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Journal Square Through an Ethnographic Lens A Case of a Suspended Place

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J O U R N A L S Q U A R E T H R O U G H AN ETHNOGRAPHIC LENS
A Case of a Suspended Place
by
Eric M. Friedman
October 2009
Submitted to the New School for Social Research of the New School in partial
fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Dissertation Committee:
Dr. Terry Williams
Dr. Vera Zolberg
Dr. Elzbieta Matynia
UMI Number: 3447875
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Eric Friedman: Journal Square through an Ethnographic Lens
Abstract:
Drawing on two years of fieldwork conducted from May, 2007 to April, 2009
in Jersey City, New Jersey, a rapidly changing city in the northeastern United States,
this dissertation employs ethnographic methods and techniques to explore the
production and reproduction of culture and meaning in Journal Square, a diverse
neighborhood and a public plaza that was once a culture capital for the New York
City region. Since its glory days from the 1920's through the 1950's, the area fell into
a long period of decline and even blight. Stakeholders have initiated a variety of
plans for the neighborhood's revitalization; however, no measure has succeeded in
restoring the vibrancy and appeal of Journal Square's former era. It remains what I
call a suspended place.
A series of formal and informal interviews reveal the existence of a
redevelopment discourse and several counter discourses. They also illuminate how
the community and the enduring idea of Journal Square are reproduced over time.
The interview texts, the fieldnotes created during participant observation in Journal
Square (the central plaza and the neighborhood), and the photographic images, are
presented for what they reveal about shared meaning, belonging, social cohesion,
power, and conflict, during a liminal period just at the edge of substantial social and
morphological urban change. Although numerous case studies exist on public
squares, and more generally on a form of urban change known as gentrification, no
other study to date has focused on Journal Square, grounding the analysis in social
and sociological theory that reaches outside of the gentrification literature.
©
2009
Eric M. Friedman
Acknowledgements
First and foremost I would like to thank all of the participants in this project for
sharing your time, your memories, and your hopes with me. My sincere gratitude
goes out to my dissertation committee chair, Dr. Terry Williams, for his guidance
over the last several years at the New School. His unique teaching style has
profoundly transformed the ways in which I experience the world. I am also deeply
indebted to my other committee members, Drs. Elzbieta Matynia and Vera Zolberg,
for their encouragement and willingness to share their time and wisdom with me. I
especially want to thank John O'Hara, a former student and a budding sociologist, for
his assistance throughout the project - he spent numerous hours in the Jersey Room
of the Jersey City Public Library on behalf of the project and he assisted me with a
host of technical issues. And thank you to my family, Barbara, Gabe, and Dan, for
supporting me in ways too numerous to mention. Last, but not least, I want to
acknowledge the inspiration that Drs. Robin Nagle, Tom DeZengotita, Eugene
Cittadino, and the late Dorothy Nelkin from the Draper Program at New York
University instilled in me during my three years under their tutelage.
iv
Table of Contents
Acknowledgements
iv
List of Figures
vi
Chapter 1
Introduction
Notes on Methodology
1
35
Chapter 2
Historical Context
Beginnings
Glory Days
The Right to Assemble
The 1940's
Decline
49
49
55
58
61
63
Chapter 3
Scenes and Interviews
Arriving
Interview, Scott Harwood
Interview, Bret Schundler
Interview, Stuart Koperweis
The Old Loew's Theater: Grassroots
Resistance in a City Center
Interview, Robert Antonicello
Interview, Jerry Milsap
Open Forum: Public Presentation of the
Journal Square Vision Plan
Interview, Nancy Caamano
Winter Clean Up
Interview Steve Lipski
Steve Lipski returns
Brienne Guirantes
Monthly Meeting of the
Magnolia Avenue Block Association
Interview, Joseph Panepinto
A follow-up visit to Scott Harwood's Office
70
70
72
79
85
Reflections
Postscript: Walking with Ben Dineen
164
169
Chapter 4
Bibliography
Appendix
90
98
104
109
118
123
127
133
137
145
152
161
172
Table of Agencies
179
List of Figures
1. The benches.
Page 2
2. Sitting on the ledges.
Page 3
3. Map showing proximity to New York City.
Page 8
4. Crowd of European immigrants at the historic Loew's theater.* Page 11
5. Frank, the newspaper salesman.
Page 12
6. Parade in the square: 1950.*
Page 14
7. Passing by the homeless.
Page 15
7a. The homeless in their space.
Page 16
8. The Loew's theater.
Page 17
9. Buses in the square.
Page 19
10. Beyond the traditional conception of the square: the redevelopment area.** Page 23
11. Journal Square as laymen understand it.
Page 24
12. Reading a newspaper.
Page 25
13. Telling a story.
Page 25
14. Security ambassadors.
Page 26
15. Billboard advertising luxury housing.
Page 29
16. Elks Club.
Page 31
17. Clown with balloons.
Page 34
18. The Sevilla Apartments.
Page 37
19. Box left in fountain.
Page 46
20. Willkie in the Square.
Page 62
21. Store will close.
Page 71
22. Colin Egan restoring the Loew's theater.
Page 93
23. One Journal Square, a mixed-use development. Page 114
24. Volunteers for a winter clean up.
Page 126
25. Private space of automobile / public space of square. Page 162
26. Cover, 1951 city plan.
Page 168
27. Courtyard.
Page 171
28. Gargoyles.
Page 171
* Courtesy of the Jersey City Public Library **Courtesy of the Hudson County
Division of Planning
Chapter 1: Introduction
Communitas
of structure,
structure, in
structure, in
breaks in through the intersices
in liminality; at the edge of
marginality; and from beneath
inferiority.
- Victor Turner
Journal Square in Jersey City, New Jersey, is the name of a lively public
square and plaza, as well as the diverse neighborhood that surrounds the square, a
major transportation hub that links New Jersey to New York City, a revitalizing retail
center, and importantly, the name of a human community and an enduring idea. This
idea is real and palpable, and it travels through the daily life and thoughts of the
planners, developers, elected officials, and ordinary community members that I
interviewed during the course of this qualitative research project.
Journal Square today is the place to go; most of the time it is abuzz with all
sorts of human and social activity. The ongoing drama of symbolic interaction and
exchange occurs in every corner and recess of this urban place. Staff members from
the local community college, nurses from the local clinics, and auto-repair men from
Midas Muffler drop in at Sunny's, Boulevard Drinks, Kennedy Fried Chicken, and
numerous other popular eateries for coffee, eggs, buttered rolls and lunch. The poor
and the destitute wait at the door of Dunkin' Donuts, some of them having spent the
night in the square. Alcoholics and drug addicts fill the benches around the
transportation center, spending long stretches of time alone or socializing with friends
(see figure 1). Office workers take their coffee in the plaza, sitting on the ledges
around the central kiosk, watching the commuters walking by (see figure 2). Older
1
men lean against the railings at the top of the busy PATH station escalators and watch
the people down below who unknowingly perform for them. And panhandlers
whisper incessantly to passers-by, 'spare some change?' It is a crossroads, a passthrough as well as a destination. And those who come here are as diverse as the
entire nation itself: Indian, Irish, African American, Eastern European, Egyptian,
Puerto Rican, Filipino, and many others. By carrying out this research, I came to
understand many of the ways in which the square continues to play a meaningful role
in the lives of these varied people.
Fig. 1
Originally created as a first-class business and cultural center in the decade
before the Great Depression, the square boasted some of the country's largest and
most ornate theaters, landmark office buildings, as well as a shopping and restaurant
district second to none in New Jersey. It was the site for scores of political and
cultural spectacles, open-air rallies, and more than one battle over the basic tenets of
2
free speech and the right to peacefully assemble. For decades, the open "civic
space"1 of Journal Square was the preferred location to make important political
appearances; Franklin D. Roosevelt, Wendell L. Willkie, and others announced their
campaigns in a packed Journal Square to tens of thousands of supporters. Yet in the
later decades of the twentieth century the square struggled to maintain its identity in
the face of what Hutchison (1992) has called "the almost incomprehensible... process
of spatial restructuring" that effectively decentralized many central cities' populations
and economic activities to the suburbs.
As Karp, Stone, and Yoels explained in Being Urban: A Sociology of City
Life, ".. .people do not live in their immediate environment; rather, they live in their
interpretations of their environments" (1991, p. 12). Essentially I have observed and
interpreted acts, activities, and symbolic interactions, and primarily I have
1
See Goodsell (1988) for a study of spaces accommodating "performance of political rituals before
audiences" (xv). Importantly, Goodsell studies interior spaces as well, focusing on city council
chambers and courthouses where the social rituals of politics oftentimes occur.
3
participated in structured and unstructured conversations in which the subjects'
interpretations of Journal Square are made manifest. My aim has been to come to
know something about the meaning behind this enduring place (as well as the
meanings of the many changes it is going through) by using a phenomenological
method known to social scientists as ethnography? A short section on methodology
follows this introduction. I am hopeful that this attempt to articulate the ongoing
implications of this urban place (Wright 1988) will be accessible to laymen and
academics alike. Neighborhood change such as we are witnessing in Journal Square
is rightly a public issue.
This is a unique time in the life of Journal Square. During the research period,
Anton Nelessen Associates and Dean Marchetto Architects created a New Urbanist3
2
Ethnography, broadly speaking, is a research method used by many social scientists that relies on
focused attention to language, actions, interactions, and meaningful objects in a given location, social
scene, or what is known as a 'field.' Wolcott (1999) refers to the method as a "way of seeing" that
relies on direct observation and interviewing. Clifford and Marcus (1986) refer to an "ethnographic
ear" that we use to listen to (and to discover new things about) unfamiliar cultures. Maso (2001)
examines the philosophical roots of ethnography, emphasizing the phenomenological bracketing
practices involved in observing an unknown culture. And Williams, in his study of a teenage drug ring
(1989), explains that ethnography involves "careful observation of individuals in their own social
setting." Some phenomenological ethnographies tell sociological stories and present things about a
place so that others can see and experience them. Engaged readers of these works have a chance to
step inside and to see things as insiders see them. Putting the ethnographic method into practice, as
Yanow has made clear in her seminal work on qualitative, interpretive research methods, inevitably
requires encounters with "several different schools of thought," including "phenomenology,
hermeneutics, or (some) Frankfurt School critical theory, along with symbolic interaction and
ethnomethodology, among others" (2006, p.7). Contemporary ethnographic work is inflected by
foundational scholarship in all of these areas.
3
The charter of the Congress of the New Urbanism is available at www.cnu.org/charter. Additionally,
Kunstler (2004) provides a scathing critique of "expedient" design and construction that ignores New
Urbanist principles. He argues that "spiritually degrading" design is "impoverishing us socially, and
degrading the aggregate set of cultural patterns we call civilization" (p.240). "In the new urbanism,"
he writes, "the meaning of the street as the essential fabric of the public realm is restored. The space
created is understood to function as an outdoor room, and building facades are understood to be street
walls" (247). New urbanist design eschews the automobile, stressing "walkable streets and easy access
to shops, recreation, culture, and public beauty" (248). For those interested in the debates around New
Urbanism, Fainstein (2000) argues against this direction in urban planning, stressing its Utopian
4
redevelopment plan for Journal Square that has the potential to translate the existing
space into what they call a more livable, more walkable, greener, New Urbanist
place4. The plan includes numerous green spaces and parks, mass transit, shopping,
and thousands of units of new housing. Watching and listening at the presentations
these planners made at public forums, I was privy to how visions move forward
towards realization as well as how they meet stumbling blocks and resistance.
This latest in a long series of visions for the square was commissioned
through the Mayor's office at an expense of $400,000 and presented to the public
through a series of charettes in which residents' opinions were actively solicited and
incorporated into later iterations of the master design. By using numerous structured
and unstructured interviews, participant observation, fieldnotes, extensive (but
simple) digital photography,5 archival research, responses to slide shows, and photoelicitation, I have sought to capture and re-present for readers, part of this moment of
transition in the center of a changing "flow city" (Graham 2002). Jersey City houses
hundreds of thousands of denizens and it also supports and manages "flows of people,
goods, services, information, capital, waste, water, meaning" (Graham, p.l) for
neighboring New York City.
dimensions and the unfortunate tendency to produce homogeneity and increasingly segregated
neighborhoods.
4
'Place' is a phenomenological term that transcends thinking about mere geographic, physical space.
Phenomenological works that address place are typically concerned with how spaces are experienced
by human actors. I prefer Seamon and Sowers' short, clear definition: "Phenomenology is the
interpretive study of human experience. The aim is to examine and to clarify human situations, events,
meanings, and experiences as they are known in everyday life but typically unnoticed beneath the level
of conscious awareness" (2008).
5
During the first part of the study I used an inexpensive, Kodak digital camera. I was determined to
use equipment that students could readily access. Later on I purchased a more sophisticated Canon
digital camera that allowed me to zoom into specific micro-sites within the square.
5
The field work and research for the dissertation took place during what I
consider to be not merely a random snapshot in time; importantly, it can be
considered a critical liminal moment in Journal Square. During the course of the
research, the square remained in a "betwixt and between" time, as Turner (1990) calls
these periods, an extended moment hanging between the past - a time when Journal
Square lived in the public imagination as a magical place of spectacle, entertainment,
and political contestation - and the imminent future. I propose to call Journal Square
a suspended place where, for numerous reasons, things stand as they are for extended
periods of time. By listening to (and interacting with) my ethnographic subjects, I
have been able to tease out some of the underlying motives, causes, and justifications
for the numerous delays in realizing the kinds of change in the development area that
have not been witnessed since Journal Square was first created in the early 20th
century.6
Despite the preparation and presentation of a complex vision plan for the
immediate area, no shovels penetrated the ground of the square during the time of the
study. In February 2009, the Jersey City Council met to consider the "concept plan"
(interview, Robert Cotter); however, because of concerns over the height of new
construction, tax abatements, and the lack of infrastructure to support more than 1500
6
The first phase of the redevelopment plan, a mixed-use project known as One Journal Square
(planned for the south end of the square), has been estimated by several interview subjects to be a
$500,000,000 undertaking. This type of investment by the Harwood Family and M.E.P.T., an
international pension fund, qualifies this project for what Butler and Lees (2006) call
"supergentrification," a significant neighborhood change that requires "a qualitatively different level of
economic resource" from the level of investment previously leveraged in the area.
6
new residences, the council voted 8-0 to table the Nelessen and Marchetto plan.7
Finally, in the spring of 2009, as the research was ending, demolition of condemned
properties started up adjacent to the plaza and I considered this a tangible sign that
Journal Square was being readied to pass out of its state of limbo. As the months
passed, however, and as spring turned to summer and fall in 2009, the demolition site
lingered, suspended, collecting more and more trash and debris thrown over the fence
by people using the surrounding square.
Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, is an example of a site undergoing
similar contentious struggles over development. Charles Bagli records in The New
York Times: ".. .a prominent civic organization and a developer, who has spent over
$100 million buying up property in the area, have put forward competing visions of
o
how to best preserve the soul and mythology of Coney Island". Times Square in
New York City also underwent redevelopment over a thirty year period starting in the
mid-1970's, as "cheap restaurants, second run movie houses, abandoned theaters,
peep shows and low rise buildings were replaced with theme restaurants, toy stores,
television studios and hotel towers," becoming 'The New Times Square' (Miller
2003). These important, meaningful places, replete with history and their own
'mythology,' provoke intense reactions during periods when stakeholders' suggested
changes reify into formal proposals. After twenty-five years of controversy in
Journal Square, the space remains contested and suspended in time.
7
Those opposing the plan, including a neighboring, powerful homeowners' association, the Riverview
Association, have not offered a redevelopment vision of their own. Robert Antonicello at the Jersey
City Redevelopment Agency told me that their members "oppose height" and have held up the plan
because new structures could obstruct their views of the waterfront.
8
February 17, 2009, p.A27.
7
Jersey City, with a population of 241,7899 is the second largest urban center in
New Jersey (after Newark) and deserves increased attention from sociologists, human
geographers, and urban studies scholars. It lies due west of the bustling financial
district in downtown New York City (see figure 3). Almost all of the manufacturing
industries10 that once sustained the city have left, seeking cheaper labor pools in other
places.
Much like its neighbor Newark, in the years following World War II, some
sections of Jersey City became yet another example of urban deterioration as many of
the residents fled to the suburbs. Yet, Jersey City boasts a redeveloped waterfront
that has become a 'Wall Street West' where major investment corporations and credit
institutions carry on their daily business. Additionally, Jersey City still has its unique
central square, which, despite hard times, and periods of neglect (evident from
9
http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/34/3436000.html
J. Owen Grundy lists several of these large companies in The History of Jersey City (1976): Colgate
and Company, Joseph Dixon Crucible Company (the pencil manufacturer), C.F. Mueller Company
(food products), the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, P. Lorillard Tobacco Company,
American Sugar Refining Company, E.A. Williams and Sons Brass Foundry, W. Ames and Company
Spike and Bolt Works, among others.
10
8
boarded-up storefronts, sidewalks and facades in need of repair, and the constant
presence of homeless and unemployed people) remains for many local residents a
special place to go. The busy public plaza that supports a farmer's market and live
music in the summer, historic movie palaces, delis, luncheonettes, jewelry stores,
bars, discount clothing stores, trade schools, a thriving community college, and
Boulevard Drinks (a surviving 1960's hot dog joint), make it an enduring crossroads
and gathering place.11
Everybody seems to travel to or through Journal Square for one reason or
another. In 2007 (the last full year for which statistics were available), almost eight
million riders used the PATH station to board a train.12 Even in its deteriorating
condition, after years of disinvestment punctuated by uneven development, the square
serves both functional and spiritual needs for Jersey City as a vibrant, familiar,
central place that Jersey City residents identify with and feel connected to. Put
simply, Journal Square has an incredible aura that deserves preservation. Trigger and
Mulcock (2005) explain that "[t]o say that a place has spiritual significance for an
11
On my first visit, the square reminded me of a micro site immortalized by Ian Frazier in his book,
On the Rez (2000). Frazier describes 'Big Bats,' a gas station, grocery store, and post office sitting at
the main crossroads on the Pine Ridge reservation where almost all of the local Oglala Sioux people
buy their food and liquor, pick up their mail, tell stories, and wait for the bus; it is "the place to go."
"If you live on the reservation..." Frazier writes, "you go to Big Bat's because that's where everybody
goes" (51).
12
Ed Sasportas at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was kind enough to send me the
most recent official statistics based on turnstile entry counts. The actual count was 7,961,260 on the
2007 "Year to Date Port Authority Trans Hudson Monthly Passenger Traffic" report sent from his
office.
9
individual or community is to imply that it has been inscribed with considerable
personal and cultural meaning" (308).
By conducting an ethnographic study of the area, I have been able to access
how Journal Square has been, and continues to be, a true microcosm of the living
city.14 It has been a container for numerous conflicts (see chapters two and three) and
it suffers from the kinds of assaults and challenges that commonly plague this type of
urban public place in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries (increasing
privatization of public space as well as the disappearance of certain kinds of public
places). Central city plazas function much like miniature cities and provide
opportunities for research into both conflict and cooperation. In the text that follows,
the reader will encounter several of the people who populate this place and some who
have deep attachments to it. We hear their poignant reflections and evocative stories.
In certain cases, while analyzing the interview transcripts, I found what Lovell (1998)
calls the "emotional gravity of place."15 Through conversation, by listening with the
ethnographic ear, the thoughtful ethnographer can begin to sense a subject's sense of
belonging or attachment to a place. These are the people who belonged in the square
in years gone by and who are there now, local residents, developers, activists, and
politicians who are shaping and being shaped by this vital urban place.
13
During the course of the research, it became increasingly apparent that the questions posed during
the interviews were tapping into the multiple spiritual dimensions of this urban place.
14
In their work on sociological miniaturism, Stolte, Fine, and Cook (2001) write that "the ethnographic
setting becomes a miniature arena in which social actors enact larger themes of power and/or collective
identity" (p.389).
15
Lovell is referenced by Trigger and Mulcock (2005) in their work on belonging and the spiritual
significance of place.
10
With the possible exception of Jackson Heights, in Queens, New York,
Journal Square is arguably at the center of the most diverse urban community in the
country. In the words of Bill Bajor, the director of a local social services agency,
"It's a space that all people in Jersey City can relate to" (interview). The public in
Journal Square has changed since the days when it was a place for European
immigrants to frequent. Filipinos, Egyptians, Indians, and other groups now share the
space that was once dominated by Irish, Italians, and Eastern Europeans (see figure
4).
The square is the place where numerous people cross paths each day on their
way home, their way to work, to school, to the post office, to a restaurant or retail
shop, or for some of the less-fortunate who I have observed, it is a place where wire
trash cans hold half-eaten food scraps that serve as meals and sustenance. It is also a
11
place to cop drugs, to catch a nap, or to shake off a nasty high. Students attend trade
school and college in the square, newspaper men still hawk the Jersey Journal and
The Newark Star Ledger to commuters and locals (see figure 5), the unemployed find
a temporary sense of peace on the ledges and benches, politicians make appearances
to endorse other politicians or to announce their campaigns, and teams of sweepers,
washers, and security ambassadors work year-round to keep the plaza clean and
orderly. The benches and ledges in the square, and coffee shops such as Papa's and
Sunny's, continue to serve as lively sites of conversation and political debate, the type
of informal political chatting that Walsh (2003) describes at length in Talking About
Politics.
The square serves symbolically in both the past and the present as a center for
Jersey City, a destination that all roads, bus lines, and train tracks tend towards. As
early as 1928, The Journal Square Association trumpeted Journal Square as New
12
Jersey's most active business center, a place where "the traffic currents of a continent
meet, and where vital arteries cross and branch out to the main highways of America"
CThe New York Times 4/15/1928).16 "It is the center of the city and the county, quite
literally," remarks planner Stephen Marks: "The courthouse is part of the square, tens
of thousands of people use the PATH station everyday and people still come here to
shop" (interview). Former Mayor Bret Schundler - in a moment of functionalist
reflection - states: "If you think historically, Journal Square was the urban heart. It's
the heart of the city" (interview).
