During a seven-hour meeting, the Jersey City Council approved measures to turn Exchange Place into a pedestrian plaza, and redesign Central Avenue.
Pedestrian plaza introduced
The council introduced an ordinance during the virtual Aug. 12 meeting to close off the eastern end of Montgomery St. from Hudson St. to the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway to the majority of vehicular traffic in order to create a pedestrian plaza.
Exchange Place is a waterfront business hub, home primarily to financial companies and eateries. Before COVID-19, this area was also home to numerous festivals and community celebrations.
During the council’s Monday caucus meeting, Executive Director of the Exchange Place Alliance Elizabeth Cain said the area is already used as a pedestrian plaza though not codified by the city, noting that by doing so, the city will make the area safer for pedestrians.
At the meeting, Ward E Councilman James Solomon said the council still needs to have a few questions answered before he would be comfortable voting on the ordinance’s final adoption. He said the council needs to be “crystal clear” on the public input process before any capital improvements are made to the plaza.
Councilman-At-Large Rolando Lavarro questioned the permitting process for which community organizations could hold events, because the ordinance seemingly gave the power to approve events to the Special Improvement District (SID).
Solomon said it was his understanding that the language had been changed in the operating plan so that permitting is at the city’s discretion.
Ward C Councilman Richard Boggiano was the only council member to vote against the ordinance’s introduction. He said he needed more information, and he felt the ordinance should have been pulled.
The council unanimously adopted a resolution awarding a nearly $4 million contract to Cifelli & Son Construction, Inc., for the Central Avenue Streetscape & Roadway Improvement Project.
Central Avenue in the Heights neighborhood is home to 240 storefronts, with 1,400 employees. It gets thousands of visitors a day with an average annual daily traffic volume of 8,501 vehicles.
According to the resolution, Central Avenue is currently in poor condition with deteriorating curbs, sidewalks, asphalt pavements, traffic striping, and lack of traffic signs.
Streetscape improvements for Central Avenue will consist of new colored concrete curbs and sidewalks, handicapped curb ramps with detectable warning surface, decorative street lights, milling and resurfacing of the roadway, new traffic striping and signs, new traffic signals, planting new trees, decorative benches, and trash receptacles.
Councilman Yousef Saleh said the updates will “drastically change the overall look and feel of Central Ave.,” while helping to drive business and attract shoppers.
“We must invest in our small businesses, and I’m committed to working together and finishing what Councilman Yun started, so we catalyze the economic development of the Heights amid these challenging times,” he said.
According to the Central Avenue Special Improvement District, the project will be implemented this year and will be completed by the spring of 2021.