Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy Grows Concern on New Development

Councilman Boggiano of Ward B and Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey of Ward C hosted what became an intense community meeting at Apple Tree House this past Thursday, May 4th for non-local developer to present large scale development plans, after purchasing a  number of properties from St. Peter’s University on the block of Glenwood, between JFK & West Side Ave. A healthy, heated, passionate conversation ensued with roughly 35 engaged community members in attendance, including residents of Glenwood and Highland Avenues, members of Lincoln Park North Neighborhood Association, Journal Square Community Association, JC Landmarks Conservancy, Project Greenville, McGinley Square Community Board, and government officials from both the city and county.

The developer proposes plans for what existing community refer to as “cruise ship” sized, out-of-scale, 4-5 times higher density, multi-residential infill with rooftops reaching 50’ tall (including parapets and bulkheads) at 124 and 128 Glenwood. For context, both locations are within a rare intact historic enclave of 128 year old, Queen Anne 2.5 story, 30’ tall, single-family homes that run from 120-130 Glenwood Ave. This collection of homes, known as the “Mayhew Terrace Cottages,” was built by businessman and philanthropist William W. Coffin in 1895. Located only one block outside the Lincoln Park West Bergen Historic District, they are the first and last of their kind, in the city north of Montgomery.

Historic Preservation’s letter regarding 124 Glenwood Avenue states: “The block of Glenwood Avenue between West Side Avenue and John F. Kennedy Boulevard, has a largely intact historic streetscape with few modern intrusions. Staff recommends that any new construction be compatible with the scale, form, setbacks, heights and historic character of the neighborhood and that the stone wall fronting the row of Queen Anne-style houses should be retained as part of a historic streetscape.”

Existent community wishes to retain the integrity of character, sense of place, and general wellbeing within this low density pocket of the block. They seek to retain their home’s property values and protect their financial investment in the city. They are concerned for their impaired access to sunlight, air, open space, a diminishing tree canopy, increased challenges to already above capacity street parking, increased noise and garbage. They hope the Building Department and its Historic Preservation department might take a closer look and help protect and save their block. Some residents in the enclave, like one 104 year old black lady, have lived in her home for over six decades since the 1950s, when it was a massive feat in itself for her to even be able to purchase a house in what was then a predominantly white neighborhood; other households have moved from Downtown in recent years to McGinley Square, seeking a little more open space, and restoring their homes to their former glory. The community is tight-knit and spoke out in solidarity on their aim to preserve sense of place, quality of life, and investment in their homes in the city — preventing towering walls of intrusive buildings that don’t make sense sandwiched between their row of smaller historic homes.

The community claims that communication has lacked transparency, with residents receiving notification letters on the same afternoon as hearings, many not receiving notification at all, and no proactive efforts made earlier by the developer to meet and share their plans with community. They claim the developer’s data, studies and plans are inaccurate. Community didn’t feel it was legal – or fair, either to the public or to the Planning Board – for the developer to submit modified plans only ten minutes before the Planning Board public hearing on 3/14, when ten days is the legal requirement. Community were upset when signs were posted for a “water and sewer project,” for what was actually the demolition of the house at 124 Glenwood. One next door neighbor’s house was not protected, leading them to return from work and stand for two hours in front of the bulldozer.

A slightly revised plan for 124 was recently submitted by the developer; however, it is only 3’ smaller, just enough to no longer require approval of variances. The community, however, believes that this stretch of small homes should never have been zoned as R3 in the first place. They believe that just because a project may be legally allowed, or “as of right,” it may still be wrong for a particular neighborhood.  The slightly revised plans also include a faux front facade gable, which residents referred to as putting “lipstick on a pig” at Thursday’s community meeting.

Community believe that the proposed development currently offers no real benefit to existing community, only detriment to existing residents, as was acknowledged by the developer in Thursday’s meeting.

Despite everything, residents optimistically view this situation as an opportunity for the city, its residents and developers to potentially, creatively work together and do things differently, for a mutually beneficial outcome.

Community appreciate how Timothy Krehel, formerly Principal Planner for 124 and 128 Glenwood, who recently resigned, had spoken at the very end of the 3/14 Planning hearing regarding 124 Glenwood, about how the city and its boards must do their job, their due diligence, and how it is significant when the community speaks out in large numbers at a hearing.

LINKS to both virtual public hearings below:

124 Glenwood at Planning 
Case: P22-197  
Tues. May 9 at 5:30 pm

124 Glenwood held a single family, 1895 Queen Anne home that was recently demolished by the developer, upsetting existing neighbors. The front facing 128 year old stone wall linking the properties was promised — on legal record at the first 3/14 Planning Board hearing — to be “kept and preserved,” then destroyed the wall anyway. Developer seeks approval to construct a new 4-family structure with rooftop there.

Virtual/Zoom public hearing for 124 Glenwood at Planning Board, this Tuesday, May 9 at 5:30 pm:

Meeting link:

Meeting ID: 861 6244 3723

Or call in, by phone: (301) 715-8592 or (929) 205-6099, and reference webinar ID: 861 6244 3723. By phone, use *9 if you wish to speak.

For background, here is the YouTube link to 124 Glenwood’s first public hearing at Planning on 3/14; the section about this project goes from 2:00:36 – 3:33:23

128 Glenwood at Zoning 
Case: Z22-089  
Thurs. May 11 at 6:30 pm

128 Glenwood has been a green space for 20+ years, used in recent years as a park and as St. Peter’s University / St. Aeden’s Migrant Center community garden, where volunteers grew fresh produce for immigrants. Developer seeks to construct a 4-family structure with rooftop there, which would be similar to proposed plans at 124. It would require land use variances granted and buffer variances. Community submitted 128 Glenwood to JC Open Space Trust for consideration, as its census tract reveals low income and lack of open space. The nearest community garden is not close, about 1 mile away.

Virtual/Zoom public hearing for 128 Glenwood at Zoning Board, this Thursday, May 11 at 6:30 pm:

Meeting link:

Meeting ID: 836 5930 7838

Or call in, by phone: (929) 205-6099 or (312) 626-6799, and reference webinar ID: 836 5930 7838. By phone, use *9 if you wish to speak.

Notice updated since release was submitted:

124 Glenwood has been postponed to Tues. June 13 at 5:30 pm – Planning Board public hearing.

128 Glenwood has been postponed to Thurs. June 15 at 6:30 pm – Zoning Board public hearing.