Proposal could mean a new school in Downtown Jersey City

New development includes 800 residential units on Saddlewood Court and Laurel Court

Downtown Jersey City may get a new school and park as part of a proposed mixed use development.
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Downtown Jersey City may get a new school and park as part of a proposed mixed use development.

A new public school and over 800 residential units could be coming to downtown Jersey City.

The proposed project would transform two blocks on dead-end streets where small deteriorating homes currently stand.

Plans for the two dead-end streets of Saddlewood Court and Laurel Court include about 800 residential units, 40 of which will be affordable housing, a 50,000-square-foot elementary school for up to 400 students, retail space, and a 12,000 square‐foot public park, including a refurbishment of Philippines Plaza.

“Downtown should be a community where families plant roots, not a pit stop on the way to the suburbs,” said Councilman James Solomon who represents the Ward E neighborhood where the development would be located. “This proposal moves us closer to that goal, with a brand-new, traditional public school. “

This month, the City Council designated the area an Area in Need of Rehabilitation.

This came after homeowners spoke before the council stating that their homes, built in the 1970s, were deteriorating and no longer reflected the neighborhood as shadows from neighboring high-rise residential towers now loom overhead.

“I observed that my house was deteriorating,” said resident Ditas Miranda. “I could hear my neighbor’s voices, and I could hear when they were showering.”

Speakers also noted that 37 of the 38 homeowners had agreed to sell their properties to developer Lennar Mulifamily Communities. They said the one hold out was a developer, Eyal Shuster, who purchased one of the properties a few years ago and has refused to sell because he wanted to develop the blocks.

“When we started this process years ago, the most difficult thing to accomplish was to have all 38 homeowners become willing to sell,” said resident Cesar Sarmiento. “They all came around except for one, a property owned by a developer.”

He noted that while waiting, four of his elderly neighbor’s had died.

“I’m requesting that this redevelopment plan gets approved before anyone else goes to the Pearly Gates,” he added.

Resident Tommy Tran said, “We have a developer who bought this property and said that ‘if I don’t build on this block, no one can build on this block.’ There were things we didn’t reach an agreement with, and let’s just keep it at that.”

Shuster also spoke at the meeting, stating that he was willing to build the school, affordable housing, and pay homeowners “whatever the negotiated price was.” He said the city was acting illegally by favoring a competing developer.

“The city is unfairly and illegally favoring a competing developer and assisting its interference with our six-year effort to develop Saddlewood Court. With your vote today, you are not condemning my property, you’re condemning my livelihood and the livelihood of over 100 people who work in my office, 50 percent of which are Jersey City residents.”

“You’re setting a precedent and changing the Jersey City development landscape forever by making it unleveled and politicized,” he added.

Now the city will hold community meetings to discuss the proposal before a redevelopment plan is drafted in March and an independent fiscal analysis is conducted. Then in April or May the Jersey City Planning Board and Jersey City Council will vote on a redevelopment plan before construction could begin.

For updates on this and other stories check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.