Building doesn’t fit in Council approves plan for Duncan Ave. condo over residents’ objections

Eight residents living near two lots at 23-25 Duncan Ave. spoke for an hour at the Aug. 6 City Council meeting – held at 10 a.m. – against a redevelopment plan that would allow a five-story, 24-unit condominium to built there.

But the passionate pleas fell on deaf ears, as the council approved the plan 8-0.

This would be the first major construction project on this section of Duncan Avenue, between Kennedy Boulevard and Bergen Avenue, in 50 years. The area is two blocks from St. Peter’s College.

After the plan was approved, Cynthia Hadjiyannis, the attorney hired by some of the residents, summed up why she believed the council went ahead with the vote.

“It’s not that I think the council wasn’t listening,” Hadjiyannis said. “I think the council does listen, but only so they know what to ignore.”

The residents wanted the building, if developed, to be shorter and set back further from the street to conform to the design of the neighborhood.

The lots – one is empty land owned by the Jersey City Parking Authority, and the other holds a house once owned by the family of noted city architect John T. Rowland – will be developed by the West Paterson-based Franklin Development Group as “workforce housing” for middle-income earners such as municipal employees.

The Rowland house would be demolished for the project.Why they objected

At the Aug. 6 council meeting, Hadjiyannis asked the council to postpone voting on the redevelopment plan because she was retained as legal counsel only a few days before the council meeting.

Also, she said the redevelopment plan should have been presented at night so more residents could attend.

Hadjiyannis then made a presentation of the various factors that should be considered in approving a redevelopment plan. Historic elements in neighborhood

In her presentation, she said that when the Planning Board recommended the redevelopment plan to the City Council at their July 8 meeting, they should have taken into consideration the historic elements of the neighborhood.

Then, Charlene Burke, a longtime Duncan Avenue resident, spoke of the “neighborhood feel” of the block, and said this section of Duncan Avenue has boulevard-size streets and large setbacks from the street.

“This is what attracts many of our residents to the block, unlike some of the blocks that have houses closer to the street,” Burke said.

Leslie Sherwood, a homeowner who lives at 29 Duncan Ave., spoke of the historic nature of the two lots, because they had been owned by the Rowland family. She went on to describe Rowland’s accomplishments in Jersey City as the architect of several of the city’s oldest high schools and of the old Jersey City Medical Center.

She complained that the proposed project would bring about the demolition of the house where Rowland once lived. No inroads

After the residents spoke, it was the city’s turn.

City planner Robert Cotter said the redevelopment plan had been discussed with the residents in two community meetings, and that the redevelopment plan would stand up in court if contested.

Several council members, before voting for the plan, said they had visited the area.

Ward A Councilman Michael Sottolano said he was voting for the redevelopment plan because the proposed condo project is a “good project.” But he said he also sympathized with residents’ concerns.

Ward B Councilwoman Mary Spinello, who represents an area that includes Duncan Avenue, also voted for the redevelopment plan, but promised to work with the residents to ensure that whatever is built on the two lots conforms to the neighborhood.

The Jersey City Redevelopment Agency is scheduled to designate Franklin Development Group as the developer of 23-25 Duncan Ave. at its meeting next month. Comments on this story can be sent to


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