Policies for Jersey City

We can do better.

For too long, developers have set the course for downtown’s future. That must change. Downtown’s neighborhoods must be empowered to set their vision for the future while our city must end its giveaways to real estate developers.

Oppose Most Long-Term Tax Abatements

In 2014, Jersey City awarded a 20-year tax break to the Oakman Condominiums. That building just sold a 1 bedroom, 1 bath condominium for nearly $1M dollars. Our city lost almost $1M in revenue from this deal just last year. I will oppose these sweetheart deals.

Abatements should only be granted if A) the building could otherwise not be built or B) the abatement returns significant value to the community. I will not vote for an abatement unless it is subjected to rigorous cost-benefit analysis conducted by an independent third party to determine if it meets either criteria.

Demand More Community Benefits from Developers.

In most cities with hot housing markets, developers must provide community benefits in exchange for “density bonuses” (i.e. the ability to build more units of housing than would otherwise be allowed). For example, in just one year, Vancouver received $234M in community benefits from developers – above and beyond full tax payments. In Jersey City, developers receive density bonuses for free. Jersey City should leverage its zoning code and land-use laws to ensure that increased density – and therefore more residents – leads to corresponding improvements in the community, such as park and streetscape improvements.

Reform Redevelopment Plans

Jersey City has more redevelopment plans than the entire state of New Jersey combined. Many of those plans were originally written decades ago when the city had different needs. Most of the plans do not include important community benefits that we need now, such as affordable housing. The City must work with developers to reform outdated redevelopments plans to ensure they lead to the long-term community benefits Jersey City needs now and in the future instead of simply adjusting them to the benefit of developers.

Jersey City must ensure that downtown remains affordable for as many people as possible and that can’t be done by simply building luxury housing. Our affordable housing policies of the last four years resulted in only 173 units – and only because those developers received significant tax breaks. We can do better by doing the following:

Include Affordable Housing in Larger Downtown Developments

Called “inclusionary zoning,” these laws mandate that a certain percentage of units of new housing are affordable in any larger development. The city should immediately commission a study to determine how much inclusionary housing is economically feasible and implement the policy.

Strictly Enforce Existing Rent Control Laws

Jersey City poorly enforces its rent control laws. I’ve spoken to numerous families alleging gross violations of rent control by their landlords, including failing to address insect infestations. Within the first few months of my council term, I would conduct a door-to-door inventory of all rent controlled units, providing tenants with legal resources to hold landlords accountable.

Explore Workforce Housing Vouchers

Housing vouchers provide affordable housing at significantly lower costs than other reforms. I designed an affordable housing voucher program in Massachusetts to offer families the opportunity to move into neighborhoods of significant economic opportunity. Jersey City should explore using our Affordable Housing Trust Fund dollars to create vouchers to help long-term residents and public servants remain in downtown.

Downtown Jersey City is expected to add, conservatively, 16,000 new people in the next five years. While density can bring significant benefits, Jersey City’s development pattern has created overcrowded classrooms, congested streets, and packed PATH trains without building the infrastructure required to keep it a livable city. We can do better.

Complete a Rigorous Transportation and Infrastructure Plan as Part of Jersey City’s Master Plan

A Master Plan sets out a long-term vision for Jersey City. One component of the Master Plan should be a transportation plan that ties land use and transportation capacity together. Future development decisions must be made with an understanding of the city’s capacity for growth and a sense of what the community wants for itself.

Explore the Subsidization of Ferries

To reduce stress on the PATH train, Jersey City should explore making the ferries affordable for average commuters such as the Staten Island and East River ferries in New York City.

Strengthen Residential Parking Requirements and Enforcement

As the city grows, parking becomes much more difficult. We must ensure the scarce parking space in Jersey City goes to downtown’s residents through two policies. First, we must enforce residential parking permits. Out of town commuters have taken advantage of lax enforcement to park on our streets during the day. Second, we should extend the hours of enforcement to include evening hours to create more spaces for residents—particularly near the pedestrian mall—when they return home from work.

Build a Network of Protected Bike Lanes

We can significantly improve our bike infrastructure, looking to model cities like Pittsburgh.  The City of Pittsburgh is of similar size and with a similar budget to Jersey City. It built 4 protected bike lanes in 4 months while Jersey City has 0 protected bike lanes. Within the next 4 years, we should complete a network of protected bike lanes that connects key transit corridors in Jersey City.

 

Widening economic inequality and persistent racial inequality plague Jersey City. At the local level, we can tackle these challenges head on.

