The Jersey City Planning Board at their Tuesday meeting approved a 45-story tower to be built on a pier in the Newport area.
The project will be the “Ellipse,” a 352-unit building including a few three-story town homes.
The project also will include a cultural/educational center, a 230-parking space garage with an open-space roof (including grass), and an extension of Hudson River Waterfront Walkway.
The board approved the project unanimously, but with conditions to be met by the developer as part of approval, such as real grass on the garage roof and meetings with neighborhood groups.
But there were dissenting views on the project during the public comment part of the meeting, particularly because some believe more land should be set aside for a park.Need more parks
There was already opposition to the project before it came in front of the Planning Board.
Newport resident Dan Falcon had complained on an internet message board that he believes the five-acre Pier 199B, where some of the project will be built, should be set aside as a park. The pursuit of more park space in Newport has been a goal of Falcon’s since 2001.
Falcon appeared at Tuesday’s meeting to ask for the Ellipse application to be tabled until the Newport Redevelopment Plan, which governs development of the Newport, is amended to include more park space.
“The Newport Redevelopment Plan talks about improved open space, [but] doesn’t really talk about any requirements for parks at all,” said Falcon at the Planning Board meeting.
In fact, the “green” roof on the parking structure can count toward the developer’s open space requirement, according to the Newport Redevelopment Plan.
“When I look around Newport,” Falcon said, “I cannot find one legitimate park, not one.”
Bill Wissemann of Newport Associates Development Company, who will build the project, refuted Falcon’s claim of Newport lacking open space, claiming the area has “a higher percentage land wide of parks per capita than does the rest of Jersey City,” based on analysis done four years ago.
Another Newport resident, Robert Vivien, read a lengthy letter stating his disapproval of the project, and also asked for it to be tabled. He claimed that there was a survey sent to a thousand Newport residents asking if amenities such as more park space in Newport were needed. Some approve of ‘Ellipse’
Newport resident Janet Allen stated her approval of the project, as did fellow resident Sonia Maldonado.
“Besides the fact that it is going to make a stunning and striking representation on the Jersey City shore,” Maldonado said, “it’s going to call out to people to come to Jersey City.”
The Planning Board went ahead with approval. They were reminded by the one of the city planners before voting that the project could be built on the property in question “as of right,” or already allowed within the Newport Redevelopment Plan.
Several commissioners complimented the design of the building. Longtime board commissioner Leon Yost said, “this is the most exciting project I have seen at Newport so far” referring to previous Newport projects as a “sea of generic boxes.”
Yost also said he wants to see the Ellipse built before other projects that Newport has planned for development in the near future. Timeline
Wissemann told the board that the project will be built in the next five years after other Newport projects by Newport Associates Development Company such as the Woodrow Wilson and the Aqua, also located on 14th Street, are built out.
The Jersey City community of Newport, located on the northern waterfront, has grown to 600 acres, 3,922 residential units, and over 10,000 residents, all between 18th Street and Sixth Street. It broke ground in 1986. SIDEBAR Purporting to represent Newport
A bizarre sideshow to the public comment on the Ellipse was a dispute between residents Robert Vivien and both Janet Allen and Sonia Maldonado being played out in front of the board.
Both Vivien and Maldonado in recent months have bickered with each other via the internet over who heads the Newport Neighborhood Association, a neighborhood group claiming to represent Newport residents. Both have also claimed to have registered the NNA with the state.
Allen, during her public comment period, made the unusual disclaimer that she is the acting president of the Newport Neighborhood Association (NNA), along with Maldonado and another Newport resident Linda Klarfeld, and that they are the only ones “allowed to speak for the organization.”
Maldonado also made the disclaimer that she is an officer of the Newport Neighborhood Association along with Allen and Klarfeld.
But Vivien claimed during his public comment he was president of the NNA and did not mention Allen and Maldonado’s claims of involvement with the NNA.
After the public comment, several of the commissioners questioned where these neighborhood groups were when other Newport-related projects were presented at past Planning Board meetings. — RK