The square exemplified the type of public space that would have represented
the "meaning of public life" for Hannah Arendt, an important 20th century social
thinker. It is a place where people gather around, they are seen and heard, and
"wordly reality" appears (Arendt 57). As Charles Caldez, a local historian, told me:
Journal Square was the place you had parades. I remember being a little kid,
a truck came with a rocket ship, like from the early TV show Captain Video.
All of the promotions were here. Beyond the theaters, Journal Square was
the capital of politics for all of Hudson County. You had bigger shopping
areas but this open space was perfect to present anything. In none of the
other cities did they have anything like this, (interview)
Fireworks lit up the sky as Franklin D. Roosevelt campaigned in Journal Square in
1932. John F. Kennedy and other United States presidents motorcaded through a
packed Journal Square to the cheers of onlookers. Local folk even say that John F.
Kennedy had a fling at a local hotel in the square. Throughout the middle of the
16
In chapter two I will review the history of the many uses of the space of the square.
twentieth century, numerous popular parades made their way through the crowded
streets into the heart of the square (see figure 6).
Although morphologically the square sits at the center of the city, in terms of
development, for the last forty years, it has been on the periphery. While Newport
and the Gold Coast (the waterfront development area sometimes called 'Wall Street
West') have seen intensive investment over the last thirty years, Journal Square has
atrophied and in some senses disappeared from many peoples' thought scapes. To a
great extent it no longer plays the role of the place where tremendous crowds go to
witness the spectacles of parades and political rallies.
The square does function much like an outdoor living room or a public/private
space that defies either/or classification. On a recent sunny afternoon I observed one
man (who I assumed to be homeless) sleeping on a cement ledge and another drinking
from a clear, pint bottle on a wooden bench shadowed by the statue of Christopher
14
Columbus. Local homeless, poor, and unemployed people spend much of their
everyday lives in the public space of the plaza, carrying out functions that are usually
relegated to private, domestic spaces. They sleep, eat, urinate, wash, and panhandle
under surveillance by camera, police officers, security ambassadors, and the passing
17
public (see figures 7 and 7a). Yet it is an "occasional, incomplete"
form of power
exerted over the transient population. They are policed inconsistently and have long
stretches of time to claim parts of the square as their own (fieldnotes).
These homeless individuals in Journal Square have little or no privacy in
which to carry out the daily functions of life; their routines are structured around the
movement and actions of the various more powerful others who move through and
around the plaza. Nevertheless, they are part of the Journal Square public and they
17
See Alice Goffman's recent ethnographic study, "On the Run: Wanted Men in a Philadelphia
Ghetto" (2009), in which she describes how the police exert power randomly and occasionally over
wanted men.
15
have various "resistance strategies" (McColgan 2005) that they employ to maintain
some sense of control over their environment and to create a fleeting sense of home
and privacy, even in this outdoor space. Several times I attempted to approach their
niche at the back of the PATH station and I was met with raised hands, glares, and
other communicative gestures that were clearly meant to keep me out. On reflection I
realized that I was violating their sense of control over what they considered to be
their space.18 The gestures were effective and I knew to stay away. This was one of
the mistakes that I made as a novice ethnographer. What at first appeared to be a
powerless group of men and women was in fact a sub-culture capable of exercising
power as needed. These symbolic gestures enable the homeless to create the
semblance of a boundary between the private and the public, even in a busy
transportation center.
18
Ted Kilian explores these issues in "Public and Private, Power and Space" (1998). He writes:
"Violations of privacy, whether the privacy of an individual or a group, are violations because they
contravene one's right to exert control over some 'space'" (p. 125).
16
The accumulated changes made to the square have made it increasingly
possible to consume the space through automobile windows and more difficult for
pedestrians who have to navigate the dangerous intersections and crosswalks. The
increased number of automobiles passing through the space has transformed peoples'
experiences of this central node in the urban landscape. J.F.Kennedy Boulevard with
its incessant traffic and concrete median has effectively severed the centrally located
Loew's Theater (see figure 8) from the rest of the plaza area, further eroding any
cohesive sense of a functional public plaza that supports its cultural center. "It's a
nightmare," says Stuart Koperweis, a consultant to the Hudson County planning
department (fieldnotes). Additionally, the construction of the concrete median
precluded the type of public gathering that once occurred in the wide open space of
the public square.
17
From the early twentieth century until the early nineteen seventies, city bus
lines picked up and dropped off passengers in the middle of busy Journal Square (see
figure 9). With the creation of the PATH tower and station, however, the bus stops
(as well as the foot traffic they stimulated) were moved inside the terminal. City
planner Stephen Marks remarks that
What you see in Journal Square today is all a result of auto-centric planning,
not planning based on human and pedestrian needs. The JFK highway runs
right through the middle of the square now; if you're a senior and you can
run through the lights you're lucky. We went from being pedestrian-oriented
to being automobile-oriented. Even the front doors of the new office
buildings are oriented towards their parking lots, not towards the street,
(interview)
As a consequence of the elimination of the outdoor bus stops, many of the prosperous
retail stores went out of business in the months and years following the completion of
the new PATH train center in the early 1970's. The nearby indoor Newport Mall and
the strip malls along Route 1 and 9 have replaced many of the stores that older
residents were familiar with. The relocation of shopping activities to the indoor
Newport Mall, and the elimination of the outdoor bus stops, have had tremendous
affect on the life in the square. The public life of the outdoor square has been
adversely affected by the macro trend described by Shields as "the transfer of public
space indoors" (qtd. in Atkinson 2003).
18
For almost 50 years, from the 1920's to the 1970's, Journal Square was well
known throughout New Jersey for being an upscale retail and entertainment district.
A local dentist, Barbara Piccolo, whose office is just off the square, remembers
fondly how
The men used to line up in their cars; they would drop off their wives for the
beauty parlor. The big hair was in back in those days. They would wait
double-parked for their wives. There were nice clothing stores and shoe
stores, even into the 80's, that attracted customers who could afford those
things, you know, the shoe stores were better than Tom McCann's. It was
really the place to be. (Interview)
Nick Micucci, a longtime resident, also recalls how "Frank Sinatra used to come to
perform here. Oh yeah, the movie houses were like palaces and the shopping was all
first-class" (fieldnotes). Brett Harwood, a key real estate developer in the area,
remembers with a smile that Franki Vali performed in Journal Square. By the 1970's,
19
however, in the wake of the completion of the PATH station and the bifurcation of
the space by the county highway, J.F.Kennedy Boulevard, the square was caught up
in a perfect storm of disinvestment, changing demographics, and changing consumer
preferences. Eventually, the finer shops were replaced by discount retail and ethnic
stores.
I have observed, and (through conversational interaction) learned about, the
many uses people make of this centrally-located public square, the role it plays in the
daily life of the city, and the many meanings it maintains for residents and commuters
as it hopes to transition out of its suspended state to its next stage of existence. By
bracketing this moment of time in Journal Square, I have developed a case of a
changing urban plaza and the neighborhood that surrounds it, unique because of its
history, actors, and local context. Capturing some of the stories told in and about
Journal Square, and then re-presenting them here in textual form, not only preserves
them, but also contributes towards assuring continuity of the public life in the square.
In some respects my study resonates with William D. Estrada's study (1999)
of the decline and subsequent rebirth of Los Angeles' "enduring cultural symbol[s],"
the old Plaza and Olvera Street. The old Plaza in Los Angeles, and I would argue,
Journal Square in Jersey City, function similarly as "complex microcosm[s] for
shifting cultural and political agendas" (see Estrada 1999). This dissertation on
Journal Square also calls to mind Setha Low's On the Plaza, an extended case study
of Plaza de la Cultura and Parque Central in San Jose, Costa Rica (2000) in which she
"documents a personal journey to uncover the cultural and political significance of
20
public space by focusing on the design and meaning of the plaza in a contemporary
Latin American city" (2000). She emphasizes that her research, with its reliance on
recording the details of "the phenomenological experience of being in the plaza,"
focuses on how these "culturally and politically charged public spaces are essential
to everyday civic life and the maintenance of a participatory democracy" (pgs. xiv,
xv). In Journal Square, although the political rallies and public displays of power are
for the most part over, the space is sometimes still used by unions, politicians, and
community groups to communicate political messages. For example, on May 4,
2009, United States Senator Robert Menendez came to the square to endorse Mayor
Healy and his city council in their reelection campaigns. Standing in front of the
demolition site at the southern end of the square, he stated:
When I look at not just the waterfront, but when I look at the heart of the
commercial district of Jersey City that was once the premier place to go to
anywhere in Hudson County to shop, to entertain, to go to dine, I see once
again the progress that you can see on its way. 19
As with Low's Spanish-American plazas, Journal Square "still remains the
psychological focus of the community" {On the Plaza 51). Spending time in the
plaza and the larger neighborhood, and speaking with people directly, are the best
methods for keying into the many meanings that the square holds for them. I have
listened to the community members' concerns (or lack of concern) for the
disappearance of a particular type of public space in the early 21st century city. There
19
Jersey Journal. 5/5/09.
are civic squares similar to Journal Square in many of our cities; they typify a certain
kind of public space and serve as places to enjoy a respite from the pace of urban life
or to gather with others for any number of reasons. As local popular historian Charles
Caldez reflects: "A city has to provide a place for people to go to. If they're lonely, if
their wife has died, a place to meet people, to talk, to pass the breeze. Jersey City
needs places like this" (interview). Urban historian Lynn Hollen Lees (1994)
expresses a similar idea in her work on urban public space:
Since medieval times, European town squares have hosted elections,
demonstrations, and ceremonies, as well as the encounters and conversations
that make up normal social life. The great urban spaces gain their civic
qualities from their multifunctionality, from desires of citizens to transact
both public and private business within them. They remain alive through
use. Public protest as well as celebration, commemoration, and conversation,
find proper homes there. Civic spaces show urban community and identity in
action.
Boundaries of space are fuzzier in Journal Square than they are in Low's
Costa Rican plazas; geographical borders vary depending on the context of the
conversation. For example, politically, the neighborhood is a "ward," defined by a
block of 40,000 voters. Economically, the enterprise zone has shifting borders as new
•
*
businesses and ethnic groups seek inclusion in the low sales-tax classification.
20
20
During an interview with Roberta Farber, The Director of the Urban Enterprise Zone and Special
Improvement District in Jersey City, we discussed the Indian community's desire to join the Journal
Square improvement district. The blocks known as Little India have traditionally been thought of as
being "just north of the square," not within the square itself (interview).
22
Planners describe a Journal Square redevelopment area that substantially stretches the
boundaries existing in the public imagination (see figure 10). And when speaking to
some transportation officials, Journal Square shrinks to just the immediate
transportation hub. More commonly, many local people understand the
neighborhood as the area bounded by Sip Avenue on the south, Newark Avenue on
the north, Tonnele Avenue on the west, and Summit Avenue on the east (see the
shaded rectangle in figure 11), despite signage that proclaims to drivers that they have
entered Journal Square while still on Bergen Avenue blocks before reaching Sip
Avenue. And on Wikipedia, the popular on-line encyclopedia of general knowledge,
we find: "The term 'Journal Square' can refer to just the block in front of the Jersey
23
Journal building, or to a larger area, or just to the Journal Square PATH station and
Journal Square Transportation Center that serve the area."21
Great civic squares can embody certain of the essential aspects and ideals of an
evolving democracy. Since so many people pass through them, strategically placed
political messages can be seen and heard by tens of thousands. A community of
friends and strangers use this public plaza outside of the PATH transportation center
as a gathering place, a place to read a newspaper (see figure 12), to share ideas and
stories (see figure 13), to pass time, to eat lunch, or to drink from brown, paper bags.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journal Square (accessed 6/26/2007)
24
Plazas such as this need to be nourished and maintained as necessary elements
of city life. Yet a visit to Journal Square is clearly not the same as a visit to the
micro-managed, sanitized spaces that have become familiar to many people at malls
and theme parks across the United States. The hyperreal spaces known as squares in
theme parks such as Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida, are oftentimes "without dirt or
danger" (Cypher and Higgs 1997), washed clean of many of the gritty elements that
25
go hand in hand with outdoor plazas. Although general behavior in Journal Square is
monitored by cameras and a team of security ambassadors (see figure 14), and people
for the most part control their own behavior (see Foucault 1977), it is far from being a
rationalized theme park without regular transgressions. Panhandlers, homeless
people, and drug dealers consistently share the space with office workers and
commuters. Unlike Disney World - and despite the best attempts of the hovering
ambassadors - the open plaza does not have the type of daily "careful screening out
of undesirable elements"22 so prevalent in privately controlled theme park
environments.
There is another level of interaction occurring at one step removed from the
actual site; these are the numerous meetings and conversations through which power
flows, power that exists just behind the change occurring at the site and the
transformations envisioned for the future. While I examine micro-phenomenological
22
Michael Real, qtd. in Cypher and Higgs.
26
interactions during the study, I am equally interested in the macro-level relationships
between the public-sector officials and various organizations that control activity in
the square and how that power is contained in discourse. In the interviews conducted
during the research for the dissertation, I attempted to bracket the articulation of
power as it is manifested in speech. In chapter three, I present in a sociological
frame, the words (and other symbolic gestures) of a select group of movers and
shakers - the political figures, non-profit directors, economic actors, and development
professionals - who shape, through formal and informal partnerships (and the
creation of coalitions), the future of the site. In addition, I include interviews with
ordinary people who present a counter-discourse that challenges the "reshaping of the
city's collective memory" (see Zukin 1995, p.19).
The multi-layered story of Journal Square is also a case of ideological tension
and negotiated compromise between these various interested stakeholders. At times,
tensions peak between those who want to develop and those who want to preserve
what they believe the area once was. Colin Egan, the manager of the somewhatrenovated Loew's Baroque movie palace across the boulevard from the transportation
center, and head of Friends of the Loew's, a non-profit group, believes,
"Development and preservation are not necessarily antagonistic - they're not
antithetical. It's part of human nature to have a sense of place" (interview). Hartz
Mountain, a powerful real estate development company saw things differently; in
1984 they attempted to use blight designation to tear down the classic Loew's
Theater. This symbolic conflict is explored in more detail in chapter three below.
27
Scott Harwood, the developer of the mixed-use structures that will rise on the site of
the old transient Hotel-in-the-Square, expressed to me during an interview that
"[s]ometimes history is not a good fortune-teller" and he questioned the value of the
past as he finalized plans to reshape the south end of the plaza with tall, new housing
towers. And throughout the course of the research, a billboard loomed high above the
square, marketing "luxury residences" (see figure 15) and what Max Weber23 once
called a particular "style of life" (1946, pgs. 181-182) to a new status group of
housing consumers at Harwood's other upscale apartment complex in Journal Square
(located on the site where the famous State movie palace, one of the three great
theaters in the square, once stood). The billboard is a literal sign of gentrification, a
23
Max Weber's writings on social class and social status can be used to help us to gain some
sociological perspective on this neighborhood on the edge of transition. Weber (1946) wrote that
owning property is "decisive for the fate of the individual," it affects his "life chances" and serves to
separate people into "the basic categories of all class situations" (see "Class, Status, Party"). Since the
first phase of the development planned for the square hinges on the construction of luxury housing
towers, Weber's work on class and status is relevant and timeless. The work of another foundational
sociologist, Georg Simmel, is useful as well; he provides a perspective from which we can examine
what this type of development and social change is and whom it essentially serves. In his essay, "The
Philosophy of Fashion," he writes that class symbols (of which luxury residences certainly qualify)
serve "the double function of holding a given social circle together and at the same time closing it off
from others"; they connect and differentiate (2000, p. 189). In my case, Simmel's concept, "selfelevation" (p. 188), makes literal sense; tenants can literally rise above other social circles. According
to Simmel, fashion serves to provide closure against those standing in lower status positions; however,
it can also create connections to people sharing the same status (2000). He writes that "[t]he whole
history of society is reflected in the conflict, the compromise, the reconciliations, slowly won and
quickly lost, that appear through adaptation to our social group and individual elevation from it" (2000,
p. 187). Fashion is a complex form, "it leads the individual onto the path that everyone travels" while at
the same time "it satisfies the need for distinction" (189).
28
process by which certain properties or neighborhoods are identified as investmentworthy, and "lower income residents" are gradually (or rapidly) replaced by middle
and upper class residents (Hutchison 1992). More recently, Sharon Zukin has named
this type of urban change "market-oriented gentrification" (2007).
Not unlike other city centers undergoing redevelopment, numerous
stakeholders use a lexicon that includes "renaissance" and "revitalization" to
reproduce the ideology of development in Jersey City. Tellingly, in December of
2006, Journal Square's key developer was quoted in a local newspaper (the Hudson
Reporter): "It will be a renaissance like in New York City neighborhoods, in Harlem
and other places you would have never thought people would be dying to move into
again" (italics mine).24
In the discourse of redevelopment, blighted areas are seen as sick and in need
of radical intervention. Revitalizing an area, making it healthy again, has hidden
24
We are left wondering who these "people" are since there are already people living in and around
Journal Square.
29
human consequences often left out of the renaissance discourse; those at the lower
ends of the economic hierarchy find themselves displaced by the rapid changes
occurring around them. In an interview with an administrator from Hudson County
Community College, he referred to the fountain in the square as "nothing but a place
for homeless to urinate - they actually put soap in there and bathe" (fieldnotes). At a
recent fiindraising event known as the Patriot's Ball, Jeremiah Healy, the current
Mayor of Jersey City, declared that "Journal Square will be breaking ground in a
couple of months. There's a fountain there that's a bathing area for the homeless"
(fieldnotes). I have since heard similar comments from other interview subjects,
including a Professor at the community college who told me "you've got all kinds of
miscreants hanging out there, pissing and shitting all over the place; it's a security
nightmare" (fieldnotes). All three of these quoted individuals are attempting to create
a framework through which they ask that which we accept the displacement of certain
people from the space of Journal Square. This stands in direct contrast to the ideals
of social inclusion that exist behind the creation of open public plazas. My research
on the area of the public plaza around the fountain, the kiosk, and the statues reveals a
rich site of sharing, performance, and human interaction that in a moral sense serves
the community well. Various actors, depending on their positions in the social
hierarchy and their political-economic interests, read this micro-site differently. In a
mayoral election year, spatial changes in the built environment become highlycharged politically. Visions of a redeveloped, safe, exclusive Journal Square, where
30
the homeless and the unemployed have been removed from the scene, gain great
political currency just prior to an important election.
In terms of architecture and aesthetics, development in Journal Square has
ended up being a pastiche, Frederic Jameson's (1991) now-popular term for a fusing
of styles and sometimes an effacement of the past.25 Oftentimes, as in the case of the
Elk's Club building on J.F. Kennedy Boulevard, retail developers have merely
layered a new face upon an older structure with little thought given to area aesthetics
(see figure 16). A walk through the neighborhood reveals that fa?ade regulations are
loosely monitored. The retail area around the plaza and down J.F. Kennedy
Boulevard resembles a patchwork quilt.
Observing the dynamics and the changes in Journal Square gives us pause to
reflect on the types of city centers we build and rebuild in the postmodern era and
how fragile the civic places within these cities have become. It also provokes
25
"Pastiche" share roots with a Greek food known today as pasticcio. It is a form of meat pie, a
combination of ingredients loosely assembled together and layered upon one another. It resembles a
sloppy form of lasagne.
31
*
creative thought about the social construction of collective memory
26
•
and how it
functions in the redevelopment and future planning of these kinds of public places. 27 1
can say confidently that not one person with whom I spoke is neutral about Journal
Square. Barb Piccolo, Bob Leach, Nick Micucci, County Executive Tom DeGise and
numerous others passionately recalled their childhood visits to the square; Jerry
Milsap and Nancy Lu spoke fervently about rental values and the quality of life in the
surrounding neighborhood; Kamal Zaki and Brienne Guirantees worry about the
effects of gentrification on the neighborhood; Bob Antonicello at the Jersey City
Redevelopment Agency and Bob Cotter at the Hudson County Division of Planning
work with enthusiasm on the future plans for the development area; and Ben Dineen
waxes poetically about the numerous surviving architectural details that inspired
social and communal life in the courtyards and gardens throughout the neighborhood.
Journal Square is not an empty train station or a soul-less shopping mall; it is
a lively neighborhood with a central plaza, the kind of place that we need more of, a
place to sit and eat a hot dog, to chat with a friend about politics by the fountain, to
buy fresh produce from a weekly farmer's market, to see an old movie (or a
26
Maurice Halbwachs (1952), one of the founding sociologists of memory, defines collective
memories in contrast to individual memories; they are memories "common to a group." The family,
the community, and the nation, can all serve in this context as examples of groups with common
interests and thoughts, groups that remember collectively.
27
For example, the old Loew's theatre is a centrally located icon that carries meaning which reflects
the ongoing conflicts over place and cultural identity in Jersey City. I conducted three lengthy
interviews with the central activist who had been centrally involved in the struggle to prevent the
demolition of the theater. It was important in this case (and several others) that I maintain a longer,
more extended rapport with the subject; I needed enough time to clarify how he was interpreting past
events and to hear his meaningful analysis of what happened over a period of years at the theater.
These types of ongoing relationships are crucial for making sense of what the interviewees know about
a period of time or a series of events. The section on the theater is unique in that it provides the reader
with recorded first-hand evidence of a grassroots conflict centered on a contested built form; a review
of newspaper accounts would not suffice.
32
contemporary concert) at the restored theater, to make new friends, or to have a
balloon made for your child by a clown (see figure 17). The larger neighborhood, full
of history and a legacy of significant social and political struggles, is a place to live
and work, to raise children, to construct identity and home. What my informants
share is what Low and Altman explain as a deep sense of "place attachment":
...place attachment can develop social, material, and ideological dimensions,
as individuals create ties to kin and neighbors, own or rent land, and
participate in public life as residents of a community, (quoted in Hayden
1997)
According to Archibald (2004), it is the "lack of attachment to place [that]
disembodies memory, sunders relationships.. .and threatens democracy itself." Place
is very much more than merely space; places have what Harvey describes as
9R
"discursive/symbolic meaning" (1996).
By conducting a phenomenological-
ethnographic study of this neighborhood in transition, I hoped to be able to illustrate
this for the reader.
