Irate residents give council an earful
Some think McGinley Square buildings will be too big; man suspended after campaign flyers issued with Meals on Wheels
by Al Sullivan
Reporter staff writer
Apr 27, 2014 | 1850 views | 0 0 comments | 53 53 recommendations | email to a friend | print
RESIDENTS COMPLAIN – Questions and concerns about McGinley Square redevelopment arose at Wednesday’s City Council meeting
RESIDENTS COMPLAIN – Questions and concerns about McGinley Square redevelopment arose at Wednesday’s City Council meeting
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McGinley Square development, which has the potential to upgrade the oldest neighborhood in the state, raised concerns of residents in the area.

The purpose of the redevelopment plan to promote the area as a center of commerce. At the core of the plan is new construction for St. Peter’s University, the campus of which borders the historic square.

The ordinance that would enable redevelopment of a portion of McGinley Square will not come up for public comment until May. But many residents in the area raised objections at the April 23 City Council meeting.

A proposed ordinance would adopt amendments to the McGinley Square East Redevelopment plan. One change increases the allowable building height from 175 to 275 feet for part of the project, and modifies some of the normal set back requirements.

For Nicole Simonelli, a resident in the area, the increased height would change the character of the neighborhood. “I think the height should be kept as it is,” she said. “This would violate the provision for providing adequate light and air.”

Jeff Kaplowitz, also a resident in the area, said he was less concerned by the height than with increased population density. He said the plan does not yet provide enough detail, and, like other residents, was concerned over the proposed park and public space.
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“I think life time maintenance of the park should be required.” – Kara Hrabosky
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Some residents said approval of height changes should be conditioned on the developer agreeing to build and maintain the park proposed for the project.

“I think lifetime maintenance of the park should be required,” said Kara Hrabosky, another resident of the area.

Charlene Burke also said financing for the park should be a condition before granting the changes. She said there should be a set aside of capital that will benefit the neighborhood.

Paul Bellan-Boyer said he was thrilled to have high quality redevelopment in the neighborhood, but that any redevelopment plan should include an iron clad agreement to give back to the neighborhood, pointing to other developers such as the Silverman’s downtown, and KRE in the Journal Square area who had done so.

Donna Cabell said the project is too big for the area. She said because the pile driving will be done through dense underground Palisade Stone, it could undermine the structure of nearby buildings that are 90 years old or older. Lack of adequate parking is already an issue in the area, and she pointed out that the proposed farmers market for the park would compete with an established fruit and vegetable market already in the area.

Hrabosky said the building also proposes to lease to food businesses that are similar to eateries that are already there.

“We should have a diner there, not more fast food,” she said.

She also objected to large plasma screens planned for the project that would broadcast advertising for St. Peter’s University. She said the advertising would potentially turn a charming historic neighborhood into something resembling Times Square. She said these screens should be reduced in size, and she wanted to know more about their operations and if there were time limits to their operation.

“We have an old fashioned streetscape,” she said. “This is the oldest neighborhood in the state. We do not want to turn it into Times Square. Either reduce the size or get rid of those plasma screens.”

Dublin asks for investigation

Freeholder Jeff Dublin and a number of his outraged supporters spoke at the public portion of the April 23 meeting, asking that the City Council investigate who ordered a city worker to put campaign literature supporting Dublin’s political opponent in with Meal on Wheels food deliveries on April 14.

Jerome Colwell, a campaign official for Gerard Balmir who is running against Dublin in the June 3 freeholder primary, has been suspended from supervising the Meals on Wheels program, a federally-funded food program for seniors and disabled.

Colwell, a well-know civic activist throughout Hudson County, allegedly put flyers supporting Balmir in with the meal deliveries. But he acted without orders from anyone else in the campaign, according to Jennifer Morrill, spokesperson for the campaign and for the Fulop administration.

“He was suspended,” Dublin said. “But someone else had to have given him the order to do it, and I would like the council to investigate. Someone should be held accountable.”

Dublin is facing an uphill political battle after having supported incumbent Jerramiah Healy for reelection last year against Mayor Steven Fulop.

At the urging of Fulop, the Hudson County Democratic Organization Chairman Vincent Prieto has thrown the organization’s support behind Balmir, the political kiss of death for anyone running against him.

Councilman Michael Yun said the governing body does not have the resources for such an investigation.

While Dublin did not ask for Colwell to be fired, he said that people had been fired over other incidents. He said his concern was with the chain of command that led to the misuse of a federal program.

“Someone told him to do this,” Dublin said.

Colwell did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

Monique Andrews, daughter of the 86 year-old woman who had received the literature, was particularly aggravated by the event.

“She received this on her birthday,” Andrews said, and added that she will be filing an ethics complaint over the matter.

She said when seniors get advocacy literature in with the meal program, they may fear their benefits are at risk if they fail to vote for the candidate being promoted.

“No senior should have to get upset over something like this,” she said.

Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.

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