proceeds will go towards York Street’s programs.
The York Street Project is a Jersey City-based social service nonprofit organization launched in 1989 that helps homeless women and children break the cycle of poverty. The annual spring fundraiser is the organization’s oldest fundraising event, which is a cocktail reception featuring entertainment, an open bar, and heavy hors d’oeuvres.
The night will include remarks from York Street “alumnae” Saundra Ellis and her daughter Deanna Ellis. Currently a Jersey City homeowner, Saundra Ellis left the York Street shelter in 1994 to earn B.S. in Urban Studies and Public Policy from St. Peter’s College and an MA in Education. She also holds a P-3 Certification from New Jersey City University. At present, she is an Abbott Pre-K teacher for the Jersey City Child Development Centers’ Head Start programs.
Tickets must be purchased in advance. For tickets or for more information, call Bonnie Davis at (201) 451-8225 or visit www.yorkstreetproject.org.