Green space and ethics Issues at council meeting: saving reservoir, code of conduct

Wednesday night’s City Council meeting could be divided into three categories – the nature of man, nature vs. man, and nature and man.

The council looked at saving the area around Reservoir No. 3 to use as a recreational area; at re-establishing the city’s Ethical Standards Board; and at saving old trees in private yards.Nature of man

The City Council introduced an ordinance that would re-establish the city’s Ethical Standards Board. The board’s function would be to enforce the city’s code of ethics as well as state ethics laws. The Ethical Standards Board was formed in the early 1990s but was abolished in 2003.

The board would consist of six members, with two who are members of the public. Also, no more than three members will be of the same political party.

Two of the members would serve for a five-year term, one of the members would serve for a four-year term, and the remaining three members would serve for a three-year term. This ordinance came after Mayor Jerramiah Healy issued an executive order on April 14 to reiterate the city’s code of ethics, which is already in place.

The code directs municipal employees to not engage in conduct such as using their position to gain special privileges or engaging in political activity during work hours.

However, not everyone was impressed with Healy’s attempt at establishing clean government.

Long-time city resident and City Council attendee Yvonne Balcer called the reestablishing of the city’s ethics board and the code of conduct “window dressing” during the council’s public comment period. Balcer expressed her concerns that the board will be just another political entity not allowed to function independently.

She later explained that she was one of the first members of the Ethical Standards Board when it was established under then-acting Mayor Joseph Rakowski in 1992. But she witnessed former Mayor Bret Schundler place political cronies on the board. She said the board did very little to investigate ethics complaints during the year she served on it. Nature vs. man

Reservoir No. 3 has become a hot topic in recent weeks.

The 14.3-acre reservoir, a landmark since it opened for operation in 1881 as a source of Jersey City’s water supply, closed in 1992. Over the years it has evolved into a nature preserve where various species of fish, birds and trees co-exist in a setting that reminds many of New York City’s Central Park. It is located on Summit Avenue, adjoining Pershing Field.

But the reservoir has also been considered as a site for a new school by the NJ Schools Construction Corporation (NJSCC), although the NJSCC may be reconsidering as that agency is being investigated for administrative and construction cost overruns.

There also has been talk about the reservoir being the future site for housing and recreation fields. However, members of the Jersey City Reservoir Preservation Alliance, which formed in 2003 to protect the reservoir from any development, came out in force at the council meeting to express their love of the reservoir and their fear that it could be gone without city officials protecting it.

Steve Latham, president of the Preservation Alliance, expressed his gratitude to all the members of the alliance and to City Council members who have shown their interest in the past in protecting the reservoir. A cake in the shape of the reservoir was presented to the council as a token of appreciation.

Latham, along with Alliance member Vincent McNamara and longtime resident Sam Pesin, also voiced their concerns that the reservoir could be lost.

City Council members, especially those have visited the reservoir, said that they would move to apply for grant monies to help preserve the reservoir. Nature and man

Several residents spoke during the public speaking period about century-old trees in people’s yards that they believe were unfairly cut down.

Margo Hammond, Isabelle Monaco, Caroline Katz and Susan Seelandt all gave personal testimonies about seeing trees cut from their and other residences throughout the city without regard for the value and practical purpose of the trees.

Councilman At-Large Mariano Vega said that a committee should be formed to study the criteria for trees being cut throughout the city. He said there was an ordinance passed in 2001 that established how trees should be cut and for what purpose.


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