28
On the phenomenological aspects of space and place, see also Yi-Fu Tuan (1977), Space and place:
the perspective of experience.
The dissertation is created in chapters. The introduction and section on
methodology comprise chapter one. Chapter two focuses on the history of Jersey
City and Journal Square as a framework through which the reader can better
understand the data?9 Chapter three presents the data: a series of interviews and
scenes gathered over a two year period in the field. Chapter four presents an
interpretive reflection, or sociological statement about the data, as a closing to the
longer "meaning-focused analysis" represented by the text (Yanow and SchwartzShea 2006, p.xii).30
29
Data (in this and many other fieldwork-based, interpretive studies) is described accurately by Yanow
and Schwartz-Shea simply as "...things observed and made sense of..." (2006, p.xix).
30
See also Geertz 1986.
34
Notes on Methodology:
" T a l k i n g is talk about something."
- Martin Heidegger, Being and Time
" [ T ] h e shapes of k n o w l e d g e are always
ineluctably l o c a l . . . "
- Clifford Geertz, Local Knowledge
Ever since Robert E. Park described cities as laboratories or clinics where
"human nature and social processes may be conveniently and profitably studied"
(1925, p.46), an increasing number of Chicago School-inspired ethnographers have
turned to fieldwork studies of cities and neighborhoods to provide us with insight into
how various social, political, and economic processes work. This dissertation
represents the results of an ongoing fieldwork project conducted in the center of
community life in a city in northeastern New Jersey in a two-year period from May of
2007 through April of 2009. Since May 2007,1 have observed activity in and around
the public plaza at the central transportation center, and I have interviewed a variety
of individuals who have lived in the square and have vivid memories of times gone
by, some who currently live and/or work in the square or nearby, as well as those who
work in various functions that relate to (and impact) economic and real estate
development and/or preservation in the area. Interview subjects were selected from
31
the public, private, and non-profit sectors, and in some cases I was snowballed
to
other interviewees by the initial subjects. At one point I distributed a flyer to local
31
Snowballing refers to how the researcher uses his initial contacts to meet other people. O'Reilly
(2009) has pointed out that there are sometimes disadvantages to this approach. She is wary that "the
final sample will be limited by the contacts and networks of the initial sample and will tend towards
homogeneity..." (p. 198). I was careful to utilize a combination of methods to select interview
subjects, thereby attempting to avoid this pitfall.
35
community organizations asking them to post it conspicuously so I could access
volunteers to participate in the study. I also posted a notice about my work in the
lobby of the landmark Sevilla Apartment building that is situated at the southwestern
corner of the study area (see figure 18). These apartments, touted in 1929 as "some
of the finest apartment houses in Jersey City"
have survived intact over the decades
and serve as home to several people who have watched the changes occurring in the
area for many years.
For certain interviews, I selected directors and staff of community
organizations who work closely with the local population and confront issues that
affect the lives of people in the square. Additionally, I made a point of attending the
charettes, or public forums, where the vision plan for the redevelopment of the area
was vetted, and I listened closely at meetings of a local block association. Follow-up
telephone calls and email correspondence with key figures in the planning and
government sectors continued as the redevelopment plan took shape and was
presented to the public. My unique position as both a researcher and an administrator
at Hudson County Community College allowed me to gain easy access to the College
President and the Director of the College Foundation. Both of these individuals have
strong ties to city and county officials, business community members, long-term
residents, and key real estate developers in the area.33 My immersion into the
network of stakeholders who are visioning, planning, and designing the new Journal
32
The New York Times, 4/21/1929.
1 was able to interview Scott Harwood of Harwood/MEPT Urban Renewal, and Joseph Panepinto,
the President and C.E.O. of Panepinto Properties in Jersey City. The Journal Square development
group also includes the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Hartz Mountain Industries, and
other property owners.
33
Square, and my emerging status as a "civic entrepreneur" who creates programs and
resources to benefit the community (Gruidl and Markley 2009), help to distinguish
this dissertation from other studies.
This dissertation has been written based on the results of a qualitative,
interpretive research project, a study based on participant observation, the taking of
fieldnotes, interviewing, and archival research. It is an authentic case that tells the
story of the changing human condition in a living, breathing city center. The work
was originally motivated by two macro-level sociological questions that frame the
study: 1) how do we come to know a place? and 2) how can sociology - through its
research methods and its accumulated body of theoretical insights - assist us in
understanding the change specifically taking place in Journal Square? This is a case
of the dynamics of redevelopment in a city center and a look into the past and present
of a public space through narrative story telling. It requires an ethnographer who can
37
gain access to the inside and communicate, through "thick description"34 what he
finds to those on the outside.
Journal Square is certainly a "complex object of study" (Marcus 1995). There
are multiple cases within this case. Each of the interview subjects, a former beat cop,
city planners, a dentist with an office in the square, real estate developers, a young
artist, a former mayor, an activist, the local councilman, a newspaper hawker, a
security ambassador in the plaza, a long-time resident, just to mention a few, become
individual cases that add layers of depth and complexity to the ethnographic narrative
and help us to interpret what this place means and what it has meant in the past.
Penetrating into the human community, the ethnographer listens to people speak and
observes their interactions. The actors reproduce the culture of Journal Square each
day through conversation and storytelling. There is, however, no one final
interpretation of the figure in the carpet (James 1986). Those readers seeking the
golden nugget, the single buried treasure, the one theory that fits and explains the
urban change in Journal Square, will be disappointed. Narrative is primary in this
type of ethnography; the real challenge is to access - and then to present,
intellectually - what would have remained as "untold tales"35 that shed light on this
place we know as Journal Square. Through close engagement with this text, readers
gain a partial knowledge of this vital, city center and its central, public square.
34
See Geertz, 1973.
The phrase comes from an interview with Alex Kotlowitz, the author of There Are No Children Here
and The Other Side of the River, in which he discusses his drive to discover that "untold tale" that
provides us with insight into the effects of violence on impoverished young lives. For the text of the
interview, see Boynton (2005, p. 127).
35
38
This dissertation is also an example of a case that has reflexively "coalesce [d]
in the course of the research" (Ragin 1992). This form of interpretive research, writes
Dvora Yanow, "rarely proceeds from a formalized hypothesis because the researcher
does not know ahead of time what meaning(s) will be found, expecting them to be
generated through (participant-) observing and/or conversational interviewing and/or
the close reading of documents" (2006, p. 71). In another relevant article, she
recognizes this as a form of methodological "flexibility" or the ability to change one's
research design "in the face of research-site realities that the researcher could not
anticipate in advance of beginning the research" (2003, p.5). In ethnographic
fieldwork, developing an interpretation is emergent and it is oftentimes impossible to
know ahead of time the multiple dimensions of the story of a place.
Lance Freeman, in his book, There Goes the 'Hood: Views of Gentrification
From the Ground Up, examines gentrification, a particular form of urban change,
"from the perspective of indigenous residents" (2006, pg.l). He is arguing that he is a
pioneer in his approach, and he distinguishes his work from seminal texts on urban
change that fall into one of two categories: works such as Neil Smith's "Toward a
Theory of Gentrification: A Back to the City Movement by Capital not People"
(1979) that looks at "the supply side focused on developers, landlords, and capital,"
or works such as David Ley's The New Middle Class and the Central City (1996),
that looks at "the demand side focused on the forces that created the gentry and led to
gentrification" (2006, pg.2). I mention this not because my work is a case study in
gentrification, per se, but because I observe and listen to Journal Square from many
39
different perspectives and I attempt to transcend this classical supply side/demand
side dichotomy. I have made a continued effort to hear stories told by differently
situated actors and to hear how these people are reproducing or contesting the
reigning discourses in and around the square. During the course of the research, one
of the goals was to tease out what it is that participants value from what they say and
how they say it. Fleshing out peoples' perspectives is a central part of making sense
of the culture that exists in this centrally-located section of Jersey City. Walsh (2003)
explains:
Perspectives are the lenses through which people view issues. They are
psychological knowledge structures that result from the interaction of
identities, values, and interests. They are the reason two people can make
sense of the same message in entirely different ways. They influence
interpretations by suggesting which categories are useful for making sense of
the world, (p.2)
Each of the individuals I encountered holds varying amounts of agency and
power in the planning and rebuilding processes as the square sits poised to undergo
redevelopment and community change. Some of them share similar perspectives
while while others make sense of things entirely differently. I felt that it was
important to have conversations with, and to interview, not only the network of local
"power elite," as C. Wright Mills (1956) once called them, but also numerous
everyday folk at ground level.
On several occasions I chose to take a taxicab from the square to the library,
rather than ride the PATH train, so that I could engage the drivers in conversation.
After a period of several months, my presence on the benches shadowed by the
Columbus statue became familiar to those who regularly used the space. I sat and
talked to people who strolled into the plaza and I positioned myself to be able to
overhear conversations between everyday people, carefully jotting down what was
said over a two-year period, witnessing the ongoing life in the public square.36 The
fieldnotes and the range of interview texts reflect discourses and internalized
ideologies, they bracket a diverse culture and a communal life that exists at a given
moment in time and point in space. A critical aspect of the ethnographer's work is to
capture that discourse by recording actual speech, and to trace its linkages to the
outcome of events (see Fine 2003, p.53). The research plan for this dissertation
revolved around recording the life of the square over a period of time by watching,
listening, and having conversations. I spent time sitting on public benches, walking
the space of the plaza, and interacting with the diverse publics who use the square on
different days and during all of the changing seasons.
The story presented here is constructed from a series of scenes and most
importantly, numerous interviews. "After all," wrote Mikhail Bakhtin, "language
enters life through concrete utterances (which manifest language) and life enters
language through concrete utterances as well" (1986, p.63). The scenes are important
in the context of Fine's (2003) concept of peopled ethnography.
36
Emerson, Fretz, and Shaw (1995) refer to the numerous written records created in the field as
"jottings" or the rendering into writing on pads or paper the "key words and phrases" that the
ethnographer does not want to forget when writing up the events of the day later on. Alternatively,
they also state that writing down "jottings" may distract the fieldworker and he may miss micro-level
details "if his nose is in his notepad" (p.23). I tried to use my notepads only when appropriate,
choosing at times to write up events later on in the day.
41
In a peopled ethnography.. .the understanding of the setting and its
theoretical implications are grounded in a set of detailed vignettes, based on
field notes, interview extracts, and the texts that group members produce.
The detailed account, coupled with the ability of the reader to generalize
from the setting, is at the heart of this methodological perspective. (2003,
p.41)
Fine, in his work on outsider artists (2004), and Grazian (2003), in his ethnography of
urban blues clubs, rely on the thickly-described vignette as the primary vehicle for
presenting insights into culture (and subcultures) to the reader.
When I begin an interview, I explain that I am working on a dissertation
project on Journal Square and that I am trying to capture an important moment of
transition in this diverse community. I have asked subjects about their connections to
the square, how they perceive the square is being used, the problems associated with
the design of the square, and their memories about times gone by in the
neighborhood. Additionally, I probe into their perceptions of the old theaters, the
semi-demolished buildings, and other built forms in the plaza that impact social life.
Their thoughts about the numerous boarded-up storefronts, their feelings about
community, their visions for the future, and their opinions about who they think will
best be served by the development planned for the area, form the body of data that I
have collected and analyzed.
I have asked many questions about the Journal Square of yesteryear and what
the interviewees feel should be preserved from the past. When I sensed that a subject
was uncomfortable, I offered to show him a draft of the relevant sections of the work
for his review and comments. With certain subjects I probed into biographical detail
and asked them to recall stories about their experience related to Journal Square.
Some interviews required return visits and more extended conversations. Only a
selected group of the interviews are included in the dissertation text.
Occasionally I brought my photographs to the interviews and then reinterviewed subjects who I had already met with. This "inserting of a photograph
into a research interview" (Harper 2002) is known as "photo elicitation." Harper has
argued, eloquently, that this method "mines deeper shafts into a deeper part of human
consciousness than do words alone" (p.23). The method worked especially well
when I met with members of the staff of the Hudson County Division of Planning and
I gained a richer, in-depth interview experience by bringing the photographs. During
my research I found that introducing photographs oftentimes improved the rapport
with the interviewees (see Gold 2004).
During the initial phases of the study I did not use a tape recorder but in most
cases I took down detailed notes during the interviews. In a limited number of cases,
I used a small, digital recorder. A former student of mine, John O'Hara, whose
assistance was invaluable, transcribed some of these recordings and he helped me to
resolve several of the more daunting technical aspects of the research. Most of the
time I found the most effective method to be to simply carry a pocket-sized, spiral
notebook for spontaneous inscriptions during my many visits to the square.
In addition to these forms of data-gathering, I scoured the archives of The
New York Times for journalistic and historical accounts of the square. I spoke with
43
local historians, attended the graduation ceremonies of an educational program
offered by a local social services agency, attended meetings of a local block
association, presented my initial findings as a guest lecturer in a social science
methods course at Hudson County Community College, participated in a design
'charette' for vision planning, sat on a planning committee for a new park in the
square, and presented my work at History Matters, an academic conference at the
New School in April, 2008, where I was able to receive valuable feedback and
direction from graduate students, other ethnographers, and urban sociologists. In
2008 I attended the annual conference of the American Sociological Association and
participated in a workshop on ethnography and photo-elicitation. In 2009 I published
the short section on the Loew's Theater in Canon, a New School publication (see
chapter 3 for the account of the saving of the Loew's). All together, the research
required over sixty hours of live interviewing and three times that amount of time
transcribing the notes and recordings, approximately thirty hours of follow-up phone
conversations, many hours of first-hand observing, two days at a workshop offered in
New York City by The Project for Public Spaces on placemaking, as well as several
hours attending local voluntary association meetings where concerned citizens met to
work out quality of life issues in the surrounding neighborhood.
I conducted meetings and had conversations with a variety of Journal Square
stakeholders who shared their local knowledge with me. In certain cases I shared
lunch with interviewees and found that this was an excellent way to make people
44
more comfortable.37 When Chris Bernardo, the head of the Business Improvement
District sent an email about a late winter clean up in the square, I was one of the first
to respond. The morning's activities included working side-by-side with recent
parolees and others who are part of a program run by Community Solutions, a nonprofit agency working on behalf of those in the criminal justice and juvenile justice
systems. I tried to meet with interview subjects in their natural environments, their
homes or places of work, as often as possible. I came increasingly to understand
Gubrium and Holstein's emphasis on the importance of the actual site where the
conversations take place, that storytelling is never void of narrative context. They
argue that "narrative work and narrative environments are reflexively intertwined"
(2009). "The point is," they explain, "that the environments of storytelling mediate
the internal organization and meaning of accounts" (10). Stories (for Gubrium and
Holstein) operate within places as much as they are about places (11). These points
are critical and might be overlooked by novice ethnographers.
This is also work that employs visual sociology in the form of photography.
Using a camera expands the possibilities of the sociological gaze. For this self-taught
photographer, it provided a record that could be analyzed later on; moreover; it
allowed me to review the sometimes forgotten details of scenes that had been
captured digitally. I carried a camera and took digital photographs of structures,
people, meaningful actors and objects, symbolic interactions, and the varied activities
in Journal Square (the square as well as the neighborhood). I took, catalogued, and
stored over 700 photographs of the changing scenes in the square, creating an original
37
Several of the subjects became quite talkative over a shared meal.
archive and record of activity. Reviewing the photographs enabled meaningful
objects from the background of everyday life - a corrugated cardboard box left in the
empty plaza fountain (see figure 19), a new chain-link fence around the demolition
site, an inflatable rat set in place by angry union workers - to shift to the foreground
for interpretation.
All of the social actors presented here play important roles in the ongoing
reproduction of Journal Square; these are some of the people who make the square
what it is on a daily basis. The down-on-the-ground approach required by fieldwork
studies, and the centrality of the words and stories of real people, are inspired by
Marx who set an important foundation stone for modern ethnography when he wrote,
in The German Ideology.
The premises from which we begin are not arbitrary ones, not dogmas, but
real premises from which abstraction can only be made in the imagination.
46
They are the real individuals, their activity and the material conditions under
which they live, both those which they find already existing and those
produced by their own activity. 38
More recently, Dolores Hayden has echoed and qualified these sentiments in her
seminal, contemporary work on 'place':
Indigenous residents as well as colonizers, ditchdiggers as well as architects,
migrant workers as well as mayors, housewives as well as housing
inspectors, are all active shaping the urban landscape" (1997, p. I l l )
I would be remiss if I did not point out that the Jersey Room at the Jersey City
Public Library proved to be a remarkable source of historical records and rare, neverpublished photographic negatives. The sleeping images preserved in the neverprinted negatives provide a window into the Journal Square that existed in the past.
The collection at the library includes images of parades, celebrations, political events,
and movie screenings; they allow us to see the social and political life that existed in
the square in earlier decades. Two of those unpublished images are presented to the
public here for the first time. I am especially grateful to Cynthia Harris at the Jersey
City Public Library for her assistance in accessing these historic photographs.
Lastly, Logan and Molotch (1987) have reminded us that any given piece of
real estate has both a use value and an exchange value. Realizing that each of the
streets and structures and alleyways in the square carries different value and meaning
to differently situated actors, I started my series of interviews with a key developer
38
In The Marx-Engels Reader, 2e, p. 149.
(Scott Harwood) and I completed that phase of the research by meeting with another
influential developer (Joseph Panepinto). Those actors who look at Journal Square
through the lens of exchange value have had more say over what has happened in
recent years in the square, albeit with some exceptions. These powerful individuals
have had enormous, long-lasting impact on the immediate built environment and they
continue to influence local policy decisions. Their words form the edges of the frame
of the story of the square.
48
Chapter 2: Historical Context
One must consider how [cities] took form
and changed over time, acknowledging the
cumulative influence of many different
groups and persons.
Gwendolyn Wright
The production of space begins as soon as
indigenous residents locate themselves in a
particular landscape and begin the search for
subsistence.
- Dolores Hayden
What is the history of the neighborhood?
- Robert Park
Beginnings:
The city of Jersey City has been intimately connected throughout its storied
growth and evolution to the island of Manhattan. In his description of postRevolutionary War Jersey City, William Richardson wrote, "The fruitful meadows
and wooded uplands of our side of the Hudson furnished food and fuel to the growing
city on the eastern shore" (1927, p. 10). Robert Lewis, in his research on American
central city manufacturing, refers to Jersey City as New York's "industrial satellite"
(2002, p.589). And Goodrich and Ford, in their 1912 Suggested Plan of Procedure
for City Plan Commission, predicted that "Jersey City is likely to become the
warehouse feeding Manhattan."
Both New York City and Jersey City border on New York Bay, the body of
water first visited by the Dutch employees of the Greenland Company in 1598
(Winfield 2). This history of the study area begins with a group of ambitious and
39
The plan was issued in May, 1913.
49
adventurous Western Europeans who crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the early 17th
century, and it recalls some of the conflicts that they stimulated and participated in.
Henry Hudson, the English navigator, sailing a ship called the Half Moon for
a group of Netherland merchants known as the Dutch East India Company, came
searching for the elusive Northwest Passage, arriving off the coast of New Jersey on
April 6, 1609 (Adams 5). It is here that he encountered the native population for the
first time (Clayton 23). The first record of violence associated with what would
become the Dutch colonization of coastal North America comes from April 6 when
Hudson sent men on an excursion through the waterways we know as the Narrows.
His men were attacked by natives and a man named Colman was killed (Winfield 5).
A detailed account of this episode survives in Robert Juet's journal:40
So they went in two leagues and saw an open sea, and returned; and as they
came back they were set upon by two canoes, the one having twelve, the
other fourteen men. The night came on and it began to rain, so that their
match went out. They had one man slain in the fight, which was an
Englishman, named John Colman with an arrow shot into his throat, and two
more hurt. (Collections of the New York Historical Society 324)
The second violent episode occurred on Hudson's return on the second of
October in the body of water now known as Weehawken Cove (Winfield 6). On
April 12 he visited the area that is now a bridged access to a major highway in the
area, Route 1 and 9, remarking that it was "as pleasant a land as one need tread upon"
(Winfield 5). About a mile southwest of Journal Square, this site, Communipaw, was
40
Juet was an officer on the Half Moon.
to become one of the earliest Dutch settlements (Grundy 27). The street name,
Communipaw Avenue, remains today; it derives from 'Pauw's Community' {The
Origin of New Jersey Place Names 11). Michael Pauw was one of the area's original
settlers. At the time he arrived in what is now Jersey City, the area was rich in forest,
wildlife, and marine life, and supported native populations of the Delaware and Lenni
Lenape tribes.
Hudson returned to Europe and reported on the beauty and abundant natural
resources he had found in what is now Hudson County. He "awakened among the
merchants of Holland a great desire to engage in and even to secure a monopoly of
the trade thus suddenly opened to their enterprise" (Winfield 10). In 1621 the Dutch
West India Company was chartered, granting the settlers the power they needed to
make contracts with natives, to conduct general trade from Delaware to Connecticut,
to administer justice and appoint governors, and importantly for the purposes of this
dissertation, to build forts (McCulloch and Haskel 462).
In the spring of 1623 an expedition with thirty Dutch families was sent over in
the ship "New Netherland" to begin a permanent settlement. Eventually, they staked
out a fort in 1626 on Manhattan. But the catalyst for colonization in the areas that
would come to be known as New Jersey came in 1629 from a Dutch edict:
Any member [of the West India Company] who should, within four years,
plant a colony of fifty adults, in any part of New Netherland, excepting the
island of Manhattan, should be acknowleged as a 'Patroon,' or feudal chief
of the territory thus colonized" (Winfield 13).
51
With an eye towards the future, Michael Pauw, a West India Company director,
"caused the district called Hobokan-Hacking, situate opposite New Amsterdam.. .to
be purchased for him..." (O'Callaghan 125). In 1630 he acquired the shore and land
between Communipaw and Weehawken and named it Pavonia, a name that remains
today. Having failed to satisfy the requirements of a successful colony, he
relinquished control of Pavonia in 1634.