End Lead Poisoning in Jersey City

4% of children in Jersey City are lead poisoned, a rate similar to Flint, MI. Lead poisoning decreases IQ, increases impulsiveness, and in the long-run, leads to higher crime rates. Despite the fact that $1 invested in preventing lead poisoning leads to $20 of benefits in the future, we continue to allow this problem to persist. A $1M annual investment can make 100 homes safe for Jersey City’s kids each year – leading to massive improvements to our children in the long-term.

Implement the Recommendations of the Croson Study on Racial Disparities in Purchasing Practices

A 2011 study demonstrated that Jersey City awards the vast majority of its contracts (roughly 90% depending in the category) to white, male-owned businesses. The study included a series of recommendations, most of which have not been implemented. The City should immediately implement them and provide an annual update on its progress diversifying its contracting force.

Active Outreach to Ensure All Businesses Abide by Paid Sick Leave Ordinance

Jersey City enacted a Paid Sick Leave ordinance recently. Jersey City should conduct an active outreach campaign to ensure that every business abides by the ordinance and that workers, particularly those who are undocumented, know about and take full advantage of this new right.

 

I am proud to be the first Ward E candidate to release a plan on how to handle the reval. Here are the 5 key policies:

1. Take Care of Downtown’s Most Vulnerable Homeowners – Seniors.

Building on the campaign’s successful “Senior Freeze Canvass,” we will go door-to-door to ensure every single eligible senior in downtown applies for New Jersey’s Senior Freeze to keep them in their homes. 2018 is the crucial year to submit an application before the reval creates a new “baseline” of higher taxes. As we did this summer, we will translatematerials so that all of downtown’s seniors know their rights and options regardless of their primary language.

2. Offer Free/Sliding-Scale Financial Planning Assistance to Homeowners

As families struggle with important decisions about whether to stay in their homes, financial planners can offer a clear sense of the actual impact of a larger property tax bill. They can discuss solutions to keep families in their homes and maximize a family’s financial well-being.

3. Open a Drop-In Center to Aid Homeowners with Appeals

Homeowners have the ability to informally appeal their new assessments. Our drop-in center will provide them with data and guidance on how best to do this.

4. Lobby our State Legislators to Allow a 3-Year Community-Wide Phase-In

State law prevents Jersey City from responsibly phasing-in the impacts of the reval. We should change the state law – NOW. It should allow for NJ municipalities to phase in changes from the reval across all properties in the city over a three-year time period.

5. Take Future Reval Decisions out of Politicians’ Hands.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. If we don’t reform the process now, we’ll be in the same mess 10 or 20 or 30 years in the future. I propose an automatic 5-year rolling reassessment of property to end future reval charades.

While the school district is not under the direct control of the City Council, the Council plays a key role in ensuring our public schools continue to improve.

Leverage Future Developments to Build New School Space

With more than 30 children in many downtown classrooms, overcrowding is a major problem. Due to a complicated set of legal circumstances, the only way for Jersey City to build new schools in the short-erm is through public-private partnerships in new developments. Jersey City must prioritize new school space as it negotiates with developers.

Share Abatement Revenue with Schools

Until earlier this year, Jersey City took all abatements payments into its coffers without sending funding to the public schools. That system creates two problems. First, it leaves our school system’s budget dependent on state aid, which could be cut at any time. Second, it puts a target on Jersey City’s back to have its state aid cut, as towns throughout the state see their tax dollars going to Jersey City despite these abatements going to luxury developments. We must change this sytem.

Develop an “Out of School Time” Learning Initiative to Improve After-School Programs and Additional Support Services

Research unequivocally shows that high-quality, well-structured, and well-coordinated out-of-school-time (OST) opportunities positively impact a child’s academic, social, and emotional learning. After-school, academic enrichment, cultural, and summer-learning programs help educators tackle a multitude of problems from chronic absenteeism to lack of nutrition.

By developing a coordinated city-wide OST learning initiative and network, Jersey City can begin garnering the support of various key stakeholders to help plan and implement coordinated OST programming across the city. Through collective impact efforts, an OST network can achieve goals such as:

  • Increase access to and participation in OST programming for all children
  • Improve quality and accountability of OST programs
  • Improve financial sustainability of OST programs
  • Use of data to understand impact of OST programming for improved decision-making on what works

Jersey City should look to successful models in cities like Providence, New York City, Boston, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.

Trust in government is at an all-time low. Local government is the place where we can rebuild that trust though a commitment to honest and efficient government.

Fight SuperPAC spending in Jersey City.

