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Jersey City Council gives itself a pay raise

The Jersey City Council at their March 9 meeting. Photo by Mark Koosau.

At the latest Jersey City Council meeting, the council looked at legislation for raising their own salaries, un-tabling amendments for the Morris Canal Manor, and the purchase for an armored vehicle.

Council members increase own salaries

The council adopted an ordinance amendment that will increase the council members’ own salaries, with council members going from $60,000 to $85,000, and the Council President from $65,000 to $90,000.

The last time the council increased their own salaries was in late 2019, where salaries went from $36,180 to $60,000 by January 2021, and the Council President’s salary went up to $65,000.

Before they adopted the ordinance, an amendment adopted unanimously by the council adds back a provision that will allow members to waive the increases by providing written notice 30 days prior to the effective date of the ordinance, with the effective date being 20 days after the day of adoption.

“I don’t think this salary increase can even compensate you for a 24/7 job, and you really won’t understand until you’re in the seat,” said Councilman Yousef Saleh, who said that he gets calls in the wee hours of the morning and that “sometimes you’re the person of last resort and someone’s best last hope.”

“But a lot of my council colleagues – they have to sacrifice so much and I know they do,” he continued. “Something has to give it their livelihood or their lives in order to give this your all, and to be as good a council person as you can be.”

On the other side of the coin, Councilman Frank Gilmore, who opposed the ordinance said that “the only people who received raises were people who were connected and who knew someone,” noting that he was a former employee for the city’s recreation department. “The hard work of city employees wasn’t afforded that opportunity to have that raise,” he said.

The council voted 6-3 to adopt the ordinance, with Council members Amy DeGise, James Solomon and Frank Gilmore voting no.

Morris Canal Manor amendments un-tabled

The council then voted to un-table and eventually adopt an ordinance for the Morris Canal Manor project, which laid out the plans for a 17-story residential mixed-use building and community center on 417 Communipaw Ave., the former site of Steel Technologies.

The ordinance had been tabled last month after concerns were brought up over the lack of community input on the project and how it would affect the Bergen-Lafayette neighborhood. It was also the subject of a lawsuit that caused it to be sent back to the planning board last year.

Corporation Counsel Peter Baker said in his legal opinion that the findings made by the planning board were not arbitrary and capricious (meaning that a government body would have abused its discretion, acted outside the bounds of law, or committed a clear error).

He then recommended un-tabling the ordinance, saying that defeating it would expose the city and potentially the council to legal liability “as the project will be delayed unnecessarily, as the council’s only decision at this point is as to the findings of the planning board.”

June Jones said that they will challenge the Morris Canal Manor ordinance and potentially go back to court. Photo by Mark Koosau.

Gilmore, who has been a vocal critic of the project, objected to un-tabling it, saying that it was “a level of disrespect,” and noted that the community had been in conversations with the developer on the project. “It was very clear – the stance of the community, the stance of [me] – that we just can’t support such a project in its current form,” he said.

June Jones, the president of the Morris Canal Community Development Corporation that was part of the aforementioned lawsuit, said that she was “very concerned” about pulling the ordinance back in, and argued that the findings were not consistent with the city’s Master Plan.

Both Gilmore and Jones were also concerned about the height of the project.

“It’s just not a place for it to be in the neighborhood that they’re asking it to be built on,” said Jones after the meeting. “Morris Canal has three and five stories; there may be seven stories, but certainly not 17.”

The council voted 7-2 to un-table the ordinance, with Solomon and Gilmore voting no, and then adopted it 6-3, with Solomon, Gilmore and Councilman Rich Boggiano voting no.

Jones said that the community plans to show a presentation on Friday that has an alternative use for the site with the same density but without the “offensive height.” She also said that they’re going to challenge the ordinance and potentially go back to court.

Other legislation

An ordinance introduced unanimously would require employers in Jersey City that employ more than four employees to require posting a minimum and maximum salary and or hourly wage, and benefits for said posting or advertisement.  The ordinance follows similar moves that were done across the river by New York City, as well as Colorado.

The council then unanimously passed a resolution to approve the purchase of a “Rook” tactical vehicle from Ring Power Corporation for $429,500 by the Office of Emergency Management, via the Urban Area Security Initiative grant.

They also unanimously adopted an ordinance to dedicate Columbia Ave. from North to Leonard St. after well-known resident John Seborowski, Sr., who died in March of 2020. The street will be dedicated as “John Seborowski, Sr. Way.”

For updates on this and other stories, follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mark Koosau can be reached at mkoosau@hudsonreporter.com or his Twitter @snivyTsutarja.

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