Jersey City Mayor Makes Changes to Tax Abatement Program, Appointment Process

Jersey City has used incentives to transform its waterfront, but now Mayor Steven Fulop wants to shift some of that attention to the inner part of the city. He also told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he hopes to reduce crime and increase transparency with appointments.

Fulop explained that his administration has structured an aggressive tax abatement program to entice development and investment from New York into Jersey City to create jobs away from the waterfront and into the inner portion of the city. “There’s still some incentives for the waterfront. We’re not gonna stop that entirely because that’s been the backbone to some of Jersey City’s progress but we want to see it move into the inner part of the city,” he said.

According to Fulop, the program is heavily skewed toward commercial entities to attract jobs from New York to Jersey City. “On the residential side, it tiers it based on where you’re developing and the areas are based on income from the census,” he said.

Fulop said the city is looking for market rate on residential builds and there are incentives to create affordable housing, hire Jersey City labor and hire minorities. “It’s structured in a very clear way. What was there before was just depending on what lawyer or architect you hire, you make a deal with whoever’s in office and you hope for the best,” he said.

The state comptroller has said Jersey City gives too many breaks. Fulop said he agrees that the previous system didn’t have a clear process and it depended on the lawyer and architect hired and how they could negotiate. “What this is gonna do is it’s gonna create clear incentives to go into areas that abatements were intended to be used for. So I think in a couple years when you revisit Jersey City and its abatement policy, people will say that we used them shrewdly, wisely and aggressively,” he said.

Violence has plagued Jersey City. The most recent event involved 30 shots fired at a group of people on a street. “In order to get investment and dollars into any neighborhood, you gotta make it safe. That’s the first thing you gotta do,” Fulop said.

Fulop hopes new Public Safety Director James Shea will help the city turn a corner on the crime front. “We have a new class in the police department. We’re hiring another class. We have more outreach to the minority community to make sure the police department reflects the diversity in Jersey City. We’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing,” he said. “I think in a limited time you’ll see the crime situation turning as well.”

The way appointments are made is also changing. Fulop said he’s trying to make the process more inclusive with the city council and the public on vetting appointments. “It’s more transparent. There’s more lead time. There’s an opportunity to interview the candidates. That’s not just shoving these names for political purposes down the council’s throat,” he said. “We’re giving them two months lead time in each of those appointments. We’re outlining why we’re appointing them, resumes, etc.”

Some items will be completed by executive order, including for police and tax abatements, according to Fulop. “The appointments, I mean I have a lot of flexibility on it, but we want to be inclusive,” he said.