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Re: Vacant Spaces: Stories Behind the Empty Buildings that Dot the Landscape in Jersey City
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The factory on Oakland ave is not vacant. It does have tenants. But it is mostly for warehousing. The owners have applied for and have been granted variances to turn the place into market rate rentals / condos. I have been told though, that they are having trouble getting financing.

Posted on: 2012/7/9 18:06
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Vacant Spaces: Stories Behind the Empty Buildings that Dot the Landscape in Jersey City
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Lets see how long this post will stay up b4 its deleted and reposted by someone else.

his story appears in the Summer 2012 issue of NEW Magazine.

Interviews by Jennifer Weiss and Brooke Hansson

We?ve all seen the empty shells on the skyline or the street corner: The house where nobody lives, the factory where nobody works.

Jersey City is full of vacant buildings. Some are the ghosts of its manufacturing past; others, remnants of families? more recent struggles.

While some sections of the city have more than others, there are vacant properties in every neighborhood, says Mark Redfield, who works in housing code enforcement and leads Mayor Jerramiah Healy?s Quality of Life Task Force. ?Almost every neighborhood councilman has had to deal with the quality of life issues that surround them,? from the grass not being cut, to squatters moving in, to worse, he says. ?If you drive up and down the streets and just pay attention, you?ll be surprised how many vacant buildings there are.?

In March, the city embarked on an ambitious count and registration effort that resulted in a list of about 840 vacant buildings. Most are residential ? more people complain about vacant houses because they?re usually closer to home and more of a nuisance. Fifty-six properties are considered abandoned, meaning, among other things, that they have been vacant for more than six months and have caused problems in the community.

An ordinance adopted this fall created a $250 registration fee for vacant lots that increases to $500 the following year, an incentive to owners to do something with the lots. Redfield estimates the city spends about $100,000 a year looking after these properties, but says registration efforts have added $110,000 to the city?s coffers.

Once buildings are on the list, owners can be contacted more quickly if problems arise. What happens next is anybody?s guess. Some buildings languish for years. Some are sold; old factories and warehouses in particular may be converted into housing.

The key, says Mindy Fullilove, a professor of psychiatry and public health at Columbia University formerly of Jersey City who now lives in West Orange, is to support neighborhoods in a such a way that they prosper ? and that changes benefit all residents, not just some.

?Neighborhoods should make the plans and the cities should support them by making sure the neighborhoods get investment,? she says.

But for now, most of the hundreds of vacant buildings in town are sitting and waiting for something to happen ? as are their neighbors.

Factory at Pine and Johnston

The warehouse on Johnston Avenue between Pine and Monitor streets sports a ?Kid PK? graffiti tag and rows of rectangular candy-colored glass. Panes are broken and some are missing in spots; on one section, ?Loser? is painted in bright bubble letters.

?Every time I come out, I take a peek at it,? says Brian Mills, 21, who lives across the street on Pine. He says it?s looked like this ? falling apart ? since he moved in six years ago.

A fence around the property has seen better days, and the dry, grassy ground is pock-marked with trash: chip bags, drink cups, an empty box of cigarettes. A few old shipping containers sit in the yard.

Nearby is a convenience store, a small park with a basketball court and the new Liberty Townhomes complex, with its sign out front promising location, elegance and affordability.

Mills has seen possums and raccoons, which have approached the apartment he rents with his family. He guesses they live on the grounds.
He?d like to see a park go in where the warehouse sits. ?Something better than this,? he says. ?It looks kind of bad. I try not to pay too much attention to it. I just wonder when they?re going to knock it down.?

Cylinders at Bramhall Avenue and Van Horne Street

The set of cylindrical structures at Bramhall Avenue and Van Horne Street are like something out of a post-apocalyptic fairy tale. There?s a small window at the top of one of the towers, which are old concrete coal tanks.

Looking up at them, you half expect a zombie Rapunzel to let down her hair. On a city insurance map, the tanks are labeled ?McConnell Coal Co. Coal Yard,? a coal company in Jersey City since at least the 1920s. The tanks likely went up between the ?30s and ?50s.

Nearby there?s a blue building covered with graffiti scrawls ? ?bang bang,? someone wrote in black, and ?murder game.?

