Jersey City residents living across the street from construction on Orient Avenue voiced hopes and concerns about the deep changes new development is bringing to their neighborhood. It’s already pressuring renters and homeowners in the historic Bergen-Lafayette area.
“We ain’t getting moved out, we getting bought out. And some people are getting kicked out because they can’t afford the prices now,” said Jersey City resident Troy Morris.
“Probably a little harassment or whatever, you know, as far as wanting to sell their houses or stuff like that. Not necessarily pushing. But the rent is high,” said resident Charmain Small.
“We can come together as a community and work with the development and not let them push us out. You know? We just got to take a stand and come together,” said Paosha, another Jersey City resident.
The concern is not lost on city officials, who Wednesday snipped the ribbon on a new Jersey City Housing Services complex. It’s part of a $188 million suite of municipal development that’s expected to kick-start a transformation in Bergen-Lafayette. It’s an older neighborhood, replete with vacant houses and empty lots, that sits worlds apart from the so-called Wall Street West of Jersey City’s glittering waterfront. The renaissance is taking a little longer in that section of the city.
“Sometimes people said it was unsafe, sometimes people said there was not enough foot traffic,” Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop said. “There’s no reason that you need to be going to the waterfront if you’re looking to do economic development in Jersey City. There’s tremendous bone structure to these buildings here in Ward F, in Ward A in Ward C. […] And when you look forward three, four, five years, this area will be very, very, very different.”
“Yeah, the rents are rising and what we’re doing is bringing the services right here to the community to make sure that we have an eye, we have an eagle eye, on exactly what’s going on in this community,” said Jersey City Councilman Jermaine Robinson.
City officials anticipate hundreds of affordable housing units in a project called Canal Crossing that’s expected to rise on empty acres along Garfield Avenue. That’s still on the drawing board. Meanwhile, the new offices will combine services for section 8, landlord-tenant and senior housing issues. It’s a first for Jersey City.
“This office will be one central location that will solve anybody’s issues on housing,” Fulop said.
But the city’s also trying to create fertile ground for local entrepreneurs. Four new temporary pop-up shops along Martin Luther King Drive fashioned from former shipping containers offer small businesses a chance to grow in Bergen-Lafayette.
“Downtown, where you have the high-rises and the waterfront, of course, it’s a no-brainer — have a business there. But there are people here who work, who live in the city, and shop as well and they want to have diverse businesses up here,” said Nia Reid-Allen, owner of Myrtle and Flossie.
The city’s also planning a public safety complex that residents hope will not only renovate the neighborhood, but also help stabilize it, as well.