In the 17th century, the land in the areas adjacent to Journal Square was mostly
divided into bouweries, or occupied farms where the farmer lived, and plantations
that were worked but not occupied (see Winfield). Yet what we know today as
Hudson County was far from paradise; Grundy writes that much of the area in and
around Jersey City was "vast marshes, frequently covered by water at high tide"
(1976, p.27). Nevertheless, this "quiet, bucolic county on the west bank of the
Hudson" enjoyed an excellent location, "[t]hen as now, it was a key spot, directly
opposite Manhattan, and on the mainland, at the gateway to the continent" (Grundy
27).
William Stone recounts that the dishonorable William Kieft arrived in March
of 1638 {History of New York City 32). Over the next four years, he created and
exacerbated tensions with the native populations. "On the 15th of September, 1639,"
writes Winfield, "he resolved to extract a tribute of maize, furs, and wampum from
the Indians, and in case of their unwillingness to pay, he proposed to employ all
necessary force to remove their reluctance" (Winfield 27). The interaction went awry
and violence ensued. Claes Cornelisz Smits and Garret Jansen Van Vorst wound up
52
dead. Winfield's early history of the area is graphic and disturbing in its violence; in
February of 1643, he writes, eighty soldiers rowed to Pavonia and attacked the
natives in their sleep, butchering men, women, and children. In retribution, eleven
tribes descended upon the Dutch controlled areas, spreading from New Jersey to what
is now Long Island in New York, and Connecticut: "They murdered all the men they
could find, dragged the women and children into captivity, burnt houses, barns, grain,
haystacks, and laid waste the farms of the whites" (Winfield 40). In April, 1643, the
Dutch and the Native Americans finally signed a compact of peace on Long Island;
yet, in August, violence broke out again and the bouweries and plantations of Pavonia
were laid waste and all of the houses and the buildings were destroyed (p.44).
In 1647 Peter Stuyvesant arrived as Director General of the colony.
Importantly, he took a different tack with the native inhabitants, establishing
"intimate and cordial.. .relations" (Ridpath 167). Over the next few years, farms
flourished once again at the locations of what are now the city of Hoboken, and the
Jersey City neighborhoods of Paulus Hook and Communipaw (Winfield 53). In
September of 1655, after a young Native American girl was killed in a peach orchard,
500 native warriors landed at New Amsterdam. As Winfield tells it, they were chased
across the river and Hoboken and Pavonia were up in flames again. "The Dutch lost
100 killed, one hundred and fifty were carried into captivity, and over 300 were
deprived of their homes" (p.55). Hudson County was emptied of the Dutch and
Stuyvesant ordered the people out of their individual homes and into "towns, villages,
and hamlets" for protection. In 1660, and this is key for our purposes, Stuyvesant
53
ordered the Dutch, Danes, Swedes, and Norwegian settlers in New Jersey to a
"palisaded village" to prevent further massacres on pain of confiscation of all goods
(Winfield 67). It was a non-negotiable edict. Inside this fort village, within the
barriers created by wooden logs, the Europeans believed they would be safe from the
threatening native inhabitants who surrounded them. Bergen Square
w a s laid out in a square, the sides of which w e r e 800 feet long... A l o n g the
exterior of this surrounding street palisades w e r e erected before April 1661,
to secure the place f r o m the attacks of the Indians. (Winfield 71)
The original fort was surrounded by farm lots and the area including the fort
and the fields was called "Buytentuyn" or outside gardens. Today, the area known as
Bergen Square retains its old name and overlaps with the city blocks at the south end
of Journal Square. My office at Hudson County Community College on Newkirk
Street sits atop the site of what was once the old wooden palisades of the original fort
wall. There is no better place from which to ruminate about the events that once
occurred in the area. Newkirk and other Dutch street names41 throughout this part of
Jersey City, as well as Bergen Square's enduring name, continue to etch onto the
popular imagination and collective memory the colonial history of the area 42 As
Colin Egan at the Loew's theater proudly states: "Bergen Square was the beginning
of New Jersey" (interview). Significantly, in 1664 Charles II of England granted
New Netherlands to his brother, James, Duke of York (Winfield 92). The region was
41
The history of Dutch settlement is captured in many of the street names throughout the
neighborhood: Sip Avenue, Van Vorst Street, Newkirk Street, Van Reypen Street, to name a few.
42
See Kaviraj (1997) for a remarkable essay on the semiotics of public spaces with colonial pasts,
including a discussion of the importance of street and place names.
54
officially named New Jersey and ".. .the oath of allegiance to the British Crown was
administered to the inhabitants of Bergen" (Winfield 102).
Richardson (1927) recounts that during the 18th century, in the years leading
up to and including the Revolutionary War, the area we know today as Jersey City
became increasingly known as the gateway to New York. Significant events from the
18th and 19th centuries include, in June of 1764, the opening by C. Van Voorst of the
first full-service ferry from Jersey City's Paulus Hook neighborhood to New York
City. The ferry landing "rapidly became the radial point for the stage routes" that
took passengers arriving from New York to points south and west (Richardson 1927).
Almost fifty years later, in 1812, steam-powered ferry service began with the
launching of Robert Fulton's ship, the Jersey
43
And of special note, Jersey City was
also an important stop on the Underground Railroad for slaves in the 19th century.44
Glory Days:
In the 1966 "Comprehensive Master Plan for the City of Jersey City," the
mayor's office describes the unprecedented population growth the city experienced
during a fifty-year period between 1860 and 1910. In those fifty years of industrial
growth, the population exploded to 268,000, over nine times its pre-Civil War size of
29,000. By the turn of the century, in 1900, railroad and industrial development had
43
New Jersey: A Guide to its Present and Past. 1946. Compiled and written by the Federal Writers'
Project of the Works Progress Administration for the State of New Jersey. New York, NY: Hastings
House.
44
ibid
55
established Jersey City as more than a New Jersey city, it was a true regional center.45
Tobin (1972) adequately describes the rapid changes in the late 19th century leading
up to the creation of Journal Square as a commercial, cultural, and political center:
Between 1880 and 1910 Jersey City underwent a significant physical
transformation caused by the intensification of the continuing processes of
industrialization, urbanization and immigration. By 1900 eleven railroads
were operating in the city including the trunk lines of such major carriers as
the Pennsylvania, Delaware, Lackawanna and Western, Lehigh Valley, Erie,
and New York Central railroads. On the whole the city's trade and
transportation sector employed almost 27,000 workers. Manufacturing also
played a large part in the city's economy with over 700 concerns employing
approximately 24,000 wage earners, (p. 7)
It should be noted that the labor that supported this local industrial revolution in the
19th century was provided by Irish, German and later Polish, Russian, and Italian
immigrants (Tobin 8).
The bulk of the construction of the largest commercial structures in the square
occurred in the 1920's and the 1930's. In a 1929 New York Times article trumpeting
the rapid growth in Journal Square, the author reports:
No section of Jersey City, perhaps, has attracted so much attention, in view
of its improvements and the remarkable increase in realty values, as Journal
Square... [t]he tallest building is the fifteen-story Labor Bank structure
erected about two years ago, adjoining the Jersey Journal Building. Covering
a larger ground area is the twelve-story Trust Company of New Jersey
45
For the history of the railroads in Jersey City, see Burgess and Kennedy (1987) and Shaughnessy
(1997). Popular accounts include Alexander (1967) and Cook (1987).
Building, the original structure being erected in 1921 and enlarged by three
additions since that time. 4 6
During the 1920's and 1930's, civic associations and the mayor's office used Journal
Square for numerous celebrations, parades, and other events, creating a culture of
public spectacle. In 1930, local politicians honored Charles A. Lindbergh in a
ceremony in front of the square's police station and made him an honorary member of
the Policemens' Benevolent Association.47 Celebrating Jersey City's tercentenary in
1930, eight thousand masked and costumed dancers and revelers gathered for an
open-air masquerade and carnival, partying well into the evening. The safety parade
in 1934 brought out 50,000 spectators. Massive crowds, sometimes as large as
100,000, often gathered in the familiar space of the square to watch Franklin D.
Roosevelt and other political candidates in their motorcades.48 It takes repeated
public participation to reproduce social and economic structure and Journal Square
over the 20's and 30's, with its wide-open central location, had rapidly become the
place of choice to stage the drama and the spectacle of power and outdoor
celebration.
46
"Great Terminal Facilities Planned Along Jersey City Water Front." The New York Times,
4/21/1929.
47
"Police Honor Lindbergh." The New York Times, 9/25/1930, p.24.
48
See "50,000 in Jersey City See Safety Parade," The New York Times, 6/16/1934, p.13, and "Huge
Throngs Cheer Roosevelt in Jersey." The New York Times, 11-4-1932, p.14.
57
The Right to Assemble
In the late spring of 1939, Journal Square became the contested space at the
heart of a prolonged struggle over the basic constitutional rights of freedom of
assembly and freedom of speech as found in both the first and fourteenth amendments
of the United States Constitution. Several times during the late 1930's, Congress of
Industrial Organizations (C.I.O.) organizers in Jersey City had been "arrested, taken
to the ferries and 'deported' across the Hudson River" after they had tried to assemble
in Jersey City's "streets, squares and parks," most notably, the city's most central
open space, Journal Square.49 For years, Jersey City's notorious Mayor Frank Hague
had been secretly waging a war against those he considered to be "radicals and
communists"50 by turning down the requests of organizers (most notably the C.I.O.)
who had applied for permits required to stage public meetings.51 In a famous, related
case that captured the public's interest in the late 1930's, James "Jeff' Burkitt, a
defiant anti-Hague demonstrator, was imprisoned for six months for attempting to
speak out against Hague's political machine in Journal Square without a permit.
During the 1920's, Burkitt had held open-air meetings in the square to promote his
anti-Hague party known as the "fusionists." These anti-Hague demonstrations were
meant to display an inversion of the mayor's abusive authority since it was common
knowledge that Hague's regime was corrupt. Hague, however, was concerned with
49
"Free Speech." The New York Times, 6/11/1939, p.E2.
See "Hague Safeguards Rally of his Foes," New York Times, 6/13/1939.
51
Individuals, as well as organizations, were not permitted to speak publically in Journal Square if the
content of their presentations was deemed to be anti-Hague or un-American. James (Jeff) Burkitt had
openly challenged the machine politics of Mayor Frank Hague and served a six-month prison term for
attempting to speak at Journal Square without a Hague-approved permit ("Burkitt Watches 'King'
Hague Fete." The New York Times, 1/3/1939, p.6).
50
58
maintaining strict control over the symbolic, centrally-located space of the city's great
square. This was crucial and eventually led to the Supreme Court battle over the right
to freely assemble. In June of 1938, Hague's director of Public Safety, Daniel Casey,
declined to issue a permit for a meeting of Socialists, claiming that it would lead to a
riot.52
The constitutional issue decided by the high court in 1939 had turned on
Hague's local ordinance in Jersey City, which forbade public meetings without a
police permit.53 As Dean Dinwoodey wrote in The New York Times at the time:
The Hague case concerned primarily the right of individuals, particularly
C.I.O. organizers, to use the streets and public parks of Jersey City for
meetings at which to further union organization and discuss the National
Labor Relations Act. Refusal of Mayor Hague and other officials to permit
these meetings was based on an ordinance of the city forbidding "public
parades or public assembly in or upon the public streets, highways, public
parks...until a permit shall be obtained from the Director of Public Safety."
(6/11/39, p.B7)
This decisive 20th century case involved, as Dinwoodey reported, "a conflict between
an asserted exercise of the city's police power and the constitutional rights of freedom
of speech and assembly" when organizers were repeatedly turned down in their
efforts to assemble in Journal Square.
When the United States Supreme Court finally overturned Hague's permitting
ordinance, the American Civil Liberties Union organized a victory meeting in Journal
52
53
Jersey City High Court Ends Thomas Suit." The New York Times, 11/30/1939, p.12.
New York Times, 6/11/1939, p.B7.
59
Square by handing out pink handbills announcing the "monster public meeting to
celebrate free speech."54 A sound truck loaded with amplifiers parked symbolically
in front of the intersection of what is now J.F.Kennedy Boulevard and the extension
of Sip Avenue (known simply as Journal Square). It was the same contested spot
from which Jeff Burkitt had been arrested and taken to jail after his attempt to speak
in the square without a permit.55 The Supreme Court's decision in the Hague case
became a monumentous turning point for civil rights protection against
unconstitutional actions taken by States or cities in violation of the right to assemble
and speak in public places such as Journal Square. In a final turn of irony, when
Jersey City issued its new free speech ordinance in the wake of the announcement of
the Supreme Court opinion, the city authorities vindictively left Journal Square off its
list of places designated "for the interchange of views publicly".56 Remarkably, when
the C.I.O. held a rally in late June of 1939, it had to use Pershing Field, not Journal
Square, as the site for the gathering.57
Journal Square, the scene of the strife that led to the recent ruling of the
United States Supreme Court, was not mentioned as one of the places
designated "for the interchange of views publicly." Charles Hershenstein,
personal counsel to Mayor Frank Hague, said that "it is the intention of the
City Commission to prohibit entirely the use of Journal Square for any public
meetings, by reason of the serious traffic conditions that prevail there. (New
York Times, 6/20/1939, p.5)
54
55
56
57
See "Hague Safeguards Rally of His Foes." The New York Times, 6/13/1939, p.l.
ibid
"Jersey City Drafts 'Free Speech' Law." The New York Times, 6/20/1939, p.5.
"C.I.O. Rally to Test Jersey City Liberty." The New York Times, 61261X929, p.15.
60
The 1940's
Notably, Wendell Willkie, a Republican candidate for the United States
presidency, began his New Jersey campaign in a crowded Journal Square on October
7, 1940. The photograph of the rally published in The New York Times the next day
provides a clear example of how the open space of the square provided an ideal
setting for thousands to gather to witness political spectacle (see figure 20). In his
speech delivered from a raised stage created in the middle of the square, Willkie
assailed Jersey City's notorious Mayor Hague, accusing him of bossism and of
becoming a man who has "forgotten all about civil liberties and American
principles."58 Willkie's presence as a Republican addressing thousands in a
Democratic stronghold lorded over by Hague, was a clear public display of
rebelliousness.
Also in 1940, the last remaining vestiges of the old Dutch village of Bergen,
the Rogers home site at the corner of Newkirk Street and Bergen Avenue, was razed
to allow for the construction of a two-story "modern business building" in what had
become over the last two decades, the city's central business and shopping district.59
The commercial center momentum that had begun in the 1920's would continue on
58
For an account of Willkie's appearance in the square, see "Willkie to Speak in Jersey on Oct.7," The
New York Times, 9/29/1940, p.39, and "Willkie in Jersey Says Rival Relies on 'Petty Hitlers,"
10/8/1940, p . l .
59
See "Jersey Landmark Soon to Be Razed," The New York Times, 9/2/1939, p.31, and "Build in
Journal Square." The New York Times, 6/16/1940, p.RE6.
through the 1940's as International Business Machines (I.B.M.) and other
corporations sought out space in Jersey City's busy commercial center.60
THE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE IN A DEMOCRATIC STRONGHOLD
Crowd in Jersey City'a Journal Square yeslerday u Wendel L. Wlljkls »pok»
Meanwhile, Journal Square became a symbolic site for the entire Jersey City
community during the years of the Second World War. In April 1941, Mayor Hague
used the square to parade 1500 uniformed policemen and firemen before the public to
illustrate his ability to protect the local citizens during the war.61 Several weeks later,
despite "dimouts" and Army restrictions on nighttime illumination, Hague
strategically arranged a massive, symbolic display of fireworks during a parade
before 150,000 spectators to encourage residents to buy war bonds and stamps. He
60
61
"Jersey City Sites Will Be Improved." The New York Times, 7/1/1946, p.46.
"Hague Holds Review of'Disaster Brigade.'" The New YorkTimes, 4/29/1941, p.21.
watched the festivities from Journal Square as the parade fireworks reached their
crescendo over the popular open space. And in April of 1943, the public gathered in
the square to witness the unveiling of a thirteen-foot copy of the Statue of Liberty.
The statue was presented at the end of a parade of war veterans and Boy Scouts that
culminated in the square. Its purpose was to galvanize support for the sales of war
bonds.
Decline:
The [Loew's] theatre suffered from years of
neglect. Carpet bugs, mold, pigeons, it was
really a disaster.
- Colin Egan, Friends of the Loew's
(interview)
Everything was completely different back
then. [The Sevilla] was the best building in
the area. It was all Americans. We had a
doorman at one time. They had ladies
shops, Saks, I had an account. The whole
place has changed.
- Dinorah Evans, resident, Sevilla
Apartments
(interview)
Many of the interview subjects in the study commented - some at length about what they consider to be the long decline in Journal Square. Some of the
comments are ethnocentric and racially biased, while others are merely factual. Bob
Leach, a local historian, the author of Young Frank Hague and the Lucky Horseshoe
(forthcoming), and the Director of The Jersey City Historical Project at Jersey City's
public library, remembers the period after World War II as a time of change, loss of
63
community, and although he doesn't use the term, increasing gentrification by an
outsider class of younger people who commute to jobs in New York City. In the
following telephone conversation, which was one of many with Bob, he
communicated his perspective on several issues of post-World War II structural
change. Rather than citing authors of historical accounts, I chose to include this
conversation as one local historian's personal account of the second half of the
twentieth century.
EF: How are you connected to this area?
BL: My great grandfather came up from the South after the Civil War. He
landed down south, in a southern port, from Ireland. He was captured in a
battle called Antietam. He was discharged after spending some time in a
prison camp in New York. After that he came to Jersey City. He came
through the rough days of the Irish.
EF: What was that all about?
BL: This town was governed by a Protestant aristocracy. They all owned
townhouses in Jersey City. The immigrants coming in was a new experience
for them. Eventually we started getting jobs on the police force - this
rankled the Protestants. We were considered the ultimate foreigners. The
local newspapers would ridicule our brogues by satire. People say there were
signs in the city: No Irish Need Apply. I'm not sure the signs really existed.
Colgate wouldn't hire Irish; I was told this by my family. There was job
discrimination against Catholics. What finally helped us was education.
Irish priests set out to create Irish schools for Irish Catholics.
EF: What about the square?
64
BL: Journal Square was a great hub, a commuter center. It was in the center
of Jersey City, and as you know, Jersey City was an industrial town. A lot of
the men worked in factories. They were good working stock. These were
immigrants; between 1850 and 1860 the population of Jersey City swelled
from 10,000 to 30,000 under a deluge of Irish immigrants. My great
grandfather was one.
The industry is gone now. Poles, Slavs, Irish, they worked in
factories. But, many people worked in New York as well and commuted.
My father worked in the Kearney shipyards. It boomed in the Second World
War. When they announced it was closing up, my father went on strike. I
also worked in Kearney after high school at General Electric. You got two
dollars an hour there. In those days that was a dream salary.
EF: What kinds of business existed back then?
BL: In Jersey City we had Maxwell House, American Can Company, lots of
others. Laundry was a big business back then. Brunswick Laundry is a
condominium now. There was Standard Laundry. A & P had a warehouse
here as well. There was a famous factory district in Jersey City. On West
Side Avenue there was a [lighting] company, Lightolier. Of course these
factories employed lots and lots of people. I first went to work at Furness
Withey, a ship company. [...]
There were famous bakeries there. It was a hub, it was important. Germans,
I guess Germans and Italians, owned the bakeries. My father told me that the
Sunshine Bakery changed their name from a German name during the
Second World War for obvious reasons. The Germans had ice cream parlors;
the Germans made ice cream. At Bergen Square, close to Journal Square,
was the Paris Bakery. It was nicer. In Journal Square was the Five Corners
bakery. There was also Dugan's who had brown trucks, that was a luxury.
Richer people got theirs delivered. Laundry men delivered and some people
65
got their bread and milk delivered. It cut down on crime a lot. The milkmen
were driving around at four or five in the morning; there was a lot of activity.
On his deliveries he went in and out of alleyways to side doors. The
milkmen usually had a young helper, often his son. The old joke was: 'I
came home with the milkman,' which meant that you had been out late.
Remember at that time housewives didn't work so every kid had a hundred
eyes on them walking down he block. That was a burglary watch. People
watched out for each other.
We had the old H and M station [Hudson and Manhattan Tube Trains, now
the PATH] in Journal Square. Produce men sold fruits and vegetables,
people would stop and shop. The clothing stores were there. You could pick
up a hat and a glove, grab your bus, and get home by six o'clock. There
were fine restaurants like Robinson's Steak House in the square; that was a
real nice place. When they built the new terminal these businesses
disappeared.
EF: What is it like today?
BL: There's isolation now. The malls have taken the stores off the square.
Journal Square was a community center! You would meet people there,
especially on their way home. That new terminal kind of put an end to that.
I think it was built in the 1960's but ask Bob Cotter. All through the 40's
they were even talking about it, about a new terminal coming. People didn't
realize what they were getting. There was no longer a nice stroll.
Bob describes the difference between the old and the new in the square as a series of
losses and subsequent decline. The closing of a neighborhood bar and the
disappearance of a flower shop serve as tangible evidence that the square has
changed.
66
BL: There used to be vegetable stores, a florist, the Tube Bar, you've
probably heard of the Tube Bar. Inside, a guy sat on a ladder in the middle
of the place scanning the activity. The Tube Bar was a hard-drinking bar;
there were no stools. There was a legend that they had one bar stool, just
one, and a man came in and sat on the stool and died on it. Like the square,
it had its prime and its decline. In the 40's and 50's it was an ethnic bar; the
Irish and the Polish drank there. A lawyer might not be comfortable there. It
did go into decline in the 60's when the middle class and the working class
moved out. The black and Puerto Rican incomers wouldn't drink there.
Drugs and drug sales had started and there were drug deals.
EF: Drugs?
BL: That wasn't the only thing; there were a lot of forces at work. By 1960,
1961, there was no place left to live in Jersey City. We had highways
opening up; it was an exodus out of town. That new terminal symbolizes
those changes for me. The old H&M [station] was rusty but it was .. .(pause)
EF: ...functional?
BL: ...functional and familiar. It was kind of homey. Afterwards, the new
terminal seemed cold and remote and distant. The old terminal had
accoutrements from 1900, like barristers and stairs. There's a sense of
anonymity now, being in the new terminal. Of course, maybe the new
generation has some affection for it.
