A man arrives in Jersey City in 1968, having recently moved from the Midwest. From the city’s shores, he looks across the Hudson at New York and thinks, “My God. This is a stone’s throw from across the river. This should be, like, full of development.”
This man is Thomas Mansheim, an associate professor in the Sociology and Urban Studies Department of Saint Peter’s University.
“What I learned, of course, over the years is that Hudson County has its own political culture,” Mansheim, a resident of Glenwood Avenue, said. “Developers are interested in basically one thing, and that is: Can I make money?”
While Mansheim did mention some potential benefits developing McGinley Square could have, he also posed some qualms about the way in which Sora Development and City Hall have handled the plans. And his colleague in the Sociology Department, Dr. Donal Malone, agrees.
“My biggest concern is that the college was not involved in the planning of this development,” said Malone. “It’s a community project, and the community and I was disappointed that we weren’t one of the players that helped design the project.”
According to Malone, community-based urban planning, through which community members and developers work together to reach mutually beneficial agreements, would have proven preferable for the McGinley Square Area. However, he does recognize some good in the project.
“I did learn and was happy to hear that the developer has said that 20 percent of the housing will be set aside as affordable housing,” he said. “That term has not been defined in terms of the income of the households that would be eligible for it.”
Gentrification, to me…well, is a very emotionally laden term, and to me it’s a negative term. What it means is a number of venues coming in, which raise the cost of living within a certain area, which force the traditional population out of the area.
Dr. David Surrey, Professor of Sociology & Urban Studies and Chair of the Department at Saint Peter’s University
However another concern that both Malone and Mansheim addressed is the looming threat of gentrification.
“Gentrification, to me…well, is a very emotionally laden term, and to me it’s a negative term,” Dr. David Surrey, Chair of the Department Sociology and Urban Studies at Saint Peter’s University, said. “What it means is a number of venues coming in, which raise the cost of living within a certain area, which force the traditional population out of the area.”
Gentrification has been growing concern among sociologists since the 1950s.
While all three professors think that Saint Peter’s Tower has the potential to be a great asset to Saint Peter’s University, they also agree that pushing out the traditional residents in favor of wealthier, newer residents could prove detrimental for the McGinley Square community as a whole.
“It’s unfortunate that we’re giving public tax dollars towards building mainly luxury housing that is unaffordable to most of the city residents not only in the McGinley square area,” Malone said. “But across the city most residents can’t afford these units.”
Surrey believes that neglecting the concerns of the local community could even infringe on the Jesuit mission of Saint Peter’s University.
“What’s always been wonderful about Saint Peter’s is the population that we serve, and this seems contradictory to helping that population,” he said.