Council makes controversial moves
City sets new rules for plastic bags and buying booze; okays expanded pedestrian plaza
by Al Sullivan
Reporter staff writer
Jul 08, 2018 | 2187 views | 0 0 comments | 49 49 recommendations | email to a friend | print
NEWARK PEDESTRIAN PLAZA EXPANSION APPROVED – Although instituted last month by an executive order from Mayor Steven Fulop, the pedestrian mall expansion got the seal of approval from the Jersey City Council on June 27.
NEWARK PEDESTRIAN PLAZA EXPANSION APPROVED – Although instituted last month by an executive order from Mayor Steven Fulop, the pedestrian mall expansion got the seal of approval from the Jersey City Council on June 27.
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Bringing alcohol to a tailgate party or home to watch the ball game on Sunday may become a little easier. The Jersey City Council introduced an ordinance on June 27 that would allow people to purchase alcohol as early as 10 a.m. on Sundays.

In the past, customers had to wait until afternoon to make carry out purchases. This often interfered with plans for sports parties and even picnics. Secaucus and some other Hudson County municipalities have already modified their ordinances.

But don’t expect to carry your bottles or cans home in certain popular single-use plastic bags. The council voted to ban them in Jersey City after more than a score of people testified at the ordinance public hearing on June 27. While the ordinance faced weak opposition from residents who did not want the ban to take place, the council pushed ahead to support an initiative proposed by Mayor Steven Fulop.

While the city will encourage people to seek out other means to cart home groceries and other purchases, the ordinance does not require businesses to provide them. This leaves the burden on consumers.

Councilman Michael Yun, formerly head of the Central Avenue Special Improvement District, sought alternate solutions such as a bag bring-back program rather than an outright ban. But the council opted to do away with these bags entirely.

Councilman Daniel Rivera raised the health risk of cloth bags being contaminated from meat. The ordinance, however, does not apply to plastic used to wrap food items.

The ordinance stops short of outlawing paper bags, which the plastic variety largely replaced in the 1980s, but the law is the first step toward pushing people to get reusable bags of some sort. The city put out a survey and received more than 1,000 responses with 75 percent offering support for the proposed ban.

This comes at a time when the state of New Jersey is also considering legislation that would prohibit or limit the use of these plastic bags. If municipalities do not adopt their own plans, then the state plan, which could set its own criteria, would take effect.

Some towns such as Hoboken have approved ordinances saying markets should charge customers for using plastic or even paper bags as a means to push them to bringing reusable plastic or cloth bags of their own.

Pedestrian plaza expansion approved in Jersey City

Despite unresolved problems with after-hours noise and rowdy behavior similar to those in the Hoboken bar scene, the Jersey City council voted on June 27 to adopt an ordinance that would extend the Newark Avenue pedestrian plaza two additional blocks west to Jersey Avenue.

With only a handful of residents speaking for or against the issue, the council refused to require a six-month sunset clause proposed by Councilman Michael Yun that would automatically terminate the ordinance if problems similar to the problems at the existing pedestrian mall are not resolved.

Last month, the city implemented new rules regarding rooftop activities in some of the food establishments as well as rules regulating people lingering in the mall after taverns have closed.

Jeff Geist, a resident of nearby Bay Street, called the existing mall “night club row” and opposed the expansion.

Robert Jones, another resident of the area, supported the expansion, noting that he takes his child to daycare and feels safer in an area where car traffic is restricted.

Councilman James Solomon, who represents the area, acknowledged the after-hours noise and rowdy behavior and said he would work to resolve them over the next few months. But Solomon said he opposed putting a sunset clause in the ordinance.

Solomon and Council President Rolando Lavarro said they would revisit the issue in the fall to see if the problems were resolved.

Yun, however, was concerned about the $1 million work the city would engage in closing the new section of Newark Avenue, money he said would be wasted if the city later rescinded the ordinance.

Ward F Councilman Jermaine Robinson said he supported the concept and pointed to how few objectors there were to the proposed expansion. He said he would like to use the area as a model for a similar pedestrian plaza for Ward F.

David Rapaport, an attorney representing one of the property owners in the expanded area, said a map showed that his clients’ property would be negatively affected by a proposed loading zone.

Councilman Daniel Rivera assured the attorney that the city will be able to modify the loading zone so as to have less impact on the property owner.

Solomon, however, had more serious concerns about Mayor Steven Fulop’s use of an executive order last month to establish a 30-day trial period on the plaza.

While the city’s legal department claimed the mayor, who oversees operations on all city-owned property including roads, had authority to close the street to expand the plaza, Solomon said it set a bad precedent in circumventing the authority of the council.

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

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