We became a city of strangers. After the new terminal was built the
buses weren't out on the square any longer. You always saw someone while
waiting for the bus. People stopped to talk, they stopped at the Tube Bar.
Bickford's for example, Bickford's was a political hangout. They would sit
there at Bickford's and discuss politics. Reporters would sit there. People
sat and talked.
67
I got out of high school in 1955; this was all happening, the movies,
the shows, the restaurants, commuters, Bickford's. I guess it all endured into
the mid-sixties. They speak of the sixties as hippies and flower children.
Decades for me start and end in the middle. The 1960's started in 1965 or so
[he stops to take a bite of pizza].
EF: Would you say there was a community here? A group of people with
shared interests who watched out for each other?
BL: Well we converged in the square. We visited there often. We ate there
and saw parades there and caught the bus. There were rallies there. People
came out and challenged Hague there. Hague was Mayor when my father
was a boy. He gave a sense of immortality, of invincibility.
EF: What do you think about the vision for the new square?
BL: I'm 72. I tend to look back at the good old days. I would like to see
some resurrection of the life I described. The ethnic groups have changed,
of course. Now there's an Indian community and a Philippino community.
There's little India. They don't seem to reach out as much.
We were unified in the old days by the Catholic Church. In the 40's
the important unit was the parish, the neighborhood, Our Lady of Victory
parish for example. That's the social context. Jersey City was almost
entirely Catholic. Parishes were so much of our identity - if a boy from one
parish married a girl from another parish it was considered a mixed marriage!
The ward, the political ward, was another unit. I came from the 8th ward.
EF: What do you see for the future?
BL: I think the future will not resemble the past. I don't see it coming back
as an entertainment center like it used to be. Some say there is no center in
Jersey City these days. I guess you could say we have a few centers.
68
EF: Will the new towers on Sip be luxury housing? Will that change
[pause], change the socio-economic mix?
BL: We've had luxury apartments in the square before, look at Kennedy
[Boulevard] and Sip [Avenue], The people that lived there were established,
people of established money.
In There Goes the 'Hood, Lance Freeman finds that a set of common perceptions and
interpretations guides many of his interviewees' thoughts about incoming gentrifiers.
Residents in Harlem, he found, worry about the arrival of a new social class (or racial
group) that "arrives from elsewhere" and "may not be viewed as part of the
community even if they live in the neighborhood" (p. 128). When I asked Bob Leach
about the proposal for building new luxury housing in Journal Square, he reacted in
similar fashion to Freeman's subjects.
BL: Today in the luxury apartments are the new rich. They're more
transient. They use the train to get in and out of New York. The stores here
aren't for them.
EF: Is the square going to be only a base camp for those folks?
BL: Yes, you could say that.
69
Chapter 3: Scenes and Interviews
W h e n I w a s a kid this place w a s magic over
here. All the clothes stores, the movie
theaters, the restaurants. It w a s j u s t a magic
place for a kid.
- Joe Torturelli (interview)
Arriving
When I first arrived in Jersey City, I wasn't sure what the space of Journal
Square was. I didn't know whether I should be searching for a geometrical square at
the intersection of several city streets, or looking for an imposing plaza such as the
Place de la Concorde in Paris. As an outsider I looked for signs or storefronts that
might provide clues for the wayward traveler, but eventually I just assumed that the
wide-open boulevard and taxi stand were markers indicating what must be the public
square. Since that time - over two years ago - 1 have been stopped (as I walk on the
sidewalk) by many a confused driver who is having the same experience: "Excuse
me," the driver asks, can you tell me where Journal Square is?" Journal Square is
much more familiar to me now and I can direct the lost to their destinations.
When I first entered the square from Sip Avenue, a main east-west
thoroughfare, I was struck by the number of boarded-up storefronts, some with paper,
hand-written signs proclaiming "closed," moving," or "out of business" (see figure
21). One sign read "No Demolition Here, Reasonable Lease." I read the sign as a
fiJ
warning that this was a site of a landlord-tenant conflict. There are other more solid
structures in the square, stone monoliths such as the fifteen-story Labor Bank
62
Later, I would learn that the square has been the site of numerous tensions and conflicts ever since
the first Dutch settlers arrived here.
70
Building, the Jersey Journal headquarters, and the old Trust Company building (now
the home of the Capital One bank). They form a long edge along Journal Square
South. These structures have impressive signs on their roofs to identify them. And
i
down below at street level, popular gathering places like Sunny's Coffee Shop and
the Sunshine Deli have their own signs that draw in hungry passers-by.
In this chapter I invite you to step into Journal Square and to get a sense of
this special place. Understanding this site phenomenologically entails an immersion
into the text. It requires the reader to reside, for a short moment, inside the unity that
is the text taken as a whole. Reading only pieces, or taking the sections out of order,
will not lead to the same result.
71
11/26/07. Interview with Scott Harwood, key developer. 11:00 a.m.
The Harwoods' office is in 26 Journal Square, the familiar 1928 Beaux Arts
building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is fifteen stories high,
and was originally known as the Labor Bank building, one of the first major high rise
structures in Jersey City. On the way into Scott's office, on the top of a bookshelf in
the hallway, I see an artist's rendering (mounted on foamcore) of the One Journal
Square project. Scott's family members are key investors and developers in the
Journal Square area and they have partnered with Multi-employer Property Trust
(M.E.P.T.), a real estate equity fund, in the project referred to in the popular press as
the vision plan's "keystone."63 The rendering offers an image of the two new, mixeduse multi-story residential towers waiting to be built on the south end of the square.
We go into Scott's office for the interview but it feels more like being let into the
Harwoods' home. There's nothing ostentatious about the few things hanging on the
walls or the selection of office furniture. Having owned several local parking lots in
the area, Scott and his family have deep roots in Journal Square as local entrepreneurs
and community members.
EF: W e could start with some background, your connections to the square.
W h a t d o y o u think should be preserved f r o m the past?
63
The project consists of two residential towers (61 and 43 stories high respectively) with three floors
of prime retail space (approximately 70,000 square feet) starting at ground level. Karen Angel, a
journalist, described the towers as Journal Square's vision plan "keystone" in an article in the Daily
News (6/12/2009) written for Brooklynites looking for new places to live close to New York City.
SH: Sometimes history is not a good fortune-teller. Jersey City, as you
might know, has been an immigrant center - Germans, Italians, Irish were
predominant - all laborers - they built buildings in New York City.
Nowadays people here speak forty to fifty languages, a lot from Asia,
Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Sudan. Mixing with Cubans, Dominicans people trying to make their living - not necessarily building a city but trying
to make their way. The goal is to get to America, to find work. No one is
holding a gun to their head here. They settle in little communities. A goal
for society is to bring them out of their little communities, to make them
active parts of the community - education, government. There are some very
bright people who work very hard - the Koreans, they're not as concerned
outward.
EF: Has there been any attempt to bring people together, these different
groups, to see what they want in the area?
SH: Locally we've tried with the Improvement District to draw people in drawing in Indian groups. To get things done here takes an understanding of
how politicians are. We work together towards a common goal to re-build
the area. Take the Coptic Egyptians and the Christian Egyptians, they're
doing battle with each other - they're dealing with issues on a religious basis.
They brought this over with them. The improvement district needs these
points of view - what we need to do to unity the area. There's a tree festival
on Newark Avenue. The Egyptian festival started as a cultural festival to
show what they like, foods. The different groups came together. The
festival concept has always been in the back of my mind for Journal Square;
there are festivals in New York City so often - celebrate, block party
atmosphere. I've always wanted that in the Square. Bring in rides and carts
with food. The key would be to bring the community into the Square. It
would be a social gathering place. Today they go to the malls, they don't
shop in the city anymore.
73
EF: Have you been here all of your life?
SH: I was not born and raised in Jersey City but my family was, near St.
Peter's College. My grandparents started a parking business in and around
the Square. It came about that the Port Authority has property and we had
property. The mayor wanted a [parking] lot, a garage, for the [Hudson]
Tubes 64 . My grandfather didn't want to, he didn't have the money. He was
told "Either you build a garage or we will." They created a deal together floated bonds - my grandparents floated bonds in return for a 50-year lease.
They had problems obtaining steel, it was during the Korean War, they used
government contracts to get the steel they needed. When the garage was
finished my father worked the garage, my uncle worked another garage in the
bowl 65 , and my grandfather was on another parking lot. A lot of old timers
around here probably worked for my grandparents parking cars.
EF: What was it like back then?
SH: Back then the Loew's [theater] was very active, Friday, Saturday nights
were hopping. We parked some management cars no charge, my uncle and
father parked, went in for movie, ran out a few minutes before movie ended.
My grandparents would take everyone out for spaghetti dinner afterwards.
Those are interesting memories, being able to run around the square back
then. My grandmother would take me to Liss Drugs for lunch. We'd take
the Tubes to Grove Street. Here in the basement of C.H. Martin 66 they had
all the toys - you'd hear the rumble of the trains while you were down there.
My cousin went to the shops. There were four fancy Chinese restaurants these were the height of opulence - you can't find that anymore. This was a
big place for sailors on leave in the 40's. The ships would dock on the river.
You had two hotels, three movies, four Chinese restaurants.
64
65
66
The PATH train from New York City was previously known as the Hudson Tubes.
The bowl is the popular name for the area adjacent to the deep cut made for the PATH train tracks.
The small discount department store next to the Loew's theatre.
Scott and many others who spoke with me had vivid memories of what it was
like in and around the square in its glory days. Sometimes the interview subjects had
not thought about these experiences for many years and they enjoyed the opportunity
to reminisce with me. I probed into the past by asking Scott if he could recall any
stories about what life was like there. He smiled warmly.
SH: Well I do remember one year when I first started parking cars they had
a wake for the Gypsy queen. They came dressed up in their cars - they threw
booze and money out of the cars - took over the Plaza hotel for three days. It
was such a parade with fiddlers and trumpeters, the men in suits with tall hats
- it was almost a carnival atmosphere. They came from all over the country
- their license plates were from all over. I remember seeing all the license
plates. The Square was nuts and very busy at the time.
As developers in the neighborhood, Scott's family influences the future of the
space in various ways. By asking him about what will come next as developers gain
more interest in revitalizing the city center, he has an opportunity to talk about social
issues.
SH: Traditionally Journal Square was downtown, not the Gold Coast. We
want to bring back entertainment here in Journal Square. Bring more
residents back to the heart of the Square. We built the State building67 with
no knowledge of what the market would be. We had a hundred market rate
apartments fully leased in two months. 20% of the units are low-income - it
goes by state guidelines - the rental is below the market - $1400 a month vs.
$650 a month for low-income. There's a lottery process for getting the lowincome units. Some people jump the line. A young guy operates the
67
The Harwoods converted the historical State Theater site into an apartment complex.
building - he partnered to do housing projects in Hoboken. He watches over
the building - they do monthly checks of the low-income, checks - check for
"good conduct" - they can be thrown out. The units must remain low
income for the term of the mortgage, 30 years. It's a good concept but the
person creating the housing can't raise the market-rate units; it's limited to
3%. Think about that; it kills your incentive to build more low-income
housing. 421A abatement in New York City was similar, an 80/20 mix, but
there they gave massive amounts of money to developers and no restrictions.
The intentions are good but the practicality doesn't work. It prohibits
developers.
EF: Do you think these mixed income buildings are too challenging?
SH: No. Someone from a disadvantaged background with good moral
standing - it is advantageous to move in. They strive to improve themselves.
Years ago they put them in Federal Housing Projects.
EF: So this is a whole different model for society?
SH: If you put a criminal in a criminal environment, they become criminals.
Take them out and put them into a decent atmosphere of living conditions, no
rats running around, no graffiti on walls, elevators maintained - no open
holes. To motivate someone on the lower income scale, you need to bump
into someone in the middle-income scale, to see them, to see how they live.
The atmosphere is conducive to how they feel about themselves. A single
mother will raise children differently - they'll be clean, well-fed, more
active. The home life has a direct impact on how they do in school. In city
schools they're baby-sitters, parents aren't home, the kids are out on the
street after school. It's a complete breakdown of a social order. Gangs have
infiltrated - it's a rolling disaster.
EF: This is distressing?
76
SH: We love the place, my family. We've always been part of the Square. It
started in East Orange; my grandfather had a garage and a lot. They moved
to Jersey City soon after that. Jersey City was a bigger city and had more
opportunities. They were in haberdashery before the Depression.
Scott is the first one I spoke to at length about h o w the square has changed
since the decades w h e n it w a s a vibrant commercial and cultural center. I ask him to
elaborate on the transformations that have taken place since the middle of the 20 t h
century.
SH: For one, the buses used to be up out on the street - it would bring
people up on the square before they built this monstrosity 68 . My uncle
created "Save Our Square" for lobbying. They went to City Hall to protest in
the 60's just before they built the Port Authority Transportation Center.
They were told that the death-knell for Journal Square was the design and
construction of the PATH Center.
In the transportation center, the way it is now, they take people up an
elevator and 80% of 'em go through the door to the bus depot and they never
hit the street - commuters don't interact on the street. They probably did this
for efficiency, to feed the dinosaur, gobble up the revenue. When the buses
were dropping people out on the street - it's too dangerous they probably
thought - they wanted to get more commuters to the trains. Now there's no
commuters out on the streets. The good businesses, steakhouses and
restaurants, it all died in a span of 3 years. Arnold Bettinger sold his liquor
store. Only the vagrants and the homeless were left. Vagrants sleep in
alcoves and there's no place for them to go. Local government's primary
68
Scott is referring to the PATH terminal, the PATH tower, and the general area around the
transportation center.
77
failure is that they've done nothing to solve the [homeless] problem. There
is no homeless shelter in Jersey City. The SID [Special Improvement
District] is trying to get the homeless person away from the square so that
others can come to enjoy it. People see homeless on the benches and they
move away. The police can't move them unless they are doing something
illegal. The ACLU filed a lawsuit with Superior Court of New Jersey
claiming that police were interfering with civil liberties.
EF: What do you think should be done about this?
SH: One solution is to privatize the public space by a private entity - a
security firm - the space would be public but under the supervision of a
private company. They would have the freedom to do things without fear of
lawsuits. They do it in Bryant Park in New York. The Bryant Park BID
[Business Improvement District] has signed a contract with the city to
privatize - take care of grass, plants, they have complete control over a
public space so they can eliminate what they don't want. There's no crime
problem, there's always public activity. Jazz music and entertainment nothing that will offend a mother and child. I was walking on the square out
here on one of the warm days, I saw a couple of kids, little girls playing in
the fountain, I realized my project [One Journal Square] is going to take the
fountain out. It was a place for them to play. Maybe we need a place to
play. You have families who live around the Square. But we need to keep
them safe and comfortable. When the city dictates things, you never get
what you want. Someone will say, "I need a supermarket, or a group of
shops, bakeries, bread shop, meat shop." The last shoeshine guy was in the
Trust Company in the 80's. Finally they threw him out. We need to
deconstruct the Square and reconstruct it after. The city planners have their
own way - the materials are falling apart. Salt erodes everything. We'll
have the fountain; we'll have the kiosk even though it's useless. In New
York you could sell flowers out of it. It's deteriorating. Go take a look.
78
EF: What if you don't develop?
SH: The city agencies are strapped - they have no money. Before we had
the BID, the streets weren't clean, they weren't safe. No one cared. We
have control now - we collect tax dollars from businesses and disperse it to
maintain clean streets. We ran into a bump with the UEZA [Urban
Enterprise Zone Administration] in Trenton. Our guys, the ambassadors, are
out to help store owners contact police or our off-duty patrols - which we
pay for - people with problems can get police involved, they're there to calm
down people who are getting in arguments, to defuse situations, to watch for
drugs. The municipalities can't take care of every area in the city. It comes
down to this, if no one comes, we have no business.
Interview, Bret Schundler
This section is based on two interviews with Bret Schundler, the former
Mayor of Jersey City from 1992 to 2001. Schundler, a Republican in an
overwhelmingly Democratic county, was brought to office in a special election.
Gerald McCann's term had ended prematurely when he was removed as mayor of
Jersey City because of a criminal conviction unrelated to his public duties. Schundler,
seen by many as a man of outstanding integrity, entered the hastily arranged special
election to finish the remaining eight months of McCann's term.
Jersey City, Varick Street. July 1,2008. 3:00 pm.
It is a sweltering hot day at the beginning of July and despite the humidity I
am wearing a jacket and tie since I have come directly from my office at the
79
community college. It was a short walk over from the Grove Street PATH station. I
am standing at the wooden double-door in front of Bret Schundler's Jersey City
townhouse. The door is hung with white floral curtains that permit the curious bellringer to see through the fabric into the private space within. After meeting Bret and
telling him about my dissertation, we had communicated directly through emails to
arrange a meeting. Brett's wife, Lynn, an attorney and the chairwoman of the board
of directors at LibertyHealth, a healthcare corporation, hears the doorbell ring and
greets me cordially, inviting me in. I have met her before at a dinner for a Jersey City
business association.
It is hard not to notice the tall, stately grandfather clock standing impressively
on the street side of the living room. Tasteful, wooden, Mission-style furniture
adorns the dining area. Carvings and artefacts abound throughout the ground floor,
arousing my anthropological imagination. In one sense, the Schundlers' living room
can be read as a text of their cultural capital. After leaving his high-level position in
the finance world, Bret had travelled extensively and amassed an extraordinary
collection of wood carvings and curious artefacts. Many people who I have
encountered are avid collectors; they amass glass Christmas ornaments, wooden
model ships, antique cars, polished rocks, sea shells, silk ties, old maps, fashionable
shoes, baseball trading cards, expensive wrist watches, and even ceramic Buddhas
and crucifixes.
There are two large armchairs, very soft and inviting, with oversized cushions
and a comfortable couch in the living room. Bret, in his mid-forties, comes down the
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stairs and invites me to sit in the living room so that we can talk at ease. He is
wearing a polo shirt and khakis and I am feeling overdressed.
After thanking him for having me at his home, I explain that I am interested in
speaking with local people about the Journal Square of the past and the present, and
where they think the square is headed in the future. Bret is part of a group of
interview subjects who have influenced, or continue to influence, what has or will
occur, in the neighborhood. It is important, I reiterate to him, to hear his perspective,
what he thinks about Journal Square and how he was part of making it what it is. I
have heard that he has a strong interest in returning the square to its former
prominence. I begin by asking him what makes Journal Square special and why it is
a different space than the redeveloped Newport area or the waterfront known as the
Gold Coast in Jersey City.
BS: If you think historically, Journal Square was the urban heart. It's the
heart of the city. It was the political heart, the retail center, transportation
hub. Jersey City was manufacturing in the past. The waterfront was different
than the square. With the waterfront we built from scratch where blocks
were abandoned. In Journal Square you didn't have abandonment. The
waterfront was railyards and festivals. In retail you have a loss leader. The
loss at the waterfront was different; it was abandoned. In Journal Square you
have density and mass.
I tell him that my research in the archives at the Jersey Room has revealed that
the square throughout the decades of the mid-twentieth century had been the lively
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site of political rallies, numerous parades, and various civic celebrations. His uses his
response as an opportunity to discuss redevelopment.
BS: Journal Square is no longer the place where the biggest events happen.
Now they happen in places like Liberty State Park and cultural festivals at
Exchange Place. It's not the retail heart either; you have the mall now. The
question is how you revitalize the square given those critical elements and
still give it an important, central role in the city. Having the community
college [HCCC] there is great; it doesn't require people to have cars. One of
the college buildings, as you know, is next to the PATH station. We should
talk about redevelopment. Redevelopment includes a lot of things, office
towers, expansion of the college, different retail, and residential
development. There's an increased opportunity to revitalize retail and
restaurants but it won't happen if people don't live there. You have
transportation; it gives it a tremendous opportunity for residential
development. It wasn't too long ago that we didn't have any national chains
represented. Back further in history we had really nice clothing stores, high
quality stores. In the 80's the retail changed. The construction of the PATH
station had deleterious effects. Then we had a lot of 99 cent stores. When
you put together a mall it's easier to pull people in from a distance. In
economically revitalizing areas they [non-residents willing to travel to
Journal Square] can find things right in the neighborhood.
Central to the story of the last few years in the square is the demolition of the
notorious, decrepit hotel that stood on the south side of the Square. After a very long
legal battle with the owner of the Hotel-in-the-Square, Ralph Tawil, Jr., the city was
finally able to fine him for multiple building code violations and to force him out,
effectively paving the way for demolition of the transient hotel.
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BS: With the hotel gone, the anchor is gone. I mean anchor in a negative
way. We knew we couldn't do Journal Square until the hotel went - it was
an anchor holding the square back. The hotel has always been the key to
unlocking the square's potential.
You have to wait for the [housing] market to appreciate now. It's
not a given that Harwood can go ahead with his tower. There's legislation to
build office towers next to the transportation hub. I think you're going to see
development but maybe not residential. Nice retail, nicer restaurants, you'll
have improved the area. You can't go from a very troubled area to Rodeo
Drive overnight. You've kind of slipped back down in Journal Square.
The 1990's saw a tremendous push by the Schundler administration to create a
multi-use public plaza in front of the transportation center, bordering on J.F. Kennedy
Boulevard. Despite resistance from within Jersey City government and parts of the
public sector, Bret's presence at the center of efforts to rebuild the space of the square
created momentum. Bret was in his thirties at the time, resilient and firm about
moving structural changes forward. He is still part of the effort to bring the square
back despite what he calls "years of neglect" by his successors.
BS: Journal Square is really a good example of what we're trying to do in
the city. We want to bring back Journal Square as a desirable location.
We've made Jersey City enough of a desirable location. We renovated the
streetscape but the city has cut back the UEZ [Urban Enterprise Zone] funds.
I thought the mayors after me would follow our lead. Take a walk on
Newark Avenue. Nicer shops have moved in there. Even while we were
going through the long legal battle with the hotel we were able to accomplish
a lot. When I was mayor we had a fa?ade program. Go to Newark Avenue,
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there are two different sides, you can see where the regulation stops. We
brought it back but it's a multi-year initiative. Cunningham and Healy
stopped it.
