As American urban centers attract investment and people, development may lead to the destruction of historic properties. Aiming to maximize profits, real estate developers may purchase a property–sometimes historic–demolish it, and erect cheap, nondescript housing. Local zoning ordinances may permit and even encourage such building practices.
This practice is known as “teardown” or “teardowns.” Unfortunately, teardowns are far too common throughout Jersey City.
Working with local neighborhood groups, JC Landmarks has mobilized citizens against this practice. Partnering with the Riverview Neighborhood Association and the Lincoln Park/West Bergen Neighborhood Association, JC Landmarks defeated proposed changes to the zoning code that would have encouraged further teardowns in districts classified as “R1.”
Subsequently, the Jersey City Planning Department proposed and the city council enacted a preservation-friendly “R1A” zoning category, preventing the subdivision of large property parcels in several neighborhoods, such as Greenville and West Bergen. The legislation saved several historic houses slated for demolition.
Nonetheless, the teardown problem persists. To combat this citywide issue, JC Landmarks proposes the following policies for the city government:
- Pursue municipal historic designation for eligible neighborhoods. Historic designation provides the strongest protection against demolition.
- Expand the “R1A” zoning to all neighborhoods.
- Strengthen enforcement by fining and issuing stop-work orders and criminal penalties for building violations.
- Require compliance with appropriate design standards for infill housing, ensuring that such housing is compatible with a neighborhood’s historic character.