Historical preservation has its limits

Dear Editor:

An old, familiar quandary has surfaced once again; specifically, the emotional, controversial topic of what constitutes “historical significance.” To many, the quaint, old structures of yester-year scattered throughout Jersey City represent precious “objets historiques.” To those more pragmatic, old items do not necessarily equate to historical relevance. Without doubt, Jersey City has a very rich past, and that history truly needs to be preserved. Yet, simultaneously, one must seriously question: At what cost?
Those familiar with Jersey City’s past can make a reasonable argument that this municipality’s renaissance – its gentrification – started when Mayor Tommy Smith pointed out the many “eyesores” that had been permitted to remain in existence throughout the city. Indeed, Mayor Smith’s astute observations increased the community’s – our – awareness to the urban decay and plight that had plagued Jersey City. Mayor McCann acted on those observations, and the re-building of Jersey City commenced.
We now find ourselves in a similar situation. Throughout the city, there are old derelict, delapidated edifices crying out to be mercifully “structurally euthanized;” their useful life has come to an end. And, yet, there are quite a few who refuse to do so. These same individuals would sacrifice the city’s future infrastructure for the sake of keeping grim, spectral reminders – haunting “eyesores” from the past – in existence; and for no other practical reason, mind you, except that they are old.
Using similar logic, my old tool shed is well over a century old. Should the community invest resources to maintain that insignificant, termite infested relic of the past?
Granted, certain buildings and locations within Jersey City should be preserved as truly historically significant; Dickinson High School, the Court House, and Harsimus Cemetery come immediately to mind. On the other hand, there are locations within Jersey City with “questionable historical relevance” that are crumpling at the seams, or that rest on top of contaminated soil, or that are simply an “eyesore relic” of the past. Structures that have become unsound and unstable, represent and present a health and safety hazard, are havens for vermin, and /or attract criminal activity are burdens for – and to ¬ – the entire community at large. Such locations should be razed and made ready to support and accommodate the future infrastructure.

John Di Genio