EF: Can you tell me a little about the statues in the square?
BS: We put up the Jackie Robinson statue on the anniversary of his breaking
the color barrier. That's a historical fact. We wanted to put the statue where
it could teach children and visitors that this happened here.
EF: So it's collective memory, an icon [pause] something that teaches?
BS: We're proud of it; we want the world to know. The other statue, the
Columbus statue, was originally in the center, in the median of Kennedy
Boulevard. The issue was which way he should point - but he's looking the
opposite way. The fountain is important too; it was dedicated to Gloria
Esposito. The developer [Harwood] wants to use the fountain as a staging
area for construction. A lot of people don't want that to happen. The people
who would be most unhappy would be folks who knew Gloria. We named
that plaza after her. I think people in the area would be upset too. The
Loew's theatre is important too. I was very involved with Friends of the
Loew's in different capacities at different times; I'm proud of that. At first I
was involved as a citizen activist. I was working in finance. Different people
at the hearing brought up different points. I shared from a financial
perspective. The testimony I brought forward, I had a Wall Street
background. I testified about developers who had used historic tax credits to
restore properties in other cities. There were real developers in real places
doing this. I think the testimony helped. We won by one vote.
EF: How did 9/11 affect development in Jersey City?
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BS: 9/11 slowed development. This is a single regional economy. We
would have had more jobs. We may have fared better than Manhattan.
EF: I want to show you some of my pictures. I have lots of these but I
picked out a few.
He looks at a picture of the interior area up the stairs at the PATH station plaza. The
space, although captured in the middle of the day, is empty. He holds the photograph
and says:
BS: You see in this picture there are no people. You need people. Do you
want to be in a place where there are no people? The improvements we
made were meant to bring people to the square.
Interview, Stuart Koperweis. 7/7/08.
Stuart Koperweis is a consultant for the Hudson County Division of Planning
and he also works for Downtown New Jersey, a public association that promotes
strong "successful commercial centers" in New Jersey's cities and suburbs.69 He was
enthusiastic when I asked him to meet with me and to be part of my study. When he
arrives at my office at Hudson County Community College the top button of his shirt
is open. Stu is in his fifties, he has striking, wavy white hair that provides a contrast
69
According to Kathleen Miller Prunty, the President of Downtown New Jersey, "thriving town
centers are absolutely essential to the economic and social health of our communities and to New
Jersey" (President's Welcome, Downtown New Jersey Website, http://lmiweb2.com/dnj).
85
to his tanned skin. We are meeting in the conference room next to my office and he
speaks quickly and spiritedly. I begin by asking him what he does in Jersey City.
SK: I set up improvement districts 70 in the state as a consultant. That's my
business, I know more about enterprise zones than anyone. I work, uh, for
Hudson County Planning and Downtown New Jersey. I created, there are 10
business districts ill Jersey City. I created HUB, Holistic Urban Building. It
asks, how do you use revenues from one district to improve another? You
should really speak with Bob Cotter, the Director of Planning. He can give
you the historical perspective on Jersey City. He knows, well he knows
about Jersey City when it was all railyards and warehouses. Have you
spoken to Joe Panepinto?
EF: No, but I plan to.
SK: You should also walk on Newark Avenue to see the changes there.
EF: What do you know about the Journal Square of the past? Was it, for
example, a political center?
SK [pushing back in his chair]: Well, From the Hague Era on, Presidents
would come to the Square, even to announce their running. Back in the 60's
there was a group ~ Gloria Esposito worked at 50 Journal Square, the
building next to the Loew's. She had a temp agency...and, uh she was a
political powerhouse from the 60's on. Her heyday was the 60's to 80's and
kept moving through it into the Schundler administration. Congressman
Frank Guarini, Dominick Degusta, Peter Murphy, all of these influential guys
used to hang around with her. She helped move economic activity in Journal
Square - any issue about development in the Square she was involved, any
political issues, government issues. She was Journal Square back then. Alan
70
Business improvement districts (B.I.D.'s) and special improvement districts (S.I.D.'s) are created
with the intention of making commercial areas in cities safe, clean, and economically viable.
86
Burdek at the Loews - he was an important figure. The square, sure, was
always a place for politics and was part of the politics of Jersey City. What
to do with the square has been a long-time political issue. What you're
seeing happening now is politics. The developer wants to move forward but
the city council is holding things up.
Stu is not the first one to have spoken about the Loew's theater. The constant
mention of it as an important part of the culture in Journal Square makes it apparent
that I will need to look back in time to trace its role in the square's evolution.
EF: What do you know about the Loew's? It seems to be an important part
of the story of the square.
SK: The Loew's, first of all I believe it is, there are one or two of the
' original Loew's theatres that still exist. The theatre, well the theater was a
stopping grounds for Broadway Manhattan-bound shows. It was the cultural
hub of Hudson County; it was the Square and the Loew's. But it represents
what not to do in terms of saving a theatre. We'll get to that in a minute.
Journal Square was the heart. Physically and spiritually it was the heart of
Jersey City. Journal Square today represents how urban centers have fallen
apart but it also represents the potential for rebirth and how not to create a
disconnect with the community.
EF: Many of the people I have talked to have strong feelings about the
PATH station...
SK: Well they're right. The transportation center killed Journal Square,
that's a given. It took all of the business out. The PATH building is
disgusting; it doesn't fit with anything. Some of the architecture around here
is incredible if you look around. I was sitting down last night, downtown.
I've been here a long time. My conclusion is that it takes 20 years to
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complete the kind of thing the planners are talking about [in Journal Square].
20 years. I took a survey because I was interested - 1 wanted to know what
the consumers wanted - they wanted bodegas. Now things are different, now
we're creating residential structures with consumers who demand more. The
towers the Harwoods are trying to build [pause], the point is for the local
business owners to change to meet the needs of the new consumers who are
going to move into those towers.
EF: How will that change happen? Is that something that just happens,
organically? Does local government get involved?
SK: I think the role of government, the role of government is to partner with
the private sector to eliminate the risk of failure, failure for businesses or
failure for public places. We saw the public plaza, which is really like Bryant
Park, as a public place that would help the local businesses and help the
community. Herald Square, 34th Street, is the same kind of thing.
Government helped pursue these things through private and public support.
Take businesses and corporations that relocate. First, the relocating company
wants to know what the incentives are, and second, will my employees be
happy? That was why the B.I.D. [Business Improvement District] was
created. You need ancillary businesses to support the corporate world.
People need more places to shop and live. We need investors.
At this point Stu asks me for a pencil and paper and he starts to sketch out a
diagram of the key organizations that impact development in the area. As he creates
the diagram he says, "This is the key to getting things done here. First of all you have
three agencies here: Department of Housing, Economic Development, and Commerce
(HEDC), Jersey City Redevelopment Agency (JCRA), and Jersey City Economic
88
Development Corporation (JCEDC).71 After a couple of minutes I redirect the
conversation.
EF: You started to talk about the Loew's.
SK: Here's what happens - in 1990 or whatever, it was going to the
wrecking ball. In '92 a grassroots group formed, Friends of the Loew's. In
'93 Friends of the Loew's saved it. They put that under the Jersey City
Economic Development Corp, the EDC. The EDC was the controlling entity
from the city; its role is to market the city, to attract business.
O.K., so the Friends and EDC enter into an agreement because it was
politically correct. The Friends knew how to save the theatre but not how to
operate it and make it successful, which is still true. Anyway, it became
increasingly true [that the Friends were not savvy operators] but their
political clout was growing. The Friends couldn't make a functional
profitable theatre. I was running the EDC from '94 to 2002. I was
Schundler's Chief of Staff from '93 to '94 and then I went to EDC. We tried
to bring in a third party, still keeping Friends but not as a partner. We would
keep friends involved as non-voting members of the Board. Colin would be
the caretaker - there's an operation place for him. Every step of the way
they didn't want that. Colin and his people made up stories - they said I
stole a million dollars. Colin wants to keep it standing and wants the Friends
to have the controlling interest. We used to have people come in and do
movie shoots; we told him to have the movie people bring promotional items
and then you can auction them. He refused to do it. We would use UEZ
funds to fix the roof but he wasn't keeping the books and doing the job. He
runs everything on his own now. The Farmer's Market is run by him.
Roberta Farber at the UEZ [Urban Enterprise Zone] will tell you the scoop.
71
See appendix 1 for a table in which interview subjects describe these interconnected agencies.
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The Old Loew's Theater: Grassroots Resistance in a City Center
Theaters play a crucial role in the cultural life of the square. When I spoke
with Bob Leach, the Director of the Jersey City Historical Project, he had
passionately recounted for me:
Every neighborhood had a movie [theater], the Rialto was one. And every
movie had a nickname. The Rialto was the 'rat hole.' You graduated as you
got older; it was a rite of passage to start going to Journal Square. Journal
Square had these gorgeous movie palaces like the Loew's. (interview)
Those movie houses, as Bob tells it, "made Journal Square a hub... [they] established
Journal Square as a prestige place."
I have spent extensive time during this study looking into the old Loew's
theatre that stands proudly at the center of the square. This Baroque movie palace
symbolizes the glorious square from times gone by, but it also provides us with
insight into how ordinary citizens in a place like Jersey City can resist the power of
local government and private developers who use blight designation and eminent
domain to achieve their goals. The short narrative that follows below focuses on local
resistance to the myriad pressures of gentrification and redevelopment in Journal
Square, and more generally, in Jersey City. It constitutes a micro case of a grassroots
movement that saved the Loew's theatre, a cultural icon, from slipping into oblivion
from the calculated blows of the wrecking ball. The story reveals a host of insights
about shared meaning, social cohesion, power, and conflict during a period of social
and morphological change in Journal Square.
The Loew's theatre was one of three major theatres in the square, defining and
producing the space as a cultural entertainment center. One of the first theaters
designed to show "talkies," it opened in 1929 and attracted over a million customers a
year for stage shows, civic gatherings, and movies. As Short and Ford wrote in 1987,
"[The Loew's] is one of the finest surviving theaters in the state of New Jersey".
Designed by Cornelius Ward Rapp and George Leslie Rapp, noted architects
from Chicago who had designed the Tivoli Theater, they envisioned the grand movie
palaces they designed as "shrine[s] to democracy where there are no privileged
patrons. The wealthy rub elbows with the poor."72 In the same spirit, Christopher
Lasch (1995) has argued that many public spaces are disappearing: "Civic life
requires settings in which people meet as equals, without regards to race, class, or
national origins." He warns us that "[w]hen the market preempts all the public space,
and sociability has to 'retreat' into private spaces, people are in danger of losing the
capacity to amuse and even to govern themselves" (128).
The possibility of losing the Loew's meant forfeiting something important and
central to the social, political, and cultural life at the center of a great American city.
Even today, in a sense, the Loew's holds the city together - it stands in symbolically
for Jersey City. As a marvelous built form, an old-fashioned theater with a ticket
booth out front, mirrored walls, exquisite details and marble columns, it struggles to
72
This description is cited in the "Kansas City Landmarks Commission Assistant Administrator's
Report, Case #0105-D" and is part of the Jersey City library's binder of collected documents pertaining
to the Loew's.
91
hold on in a changing world. It is part of collective memory and the old-timers'
memories of their first dates and exciting Friday and Saturday night excursions.
Serendipitously, during one of my interviews at the theater, a woman rang the front
bell and asked to come in to see "the place where she had seen King Kong."
The Loew's is also a symbol for the local community of the possibilities
represented by grassroots political power. In the 1980's, developers sought to tear
down the theater and I listened to stories from various stakeholders who participated
in the sparring that defined the late 80's and early 90's in Journal Square.
Colin Egan is the current manager of the theater and he also oversees the
farmers market and other community events held in the square. He was a central actor
in the events that led to saving the Loew's from impending demolition. Listening to
his cautionary tale provides us with sociological insight into power, the type of power
Foucault once described:
We must cease once and for all to describe the effects of power in negative
terms: it 'excludes', it 'represses', it 'censors', it 'abstracts', it 'masks', it
'conceals'. In fact, power produces; it produces reality; it produces domains of
objects and rituals of truth. (Foucault 1977, p. 194)
Foucault argued that claiming power, however fleetingly, produces the social facts of
the moment. He saw power as a fluid process, not a fixed thing. Grasping power, or
letting it go, he claimed, is constitutive of the social construction of reality and the
"production of truth" (1984, p.74). My interviews with Colin Egan (and others who
referenced the theater) were crucial for my coming to understand the changes that
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have occurred in the square and how power can be grasped in a place like Jersey City.
What follows is part of Colin's story, condensed from an interview I conducted for
this dissertation (see figure 22).
CE: The theaters were the biggest part of the character of the square. When
they closed the Loew's in '86, a tremendous part of the character of Journal
Square just went away. In 1974 the Loew's corporation had closed the theater
and put money into changing it into a modern triplex. It was an aging physical
plant and the movie industry had no interest in a theater this size with all this
ornate space and expensive upkeep. After '86, the maintenance stopped and
they let it go. It became a white elephant for the administration. At some point
they approached the big developer, Hartz Mountain, and the theater got linked
to the idea of building over the railroad cut and the bowl property, from
Cottage Street over. Panepinto [a local developer] got designated as the
builder. The idea was to tear the theater down.. .what they proposed was right
out of the Hartz metal building book - no connection to urban planning of any
sort. They were going to build the ADP building, a nineteen-story tower
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behind it, deck over the PATH cut, tear down the Loew's, and put in two more
office buildings.
Jersey City had to designate the PATH cut and the area where the
theatre is as 'blighted' - the Redevelopment Agency conducts a survey and
decides the area is blighted. Once blighted and approved by the City Council,
it can be turned over to a redeveloper. They did that - they designated the
theater, the bowl, the cut, as blighted, they designated the area for redevelopment and it looked like the theater was doomed.
Hartz bought it in '86. They closed it in August of '86. While this is
going on there's an attempt to do something about it but [the idea] wasn't
catching fire. They'd have meetings, there'd be like maybe a half dozen
people. They were called the Preservation and Restoration Association of
Jersey City (PARA). In the midst of all this, Jersey City had a crazy municipal
election. The Harwoods [local developers who owned parking lots] didn't like
that their garage was in the redevelopment zone. They decided to underwrite
Cucci's election. They ran big ads in the paper that tearing down the Loews's
would be a national crime. Cucci won and one of the first acts of the
administration was to remove the garage from the redevelopment zone. Not
surprising.
Bill O'Dea became West Side councilman with Cucci. He was one of
the few public people complaining about the situation at the Loew's. Based on
Bill's prodding and some public prodding, the building department began
holding up building permits. The New York Times ran a blurb and included
something about the doomed Loew's. But as of the beginning of February '87
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it looked like the theatre was heading for the dumpster.
EF: When did you get personally involved? Why did you get involved?
CE: Around that time I was driving and I found myself stopped at the traffic
light on Kennedy Boulevard. I was with an architect friend of mine. The
[Jersey] Journal had just run some headlines on the place. Now mind you, I
hadn't seen a film here since the 70's. The headline was something like
"Historic Walls of Loew's to Come Tumblin' Down." There was a news story
about Hartz's complaints that the demo permit was held up. The whole thing
annoyed me - the stupidity of throwing a place like this away without even
thinking about it. I had always been into history and for me this was just
cavalier. I was stopped at the light and I looked over at the building all
boarded up with plywood. I went to the planning board meeting with Walter there was a need to redesignate it as a, a redesignation of the blight area. When
we went to the meeting - it was a public meeting - there were only a couple of
other people there - one was a gentleman called Ted Conrad. He was an
architect and he was a professional model maker. He worked on many of the
significant post-war buildings. His shop was in Jersey City heights. In the 60's
and the 70's he became involved in saving the Brennan Court House. Ted was
the essence of civil activist. He was there and he was a little concerned.
So my friend Walter and I... organized a civic meeting - we decided
to tiy. We made phone calls, we mentioned it to civic groups, we got a notice
in the paper. We went around town and put signs up like "They say the
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Loew's is old and obsolete. What do you say?" We went through Journal
Square trying to get people to save the theater. We wanted them to sign a
petition. They saw our enthusiasm. At community, neighborhood group
meetings and festivals we went around and made the case. The theme was to
make people stop and think about the theater again.
There was a lot of Jersey City cynicism, "you can't get anything done
here." We impressed enough people and we began to gather signatures and
support. We began to get press from the [Jersey] Journal, although reservedly,
the Hudson Dispatch, and the weekly Jersey City Reporter. We even got some
T.V. coverage cause we went to council meetings. We started to bring out 50,
75, maybe 100 people. In March of '87 we got the planning board to delay; it
had to do with giving the feasibility study time. The article in The Hudson
Dispatch said "They carried no weapons, wore no weapons, but in the battle to
save Loew's, the marines have arrived."
For all of Jersey City's reputation as people not getting involved, there
is a real history of people getting involved in civic efforts. Civic groups have
stopped things like turning the boulevard into a major highway; they stopped
the conversion of the fountain in Lincoln Park. We got people out and
suddenly momentum came to our side. More people came to our meetings.
There were several civic festivals and fairs in Jersey City at that time.
The biggest one was the City Spirit Festival. In those years, thousands of
people would troupe through the fair. Every community groups had little
stands - truly that's where you would get exposure to thousands of people.
And there was something else important, people were used to small-scale
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means, things like posters in windows were still an important source of
information... you still had long-term residents here - people were interested.
I remember Morris Pesin driving around town with a speaker on his car. We
tended to get our information out in this small-scale way. There's a lot less of
that now. It was how you could build a grassroots community organization
that could successfully challenge a major developer and a city administration.
By the end of '87 a couple of hundred came to a city council meeting.
Bill O'Dea was pushing the City Council to adopt the plan with the theater as
a cultural center. When the council voted to adopt that plan, Hartz filed a
lawsuit seeking to force a demolition permit. I wrote a brief that answered
their claims. They had claimed it was not architecturally/historically
important. I used scholarly support to contest them. The judge put the
demolition on hold. The council gave us a cultural center standing. Hartz
threatened to bring it all back to court. They negotiated with the council. The
five-year plan came out of this.
In those five years we continued to go around to festivals, we got
volunteers to come in to clean and make it presentable. We patched the roof
ourselves. It was the first, that and the demolition of the concession stand; it
was the beginning of what became this enormous effort to make this great
theater functional and livable again. We had to get the place open again - we
had to get people in. It was the ability to bring people in, the ability to run
small-scale shows in the lobby - it made people believe! It made them come
back and remember what it was and what they could lose. We saved the
Loew's. This place is so important to the community.
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Colin concludes with a story about a supporter who came to the historic theater after
it was first re-opened to the public. No one reading this brief description can miss the
poignant sense of place that it evokes.
One guy signed the 'want to be involved' book. When we asked him, he said:
"This was my theater; this was my summer place! When I came in here it was
as if it was saying 'help me'".
7/15/08. Interview with Robert Antonicello, Executive Director, Jersey City
Redevelopment Agency. 10:30am
The walls in the offices of Jersey City's Redevelopment Agency are painted in
a blase, off-white, cream color. A picture of the new City Center Towers at Journal
Square (the Harwood/ MEPT project now known as One Journal Square) is set on an
unpainted, wooden easel. As I sit waiting for Bob, the agency's director, I look down
and see dozens of letters under the glass of the conference room table, mostly
expressing gratitude for Thanksgiving baskets donated to the needy by the agency.
These individual letters, many written by senior citizens in longhand, provide a
contrast to the breadth and scope of the large redevelopment projects featured in
renderings and posters around the office.
Looking around the room I see an aerial photo of Jersey City, and various
photographs of redevelopment projects in Jersey City (including the Harriet Tubman
Homes, a series of green-designed townhouses on Martin Luther King Drive). We
98
greet each other and I begin by asking him if he thinks it is important that Journal
Square continue to exist as the city center.
EF: I have a number of questions that hopefully we can get to. Is it
important that Journal Square continues to exist? Who steers the changes
that are happening there? What can you tell me about the Journal Square of
the past, present, and future?
RA: You gotta put Journal Square in perspective. Take a look at this [he sets
out a fraying, 1928 G.M. Hopkins map]. The city was not a true city - it was
a transportation hub. Look, Newark was a city. Jersey City was sixteen to
seventeen square miles on the western side of the Hudson. Different
municipalities joined together and became part of Jersey City.
Everything shipped through here. It was really a center of commerce
- it had double the population during the day. It had 560,000 jobs - mostly
manufacturing, railroads, and warehousing - around World War II. The
reason Jersey City existed was to get cargo west - this was a transportation
hub. The waterfront was eaten up by railroads, the Delaware, the
Lackawanna. At the turn of the century, the railroads were extremely
powerful and owned Jersey City and the politicians!
At one point [Mayor Frank] Hague wrote a 'State of the City' and he
talks about Journal Square. They were proud of it. They were proud of
being the railroad terminus - more cargo goes through here than the Suez
Canal. It was a great business district. They realized the city needed a center
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for events. Hague understands this and says 'we need a central business
district.' It becomes a place to have civic events in Hague's time and for
years after that. The Number one plot on the 1928 map is Journal Square that's not an accident [he points to Journal Square on the map]. This is the
central point. By '28 the beginning of the entertainment center is here. It's
the city's go-to place. There are movies from the 30's and 40's that reference
Journal Square. Eugene Debs came here to preach Socialism - he was in a
demonstration in the Square; they beat him up and put him back on the train.
That's the kind of thing that would go on if you challenged Hague.
In the 50's the theatres are doing well. The Square is doing well.
It's thriving. By the 70's things are changing. Port Authority comes in the
70's and wants to build a new center in the decaying Journal Square station.
People will tell you that PATH was wrong but at what point do you...
He is looking down at the map and stops for a moment, thinking. Then he looks at
me across the table as I take notes.
RA: Port Authority says look, we're going to provide a modern center. The
Port Authority wasn't mean-spirited; they knew the Square needed tender
loving care. It was in their best interest to make sure the Square didn't go
down the tubes. It was gonna suffer like the other centers.
Where the city was remiss with all of this, it's very sexy to do the
stuff at the waterfront. When I came out of Rutgers and worked for the city
at first, the city was fixated on the waterfront; there were hundreds of acres
100
there. The Schundler Administration says the Square turned around because
they put a fountain in. Remember, it took forty years for the Square to
decline.
