Part 2 - LESSONS LEARNED, 84 JC Trees To Be Cut Down At Society Hill Walkway

This post continues from yesterday - refer to 84 Mature Trees To Be Cut Down At Society Hill


The City’s decision process was not made transparent to residents.  There are however Lessons Learned about 1) PUBLIC ACCESS right of way properties, 2) Non-transparent Residential Development Boards, 3) Civic Participation, 4) JC Trees Ordinance Loophole, and 5) City Officials which may help others who are dedicated to their communities.

1.  Public Access Right of Ways – after years of abstaining their authority to intervene to do tree maintenance and repairs of the Walkway (as stated in the Society Hill Deed reference to ‘common / public spaces”) the City decided to let a DPWA sponsored Engineering Contractor come in to do this privately and charge the residents of Society Hill a hugely expensive sum of money to remediate the public access walkway.  This is a case study in Buyer Beware – if you reside at a private property that is adjoined to public access right of way (walkway, plaza, etc.), you should be concerned with the following –

a.    Since the City negotiates these Developer deals with the intent to sell these public spaces to the community and prospective buyers as an amenity, beware the down the road property maintenance costs that will hit your building development.  The City structures the deal so that all maintenance costs and responsibilities are assumed by that Residential Building Development.  Remember, PUBLIC ACCESS means more wear and tear and an inability to have protective restrictions in place that are typically available to private property owners.  In addition the public spaces can be even more complex structurally than the Society Hill Waterfront Walkway, which opens up other issues beyond tree care. 

b.    If this is the new normal (passing along costs for development and maintenance of public access right of ways to residents) on top of the property taxes we pay, BEWARE!  Officials do not want to assume these responsibilities and Developers / Building Owner Landlords are passing these costs on to residents.  This structures a convoluted agreement whereby issues that come up like what is happening with the Society Hill Walkway & Shelterbelt of Trees, a game of “hot potato” and deal settlements that negate and undermine protective measures like the Tree Ordinance.

c.    While the Society Hill Deed references the City’s authority and ability to jump in if maintenance of “common space” aka the Society Hill Walkway, is not attended to by the Development, with provision to pass along the cost of repairs, maintenance, etc. to the Development, the City has refused to intercede and repair the walkway or maintain the trees.  Given this was their position at Society Hill, they will unlikely do this elsewhere so don’t depend on the City to save the day!   Check the Deed language for clarification of responsibility and ultimate recourse for “common or public spaces” at respective Developments.

d.    .Even though SH1, SH2, DP are private developments, when there is a public access right of way that occupies a portion of private property like the SH walkway, since the city does not want to maintain these public spaces; the burden and frankly legal oversight falls on the private association.  The city should have oversight authority to these public spaces - there are no written guidelines that provide for associations to be overseen by city authorities, so there are no enforcement options for residents, even when public access spaces are the issue.  Anything could go on with any sort of deal making scheme which is not in the best interest of the residents.

2.    Non-transparent Boards - The DPWA neither shared the RFP to remediate the Walkway, nor the contract with Falcon Engineering that was awarded, with residents.  The DPWA closed the walkway last Oct due to repair issues that have been pending for 10 years.  They held the walkway hostage with the closure and with the clock ticking on insurance cancellation for the walkway (City would also be liable) and escalating tensions from residents not having access to their waterfront.  The DPWA refused to meet with residents to discuss alternative solutions and purported to the City that the only way to repair the walkway properly was for all the trees to be removed.

a.    Development Association Boards are tricky and residents should make sure they elect solid board members.  In the case of Society Hill and Droyers Pointe, the DPWA does not operate transparently, e.g., they have not publicly posted their by-laws.  Nor does the DPWA make RFP and service contracts easily accessible to residents for review and scrutiny for financial or other considerations.  Nor do they respond to inquiries and requests.  And in this case, the DPWA has not worked in the best interest or voice of the residents.

3.    Civic Participation - It would seem that petitions (no matter how many signatures) are irrelevant to City Officials.  Similarly, professional assessments from accredited environmental non-profits, and certified arborists can be decidedly overlooked and not even given the respect of a review.  Also, public meetings (such as the July 25th DPWA & Fulop SH resident meeting) that claimed to be an opportunity for ideas to be shared, voices to be heard, and votes to be taken, are often just window dressing rather than an exchange that really matters… in fact, they often are not.

Clearly the backroom deal that was made between City Officials and         Falcon Engineering, funded by the DPWA (who has been against the    maintenance of the trees and was irresponsible on the repairs of the         walkway for the last 10 years), seems to have more power on what   prevails than civic participation in JC.

4.    The Jersey City Tree Ordinance has a LOOPHOLE and in the case of Public Access properties, there is no clarity as to “ownership”, (i.e., is the Development the ‘owner of the property’ or are they ‘an adjoining property owner’ ?)  As an adjoining property owner, allowance is made for removal if “improvements” are required.  Who oversees “improvement requirements” ?  Given this was the guise under which these 84 trees are being removed, “improvements” can seem to mean anything and that decision can be arbitrary. See Section 321-6 of the ordinance.

a.    The Tree Removal Permit Application - the Friends of the Walkway and Sustainable JC were assured the Removal Permit Application Process would protect the majority of the healthy 84 mature trees - clearly that is not the case and it is negotiable and can be a discretionary decision depending on the deal makers who come to the City, even those who favor cutting down trees.

