Before a room packed with underemployed and out-of-work construction workers, the City Council approved a compromise deal on Wednesday that will allow a long-delayed building project on First Street to break ground within six months. The residential development at 110 First St. has been stalled for at least six years, and recently a dispute between the council and property owner Lloyd Goldman over the inclusion of affordable housing units at the development threatened to further delay the project.
These delays, however, meant less work for construction workers who were hard hit by the recession and the slowdown in the real estate industry. About 150 construction workers, including some who have been out of work for months and others who have recently completed apprenticeship programs, told the council on Aug. 1 that delays on the 110 First St. project needed to be resolved quickly so they could get back to work.
But the city was wrangling with Goldman over whether he would stick to his original agreement to include 25 affordable housing units in his 35-story, 452-unit project.
Property owners will pay $176 in combined new taxes this year for each $100,000 of property owned.
The project will also include 343 parking spaces and 16,597 square feet of retail space.
The council approved the compromise at its Aug. 1 meeting by a vote of 7-2, with councilmen Steven Fulop – who represents downtown’s Ward E, where 110 First St. is located – and Rolando Lavarro Jr. voting against the measure.
Affordable housing requirement reduced
Earlier this year, Goldman approached the city to renegotiate his original agreement after saying he was unable to obtain financing because of the affordable housing requirement in the project. Goldman had sought to have all of the affordable units excluded from the development in exchange for a larger contribution to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
Several members of the City Council were unwilling to take the affordable units out of the project, arguing that no affordable housing has been built downtown in decades.
The impasse between the council and Goldman threatened to derail the development.
“I just finished my apprenticeship training which I think will be a benefit to my family,” said Adam Wideman. “But we need the jobs. The apprenticeship is just a start. After that I need to keep working.”
“No one is happy with this compromise,” said Councilwoman Viola Richardson, who helped negotiate the deal with Goldman’s attorney Robert Cavanaugh. “But it gets this project moving. It preserves at least some affordable housing on site. And it gets people back to work. So, while I agree it’s not perfect, it a compromise.”
Fulop, however, disagreed.
“All this does is let the developer off the hook for the agreement he made with the city,” he said, addressing the construction workers. “If you look out there in the room tonight, you’ll see the entire second row was filled with developers. And they were here because they watch these votes and they know the city never holds developers to their agreement. And we know that next week or next month there will be some other developer back in here asking to renegotiate their agreement with the city.”
Fulop and Lavarro have proposed that affordable housing trust fund projects be built in the same wards as the developments that generated the contribution. This proposal has been shelved while the council weighs how best to disperse affordable housing throughout the city.
$486M municipal budget approved for 2012
The council last week also approved the municipal budget for 2012. The $486.5 million budget also passed by a vote of 7-2.
Property owners will pay $176 in combined new taxes this year for each $100,000 of property owned, according Assistant Business Administrator Robert Kakoleski. This increase includes the municipal taxes, in addition to taxes for the local public school system and Hudson County.
Taxes are increasing in part, Kakoleski said, because income from the city’s rateable base – that is, taxable properties – is down by 4.8 percent.
The budget approved last week was amended from the budget introduced in March. The amended budget includes an additional $2.3 million to help pay down a $7 million deficit due to unpaid bills accrued by the Jersey City Incinerator Authority. Kakoleski said this debt is to be paid off over a period of three years.
As with the council’s 110 First St. vote, Fulop and Lavarro were the only council members to vote against the measure. The two dissenting councilmen say there are “hidden costs” in the 2012 budget that taxpayers will be burdened with in the coming years. They also believe many taxpayers will be hit hard by the city’s ongoing property revaluation, which was originally supposed to be completed this year but which now won’t be concluded until sometime next year.
“It’s a smoke screen that masks the true cost of the tax reval to Jersey City homeowners, namely a tax increase that will hit them after the 2013 election,” Lavarro said in a prepared statement last week. “If it isn’t stopped, it will force people to leave the city in droves.”
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.