In 2016, Jersey City politicians opened a SuperPAC that accepted over $4M in donations from the major real estate and financial interests of this city. It included $1.4M in illegal, secret donations. These unlimited donations corrupt our political system. I promise to fight against the use of SuperPAC donations to buy influence in Jersey City.

Strengthen Jersey City’s Pay-to-Play Laws.

Jersey City’s Pay-to-Play laws must be strengthened as special interests continue to exploit loopholes to gain undue access and influence. I will fight to tighten those laws by including city autonomous agencies (e.g. Municipal Utilities Authority) by law (not internal policy); increasing the length of time a donor cannot receive a no-bid contract from one to four years after a donation; and including donations to local elected officials who are running for state or federal office.

Hire an Internal Team to Modernize Government

Too many of our city agencies deliver ineffective and inefficient public services. We can change that. We will hire an internal team experienced in organizational change management. That group will embed in city agencies, partnering with civil servants to modernize their agencies and see it through—instead of imposing one and then leaving the moment a plan is drafted.

 

Staying on the sidelines is not an option in Trump Era. We must use local power to resist Donald Trump’s agenda – one that targets both Jersey City’s values and its diverse communities.

End Hudson County’s Voluntary Partnership with ICE.

Despite great fanfare and good intent, Jersey City is not a sanctuary city. Why? Hudson County maintains a voluntary partnership, called 287(g), with Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, known as ICE. That partnership deputizes local officials to serve as ICE agents. An undocumented immigrant arrested in Jersey City and sent to Hudson County’s correctional facility could be swept up in this partnership, even if that person is not convicted of a crime. I will partner will immigrant advocates to end this betrayal of our values.

Build a Climate Resiliency Policy that Demands More from Developers.

Downtown Jersey City is in a flood plain threatened by the rise in sea levels. With Washington denying the reality of climate change, our government cannot do the same. Jersey City should implement the recommendations of its 2017 Climate Adaptation and Green Infrastructure plans, including strengthening the requirements for developers to capture stormwater on their sites.

Oppose Tax Breaks for Jared Kushner’s Developments in Jersey City.

Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has made a choice: to profit off the presidency. He failed to divest properly of his investments; sent his sister to China to trade off his family’s proximity to power to line his pockets; and funneled secret dollars into our local political system.  We can send a message to one of the world’s most powerful men that we will not tolerate that corruption in Jersey City by denying any of his future developments discretionary tax breaks.

535 pedestrians were hit by cars in Jersey City in 2016 alone. Sadly, children have been killed on our streets. Pedestrian safety is life and death. It will be one of my top priorities on the council.  I will:

Advocate for a dedicated enforcement unit with the police

Pedestrian safety is not a major priority for our police force. That must change. For example, Hoboken has officers cross crosswalks and ticket drivers who do not yield. If our officers did the same thing–at intersections identified as particularly dangerous–in a highly-publicized manner, it would change the unsafe driving culture in Jersey City.

Engineer safer streets.

Enforcement, by definition, is inconsistent. Engineering is permanent. I will use open data to identify the city’s most dangerous roads and intersections and partner with transportation engineers to use paint, bump-outs, and additional infrastructure tools to slow cars, improve visibility, and make our roads safer.

Continue growing the political movement for Safe Streets.

Political organizing delivers change. We’ve seen that here with Jersey City Together’s successful organizing campaign as well as Evict Trump/Kushner. I will aid and assist in further building a citywide movement, which both Safe Streets JC and Bike JC have built to date.

Public officials in city government must sweat the small details of government. Your tax dollars should be spent efficiently and effectively on priorities that matter to you.

Advocate for Consistent Police Presence at the Pedestrian Mall

The pedestrian plaza is a beautiful public space. But starting at 8pm on weekend evenings, it brings serious public safety risks including an increase in assaults and drunk driving. Neighbors have experienced a significant decline in quality of life. Despite repeated community requests and a budget allocation, Jersey City’s government has not deployed a consistent police presence. I will fight to change that.

Clean up the Trash

Look around: Jersey City has a shockingly large amount of trash and litter. To reduce it, the city should expand its purchase of new sidewalk trashcans; provide free trash-cans with lids to homeowners; and implement Boston’s “Neat Streets” receptacles for cigarette butts.

 Establish 50/50 Cost Sharing Program for Sidewalks.

Uneven sidewalks prevent residents with disabilities and the elderly from enjoying the full potential of our community. Looking to successful models in cities such as Chicago and San Diego, I propose a 50/50 cost-sharing program for sidewalk repairs to be funded at $500,000 on an annual basis. Such a program would serve roughly 100-200 homeowners annually.

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