The measure was controversial because the region includes the 110 and 111 First St. properties, the latter of which is full of artists' lofts.
The ordinance grants the new district historic landmark status, a designation that had been already approved by the city's Historic Preservation Commission and Planning Board.
Desipte earlier fears that some council members would duck the vote, all nine members showed up for the meeting and voted for Ordinance 04-088.Hundreds of people who came in support for the ordinance were soon on their feet and applauding.
Many in the audience were the artists/tenants of 111 First St., along with fellow artists from across the city as well as longtime residents who were in favor this historic landmark designation because it preserves the 111 First St. from the demolition that occurred to its sister building of 110 First St. It also preserves other buildings in the designated historic district.
But there were a number of people, including representatives for Lloyd Goldman, the owner of 110 and 111 First St., along with construction workers and taxpayers who were opposed to the historic designation, saying it would impede on Goldman's right as owner of his buildings.
There were signs held up that exclaimed "PRESERVE HISTORY -DESIGNATION NOW!" and "WOULD YOU SELL YOUR NJ TOWN TO A NEW YORK BILLIONAIRE?"
There were plenty of comments - pro and con - on the historic landmark designation. Comments pro and con
Robert Cotter, the head of the city's Planning Department, in opening comments said that this historic designation would continue the city's historic designation efforts throughout the past 25 years that have improved property values for many of longtime homeowners.
"Those people who invested small amounts of money buying housing from HUD in four figures, those homes are in some cases now seven figures," said Cotter, "so historic preservation is an economic development tool."
Cotter then went on to say that Jersey City can become a "major American city," and he shared a comment that was made about Jersey City.
"Someone said to me the other day that Jersey City is not Paris," Cotter said. "Well, I think it is Paris. Every day I go to sleep, I think about Jersey City and say how can we make Jersey City more like Paris."
He also would like to see a Warehouse Historic District so that residents and other visitors can see preserved the buildings that were once a part of Jersey City's past as a premier railway center.
Peter Abeles, an urban planner who has been working with the tenants of 111 First St. on possible plans to purchase the building and create an work/live artist complex, said that in his research he found that there is a precedent for this historic designation that includes the buildings on First Street and that the site of 111 First St. was an area in the 1840s where visitors from New York City would come for enjoyment.
Abeles also said that the $30 million price tag that had been ascribed to 111 First St. was an overestimate and that it could cost much less for the city to acquire it in order for it to be preserved. Taxpayers and laborers concerned
Daniel Horgan, attorney for Lloyd Goldman, countered with the argument that the cost to the city would be substantial if the historic designation is approved, and that the landmarking will not stop the owner from addressing the unstable condition of the building - even it means demolition.
"Don't commit yourselves to spending the taxpayers' money unless you know two things," Horgan said. "Whether it can be preserved and what it will cost to do that."
John Pellegatti, a member of the Local 325 Union and a resident, defended the owners' right to do as he wished to his building and said that landmarking would deprive union laborers of many job opportunities by stopping development.
Some union laborers and local residents opposed the historic landmarking on the grounds that it would stop developers from working in the city, and that protecting the artists of 111 First St. could be a burden to the taxpayers.
Other longtime residents stood up for the designation. Janine Orzechowski, who said she was a third-generation Jersey City resident with family members in unions, said that a visit to 111 First St. when she was 11 years old had influenced her to pursue a career in the arts.
Kevin Mayer, a tenant of 111 First St. submitted to the city clerk a petition of 1,054 signatures that were collected during the recent Artists Studio Tour in support of the 111 First St. artists.
When it came time for the council to vote, they had strong words in favor of the historic designation and against the attempts of Lloyd Goldman to stymie the vote.
Ward E Councilman Junior Maldonado, who represents the ward where the Warehouse Historic District and the First Street buildings are located, said that as a lifelong resident of the city he supported the ordinance. He recalled a time in the 1970s when historic buildings in the city were burned by their owners for insurance money, and he also believed that historic designation would continue the improvement of the city.
Ward F Councilman Viola Richardson said that she would have voted against the ordinance at the Sept. 24 meeting, but since it was tabled, she had time to study the situation pertaining to 111 First St. She said she decided to vote in favor of the ordinance, citing a recent ruling by State Superior Court Judge Maurice Gallipoli that the violations at 111 First St. were not serious enough to oppose the landmarking and demolish the building.
City Council President and Acting Mayor L. Harvey Smith cast the final vote in favor the ordinance, stating his commitment to the artists and to historic landmarking. He made the announcement that the city would soon vote on the Powerhouse Arts District that would create an area for artist work/live buildings to be built.
Also, the City Council approved a waiver of the 20-day period for Ordinance 04-088 to go into effect immediately, in order for the landmarking to be in place as a preventive measure against possible attempts by the 110 and 111 First St. owner to do any demolition work as it has previously done.
But Daniel Horgan said after the council meeting that they may persue an immediate legal action against the landmarking and that this does prevent management from remedying the violations that the 111 First St. building has at the present time.