Jersey City encourages green development

City to create Sustainability Incentive Program and Flood Overlay Zone Program to mitigate waterway polution

Jersey City officials announced a dual-pronged approach to development designed to reduce pollution while promoting sustainable development.

The first green initiative is the Sustainability Incentive Program (SIP), which incentivizes new and existing development to divert storm water from the sewer system by installing green infrastructure, as well as meeting strict energy and water conservation standards provided in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) guidelines.

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SIP is a voluntary option open to all public projects to earn discounts on water and sewer connection fees due to new or expanded use.

“Storm water runoff is a major cause of water pollution in urban areas,” said Executive director of the Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority (JCMUA Jose Cunha.  “Our approach to use green infrastructure components will not only ensure the most sustainable construction practices and serve as a model for other cities to follow, but will also reduce city costs involved in the monumental task of ultimately eliminating combined sewage discharge into local waterways.”

Under the program, buildings that address storm water will also receive additional credit for every 500 gallons of storm water diverted from the sewers, up to a 40 percent total credit.  That equates to a maximum of 20,000 gallons of storm water diverted per property.

The LEED certification uses a point-scoring system based on how well a construction project incorporates environmentally responsible standards, and the storm water diversion incentive calculation is based on estimated gallons of water diverted from sewers.

If the building is built to LEED certifications, it will receive a discount on water and sewer connection fees based on that level of LEED accreditation.

The second initiative is the Flood Overlay Zone Program, which will require new developments in FEMA-designated flood hazard zones to incorporate green infrastructure to help control localized flooding and minimize pollution runoff into local waterways.

New developments will implement green infrastructure, such as rain gardens, green roofs, bioswales, and permeable pavement, to absorb and filter storm water runoff, which will help avoid combined sewage overflows in which sewage and wastewater overflow and pollute local waterways.

According to the city, Jersey City’s current storm water infrastructure relies on piped drainage to move rainwater away from the area, whereas green infrastructure uses vegetation, soils, and other water absorbing elements to restore some of the natural processes to manage water and create healthier urban environments.

“Cities like ours typically struggle with flood-prone areas due to the lack of water retention capabilities, which these efforts will help solve,” said the city’s Director of the Division of City Planning Tanya Marione. “Adding these green elements is an easy lift for developers and a no-brainer for the betterment of the city.”

Enacting the Resiliency Master Plan 

The Flood Overlay Zone Program is the first initiative under the city’s new Resiliency Master Plan, implemented in March 2020 to create a blueprint for flood intervention efforts.

The city’s previous efforts to address localized flooding and storm water management include the installation of sensors in the sewer system to better understand the impact of rain on local waterways.

The city has also begun installing green elements such as bioswales, rain gardens, a green roof on the new West District Police Precinct building, and flood absorbing elements incorporated inside Vision Zero’s curb extensions which will also enhance visibility for pedestrian safety.

The city and MUA are partnering to install green infrastructure in a variety of public areas along streets and sidewalks with the first phase of 10 locations across all six wards planned for this year.

“Jersey City continues to set the bar high for implementing creative solutions to various challenges that urban areas like us often face – in this case, we’re maximizing sustainable planning to combat pollution to our local land and waterways,” said Director of the Jersey City Office of Sustainability Kate Lawrence. “These programs further our commitment to implement sustainable infrastructure and provide significant environmental benefits to the Jersey City residents for generations to come.”

“We’re setting the tone for development around the state and the region by promoting green building initiatives for all projects that ultimately impact the overall health and benefit of our community and our residents,” said Mayor Steven Fulop.  “This is a cost-effective and resilient way to significantly reduce flooding along with flood-related health and safety hazards posed during storm events, while simultaneously delivering environmental benefits and incorporating more green landscaping citywide.”

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


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