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Re: What is the mission of a Historic District? (moved from What's this letter from Warren G. Curtin
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Although Mr. Curtin and HPNA proposed a lot of "revisions" to the historic district ordinance, the question of replacing actual features with "period" replicas seems to be generating the most controversy.

What is the purpose of a historic district? It has the same purpose as preserving an individual historic landmark. Landmarks and districts serve to educate, and increase property value, to demonstrate the staying power of the buildings' previous features and architecture.

If an individual landmark is protected, no one would seriously say that "historic preservation" of that landmark would be to replace the building's actual features with "period" features that may have been on some other buildings, but not the landmark itself.

So the fact that a certain type of feature may have been available in other buildings should not give carte blanche to add such features to another building that never had them in the first place.

Dan L. is 100% correct. The proposed change would have replaced historic preservation with a "neighborhood theme park." It is misleading and the antithesis of what historic preservation is supposed to be about. One could not say "this is what the neighborhood once was," because quite simply, it wasn't.

Finally, it is worth noting that the proponents of keeping (or strengthening) the current ordinance are in the same boat as everyone else. All of the other (democratically elected) neighborhood association heads live in historic districts and are bound by the current guidelines. At least 2 of the 3 HPC members who opposed the changes also live in historic districts. I'm not sure if Ron Russell does, although he is one of the best architects involved in historic preservation in Jersey City, if not the country.

Joshua Parkhurst
Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy

Posted on: 2005/12/15 13:41

Re: What's this letter from Warren G. Curtin about?
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Because I had not seen the actual guidelines, as opposed to summaries (since the Conservancy was never asked for input by the proponents of change), I withheld opinion. In any event, Dan L. was doing a fine job defending the current ordinance.

Having had a chance to review the proposal, I can say that the summaries understate the impact that these changes would have had. The proposed changes would have gutted the guidelines, creating loopholes one could drive a truck through.

Joshua Parkhurst
Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy

Posted on: 2005/12/15 3:14

Re: Mrs. Maria Skupien................
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I am so sorry to hear this, my deepest condolences to the family.

Newark Avenue is a dangerous place to cross. There are so many intersectiing streets where motorists can make sharp turns out of nowhere. Crossing north to south or vice versa is also generally a risk. There are far too many accidents waiting to happen on that street.


Posted on: 2005/12/10 1:49

Re: Preservation Alert - Powerhouse Arts District Endangered
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I am curious as to the identity of the "Professional Activists" that medfever refers to. I can say with respect to the Conservancy, our board has always been completely volunteer, and everyone has jobs (although we have had and do have one or two retirees on the board at any one time). Unlike Lloyd Goldman's advocates, we aren't getting paid large sums of money, or any sums of money for that matter, to advocate our position.

As to the historic significance of the warehouse district. Medfever is entitled to state his opinion. I prefer to rely on the research and nomination prepared by Richard James, which provides the historic significance in detaill

One thing which can't go unaddressed is the claim regarding 111 First Street. 111 is, in fact, one of four "pivotal" buildings in the district as per the district's nomination (the other's being the Powerhouse, the A&P building, and the Butler Brothers Warehouse). The owner's own historic preservation consultant had to concede the historic significance of 111 First St. The only argument that he offered up was that because the building had deteriorated, it's ability to evoke the past was "impaired."

Of course, this is largely because the owner has neglected the building for several years and refused to perform basic maintenance. The argument is essentially that if you neglect a historic building long enough, you can then turn around and say it has no historic significance because it has been neglected. That is akin to murdering your parents and then throwing yourself on the mercy of the court because you are an orphan.

Other "dumps" have been rehabilitated and are being developed in accordance with the redevelopment plan. 140 and 150 bay street come to mind.

In any event, the Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy, Pro-Arts, and several other groups have been working to protect and promote the district for several years. So this is hardly a case of taking an opportunity to fight "last year's battle." The battle to save 111 and the other buildings is a battle that was fought this year, last year, the year before that, and the year before that. And you can be assured that the battle will be fought next year, the year after that, and the year after that.

