The City Council is reviewing a map that shows that requests for demolition of older houses have risen sharply in 2017, and an even sharper increase so far for 2018.
Most of these would replace one- and two-family houses that are on larger lots with two, two-family homes, doubling the capacity of units on existing lots.
The map was reviewed at the Feb. 26 council caucus. The council will have to vote on the demolition.
This increase appears to follow a trend in the rental market that a number of local officials and real estate agents have noticed: a flight from downtown to the Heights area. These requests for demolition also pre-date the results of a property revaluation showing increases in assessed values downtown, which could actually drive the population shift to the Heights in the future.
Targeted for demolition are a number of single-family ranch style and old style-two family homes that dominate the housing stock on the western slope. Over the last decade, many traditional homes have been raised to make way for new narrower two-family homes on half the traditional lot size.
Councilman Michael Yun, who represents a large portion of the Heights, fended off criticism of the new development.
“People call the new houses ‘cookie cutter’ houses,” Yun said. “If you look at older houses in the Heights, many of them were the ‘cookie cutter’ houses of the past.”
Requests for demolition rose by 138 in 2017 from the year before, and current requests, officials said, are just under 150.
These are often accompanied by requests for subdivisions that will break the larger lots into two lots and allow for the construction of two two-family homes.
None of the demolitions, city officials said, appear to be targeting homes of historic significance.
Councilman Richard Boggiano, however, said some structures, such as a former funeral home on Summit Avenue, should not have been demolished, noting that it was constructed in the late 1800s.
“We’re losing our history,” he said.
Summit Avenue has seen a number of redevelopments over the last two years, although most are on vacant lots or replace old warehouses or dilapidated homes, officials said.
“If you look at older houses in the Heights, many of them were the ‘cookie cutter’ houses of the past.” – Michael Yun
A plan to install information kiosks throughout the city has been delayed by state regulations and will also limit these to commercial areas.
Brian Platt, director of the city’s Office of Innovation, said a plan to install these around the city ran into a snag when the state Department of Transportation stepped in.
“We thought the state only controlled state roads,” he said. “But apparently they control what gets installed on all roads.”
The city has signed an agreement with Smart City Media to develop and install public information kiosks in Jersey City.
The company would install and maintain these, and the city will get a percentage of profit from the advertisements displayed on the kiosks.
The city, however, has to apply to the state for a permit for each of the kiosks, and the state apparently is only willing to permit the city to install them in commercial districts.
“Fortunately that’s where we intended to put them anyway,” Platt said.
Each kiosk will provide touch screen limited internet access to provide public information about the area, directions to points of interest and other such information.
Each will also provide free Wi-Fi connections within 200 feet of them, Platt said.
Police body cams coming shortly
The city is poised to introduce two systems of body cameras for police.
A more traditional body cam program will be introduced later this year by the Jersey City Police Department.
Another adopted by the city last year would make use of a new smart phone application that would allow smart phones to serve as body cameras at a fraction of the cost of traditional camera.
Jersey City will be the first city in the nation to test using cellular phones in place of expensive body cameras.
Platt would not give a definitive date for the start of the smart phone program, but said it would start within a year.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.