Jersey City’s Zoning Board Rejects Demolition of the Harsimus Stem Embankment

Good news for Jersey City residents who value open-space and historic preservation: a developer’s plan to demolish the half-mile Harsimus Stem Embankment that runs along 6th Street in downtown Jersey City was unanimously rejected by the Zoning Board last night, 5-0.

While developers have often found a welcome home in Jersey City — bringing with them jobs, growth, and even sometimes controversial tax abatements — this time the city board has decided open space is too valuable. Instrumental in making this happen was the Embankment Preservation Coalition, whose members argued their case through 21 separate hearings on the issue over the course of the past year, defending one of the last open spaces available in the city.

A Municipal Landmark, the Embankment is also part of the National Historic districts of Hamilton Park and Harsimus Cove and is on the State Register of Historic Places. As recently as the early ’90s the area was still used for railways, but in the time since wildlife has flourished, making it one of the greener — and unexpected — inner-city parks in Jersey City.

The move is part of recent efforts made by the city to keep its historic districts intact, preferring instead to push development through redevelopment and rehabilitation projects further into the city where it is more welcome and needed, including most recently the McGinley Square East Redevelopment Plan.

“We thank the members of the Zoning Board of Appeals for their service and for listening to almost 100 hours of testimony in 21 meetings over the course of 13 months,” said city spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill. “We appreciate their intelligence, independence and integrity. The City remains steadfast in its determination to preserve the Embankment, which will one day be a world class attraction, similar to or greater than the Highline in Manhattan.”

She added, “The city remains steadfast in its determination to preserve the embankment, which will someday be a world class attraction similar to or greater than the Highline in Manhattan.”

According to the coalition’s website, “The Embankment and streetscape will be a linchpin in a network of walkable, bikeable greenways within the City of Jersey City, and beyond. From north to south along Jersey Avenue, a main boulevard, the Embankment will serve as a midpoint in a series of parks, including Hamilton Park, Van Vorst Park, and Liberty State Park. From east to west, the Embankment will join the Hudson Waterfront Walkway with the Hackensack Meadowlands, via the Bergen Arches.”

Images by Cassandra Wilday, Demetri Sarantitis and Jason Gould

Matt Hunger

is a former staff writer for the Jersey City Independent.