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Tax Abatement, Affordable Housing Pass in Jersey City, but PLA’s Go Unenforced Some Say

The well-known O'dea

The well-known O’dea

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In Jersey City, NJ the city council had taxes, Project Labor Agreements, and housing affordability in its crosshairs ahead of a vote in favor of an abatement for an affordable housing unit expected to bring jobs to the city.  According to Earl Morgan, who writes a weekly column for

A flock of mostly minority construction trade workers filled the City Council chambers to urge passage of an 852-unit residential housing project seeking a 25-year tax abatement. It was approved by the council but not before a spirited discussion ensued among council members.

The project was approved 7-2 with Ward C Councilman Richard Boggiano as usual voting no as he routinely does against abatements. Ward D Councilman Michael Yun also voted against the project, declaring that the deal is structured more for the benefit of the developer, Forest City, than the municipality.

Most of the supporters on the council cited the construction jobs and the promise of 172 affordable housing units included in the development as influencing their vote.

The debate led Downtown Councilwoman Candice Osborne to claim that she doesn’t want her district to become a “haven for the affluent,” instead insisting she prefers middle- to low-income residents.  Councilman Yun, who voted against the abatement, suggested the rents are too (damn) high to be considered “affordable.”  According to Yun:

Those affordable apartments will rent starting at about $1,300 a month and more. “Why not make the rents $870 or $670 a month to be affordable?”

Also speaking at the meeting was Pat Kelleher, president of The Hudson County Building and Construction Trades Council, who supports the abatement but notes that many of his workers are out of work despite Jersey City’s recent construction boom.

”I’m told, when I ask that they can’t find skilled workers in Jersey City to fill the jobs.  Through ‘Impact,’ a program started by myself and Freeholder Bill O’Dea, we have trained a number of workers in all facets of building trades …”

Freeholder O’Dea stole the show when he pointed out that Project Labor Agreements — important contracts fought for by building trades unions to protect wages, safety standards, and local hire — are not being obeyed because there is currently nobody on staff to monitor them.  He said that this was the main cause of city workers being left out of projects: 

O’Dea said he knows developers who haven’t submitted paperwork to the office of PLA compliance since 2007. When he asked who is currently in charge of compliance there was no immediate response from the council or the various city department heads who were present. When Councilman Yun mentioned former Governor Jim McGreevey who the city hired to head the compliance office, the city’s business administrator said McGreevey is no longer a city employee.

When no answer to his question was forthcoming O’Dea said, “I rest my case.”


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