The West Side Story

Taken by Krystal Nurse
Taken by Krystal Nurse

By Krystal Nurse and Yasleen Trinidad

The Bayfront Project is a massive redevelopment plan spanning from Route 440 to West Side Avenue in Jersey City. The plan includes 8,100 residential units, 1 million square feet of office space, and 23 acres of open land. The project is set to be completed by 2043. With construction starting shortly, some people are excited for the new attraction, while others are not.

The Inevitable Change: Gentrification on West Side Avenue

With Honeywell International reconstructing the Bayfront area and NJCU expanding their west side campus, West Side area is on its way to become Jersey City’s next hotspot.

Some local business owners, like Leidy Peralta, owner of Yahaira’s Hair Creation, are excited about the redevelopment coming to once forgotten area.

Located on the corner of West Side and Stegman, Peralta’s salon, is directly across the street from where New Jersey City University’s expansion and the Bayfront Project’s renovation will occur.

“I’m excited about the changes coming. I have lived in Jersey City all of my life and I think it will be good for business and the community,” said Peralta. “As a business woman, I want to grow and want to provide my kids with a better future. I feel like the changes will help my business grow.”

Peralta, who has been renting out the location for almost four years, states that over the years, she has seen an increase in clientele due to the growing interest in the west side area. Based on the demographics, the population in the west side has increased 48% from 13,511 to 19,928 in the past three years.

Infographic by Yasleen Trinidad

But for many others in the neighborhood, the increase in population and interest brings the concern of gentrification. They don’t want a repeat of what happened to the downtown area a decade ago.  During that time, many low-income families and small businesses were displaced.
With the average rent in Downtown being over $3,000 a month for a one bedroom apartment, according to data provided by Rent Jungle, it has some people worried.

Director of Jersey City’s Office of Innovation, Brian Platt, addressed these concerns.

“One of the challenges that businesses face is increasing rents as new development comes,” said Platt. “It’s a good thing for businesses because more people on the streets means more customers.”

Platt also states that the Office of Innovation is facing the challenges brought by gentrification by providing resources such as loans and free development courses to help local business owners gain success.

Residents like Agustina Solano, who has lived in Jersey City for the past 25 years, has mixed feelings about the redevelopment plans for the area.

“When I first came to this country, one of the very first experiences I had was having dinner in a restaurant that was there [in the  Bayfront area]. It was sad to see that get torn down,” said Solano.

Although Solano misses what used to be in the Bayfront area, she is happy about the streets becoming safer.

“I have six grandchildren who I worry for. I know once they finish building, it will be safer for them,” states Solano.

One of the most highly criticized issues with gentrifying a neighborhood is creating a safer environment for the wealthier newcomers instead of the working class residents.

Although the crime rate drops once the neighborhood undergoes gentrification, the minority population decreases as most residents can no longer afford to live in those communities, according to City-Data.

According to the Associate Director of Graduate Business Programs at Saint Peter’s University, Mark Lovenson, “When big companies come in, the tax bases change and run up the price of everyone else’s tax base.” He continued, “When people can’t afford to live in the community anymore, it creates an exodus, where the only way to get into that local establishment is to have a certain level of income.”

Before Jersey City’s downtown area underwent gentrification, 18% of residents were working class blacks. Now, only 9% remain while the caucasian population saw a 10% increase. With New Yorkers looking across the bay for a cheaper living alternative, the rest of the city can expect the same fate.

“There are two sides to it. It’s great because it’s going to build up the local population, but, the question is, what is going to happen to the people already living here,” asked Lovenson.

The Bayfront Project: Concerns from Environmentalists

“As construction is getting ready to begin, one of Jersey City’s biggest projects is at the center of discussion for environmentalists who are looking for answers now.

The Bayfront Project is a massive redevelopment plan which includes 8,100 residential units, 23 acres of open land, and a million square feet of office space. The land that the project is being built on, however, has 100 acres of chromium contamination….” Continue reading the rest of the story here.

EPA air quality index report