Gilberto ?Tito? Vasquez, 52, lives a stone?s throw from the structure and was recently repairing a wooden fence that separates his property from the vacant lot next door. He says it gets bad sometimes, especially during the summer ? people will drive up, park their cars and have sex. The police come.

?Of course it would be different if it was fixed up,? he says.

He raised his four boys here and does not plan to leave anytime soon. What would he like to live next door to instead?

?Something nice, a building or whatever,? he says, particularly since his taxes have gone up more than fourfold since he moved in. ?It would be better for this area.?

2456 John F. Kennedy Blvd.

The Victorian mansion on John F. Kennedy Boulevard at Gifford Avenue must have been a real beauty in its younger days. It sits on a block dotted with several grand houses, and was once an Orthodox synagogue, according to local resident Eugene Garrow, 76.

?I just don?t want to see more vandalism,? says Garrow, who has lived on the block since the ?60s and often passes by with his two cocker spaniels. ?The place requires a great deal of interior and exterior work to make it anything.?

Factory in the Heights

The massive building on Oakland Avenue between Laidlaw and Jefferson in the Heights was once an industrial laundry. Nicholas Rivera, a 30-year-old dad who lives nearby, says it?s been vacant for years ? and that if he had millions, he?d turn it into a Boys and Girls Club. ?This neighborhood is jam-packed with youth who really have nothing to do after school,? Rivera says. ?The kids are always out here playing, but they don?t really have anything to do? The potential this building has, it would be incredible.?

But barring that, he?d take a business ? any business ? of some kind.

?It looks like it?s just rotting,? he says. ?Hopefully it?ll at least open up some jobs or employment.?

25 Crescent Avenue

Years ago, a man climbed up the side of the house at 25 Crescent and stripped the turret of its copper, says Mary, who is in her mid-50s and has lived across from the house for more than a decade.

Mary runs a community garden on the corner of Crescent and Clinton, and says she?d rather see a community center there; the house, which has been vacant almost the entire time she?s been there, attracts rats.

?It?s a real eyesore,? she says. ?There?s no place for our kids to go outside of the Boys and Girls Club, which is Downtown and too far away.?

Billiards Hall on Fulton

?This area didn?t always look like this,? says Michele Moreland, 52. ?That old Billiards Hall use to be called A Touch of Class. It was a bar and we would hang out and shoot pool, and my cousins would play music there every weekend. It was really, really nice.?

The big vertical sign for the billiards hall has long since faded. Windows are boarded up and an awning has long since come down.
When she walks by the hall now, Moreland remembers the good times she had there.

?The drinks were cheap and the crowd was mature,? she says. ?I?d like to see it opened back up again. There?s really no place to go around here. We need a nice place for mature people to be able to hang out and listen to some music.?

Old Monticello Theater

The red building with angled white accents on its facade was once the Monticello Theater. Jeanette Daniels, in her 60s and a lifelong resident of Greenville, remembers it as grand.

?My mother would take us there on Sundays after church,? she says. ?I used to see all the old movies there.?

?We used to have so much here,? she adds. ?It?s a shame that it shut down. It?s a shame that we can?t keep going with our history ? it just stops and there?s nothing happening anymore.?

Daniels says she hopes the building can be restored. ?When I see it, it makes me really, really sad,? she says.

St. John?s Episcopal Church

The grand church on Summit Avenue and Fairview is a crumbling beauty.

Owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, it was once the heart of the community, according to Dennis Doran, a resident of Summit Avenue for more than 40 years.

?It was run by the local community,? Doran says. ?It was our center ? our headquarters for community events. Our walking tours would begin and end there with an organ concert and refreshments? So the loss of this church has been deeply felt, the whole community was impacted.? Doran says the church was one of the most beautiful in the city, with Tiffany glass and a nickname ? the millionaire?s church ? because of all the ?movers and shakers of Jersey City? who would attend.

Doran says he would like to see anything happen to the church that could save it. It has so far avoided the wrecking ball but has yet to become something productive.

?Even having housing there would be great,? Doran says. ?There was talk of it becoming a restaurant. That would be fine too.?http://www.jerseycityindependent.com/ ... landscape-in-jersey-city/" rel="noopener external" title="">JCI

Posted on: 2012/7/9 17:51
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