by Terrence T. McDonald for The Jersey Journal

January 30, 2019

In a major shift that would transform a 100-acre mixed-use community planned for Jersey City's western waterfront, Mayor Steve Fulop said his administration will seek to make 50 percent of the planned residential units on-site affordable housing.

Fulop announced the proposed change, which could increase the number of affordable units on the Bayfront site by 900 percent, in a letter he sent earlier this month to Honeywell International. Honeywell co-owns the formerly chromium-contaminated site with Jersey City and will partner with the city to find developers.

"Throughout the past few months we heard consistently about the need to increase the availability of affordable housing units in new construction," Fulop's letter reads. "Given that the redevelopment plan recognizes its adaptability to meet the changing needs of market demand, the city and its residents, this is the right thing to do at this time."

The move comes as more residents express fear that with each new tower of luxury housing that rises in Jersey City, individuals of modest means will get pushed out of the city entirely. Last year the new Ellipse tower in Newport made news because of its priciest rental, a four-bedroom apartment that fetches $10,995 a month. The annual cost is more than double the city's median household income.

Honeywell spokeswoman Victoria Ann Streitfeld declined to say whether the company supports or opposes Fulop's move.

"The Bayfront Redevelopment Plan was passed unanimously by the Jersey City Council in 2008," she said. "Honeywell has worked in partnership with the City and looks forward to the Bayfront redevelopment."

The Bayfront site is located along Route 440 just south of Hudson Mall. The redevelopment plan that sets its zoning calls for a maximum of 8,100 residential units and a minimum of 4,200, in addition to offices, retail shops and parks.

The developer eventually chosen to transform the massive site is currently required to make 10 percent of the units affordable (half of those can be built in other areas of the city). Fulop's letter said his administration will seek to amend the redevelopment plan to make the requirement 50 percent, all on-site. The change would have to be approved by the planning board and the City Council.

During last year's mayoral race, Fulop and his opponent, Bill Matsikoudis, both pledged to require more affordable housing at Bayfront and at another formerly chromium contaminated site owned by PPG. Fulop defeated Matsikoudis handily and began his second term on Jan. 1.

Local activists who organized under the banner Jersey City Together pushed the candidates to make the pledge, saying they feared Bayfront would become another Newport-like area with rents affordable only to the very wealthy.

Kushner Cos. once expressed interest in developing the site, with sources telling The Jersey Journal they intended to market it exclusively as a religious enclave for Orthodox Jews.

Jersey City Together is a successor group to the Interfaith Community Organization of Jersey City, which sued Honeywell in federal court over the site's chromium contamination. A judge in 2003 ordered Honeywell to clean up the site.

"For decades, the chromium contamination on this site was a weight around the neck of Jersey City, poisoning those who lived and worked on the sites and impeding development," said the Rev. Will Ashley, of Abundant Joy Community Church. "Now that it's clean, we have an opportunity to do something truly great for our city's residents."

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