There has to be a reason to go there. The bones of the Square are
great. There are almost European-like features to it. There's a huge asset in
the PATH. Within this Renaissance zone - Sip [Avenue] to Pavonia there's very high densities possible, 40-50 stories, 10-13,000 square feet
floors. We're moving that way. If you look at the new Asian cities, they're
built around transportation centers. We've got one. This station is a ten-car
platform; it's very long. Newark and Hoboken are only eight. You can fill
the whole train in Journal Square.
The conversation has steered towards 'growth,' so I ask Bob if Journal Square is a
"growth machine"73 for the city and developers?
RA: There's really no option here; the 'no-growth' perspective means
bankruptcy - taxes won't grow. It has to continue to grow. The growth will
be around transportation stops, vertically. This was a retail and
entertainment district. How much will come back from the old Journal
Square? I don't know. Ultimately, as the residential gets built, they'll
require the services they want.
EF: How long will all of this take?
73
See Logan and Molotch (1987).
101
RA: Normally it takes ten to fifteen years to catch up in gentrification. We
think there's going to be a retail turn-around. You may not get a Starbucks74
but as the residential changes - the City Center project will be seen from
everywhere since it stands at a high point. Where it's going, I don't have a
crystal ball but I'll give you my idea. The reason it's languished - you are
what you focus on - if they're focused on the waterfront - at the end of the
day right now [Journal Square] is not sexy stuff. We got a smart growth
grant to do a new plan. That's what we're doing now but no one's saying
'guys let's sit down, let's have a cup of coffee.'
EF: How do you get the public involved, the people who live around here
and commute through here, the stakeholders?
RA: Well, getting the college - you're drawing faculty and students, Glen
[Gabert] and the College make a big impact in the Square. All of this has to
get tied together. On the 22nd, we're having a public charette at the College.
It's called "Redesigning Journal Square"; it's an invitation for input from the
community. At the charette we'll go through a Visual Preference Survey on
PowerPoint - they answer, do you like this, do you like that? Quick
turnaround. Block associations, gadflies, and several merchants will attend.
74
During several interviews, subjects mentioned a Starbucks as a tangible sign of neighborhood
change. Similarly, in their article on gentrification, Powell and Spencer (2003) point to the arrival of a
Whole Foods supermarket as the tangible sign that a neighborhood has been gentrified. Both Whole
Foods and Starbucks cater to a class of customers who can afford organic foods and specialty coffee
drinks.
102
What you're seeing now, the older merchants are retired, the money is in the
property now.
To turn around these business districts is complex. The Powerhouse
Arts Project is completely different - Trump is building there. On Martin
Luther King we're doing different things - it's a failed project and we're
trying to build a new center. Back when the decision was made to put a
regional mall at Newport - everyone was focused on "we want to be like
them." Now with New Urbanism and the things we're doing here, they want
what we have. I think people want to be in cities again.
I asked Bob about the delays in redeveloping Journal Square over the last thirty years
and why it seemed as if the whole place was just hanging, suspended in time. I
wanted to know from his perspective if anything was really happening.
RA: The Harwood development is held up by costs of steel and concrete.
The difference between the square and the waterfront is the rent - 34 to 35
dollars a square foot at Journal Square, 40 at the waterfront. We haven't
cracked 26 or 27 in Journal Square yet.75 MEPT [Multi-employer Pension
Trust] working with Harwood on the towers is patient. At the end of the day
they'll get their rents. We're fortunate to have the Harwood's. Lowell
[Harwood] has been a business guy for years now; his enemies love to write
letters to the paper. We can get a tax abatement and build in early fall. That
75
For a discussion of rent gaps, or the distinctions between actual and potential rents (as catalysts for
redevelopment), see Clark (1995).
103
changes the dynamics in the Square. If it fails - well projects like that don't
fail - they just won't build the 2nd tower.
EF: What do you think Journal Square means to people today?
RA: For more and more people it doesn't mean much, just another
neighborhood commercial street. For the Mayor and people like that it's a
nostalgic place - a memory of a first date, a big celebration. As the city
changes less people have the memories. My mother remembers going to the
movies in Journal Square in the depth of the Depression.
Interview, Jerry Milsap. Tuesday morning, 10/14/08,11:00 a.m.
Jerry Milsap is a community activist and director of the Magnolia Avenue
Block Association. He is also a local business owner and property owner (he and his
wife Nancy are landlords - they own a house on Magnolia Avenue that they have
rented out). Importantly, after meeting Jerry, he became what is known in
ethnography as my guide, providing me with much-needed connections and
introductions to key figures in Jersey City. I was able to turn that initial access into
lasting relationships.
He arrives at my office sharply dressed, extremely well-groomed, sporting
black rectangular glasses and a pressed white shirt under a pin-striped, dark gray suit.
104
H e is bald, 57 years old and African-American. H e speaks slowly, deliberately, and
talkatively.
JM: Journal Square. Yeah, there's a lot of history of all kinds here. My
mother worked in Journal Square for years as a saleslady. I would meet her
after work - it was vibrant! There was shopping there. In the 80's there was
a transformation because of the malls. I also remember the anchor stores,
Lords for example, the owners came to our meetings [The Magnolia Avenue
Block Association].
I remember when Martin Luther King Boulevard was Jackson
Avenue. A lot of people can't remember back that far. I'm here, connected,
for fifty years. When I moved here it was a thing called 'white flight.' They
fled to the suburbs. I can understand why, why the white flight took place.
Today [he chuckles] white people are moving in and the blacks are moving
out. Williamsburg, Harlem, things reversed themselves. The thing is
different now; it was a social issue and now it's economic. The thing is,
what, it has to do with homelessness, it has to do with opportunity. I'm from
the streets. I took the position to educate myself. I can see opportunity
where you see crisis. Some people view it as an opportunity. My view is
broader; I took the time to get educated. Life is what you make it. I believe
that doing the same thing brings the same results.
EF: It must bother you that the square, I mean the boarded-up stores and the
old hotel, looks like a bomb hit it.
105
JM: The Hotel-in-the-Square is an eyesore. I'm sick of all the rhetoric. I
wanna see some shovels in the ground, you know, I want to see some action.
I know Jerry Healy [the current mayor of Jersey City]. I said, Jerry, what
happened?
EF: Can you expand on what you were saying about the homeless?
JM: Homeless people, that's one of the problems. In 2002 I was involved
with city agencies to get things done. I was introduced to the political
process by Arnold Bettinger 76 . We, Steve Lipski [Journal Square Ward
Councilman] and I, talked about getting people off the street. We actually
interviewed some of the homeless who were taking up shop so to speak in
Journal Square. I talk about it in this tape I can show you. Steve had a video
camera. We wanted to know how we could help, what kinds of programs we
could create. Talking to them is the only way to understand their plight;
more important, how can we help you? One time a guy asked me for a
quarter - 1 asked him what was his problem. You know what he told me?
He said, "some of us just aren't as strong as others." That was a mindchanger for me. We all have a threshold that could get pierced. That
statement that man made was very profound.
We were trying, Steve Lipski the councilman [Ward C - Journal
Square] and I, we were trying to come up with a comprehensive plan to help
76
Mr. Bettinger owned a popular liquor store in the square.
106
people. You see you need different kinds of programs for people with low
self-esteem. You have to bring together a comprehensive plan. Uh, to get
one thing you have to put in so many pieces. Each person needs many
things. You need city services, psychological services, so you can go from
step to step. You need intervention, interaction, cooperative arrangements to
help people who live here. There's no model we can duplicate. You
duplicate success but you need a model.
During one of the afternoons w h e n I sat on a bench in the square, I had witnessed an
illegal drug transaction. It seemed to be fairly c o m m o n knowledge that the drug trade
flourished in the plaza. I asked Jerry about the prevalence of illegal drugs in the
square.
JM: I think drugs, people resort to drugs when they don't care about
themselves. They use drugs to escape reality. Intervention is a step identity a program that can step in and replace drugs. An effective program
has goals and reaches them. A goal could be to act as an outreach to
individuals in Jersey City to get back into work. I work with an outreach
program but they don't get people jobs. We had a relationship with
Community Solutions, it's an outreach program, non-profit designed to get
ex-offenders into the mainstream to get them jobs and things of that sort. If
you're getting funding and grant money and the goal is to get people back
into the mainstream - something is wrong here. When I look to solve a
problem, I think, how can I get results. What we have now is not getting
results. They [Community Solutions] changed directors four times.
107
Jerry w a s one of the subjects w h o willingly spoke at length about his personal
history and experiences growing u p as an African American in Jersey City. He
enjoyed "telling it like it is" and relished the opportunity to tell his story.
JM: This place, look, there were nine in my family. We lived in Greenville
- most of the blacks sort of settled there in the 1960's. The momentum built
and it didn't stop. From Communipaw [Avenue] south, from Martin Luther
King Drive, to Currie Woods, the old projects, to Bergen Avenue - that was
Greenville. Before that we lived in St. Albans [Queens] and when we got
here I said, "did I die and go to hell?" I'm serious! Dark, cloudy, bleak these are how I would describe it here. Here, let me tell you something.
Listen to this. When I was ten years old my Dad sent me to the store for
soda. When I came out this guy wanted my soda, all of it. I had to fight this
guy. I had to fight this guy for my soda - that was my first fight here. I
knew I had to come home with something or I would get it from my Dad.
Now, years later, you see I bought a condominium here. It's funny how life
goes - 1 never thought I'd be able to afford a place in Jersey City. One day I
took my wife's car to get the radio fixed. I was talkin' to the owner and he
asked me what the key to success was. I told him if you live right, if you live
right, you will succeed.
I lot of the guys I grew up with went to Vietnam. They enlisted in
the army. They would come back on drugs because drugs was prevalent in
the battlefield. We had a draft system and middle class folks got deferment.
108
Blacks and Puerto Ricans went to the army. So many of 'em, we were
friends, would sit around puttin' needles in their arms. It was sad. That's
why I say the key is to live right.
10/23/08 Open Forum: Public presentation of the Journal Square Vision Plan
6:00 p m
I take a leisurely walk over to the historic Martin Luther King elementary
school on busy Bergen Avenue. This short, dense stretch of commercial space is
h o m e to the n e w B a l l y ' s g y m that replaced the old Canton Chinese restaurant, a
Journal Square landmark for seventy years. For many years, the Chinese restaurants
in the square were k n o w n for their opulence and charm. The school building, the
sixth structure to be constructed on the site, is located on the oldest site of a
continually operating school in N e w Jersey, and possibly the United States. The
elementary school that currently sits on Bergen A v e n u e replaced a three-story brick
77
schoolhouse that w a s destroyed by a suspicious, raging fire in October of 1 9 6 6 . " At
that time, 750 students had to be relocated to Public School 17 several blocks away
on Duncan Avenue. W h e n it w a s rebuilt in the sixties, the Board of Education
approved its renaming as the Martin Luther King School. Teachers have continually
been serving students here since 1668. It is a fitting place to educate the public about
the proposed changes envisioned for the neighborhood.
77
"63 Year-Old School Ruined in Suspicious Fire." New York Times, 10/4/1966, p. 13.
109
Entering the high, black, iron front gate, the visitor passes the large white
pedestal that supports an imposing statue of Peter Stuyvesant. Stuyvesant, according
to city planner Stephen Marks, " w a s a son of a bitch." "But," he added, "he was our
son of a bitch. H e w a s here to maintain order" (interview). Stuyvesant, a governor
f r o m the Netherlands, w a s responsible for purchasing much of what is n o w Hudson
County f r o m the Native Americans w h o lived in the area directly west f r o m
Manhattan. The lot in w h i c h the school building sits is inside what used to be the old
Bergen Fort w h e r e Stuyvesant and the early colonists found safety f r o m the
mistreated native inhabitants. Just inside the front door of the school, a sign reads,
" W e l c o m e , let the learning begin."
L o o k i n g around the r o o m I see a diverse crowd composed of young and old,
m a n y different social classes, and different ethnicities. Noticeably, however, whites
are overrepresented. 7 8 Several local officials are gathered at the back of the crowded
g y m n a s i u m w h e r e the c o f f e e and cookies are set out. I smell the distinct odor of tin
and a l u m i n u m wafting over f r o m the big c o f f e e urn as it percolates the previously
canned grinds. B o b Cotter is here, the H u d s o n County Planner. So is Rosemary
M c F a d d e n , the Deputy Mayor, and Jeremiah Healy, the Mayor of Jersey City.
Scanning the r o o m I recognize Steve Lipski, the local Councilman, and Jerry Milsap,
the President of the Magnolia A v e n u e Block Association. I spot Jeannie Pagano f r o m
her red hair; she is a long time resident and an employee at the community college. I
see her standing and talking to t w o m e n I do not know. I am introduced to Tony
78
According to the 2000 census, whites make up 34% of Jersey City 's population. A head count John
O'Hara and I took that night (however problematic this type of counting and the assumptions it
contains are) revealed that whites represented 63% of the crowd.
110
Nelessen, the Master Planner and key speaker for the evening. I tell him about my
interests in Journal Square and he asks m e if I have seen William W h y t e ' s film, The
Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. "You've got to see that to know what we're
about," he tells m e excitedly. Whyte, the author of several popular texts on urban
environments, including City: Rediscovering
the Center, w a s the planner responsible
for the restoration plan of the popular Bryant Park in N e w York City. After this,
Nelessen pats m e on the shoulder and moves o f f to talk to the next person.
The crowd is seated and Robert Antonicello, the head of Jersey City's
Redevelopment A g e n c y ( J C R A ) steps up to the microphone. H e tells the audience
that this meeting is a follow-up to the public f o r u m held back in July. 7 9 Then he
introduces M a y o r Jeremiah Healy. Everyone stops talking as Healy greets the
audience and begins:
We are trying to bring that expansion that is happening at the waterfront to
Journal Square. As you know, Journal Square was the heart of Jersey City.
Certainly, over the last forty years, it has deteriorated! This administration
has taken steps - those buildings 80 are going to be gone. We hope to be
breaking ground in four months. The plan talks about revitalizing the whole
area, making it greener, cleaner, more prosperous and more affordable. It
has to meet planning board approval. We can create ten to fifteen thousand
housing units here. We think it's going to have green areas. If this gets
going we believe it will be a national model.
79
The text of the speeches given at the public forum is based on contemporaneous notes taken by John
O'Hara, my research assistant, and me during the presentations. Despite our best attempts to take
comprehensive notes, they may be incomplete in places and should not be considered a complete
transcript of the event.
80
The Hotel-in-the-Square and the adjoining retail properties.
Ill
We're the number two sustainable city in the United States. Half of our
residents either wake up and take mass transportation, forty percent, or walk
to work, nine percent. That's why we're the number two sustainable city.
If this plan gets off the ground we'd love to keep the historic buildings. The
Friends of the Loew's -- we'd like to make sure that project gets completed.
Even better, even greener, even more affordable. We can be a national role
model.
It is b e c o m i n g clear that the plan for Journal Square is ambitious and if approved, will
be transformative for the center of the city. If it m o v e s forward, the mayor is
confident that what happens in Jersey City will be emulated in other cities. Healy
steps d o w n and Steve Lipski, the Journal Square Councilman, comes up to the
podium. H e barely needs a microphone to be heard.
Tonight we'll present the results of the surveys from last July. This is the
public release of the information. This vision started a long time before the
financial markets took the hit. This announces to the world that Journal
Square is ripe to continue. One of the big concerns I hear, it's a lot to take in,
in one night. We will have follow-up conversations.
O n his w a y off the platform, he motions to some of the people he knows in the
crowd. B o b Antonicello is next. He has PowerPoint slides to share with the
audience.
The site was established in 1630. Tonight is a learning process about how
we reclaim our city and our neighborhoods. Journal Square is a forgotten
neighborhood. It is a central business district. We watched a sad, slow
112
decline in the square in the last thirty years. We looked for someone to reignite our passions about Journal Square.
It is one of the truly great central business districts in the country. We have
to make it green, make it sustainable. We have to reclaim it. We went to
Detroit recently. It was laid out by the auto industry. They abandoned the
street to the automobile. We came back and re-looked at Journal Square.
Build partnerships, think development, get the parking right. Build a place,
not a project. Journal Square was at the top of the 'ten special places in
Jersey City.' Make it retail-market-driven, not transit-driven. Encourage
mixed-use buildings. Bring back buses. Maybe what was old is new. About
thirty thousand people a day take buses out of the transportation center.
Encourage every price point to live around transit. Encourage corporate
attention. That's our ten core principles. Success leaves a trail and failure
leaves a trail.
Mr. Antonicello's short speech resonates deeply with the concerns of city
planners and redevelopment agencies across the United States. Although many in the
audience m a y not be aware of it, he is touching on issues discussed by Goetz (2003)
in Clearing the Way: Deconcentrating the Poor in Urban America. Journal Square's
"sad, slow decline," as Mr. Antonicello refers to it, is similar to the downward cycle
Goetz describes in Detroit: increased crime rates, less investment, and general blight
conditions. 8 1 The goals and aspirations of H o p e IV, the government program started
in 1992 to address these concerns in cities across the United States, promoted
demolition and redevelopment that creates "mixed-use sites" (Goetz, p.4). Certainly
81
Lawless (2002) also compares Jersey City and Detroit in his article on central city economic change.
Both cities, he explains, share a history of prior dependence on manufacturing and blue-collar jobs
(p.1332).
113
the H a r w o o d plan for the southern end of the square emphasizes 'mixed-use' (see
figure 23). Additionally, Antonicello echoes G o e t z ' s assertions about the importance
of buses for those in central cities; they provide vital means of affordable
transportation for the poor w h o do not o w n automobiles. Undoubtedly, in Journal
Square, m a n y students w h o attend H u d s o n County Community College travel to their
classes on the m a n y bus lines that service the neighborhood, and many of those who
w o r k in the square c o m m u t e by bus.
Robert (Bob) Cotter takes the microphone next.
Journal Square is a very unique place. It's the oldest and the first. It's a
unique location on the top of a hill, top of the Palisades. The original
[Bergen] fort wall was outside of this building. It was decided to put
downtown here when the five villages came together. The challenge of
114
trying to plan - houses, offices, and other buildings - take inventory, see
what's there, desires, hopes. Then back to the lab, map it. Analyze it. Then
produce a plan. Tony taught that there's really only one best plan, that you
plan for generations, ten years, fifty years, one hundred and fifty years. And
build the best.
The keynote speakers are Anton (Tony) Nelessen, Associate Professor at
Rutgers University Graduate Department of U r b a n Planning and Policy Development
and author of Visions for a New American
Dream, and Dean Marchetto, an urban
designer and co-architect of the vision plan. Mr. Marchetto's comments are brief and
he reminds the audience that "this place already has an incredible history." H e also
emphasizes that "any plan m u s t put the pedestrian first, not the automobile." He
yields the m i c r o p h o n e after just a minute to Tony Nelessen.
T o n y sports round glasses and a salt-and-pepper mustache and beard (mostly
salt). H e is m o r e comfortable in front of a large assembly than some of the other
speakers and he has an extensive PowerPoint program that ends up taking two and a
half hours to complete.
This surprises m e since, by that time, the majority of the
attendees have left and only a small group of local residents remain to voice their
concerns during the question and answer session left for the end of the evening. 8 2 A
smaller group of participants represents a m u c h lower chance that conflict will arise
f r o m differing values and interpretations of the presentation. I was not the only one
to notice this pattern; back in July, the Jersey Journal
had printed an editorial piece
82
On my way out, at the end of the evening, a young man who had stayed for the entire presentation
told me: "I don't know how they expect anyone to stay through all of this." Among my fieldnotes
from the presentation was this: "After about 2 Vi hours I wilted and left. I wondered who from the
community had this kind of stamina."
115
titled, " M o r e public input needed on 'visions' for the square," in which the author
argued for m o r e "public input into this [redevelopment] process."
The entire
evening can be interpreted as a display of p o w e r as little room is m a d e for
negotiation, contestation, or true democratic expression despite the reality that the
plan being presented has the potential to disrupt huge areas of the urban landscape
that m a n y residents call h o m e (or the place where they spend their leisure time).
Ironically, Professor Nelessen begins with the opposite assumption:
Tonight I want to present the true vision evolution of the future vision. No
one knows a community better than the people who live there.
It's not the fifties when the charge was to get as many cars through here as
possible. It must be managed and maintained over time. One piece of litter
decreases the value of a place. Here's the evolution - city centers hit the
bottom and redevelop. We have heard nothing but nostalgia about how the
square used to be. Everyone talked about how grand and glorious it was.
Old postcards are running thirty to fifty dollars a piece.
It drives, and lives on, the PATH station. The PATH station drives this
place. The PATH tower - that's 'new brutalism.' The Port Authority would
love to see the building gone.
Dean said it's more European here than anything in the United States. It has
great bones. The biggest buildings everywhere go next to transit. India and
China are growing too fast - too much competition for gas.
We had to get as many people as possible to participate in this [planning]
83
Jersey Journal, 7/28/2008, p. 12.
116
process. This is not a pipe dream. You can't do the same old stuff. It's a
whole new world out there. Urban planning through public participation.
Over the next couple of hours w e are taken through slides and a video that
s h o w every aspect of the plan. Nelessen c o m m e n t s that the themes behind the
structural changes are social: " H e r e ' s the thing, if you d o n ' t plan correctly, places
deteriorate, people in t h e m b e c o m e depressed, hopeless, and angry. Anger and
depression lead to drug use and declining health." H e focuses on people and what
they experience in a poorly designed place, explaining that their physical and spiritual
conditions are affected by planning decisions. Nelessen continually stresses
'walkability' and the need to eradicate street level parking lots that eat up key space
in the city center. H e describes the plaza area at the transportation center as a
"negative, cold, hard place." Yet, he also informs us that 9 2 % of the survey
respondents believe w e need one or more m a j o r plazas in the area. In closing, he
confidently assures the crowd that there will not be "eminent domain for private
development" and that " H a r w o o d ' s project is going to be built" (fieldnotes). By this
time only a h a n d f u l of attendees are left in the room. It would seem as if the master
plan for the n e w Journal Square has encountered no obstacles, that the future is
certain.