5.            City Officials in past administrations, while not wanting to take on the direct maintenance of these trees and repairs to the Walkway, were very clear that these 84 mature trees did not need to come down and that the DPWA was being negligent, so past Directors of Planning and the DPW issued a written directive, which unfortunately was never complied with, and enforced by current city officials.  This included putting a Maintenance Plan in place which has never been done.  Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a mechanism to enforce mandates such as these or clear guidance for how residents can be in touch with specific City agencies to resolve issues such as this.  In the case of the current administration, DPW / Parks & Forestry, City Planning, Legal and Engineering all weighed in and consistently attested verbally that the new JC Tree Ordinance Permit Requirement for Tree Removal would manage a positive outcome to not remove all these trees, that inspections showing a few of the trees that were dead or dying would require these trees to be removed, and the rest would remain standing as Removal Permits would be denied.  Nothing was ever put in writing by the City to assure this and Friends of the Walkway received only cursory email correspondence from the City, even after expressing concern that the DPWA would not meet with residents.  Meeting with residents was encouraged by the Mayor at his July 25th Town Hall - he publicly suggested for the DPWA to do so.  The punting from one city department to another, and from Mayor Fulop to Councilwoman Ridley, was extraordinary and divisive - private meetings were structured with the various parties to this, facilitated by the City, and never were all parties at the table together.

I It is unfortunate that the City could not effect the bridgework required to resolve matters in a beneficial way to save at least the majority of these trees – there was certainly a lot of window dressing, using the Tree Ordinance as cover, but the decision to cut down these 84 mature Shelterbelt Trees was agreed to offline between the City, DPWA and Falcon Engineering - JC residents and environmental groups were never included at the table.

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Nov 6th City Hall Meeting - Join A Sustainability Team This Fall !

Join A Sustainability Team This Fall !

Come Meet With Us At City Hall Caucus Room #204 on Tues Eve Nov 6th

Networking starts at 6:30pm for :30 minutes and then our meeting starts at 7pm

Choose your passion and work with others on neighborhood projects for Jersey City.  You can either join an existing team or suggest a new initiative you would like to launch. October & November Meetings cover different topics and if you missed October we will have a recap at the start of our November meeting - see graphic and details link below. These are organizing meetings and we will review what SJC has done so far for each topic area and then break out into small groups to plan for next steps and new projects. 

Teamwork gets the job done !

Full Details About The Event Here

RSVP Here Please

See you then and look forward to meeting with you,

Sustainable JC Green Team

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84 Mature Trees To Be Cut Down At Society Hill Walkway - Why Did This Happen ?

October 15, 2018


Jersey City Officials make deal and allow 84 mature trees to be cut down at Society Hill Walkway 

Beware of Jersey City Tree Ordinance Loopholes and Double Talk


After 10 years, 1000+ petition signatures, a written Letter Mandate from past Planning Director Bob Cotter and past DPW / Parks & Forestry Directors Mark Redfield and Rodney Hadley, a Letter of Support from the Jersey City Environmental Commission*, as well as a recent verbal agreement from Director Pat Stamato and Councilwoman Denise Ridley, and even finger wagging from Mayor Fulop citing the new JC Tree Ordinance, a private agreement was apparently made between City Officials and the DPWA (association board for Society Hill & Droyers Pointe) and their contractor Falcon Engineering, to cut down ALL of the 84 mature Shelterbelt of Trees on the public access walkway around Society Hill.  (*Letter Links:

The Shelterbelt of 84 mature London Plane Trees that protected Society Hill properties during Hurricane Sandy, provides estuary wildlife habitat, and provides enormous ecosystem services to Jersey City*, will now be destroyed, under the guise of “needed repairs” to the walkway.  All previous assessments, including those by City Officials, certified arborists and non-profit environmental partners, suggested a cost-effective opportunity for root maintenance and simple walkway repairs that would allow for tree growth and avoidance of tripping hazards.  (*Tree Map Eco System Services Link:

The simpler, less costly, tree-saving approach that was sought by Society Hill and other JC residents was rebuked by the DPWA (Melissa Haley (SH1); Miranda Shirley (SH2); Jenna Campbell (DP)) who refused to meet with residents to review all assessments and distill alternative solutions.  The result benefits Falcon Engineering in the form of a high price services contract to unnecessarily remove healthy trees.

City Officials also benefit as they will no longer be held liable for abdicating their responsibilities to intervene and do the required tree and public access walkway maintenance as dictated by the Society Hill Deed (re: ‘common / public space’ - The City has the authority to jump in if maintenance of “common space” aka the Society Hill Walkway, is not attended to by the Development, and thereafter pass along the cost of repairs, maintenance, etc. to the Development.  The City refused to abide by the deed commitment and intercede to repair the walkway or maintain the trees).  Why did this happen when the City determined that only 15 of the 84 trees needed to be removed?

