A plan from a Puerto Rican civic group to move its Warren Street school and construct a charter school at 100 Monitor St. in the Lafayette section won approval from the board. Meanwhile a second round for a redevelopment plan near the Grove Street PATH station also got the nod.
The three-story K-8 charter school, which local group Puertoriquenos Associados Community Organization (PACO) is backing, and is being developed by Mosaica Charter Schools, has seen opposition from some Lafayette residents who claim that businesses and shops, not a school, is needed.But on Tuesday, the leader of that opposition, Morris Canal Redevelopment Area Coalition chairperson June Jones, conceded defeat.
"We're not sore losers," she said. "We didn't win this time."
Jones had charged that the city acted improperly in awarding the school to PACO, and has requested a federal investigation on the matter. To date, however, city officials said they have not been contacted by investigators.
Perfecto Oyola, the founder of PACO, responded to some of the criticism he had heard about the proposal on Tuesday.
"We are not invading any groups, we are not invading any neighborhoods," he said. The children in the school are not just Puerto Rican and Hispanic, he added.
Getting the wrecking ball will be an existing warehouse that stretches from Johnston Avenue to Maple Street at 100 Monitor St., directly across from the Liberty State Park park-and-ride. In its place will rise the three-story red brick building, designed by The Aztec Corporation of Iselin, with room for 28 classrooms, a gymnasium, and 37 parking spots. The 54,000 square foot school would be capped off with a false metal seam roof.
Grove Street redevelopment
"This is a compromise," said Annie Kessler, president of the Harsimus Cove Association, of the redevelopment plan. "The best use would be low-rise." She termed the existing plan "barely acceptable," noting the maximum height permitted: 445 feet, would loom over the 20-story Mack-Cali building at the corner of Grove Street and Christopher Columbus Drive and other buildings in the neighborhood.
Bridgewater-based developer Schenkman-Kushner had met with Kessler, the city, planners, and other community groups to try and hammer out a deal to make the project more appealing. The developer has plans to pitch a 22- to 26-story building to the board, if the redevelopment plan gets City Council approval.
Out of those discussions came several compromises. The developer created a step-up in height for the building, gradually working from the low-rise business district on Newark Avenue, up to the tower that would be located on Luis Munoz Marin Blvd.
A second, and for Tuesday, more discussion-intensive matter was the possible park expansion at the existing Grove Street PATH station. The proposal would close down Newark Avenue, between Grove Street and Christopher Columbus Drive, and turn it into a plaza.
In a Nov. 12 Reporter story, Kessler called the possible creation of a park "a tremendous advantage" for business in the community.
But at last week's Planning Board meeting, many commissioners worried how the now sluggish traffic would be affected by the closing of a central street.
"I invite you all to have coffee at my house and look out the window," in the morning, said member Richard McAllister, who said traffic backs up on Grove Street as cars try to make their way from the turnpike to the Holland Tunnel.
Planning department member Maryann Bucci-Carter said that several traffic studies had been done for the area, and that closing of the Newark Avenue stretch would actually solve more problems than it would create. She noted that any plan for a proposed building would need to be accompanied by a traffic report.