After a July 23 meeting between Jersey City officials and state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, an agreement was reached regarding Jersey City’s attempt to pull back from prosecuting marijuana offenders.
After the city prosecutor and Mayor Steven Fulop introduced a policy of not prosecuting first-time offenders, the state’s attorney general said the city had no authority to make such a change. But a July 24 a memo from Grewal, issued to all 21 county prosecutors, directed a 30-day adjournment of all marijuana charges, pending soon-to-be developed statewide guidelines for downgrading and dismissing low-level marijuana offenses.
“This is a huge win for Jersey City, the state of New Jersey, and most importantly the people who would have been impacted by the creation of a criminal record due to a simple marijuana arrest,” said Fulop. “We are excited that Attorney General Grewal and Jersey City found common ground, avoiding the collateral consequences of convictions for marijuana possession while our great state is on the cusp of legalization.”
On July 18, Fulop and Jersey City Chief Prosecutor Jake Hudnut announced that the city would either dismiss simple marijuana possession cases in the municipal courts or amend such charges to local ordinance violations, effectively decriminalizing marijuana in Jersey City.
But on July 20, Grewal voided the policy. But on July 23, “in light of public support for the policy” according to the release, Jersey City officials from the Municipal Prosecutor’s office, the Department of Public Safety, and the Law Department met with Grewal to discuss how decriminalization can be implemented both in Jersey City and across New Jersey.
Grewal will convene a working group of criminal justice stakeholders this summer – including Hudnut – to study the issue and advise the attorney general on statewide solutions to achieve the similar aims to decriminalization, but in accordance with existing state law and court rules.
Grewal’s July 24 directive will provide guidance on when to downgrade or dismiss marijuana cases. The aim is to avoid disorderly person misdemeanor convictions for simple possession while New Jersey is on the verge of legalization of marijuana, as well as looking at the consequences that come with those convictions, which could include driver’s license suspension, criminal records, loss of student financial aid, bans from public housing, adverse effects on employment opportunities, and loss of immigration status.
Grewal has directed all municipal prosecutors to seek adjournments of open marijuana cases until after Sept. 4, pending the new guidelines from the attorney general. The measure, according to the city, could amount to a moratorium or a substantial reduction in marijuana convictions in New Jersey between now and legalization.
Petition drive fails to keep Polish statue in place
An effort to halt the city’s plans to move the Katyn monument from Exchange Place came up short this week as the city clerk ruled that less than half of the total petition signatures submitted were valid.
Those who opposed a plan to move the statue from Exchange Place to York Street submitted 9,471 signatures, but the clerk said only about 3,833 were valid New Jersey voters. Those who submitted the petition signatures have until Aug. 1 to get the remaining 2,881 needed to put the question on the ballot in November – allowing voters throughout Jersey City to decide whether or not the statue should remain where it is.
The City Council voted last month to support an effort by the Exchange Place Special Improvement District to relocate the statue to make way for a public park and play area, part of an overall redevelopment of the waterfront area to accommodate residential development and establish neighborhood accommodations similar to those found in areas such as the Grove Street area.
Supporters of the move claim the statue does not fit in with the overall theme proposed, and believe relocating the statue to York Street would still provide it with the prominence the statue had while at its current location.
Chamber of Commerce opposes payroll tax in JC
On July 18 the Hudson County Chamber of Commerce announced it opposes legislation that would allow Jersey City to establish an employer payroll tax of up to one percent to offset cuts in state aid to the Jersey City school district. The city currently receives more than $410 million in state aid each year, but changes by the legislature could cut that amount to about $240 million.
The tax, the chamber said, would increase the cost of doing business in a state which already has the worst business climate in the county. This will also become a disincentive for companies to stay in Jersey City and could cost jobs. The chamber also said the tax will not raise enough taxes to make up for the $175 million funding gap for Jersey City schools.