Why did this become an all or nothing battle, facilitated by the City of Jersey City who decided in favor of destroying all 84 mature trees?  Why did City Officials submit to the DPWA and why are Falcon Engineering business interests being prioritized?


The City’s decision process was unfortunately not made transparent to residents.  There are however Lessons Learned about 1) PUBLIC ACCESS right of way properties, 2) Non-transparent Residential Development Boards, 3) Civic Participation, 4) JC Trees Ordinance Loophole, and 5) City Officials.  These lessons may help others who are dedicated to their communities.  Our Lessons Learned can be found on the Friends of the Walkway website at  or at the petition site ‘SAVE The 84 Mature Shelterbelt of Trees’ 


The Friends of the Walkway would like to thank all the JC residents, and agencies who joined together for environmental advocacy over the last 10 years to keep the Walkway and the Shelterbelt canopy of 84 trees a beautiful and ecologically functioning community asset.  Special thanks to the NJ Tree Foundation and Sustainable Jersey City for their assistance and guidance with tree assessments, and help to generate community awareness about the eco system importance of these mature trees (i.e , hurricane wind buffer, storm water management, cooling from shade, and habitat for all the bird life along this Newark Bay estuary).

The Friends stood and "believed in something" and tried to protect against decisions that would sacrifice these beautiful and important Trees, and for 10 years our environmental protection efforts prevailed.  "The Friends" will continue with future advocacy and civic participation that supports similar efforts by other organizations in our community – because we still BELIEVE in, and will continue to promote, our environment!


Warm regards,

Denise Baily & Vern Carlson

Co-Founders, Friends of the Walkway

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Get To Know Our SJC Green Drinks +ART Sponsors – Sept 5th 2018 @ LITM, 6-9pm


We wanted to write a short post with some reference links about our sponsors, so you get to know more about the terrific work they are doing to make Jersey City greener and more resilient.  Some of their work is close to the ground with building projects they are working on locally and some of their work expands to statewide initiatives and development projects in other countries.


First, Hoboken Brownstone Company, founded in Hoboken in 1980 and headquartered in Jersey City since 2005, HBC has a number of Jersey City projects underway that will create over 2,000 new homes, over three acres of new parks and a significant section of the bike path system under their belt.  As a community centric development company, HBC goes the extra mile to engage community stakeholders in their project initiatives far ahead of finalizing any plans they present to the Planning Board.  Principal George Vallone is also very active in statewide initiatives, having served as President of the NJ Builders Association,  Co-Chair of NJ Future’s Task Force on Green Infrastructure (GI) which produced a NJ Developers’ Guide For GI, and most recently, worked with the US Green Building Council to introduce the RELi Standard ( a new Resiliency Standard for Greener Buildings, Communities and Infrastructure..  


Second, JMA Jorge Mastropietro Atelier is both an architectural studio and development company, most recently completing the 54 Bright Street PASSIVE inspired project.  With offices in Hoboken and Buenos Aires Argentina, he has completed a number of JC projects with advanced energy efficiency, materials re-use and green infrastructure elements as the main of his structural designs.  More about his philosophy and approach here and recent write-up about 54 Bright Street here.


Lastly, as part of SJC’s Good Food Now! initiative, we have had the pleasure to come to know a number of urban farmers in Jersey City.  A new small business called Garden City Grown will be the supplier of Mountain Mint garnish for fabulous concoction our hosts at LITM have developed as specialty green drink for the evening (Basil Vodka, Midori Liqueur, Lemonade & wonderful Sage Infusion by Garden City Grown – yum!).  Jason Biegel has forged a start-up hydroponics operation in The Heights to supply small batch herbal garnishes and infusions (fruits and herbs) for craft drinks at local bars.  New on his list is growing a crop of Thai Basil for the South House specialty drinks menu.

We’re very excited about this upcoming event and the opportunity to bring professionals from all walks, neighbors and artists together.  Sustainability is a cultural conversation and for that to take flight, folks need to meet each other and start talking about What Sustains Us?  Join us on Wednesday evening June 6th downtown at LITM, 6-9pm, for some relaxed conversation -  let’s get to know one another 😊

@LITMJC  @HobokenbrownstoneCo  @jorgemastropietroatelier  @gardencitygrown #LITMJC  #SustainableJC  #SJCGreenDrinks +ART  #Sustainable  #JersecyCity  #HomeGrown

Read both our Mission Statement & Charter (sign-on!) And complete the updated Welcome Survey

SAVE THE DATE - Wed Sept 5th 6-9pm SJC Green Drinks +ART

Join Us If You Can @LITMJC 140 Newark Ave for evening of socializing other folks interested in making Jersey City a cleaner, greener and more sustainable city. 

Your first drink is on us, while comps last !

$5 Suggested Donation - RSVP here

Enjoy those last lazy days of our August Summer and hope to see you then ~


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