Let the sun shine in

Revised Master Plan adopted

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Development booms in the neighborhoods around the light rail stations are forcing Bayonne to reconsider many policies.
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The Planning Board adopted the revised Master Plan at a meeting on August 15.
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  1 / 2 
Development booms in the neighborhoods around the light rail stations are forcing Bayonne to reconsider many policies.
  2 / 2 
The Planning Board adopted the revised Master Plan at a meeting on August 15.

After a series of studies and community workshops, the Bayonne Planning Board adopted its revised Master Plan at a meeting on Tuesday, August 22. The plan is an outline on which city officials base future planning decisions and can help determine where and what developers build. The 175-page document is too long to summarize in one article, but residents are encouraged to view it on the City of Bayonne’s website.

The view from Broadway

New buildings in Bayonne are a lot larger than what most residents are accustomed to. This is evident in the contentious debates over the height of many new developments such as a ten-story building under construction on Broadway and 46th Street or the planned 20-story residential building on North Street.
Both of those developments are considered “catalyst” developments, according to the Master Plan, because of their proximity to light rail stations. Neighborhoods nearby public transit stations necessitate higher density developments in the eyes of urban planners who want to meet the demand for commuter housing, and of developers who want to see a high return on investment.
Some residents have raised concerns about taller buildings shielding sunlight from Broadway and creating wind tunnel effects. The Master Plan may assuage some of those concerns with recommendations for “step-backs” on buildings over six stories, which means each floor would be further away from the street, allowing for more sunlight to reach the ground.
“Broadway is a smaller-width street, and the buildings are fairly tight,” said Francis Reiner, an urban designer for DMR Architects, the company contracted by Bayonne to conduct the study. “So, when you’re standing on Broadway, the idea would be you wouldn’t be able to see the seventh or eighth story because it would be physically stepped back from the façade and from the street.”

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“The idea would be you wouldn’t be able to see the seventh or eighth story because it would be physically stepped back from the façade and from the street.” – Francis Reiner

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High Anxiety

A survey on building height preference conducted by DMR showed that a little more than half of the 752 residents surveyed prefer Broadway building heights of between three and five stories, while slightly under a quarter of those surveyed would like to see buildings eight stories or taller. The previous Master Plan recommended only five-story developments, but many redevelopment plans in recent years have allowed for taller buildings.
The City of Bayonne has a challenging task of accommodating a diverse set of needs and preferences. More housing is needed to satiate demand while preserving enough parking for residents.
The plan proposes the city eliminate its current parking tag policy in favor of one that issues tags by neighborhood to prevent a parking shortage in neighborhoods around light rail stations. The proposal would allow visitors to buy daily, weekly, or monthly passes. The city council, however, would have to codify this proposal for it to take effect.
Restaurants on Broadway may stand to benefit with recommendations for 18-foot sidewalks, which would allow for more outdoor dining with room for pedestrians to pass, a similar design to Hoboken’s Washington Street.
Also included in the revised Master Plan is a Hoboken-style rubber trolley (bus) system that would bus residents from the city’s west side to its east side to catch the light rail. Currently, the problem is that too many commuters are driving across the city to park near the light rail stations, taking up limited spaces normally occupied by residents in those neighborhoods. Parking may be further alleviated by new parking policies and developments providing indoor parking garages.

Rory Pasquariello can be reached at roryp@hudsonreporter.com.