Freeholders oppose new Census guidelines
A proposal to include a question about immigration status on the upcoming 2020 census has raised concerns from the Hudson County Board of Freeholders. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has agreed to a request by the U.S. Department of Justice to add the question, claiming it is needed for better voting rights enforcement.
But the freeholders passed a resolution opposing the question, saying the current long form used by the Census Bureau is more than sufficient to allow for civil right and voting rights enforcement.
The census has not included a citizenship question since 1950, prior to the enactment of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
“Census Bureau representatives have already reported widespread and unprecedented fear among respondents to other surveys, with respondents being reluctant to participate fully and provide accurate information,” the freeholder resolution said. “If Latinos and other residents do not initially response to the census questionnaire, the bureau will follow up by sending enumerators to their homes, and the costs will increase exponentially.”
The freeholders believe the citizenship question will lead to inaccurate data about Latinos and all residents of Hudson County.
The 2020 Census is used to help each community get its fair share of government funds for highways, schools, health facilities, and numerous other programs.
NJCU new director for its Center for the Arts
New Jersey City University (NJCU) announced on July 16 the appointment of Stephanie Chaiken as the inaugural full-time director of the NJCU Center for the Arts, a cultural hub for diverse performing, visual, film, and literary arts in Jersey City and the surrounding metro-area.
Chaiken, a director with 25 years of experience in both the private and non-profit sectors, specializes in leadership, fundraising and community development for arts, education, and performance organizations.
The director of the Center for the Arts will work closely with Jason Kroll, NJCU vice president and chief strategy officer.
Chaiken comes to NJCU from Ramapo College of New Jersey where she served for six years as the Interim Director of the Berrie Center for Performing and Visual Arts. Since 1993, Chaiken has headed an entertainment and consulting company in New York City and worked with artists, communities, and colleges nationwide. Chaiken has also produced and directed entertainment and events for such clients as Intrawest Corporation Resorts.
Minervini exhibition to be held at Art House Productions
Art House and Jersey City LGBT Pride Festival will host an exhibition of work from Artist Vincent Minervini from Aug. 1 to Sept. 2, at 262 17th St., Jersey City.
The opening reception will be held on Saturday, Aug. 18, from 5 to 9 p.m. in the Art House Productions Gallery. For more information go to https://www.arthouseproductions.org/.
Bloodmobile comes to Grove Street
New Jersey Blood Services will send its Bloodmobile to the Grove Street Plath Plaza on Aug. 8 as part of a series of blood drives. Sponsored by the Downtown Jersey City Historic Special Improvement District, the event will take place from 2:30 to 8:30 p.m. Every donor will receive a $5 Dunkin Donuts gift card. To schedule an appointment go to www.tinyurl.com/donateblood2. Walk-ins are welcome. For more information call (800) 933-2566.
Roseland launches leasing for RiverHouse 11 at Port Imperial
Developer Roseland Residential Trust said last week they have started leasing RiverHouse 11 at Port Imperial, the 10-story addition to the ongoing $2-billion, 200-acre Port Imperial waterfront development that runs from Weehawken to Guttenberg.
Utlimately it will include 20 upscale residential, retail, and hotel properties.
Located at the edge of the Hudson River at 1100 Avenue at Port Imperial in Weehawken, RiverHouse 11 features 295 apartments ranging from studio to three-bedroom residences. Apartment finishes include luxury wood-style plank floors, Moen, Kohler, and Sterling fixtures in kitchens and bathrooms, full-height backsplashes, and private terraces and balconies in select homes.
Amenities include a sky terrace with stadium seating, outdoor lounges with fire pit and fireplaces, barbeque grilling stations and a bocce court, a resort-style pool and sundeck, a fitness center with a yoga and spin studio as well as a rock-climbing wall, a business center, conference rooms, and a Wi-Fi café with computer stations in social rooms, a theater room, game room, music room, and golf simulator lounge, crayon corner, a community garden, and 24-hour concierge, emergency maintenance, and package lockers.
RiverHouse 11 is convenient to public transportation options including direct ferry service to Manhattan and Light Rail service along the river.