JERSEY CITY, NJ - To the sounds of back hoes and scraping of stone, Mayor Steven Fulop joined members of the community to break ground on the city’s first all-encompassing public safety headquarters on Wednesday.
The project is part of an extensive municipal complex on the south side of Jersey City and will bring thousands of jobs to MLK Drive.
The 11-story building will be the fourth municipal building constructed since 2015 serving the Jackson Square (formerly the Hub) section of the city and is part of an effort to bring people and business into the areas.
The $120 million Public Safety HQ represents the latest part of the $200 million investment that Jersey City has made to complete the new offices that have been constructed at Jackson Square as the new home for several city departments and divisions including Health and Human Services, Housing Preservation, HEDC, JC Employment and Training, and now Public Safety. Construction for the new Public Safety HQ is expected to be completed in 2022.
Phase 1 of the Jackson Square Hub opened in the Fall 2018, with the first two buildings including the City’s newly established Division of Affordable Housing, the Department of Housing, Economic, Development, and Commerce, as well as Health and Human Services.
“When I took office, the City of Jersey City was renting office space in random separate buildings along the waterfront. It made very little sense,” said Mayor Fulop. “I decided that we can do better. So, we started to build a municipal complex on the south side of the city that would be state-of-the-art, it would be near mass transit to be easily accessible to everyone in the city, it would have all city services in one place, and it would bring thousands of jobs to an area that needs the investment. That is exactly what we have achieved.”
The Public Safety building will be the tallest within the new Civic Center, with 11 floors of municipal offices, conference rooms, and a Communications Center which includes 9-1-1 Dispatch. Jersey City’s first-ever Police and Fire Recruitment Center will also be established in conjunction with a brand new police and fire museum designed for educational school visits to provide students with information about both departments and empower Jersey City’s youth to consider a future career as a first responder.
Ward F Councilman Jermaine Robinson said the original proposal was for five stories. “But I knew that was not going to be enough,” he said. “The Annex was filled up from the start.”
“I thought the community might mind this tall of a building, but as I went around the community, they embraced it. They want it here.”
The 120,000 square foot building will also be the new home of the City’s Community Court and Parking Enforcement Division. All of Jersey City’s Police and Fire operations and leadership personnel will be relocated including Fire Prevention, Parking Enforcement, Special Investigations Unit, Gun Permits, Records Room, Traffic Programming, City Command, and more. The JCPD offices will also produce a constant cycle of police presence 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“This is a win for Ward F residents and the City at large,” said Robinson. “I worked closely with the Mayor to get this done because I knew it will have a positive impact for decades to come for Ward F. This investment will reinvigorate our area to boost the local economy and help push crime further down.”
Robinson said the building and complex would bring more people to the area and will help support local businesses.
Nearby is the U.S Post Office, the mall that includes a bank, a McDonalds, and other local businesses. Robinson said the community is concerned with safety and so are businesses that operate. Fulop said the city has struggled to get businesses and banks to stick in the area.
In one case, a pizzeria was scheduled to open, and on the day they were start there was as shooting in the area. The pizzeria never opened.
“Relocating our dispatch operations will rework our 9-1-1 call system to eliminate steps, resulting in faster emergency services and response times where every second counts,” said Public Safety Director James Shea. “We continue to examine and identify ways we can improve upon our crime reduction strategies - which has resulted in historical decreases in crime and nationally recognized emergency response times - and we expect these newly streamlined operations to contribute even more.”
The City will save $350,000 per year on rent for the current Police Department Headquarters in Journal Square. The City will also be able to sell Fire Headquarters, South Street Fire Union Offices, and the Gong Club for a total estimated revenue of $30 million. At the same time, these properties will go back on the tax rolls every year, not only for the city budget but also contributing to the school budget.
“With every Jackson Square building we start construction on, we're expanding upon the Administration’s pledge to keep moving development to the areas most in need of economic revitalization,” said Council President Joyce Watterman. “This is a major investment in Ward F.”
The project also makes use of local minority contractors.
“I’ve lived here for five decades,” said Bernard Shivers, owners of Bee’s Construction. “The mayor from day one said he would work towards this, and he has.”
This will improve the business in the area, said former Councilwoman Michele Massey, who currently serves as executive director of the Jackson Hill Special Improvement District.
“This is serious. This is major. This will bring a lot of people to the area,” she said.
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