Joshua Parkhurst
Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy

Posted on: 2005/11/22 20:44

Preservation Alert - Powerhouse Arts District Endangered
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We have learned that on Friday, Judge Gallipoli ruled that the city had committed procedural violations when it granted historic designation to the Powerhouse Arts District. This places the district in danger. In particular danger is 111 First Street, as the current owner, Lloyd Goldman, has repeatedly vowed to tear down the building.

Although Judge Gallipoli did not issue a written opinion, we have been informed that he ruled that the landmarking was invalid for two reasons. First, the former Historic Preservation Commission was not properly constituted, as a majority of its members' terms had already lapsed. Second, Steven Gucciardo, the chair of the commission, and former councilman Junior Maldonado, were "biased" because they had previously spoken out in favor of the district.

The second rationale is particularly troubling. It essentially says that neither a historic preservation commissioner or city councilman can participate in decision making if they have a history as a citizen advocate. If the city wanted to appoint experts to the commission, such as, say, John Gomez, then he could arguably be disqualified from participating in any meaningful vote because of his long track record in advocating for Jersey City's landmarks. (Of course, there is no limitation on voting for individuals who have taken campaign contributions from Lloyd Goldman or other developers).

In this sense, Justice Gallipoli's ruling is not only a setback to the Powerhouse Arts District, but is a crushing blow to democracy and civic participation.

I would ask that all people act immediately to call the Mayor's Office and their councilmembers (both ward and at large) and asking them to take all steps necessary to protect the district. Specifically, the following steps need to be taken.

1) Ask that the city immediately appeal Judge Gallipoli's ruling and ask for a stay of the ruling.

2) Ask that the city immediately resubmit the landmarking designation for reapproval. Judge Gallipoli did order that Mr. Goldman could not request a permit for demolition until January 1, 2006. The historic preservation commission is now properly constituted (new members were appointed or reappointed over the summer) and can consider the application. However, it is important to act immediately. There is not much time for the landmarking to go through the HPC and the city council (where it needs 2 readings). However, if the city shows that it is acting promptly and in good faith, Judge Gallipoli may require Goldman to hold off further on applying for a demolition permit.

3) Ask that the city immediately take steps to appoint a redeveloper to acquire 111 First Street who is committed to its preservation. The redevelopment plan has not been struck down (at least not yet). While this does not provide historic preservation protection, it does allow the city to appoint a redeveloper. The city has, for months, said that it intends to designate a redeveloper to acquire the Powerhouse and portions of the warehouse district (including 111 First Street). But while there has been a lot of talk, nothing has occurred. Ask that the city make good on its promise to redevelop the district, and to do so in a way that protects the historic landmarks in the district.

Numbers of the Mayor, Councilmembers and their aides are listed below.

Mayor Jeramiah Healy: Tel: (201) 547-5200

Mariano Vega, Jr., Council President (201) 547-5268
Aide: Felipe Rosario (201) 547-5277

Willie Flood, Councilwoman-at-Large (201) 547-5134 Aide: Doris Smith (201) 547-5108

Peter Brennan, Councilman-at-Large (201) 547-5319 Aide: Maureen Bellucci (201) 547-5363

Michael Sottolano, Ward A Councilman (201) 547-5098
Aide: Joe Conte (201) 547-5060

Mary Spinello, Ward B Councilwoman (201) 547-5092
Aide: Sonia Schulman (201) 547-5101

Steve Lipski, Ward C Councilman (201) 547-5159
Aide: Jade Christina Celentano (201) 547-5172

William Gaughan, Ward D Councilman (201) 547-5485 Aide: Bridget Dickson (201) 547-6817

Steven Fulop, Ward E Councilman (201) 547-5315 Aide: Tracy La'Bad (201) 547-5283

Viola Richardson, Ward F Councilwoman (201) 547-5338 Aide: Gwendolyn Agee (201) 547-5361

Thank you all for your assistance in this matter.

Joshua Parkhurst
Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy

Posted on: 2005/11/20 14:40

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