A new public school and mor than 800 residential units will be coming to downtown Jersey City now that the Jersey City Council adopted the Laurel Saddlewood Redevelopment Plan with a 7-1 vote on Nov. 12.
The project will transform the dead-end streets of Saddlewood Court and Laurel Court where small deteriorating homes currently stand into 807 residential units, a 12,000-square-foot public park, and a 50,000- square-foot public elementary school for children in Pre-K through Fifth grade.
Five percent of the units, a total of 41 units, are currently slated for workforce housing that will be listed at roughly $2,100.
The project will include major onsite infrastructure to help combat area flooding and capture stormwater.
The 50-story project will be developed by Lennar Multifamily Communities (LMC.)
During the council meeting, residents of the two blocks urged the council to approve the plan that has been seven years in the making.
Residents noted that their homes are in poor condition and no longer fit in with the surrounding neighborhood.
“The neighborhood has changed dramatically,” said resident Leigh Sellinger. “The homes don’t make sense anymore … I think the buildings are a safety hazard.”
She said that the homes are joined, meaning that if there are structural issues, neighbors have to band together to try and fix them.
“If there is a fire, it is easy to have it spread because of the thin walls, and the houses are all connected to each other,” said Resident Angelita Vicuna.
“The Neighborhood is changing,” said Susana Perlez, noting the high rises surrounding her home. “Our block is not consistent with the rest of the area anymore.”
Said resident Greg Marx,“This is a good project for the city. Our city and our region need housing; affordable housing and market-rate housing. We need public infrastructure, including schools and parks.”
“As homeowners on Laurel and Saddlewood Court, we fully support this project,” said Andrew Prokos of Laurelwood Owners LLC. “We have come together, with LMC as our partner, to have this development project succeed. Beyond our personal interests in the project, we are longtime residents who have witnessed the neighborhood evolve; many of us plan to stay in the neighborhood, and we remain committed to seeing Jersey City grow and prosper. We believe the proposed development will further enhance downtown Jersey City for all who live here, by providing additional affordable housing, a much-needed public school, infrastructure improvements, and greatly expanded green space.”
A few speakers took issue with the project’s affordable housing set aside, saying that at an average of $2,100, the units are not affordable for residents who are already burdened financially.
“$2,100 will be unaffordable to the majority of Jersey City working families,” said Tehmim Zafar. “We need to provide affordability that doesn’t economically segregate residents to other parts of the city.”
Ward E Councilman James Solomon said the downtown area is in desperate need of schools, and the state is currently unable to afford them.
“Downtown Jersey City’s elementary schools are already overcrowded … and that’s before up to 10,000 new homes will be built here in the next five years,” Solomon said. “The transit-oriented Laurel-Saddlewood development will address that infrastructure challenge by building a new, public elementary school for up to 400 students. And it will do so without costing taxpayers a cent.”
According to the councilman, the existing downtown elementary schools are either already at or exceeding capacity with some classrooms brimming with some 30 students.
Downtown children are being bussed to other Jersey City public schools to meet the demand.
“Just days after announcing the public-private partnership for the creation of the new innovative Liberty Science High School, we’re already moving forward on another brand-new school to alleviate the school system’s overcrowding and long waitlists, and further our efforts to provide top-quality educational opportunities for our youth,” said Mayor Steven Fulop after the council’s vote. “It’s important for us to ensure our community benefits from these projects, and this is the latest example of how we’re becoming a national model for smart growth.”
Council President Joyce Watterman said, “This site will be transformed to serve not only the residential units being built, but also the surrounding neighborhood and the city as a whole, which is exemplary of what economic development can accomplish.”