City, Robinhood Plaza owner agree to settlement
Will ‘park poor’ Journal Square finally get some open space?
by E. Assata Wright
Reporter staff writer
Oct 28, 2012 | 2322 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Journal Square – a neighborhood that planners last week called the most “park poor” in the city – may soon get a new public park thanks to a tentative agreement between Jersey City and the owner of Robinhood Plaza on Summit Avenue.

Under the settlement, the city will agree to allow the developer to increase the height of planned buildings on the site from 11 stories to 42 stories. In exchange for this zoning change from the city, the developer would turn over slightly less than an acre of land to the city to be used for a municipal park.

The agreement, which could be approved by the City Council in November after having been successfully introduced for a vote last week, had been delayed for months. Over the summer, community residents and members of the Hilltop Neighborhood Association questioned the viability of creating the park – which will be wedged between West and East streets over to Baldwin Avenue, near the PATH train tracks.
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After a preliminary study, there does not appear to be any chromium or other toxic waste on the proposed park site.
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Despite the desire for park space in the neighborhood, some residents believe the land to be dedicated is not suitable for a public park, while others wondered whether the land was hazardous and in need of remediation.

In response to concerns from the community, Robinhood Plaza Inc., Chain Enrico Corp., and Avner Netter, agreed to cover the costs of a historical study of the land to see whether there is a history of environmental hazards.

No toxic waste, just trash and debris

Last week, City Planner Jeff Wenger said this study is now completed. A study of various maps of the area revealed that the site has an old railroad spur, bricks, and concrete on the site, in addition to such trash and debris as old tires and TVs. However, there does not appear to be any chromium or other toxic waste on the site, Wenger said.

A second phase of study, during which soil samples will be taken, must now be done.

Community activist Althea Bernheim, a member of the Hilltop Neighborhood Association said last week that she plans to take a survey of association members to determine the level of support for the park. She is also encouraging Journal Square residents to find out when the City Council plans to hold a public hearing on the park and settlement agreement.

The City Council will hold a special session on Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 10 a.m. Its regularly scheduled meeting set for 6 p.m. that day has was moved to accommodate council members who plan to attend the upcoming New Jersey League of Municipalities meeting.

It is possible the council will hold a public hearing on the Robinhood settlement at the special 10 a.m. session on Nov. 14. Residents should check the city web site and upcoming council agenda to see whether a public hearing on the settlement will be held at the City Council’s next meeting.

The pending settlement stems from a lawsuit brought by Robinhood Plaza Inc., Chain Enrico Corp., and Avner Netter who sued the city and argued that the Journal Square 2060 Redevelopment Plan violated their rights to develop their air space.

E-mail E. Assata Wright at awright@hudsonreporter.com.

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