117
11/10/2008. Interview, Nancy Caamano, Director, Hudson Pride Connection.
Jones Street in the square.
It is 2 p m on a brisk N o v e m b e r afternoon. I arrive at a striking, recentlyrenovated, three-story Victorian house in Journal Square on Jones Street. The Pride
Connections Center is used as offices and a community center by the Hudson Pride
Connection, a local non-profit agency that serves the lesbian, gay, bisexual,
transgender c o m m u n i t y (LGBT), as well as other people living with HIV or A I D S in
the northeastern, N e w Jersey, region. Support groups gather here and L G B T
c o m m u n i t y m e m b e r s can access counseling and use the specialized library. The
Center also offers legal education, advocacy workshops, and after-school programs.
They have social events here o n the first floor. I have arrived to interview the
director, N a n c y C a a m a n o .
I ring the bell a f e w steps u p from street level and I am buzzed in. Nancy and
I have met before; therefore, I am comfortable waiting in the lobby area. There are
plenty of topical fliers and brochures set out: free HIV testing, legal services, j o b
search information. I walk towards the back of the house to look around in the room
that serves as a small art gallery displaying the work of local artists. W h e n I was first
here I had been interested in several of the drawings and paintings that were hanging
on the walls. After a f e w minutes N a n c y comes down to greet me and w e walk
upstairs to her office on the second floor. Surprisingly, there are no clients in the
building during the interview.
N a n c y is Hispanic, the child of first-generation immigrants; her father is f r o m
Spain and her mother comes f r o m Honduras. I have never asked her about her age
118
but I surmise that she is about 25 or 26. A s w e enter the office, she kneels down to
switch on a noise reducer. The apparatus creates a windy sound that prevents people
outside of the office f r o m hearing the conversation f r o m within. Nancy has short,
somewhat spiked hair and is wearing an olive-green, short-sleeved shirt over a
second, black, long-sleeved shirt. She has on green Skechers sneakers with the laces
removed. The o f f i c e floor is covered in burgundy, shag carpeting. It is small but
comfortable and I take o f f m y coat and place it on the back of a chair. I break the ice
by asking her about the house and the immediate neighborhood.
NC: We just got money to do the basement. We found out we're a historical
site. We got a grant from the city. It's a Victorian. We do get a lot of
people who pass by and lived in it when it was transitional housing.
Homeless lived here when it was closed. The transportation hub makes this
place accessible. You probably know that Hudson County has a ten-year plan
and it talks about the homeless. Because of the county's definition you have
to be without a permanent home for over 3 months. The biggest problem
with the 10-year plan is the homeless.
She looks directly at m e , waiting for the next question, and she glances over at her
computer every minute or so. Unlike some interview subjects who offer stories and
information without m e having to ask, N a n c y is guarded, offering up responses, not
volunteering information. I ask her what sorts of changes she sees happening in the
neighborhood and her responses are tinged with sociological insights.
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NC: The projects next to the Beacon [the site of the old Jersey City Medical
Center] are being knocked down and all those people are being displaced.
They go to other parts of Jersey City; sometimes they go to Newark. And a
percentage have nowhere to go. It's mostly African-American in that
location. They're the Montgomery Projects. People don't realize, it costs
money to move, to rent a U-haul, to get a deposit. And do you think a lot of
these elevators work?
EF: Why are they taking the projects down?
NC: Because people weren't buying units at the Beacon with the projects
next door. In the Beacon, you know, they have a supermarket and a shuttle
to the Grove Street PATH.
EF: Is the developer forcing this to happen?
NC: Yes. It was in the Hudson Reporter. The age of the housing projects is
being used against them. You gotta remember there's not a lot of affordable
housing in Jersey City.
EF: The Harwood proposal looks like luxury housing.
NC: This is gentrification. This is a working-class and low-to-moderate
income neighborhood. The same thing happened in Downtown Jersey City
by Grove Street. I can't afford to live there now. I was renting an apartment
5 years ago; I paid like 850. Now it's like 1500. During the day, after 9:00,
where do all these people [commuters] go? They don't frequent Jersey City
stores or banks. They live here because they get more space than New York,
you know.
EF: Have you seen the proposals for the Square?
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NC: It seems unrealistic, unattainable, like it's going to take 20 years. I
would think it's a 20 to 25 year plan. They say they're gonna extend the
light rail all the way here, which would be nice.
EF: Do you think the plan is addressing the past, the history of the area?
NC: I've always felt like Jersey City doesn't maximize - Newark has
baseball, a stadium, and a performing arts center. We have a Science Center
and the Loew's but even though Journal Square has the Loew's people don't
know it's here. Maybe that's a good thing.
The Journal Square neighborhood that N a n c y works in has been anything but
placid at times. The local newspaper, the Jersey Journal,
makes it a practice to
broadcast n e w s of violent crimes across its front page. I ask her about her concerns
about safety, especially at a safe house for a marginalized group.
NC: We're in between districts; the police had to cross districts to patrol
here. So they didn't. We have a lot of prostitution that occurs on the street.
People smoke pot on the stoop and stuff. For a long time the light out front
in the street was out. You need a light to cut down on things and prostitutes.
The community liaison comes once or twice a week. When there's increased
loitering we let him know [she slides down in her chair, I sense she is
becoming more comfortable with the interview]. We tell our clients that we
close at 10. We have no programs after 10, you know.
While she proceeds to respond to m y question about safety, she is moving around a
lot in her chair. These issues are close to the bone for her and they resonate with the
reasons w h y she has chosen to w o r k for this organization and this population. She
straightens herself u p and continues:
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Downtown where I used to live they say you'd hear gunshots every night.
And now - Journal Square is what Grove Street used to be. Over the
summer two of our youth clients were out front and a homeless guy broke a
bottle over one of the youth's head. It hadn't happened before. They were
holding hands. One of our staff members was beat up by the son of the guy
who owns Kennedy Chicken on Sip. He called him a sissy. He attacked him
on the corner, out on the street. We do press releases when things happen.
It's a rough community; we are and we aren't accepted.
EF: Do you feel that there's a community here [in Journal Square]?
NC: Where I live, on Chestnut Street, there is. There's a little grocery store
on the corner and the same people own it for 30 years. They have a good
sense of community there. Here [on Jones Street] it's hard to say. Our grand
opening was great [her eyebrows move upwards and she smiles]! The mayor
did the ribbon cutting. We had about 70 people, and food. It was in October.
I almost missed it because I went home to change. I was so upset, I was
almost in tears, but I double-parked and ran.
The organization has been on this block for 15 years. [Councilman] Lipski
has always been really great to our center.
She seems busy, glancing back and forth f r o m her computer, so w e talk for
j u s t a f e w more minutes. I want to be respectful of her time so I signal to her that the
interview is ending by closing the page on m y notepad. As I put on m y winter
overcoat to leave, I mention to N a n c y that if she thinks of anything that I should
k n o w about, if she remembers any stories, she should email or call me. I can see
f r o m h o w she cocks her head that she is thinking. As w e are walking downstairs,
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towards the front door, she offers: " T h e biggest spot for prostitution is the bathroom
in Journal Square. Ask anybody. I read somewhere that they were gonna close it.
Working with such a rough c o m m u n i t y it's hard to have funny stories."
I thank her, shake her hand, and leave the building. I turn the corner and walk
back towards m y office. Along the w a y I pass a small group of about fifteen people
outside of the county welfare and social services building at 100 Newkirk. It is cold.
T w o of the families w h o wait outside have babies in carriages. In both cases, older
w o m e n m a n a g e the carriages. A younger w o m a n paces back and forth, smoking.
She looks at m e as I pass, glancing f r o m m y shoes upward, quickly taking in my
appearance, reading me, looking away w h e n she reaches m y eyes.
Winter Clean Up
Saturday, December 13, 2008. 9:30 a.m.
It is a bitter cold Saturday m o r n i n g in December. Even with a heavy, cotton
turtleneck, a lined winter jacket, and a fleece headband, the whipping wind in the
square is m a k i n g m e shiver. I forgot to wear gloves so I have m y hands buried deep
in m y pockets. It is one of those mornings in which the temperature is in the twenties
but the chill city wind m a k e s it feel as if it is five degrees below zero. Chris
Bernardo, the passionate Operations Manager for the Special Improvement District
(S.I.D.), had sent an email message earlier in the week asking for volunteers to
participate in a winter cleaning in Journal Square and a much-needed food collection
123
for the Old Bergen Church. Recent newspaper accounts testify to the fact that 2008
has been a crisis year for many food banks across the country with donations down
and demands rapidly rising.
Jerry Milsap has forwarded Chris's email to his larger
network of concerned citizens and it has m a d e its way to me. Internet communication
has unquestionably enabled increased levels of support for public associations in the
neighborhood surrounding Journal Square.
I have arrived early, b e f o r e the other volunteers. I am practically the only one
walking around the kiosk and the area near the entrance to the transportation center.
The square is quiet. Without the constant stream of commuters emerging from the
long escalators inside the P A T H station, the space is like any other plaza in winter,
devoid of those w h o c o m e to pass time or socialize. Chris shows up a f e w minutes
later with twelve m e n w h o receive assistance f r o m Community Solutions, a local
non-profit agency that tries to place t h e m in jobs. Some have recently been released
f r o m prison. Another six workers f r o m the regular S.I.D. maintenance crew arrive
just behind them.
The workers have brought round-point garden shovels with
w o o d e n handles, large white plastic bags, and a rolling cart with forty-pound bags of
cedar mulch. Earlier in the morning the S.I.D. had dropped off several black
Rubbermaid trash receptacles that will be used to gather the much-needed food
donations. To avoid any contamination problems, one of the female volunteers tapes
signs onto the receptacles so that people k n o w to put food, not garbage, in those cans.
Fortunately Chris has brought a f e w pairs of work gloves with him and I slide
m y stiff hands into a pair. Chris is young, probably in his early thirties, and he takes
84
See, for example, Zezima (2008); Ginsberg (2008).
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great pride in his role in the community. "This is a great w a y to m a k e a difference. If
the square looks good people will want to be here," he tells me. His cheeks are bright
red f r o m the cold but he does not seem to mind the winter temperature. He instructs
several of us to start pulling out the dead m u m s f r o m the flowerbeds and gives us
bags to dispose of them. By this time a larger group has formed including community
group members, local residents, community college students, and other willing
helpers. People start raking u p leaves, cleaning out the frozen flower beds, and
dragging the big white garbage bags to a central spot near the plaza kiosk.
The
square, despite the persistent wind, is alive again with activity and friendly
conversation.
After about an hour I break to take a walk over to the C - T o w n supermarket
just off the square on Bergen Avenue.
On m y w a y I pass a crowd of approximately
twenty men, w o m e n , and young children waiting outside the post office in the cold
for the local bus. T w o of the young girls are hopping in place to stay warm. W h e n I
arrive at the store I have to carefully maneuver the narrow aisles with m y wagon,
picking out staple food items that I think will be appreciated by the end-users of m y
donation. I fill m y cart with Skippy peanut butter, Quaker Oats oatmeal, Carolina
rice, and flour tortillas. It does not take long to notice that the groceries here in this
struggling urban center are more expensive than in my supermarket fifteen miles
away in a m o r e affluent suburb. The urban poor in Jersey City pay top-dollar for
their foodstuffs. A s I h a n d over m y two twenties to the young Latina cashier, we lock
eyes for just an instant. She has beautiful, warm, dark brown eyes and gloss on her
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lips. Quickly averting m y gaze, she looks d o w n at the cash to m a k e sure that I have
handed her enough money. Her workday is a long series of exchanges of glances and
currency with locals and strangers. W e are watched by an older man who sits on an
upside-down green, plastic milk crate; he watches all of the interactions with the
cashiers, ensuring that the cash makes its w a y to the registers and that strangers are
kept m o v i n g along. I am warmer n o w than I w a s w h e n I came in.
W h e n I return to the square Chris motions m e over for a photograph with
Jerry Milsap f r o m the Magnolia Street Block Asociation, Steve Lipski, the Journal
Square Councilman, and other volunteers (see figure 24). H e doesn't need to speak,
he just gestures, m o v i n g his hand and arm in a circular motion that pulls m e into the
circle of volunteers. Steve has showed up for moral support and to lend a hand, but
he cannot stay long since he is attending a lunch with the mayor as well as another
community event later in the day.
politicians.
Saturdays in December are busy times for local
Jerry Milsap introduces m e to his wife, Nancy, w h o asks m e h o w m y project
is going. She is pregnant and expecting her first child. "Yeah, can you believe it?"
Jerry asks me, smiling the smile of an expectant first-time parent. W e start a
conversation about the condemned buildings behind the fence but w e are called over
to take another photograph with different volunteers. The kiosk door is open and I
see that several of the m e n f r o m the C o m m u n i t y Solutions group are enjoying Dunkin
Donuts, bagels, and steaming paper cups of coffee. They are glad to be out of the
wind for the m o m e n t . O n e of the volunteers w h o has been working without his coat
zipped up, holds the paper c o f f e e cup between both of his hands and leans his face
over the rising steam. It feels good to be in the square even in the cold. Everyone is
working together t o w a r d s c o m m o n goals.
Interview, Steve Lipski
March 11, 2009 3:30 pm My office at the community college
Steve Lipski, the popular, local councilman for the Journal Square District,
comes to see m e wearing a blue sport coat without a tie, tan slacks, and a white shirt
with blue stripes that is left unbuttoned at the collar. H e is one of Jersey City's most
visible politicians. Looking at m y clock, I realize that he is already about an hour late
for our scheduled appointment and I begin to think that he is not coming. Besides
being a councilman, he is also the founder and Chief Executive Officer for C R E A T E ,
a growing charter high school in Jersey City. The school, started just days before the
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9/11 crisis, n o w has a student population of about 400. Usually w h e n I try to reach
him, he is busy with school issues, so I figure that something there has detained him.
Finally he arrives.
Steve stands about five feet seven inches tall and has the sort of slight belly
that m a n y m e n in their forties start to acquire. As he sits d o w n he tells me " Y o u
k n o w , I taught E S L (English as a Second Language) at the college for 6 or 7 years.
Of
Y o u see these pictures? T h a t ' s what it's all about."
I ask h i m h o w long he served as a councilman in Jersey City, using the past
tense since he has recently announced that he will not be running for his seat on the
city council again. His political career has been derailed by recent unfortunate events
in Washington D.C. where he attended a concert. He has pleaded no-contest to a
charge that he w a s inebriated and had urinated off of a balcony onto other concertgoers at a show.
SL: I was a councilman for eight years, three years on the planning board. I
should have sent my bio [he chuckles],
EF: Well, thank you for coming here. I know you're busy. Journal Square
means a lot of things to different people. It has a past, a present, and a future.
I have a couple of overarching questions. What does Journal Square mean to
you, and, uh, over the years there have been several plans for development
here, it seems to me that the development has been very piecemeal... the
85
He is referring to several excellent, professional photographs of students from the community
college's renowned Culinary Arts Institute; they were left on the table from a previous meeting and
provide an interesting backdrop for the conversation. The set of photographs reflect the diversity of
the student body.
original Hague Plan, the Gangemi Plan, Schundler's plans...[he interrupts
me].
SL: You hit the nail on the head; you said piecemeal. The problem as I see
it is there's not a consistent authority that oversees development in the
square. In my time we went through three mayors on the council [folds his
hands together on the table in front of him]. No project can sustain its rigor
without having the top management to push through that vision. If it's
independent, like the Supreme Court, that's the best. With this it's the
inverse. We need a structure that's quasi-autonomous to deal with Journal
Square [he moves to the edge of the chair]. With the Meadowlands the state
appointed, um, an autonomous agency to run it. There's no authority in this
area that's consistent. If I'm looking at Journal Square, we bring in [the
planners] Nelesson and Marchetto, and let's say we lose, Mayor Healy loses
in May. We've spent $400,000 for this plan - where will it go? It's too
choppy, it's too inconsistent, too [pause] sporadic. Sporadic.
At this point I tell Steve that w h e n I met with Bret Schundler he also talked
about the place-making changes his administration m a d e in the square, especially the
installation of the fountain, m o v i n g the C o l u m b u s Statue f r o m the traffic barrier in the
middle of K e n n e d y Boulevard to the public plaza space, putting in benches - really
creating a public plaza where people could use the square to sit alone or to picnic with
friends, read a paper, interact, or just listen to music. H e becomes animated when I
say these things, leaning forward, holding the edge of the table with his hands.
SL: Let's talk about the fountain, the marble sidewalks, the plaza area you're
calling it. This was started under Bret Schundler. It was a $7 million fagade.
Look at the fountain - how often is it on? How many times have you seen it
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on? If it stayed on as it was... the marble sidewalks were not installed
properly; all of the grease from the KFC [Kentucky Fried Chicken] gets into
them. You can't professionally clean 'em. The lights - let's look at the
lights. They were never set right. We've had problems with them falling
and them not really melding in. I don't care who it was that started this, in a
town this size, the politician has a vision and says, ok, this is my town, there
are a lot of things goin' on that require my attention. The kiosk, some of
those, um, tiles and the fixtures are falling off. My point is, Bret took an
interest so when you drive by it doesn't look so bad. If someone gets
replaced every two to four years... look at Glen Gabert [The President of
Hudson County Community College], He's here seventeen years. He's
meticulous. Prior to Glen it was bad. The college was, I can't tell you how
bad it was. Now look at the new park [in front of the Culinary Arts
Institute]; it's exciting. It's a beacon of light for the whole place.
EF: What about the private developers? Do they work well with local
government? Are they the catalysts?
SL: My question would be: catalyst for what? So if I'm saying catalyst to
bring in a huge building that can bring in homes - is it integrated? How is it
connected to the college? How is it connected to the rest of the square? It's
the single largest project in Journal Square in twenty-five years. 86 It will be a
draw but it's not part of an integrated plan. It's not the developer - it has
everything to do with how we structure the city. What happens - you
mentioned Hague - it's winner takes all. We have strong mayoral direction
in Jersey City. We need a model, um, like the Meadowlands. When people
know there's an election coming, the government productivity falls - like a
roller coaster effect. The first year everyone's trying to get used to the new
mayor. Then you have a year and a half and things get done but then a year
before the election everyone's getting ready for the election. That's why
86
He is referring to the Harwood / MEPT project (One Journal Square) on the old Hotel-in-the-Square
site.
130
[moving arms and hands in a wavy motion] I call it a roller coaster. The best
laid plans... (fades and pauses).
Steve sits back, reflective, seeming like he has temporarily exhausted himself. He is
drifting, m a y b e thinking again about his personal issues. There is a lawsuit pending
at his charter school in which the former Principal and Dean of Students both allege
that he pressured t h e m to destroy reports about levels of violence at the school. I
wonder if that is on his mind. H e seems distracted.
I k n o w w e have limited time and I want to hear more about the relationships
and n e w f o r m s of partnerships between private developers and local government.
Stivers (2009) has recently argued that cities are experiencing transformed systems of
governance in w h i c h government is seen as only one major player among many in a
free market society (p. 1095). She writes that n e w forms of collaborative decisionmaking that bring together government and private entities are increasingly replacing
the old conversations about the relations between citizens and governments in which
government w a s " . . .a remote bureaucracy, wrapped in red t a p e . . . " (p.1095). Today it
is m o r e about " d e a l s " and "exchanges," interdependencies and power dispersal to
networked actors w h o enable and encourage projects to m o v e forward (pg.1098). She
is also clear, conversely, that many of the networked players operating under the n e w
collaborative p a r a d i g m of governance, remain at heart Hobbesian and Cartesian: "All
they w a n t f r o m the State is basic protection f r o m one another so they can seek
whatever material possessions or social status they think will make them happy"
(1102). Hers is a plea for a n e w "ontology" and system of governance that will
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support initiatives such as c o m m u n i t y health centers and continually emphasize the
best interests of the people living in the community. Governance, she argues from a
phenomenological standpoint, should be based on a " w e b of understandings that
actual people perpetuate in their daily lives" (1107). Steve's perspective as a
councilman is key; his insistence (see next interview) that the mayor speak with the
community groups to hear about their needs, resonates deeply with Stivers'
perspective. Over the years he has been a strong voice of support for the Magnolia
A v e n u e Block Association. I ask him to elaborate on the public and the private in the
context of redevelopment.
SL: Yeah, I think the engine, the engine of change here is government. The
oil is the private sector. Look at the Harwood project. Jersey City
government has the zoning redevelopment rights to the area. The developer
had to negotiate taxes - a tax break - the city is giving them a break, um, to
enable this project. So the engine, the hardware, is the government, the
hardware is the government and its people. The software is the private
sector. Keep in mind, we don't do Go-Go [dancing] here; we don't do
smoke shops, like for drugs. Only some kinds of projects get approved. Not
everything goes; what you're doing has to fit within the laws. Look at the
park. It was approved by government and, I think, we used a combination of
things to make it happen, including greenspace dollars.
Steve gets u p f r o m his chair and starts pacing around the room. " I ' m going to
have to go," he says. "I have a council meeting. But I want to bring m y students here
(gesturing to the space of the conference room). "I want them to see this," he says,
pointing to the pictures of the culinary institute students in uniform. The recession is
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hurting m y students. Their fathers are losing their jobs, things are getting bad. I have
discipline problems. I w a n t t h e m to see this."
I tell him that bringing his students here is a great idea. They can have
breakfast with me. W e agree that it might be motivational. I j o k e with him that I can
be quite motivational after a couple of shots of espresso. H e seems to like my dry
humor. " W e ' l l talk next w e e k , " h e says. " I ' m going to Boulevard Drinks to get a hot
dog before m y meeting."
Steve Lipski returns.
April 3,2009 4:00 pm. My office
Steve has c o m e b y to continue the conversation we had started four weeks
earlier. W e begin by talking about, the square, specifically the public plaza area that
w a s created during the Schundler administration. H e seems distracted again,
somewhat negative, sunk d o w n in his chair, but I am glad that he wanted to stop by to
see me. A s is the case with m a n y others, Steve is critical of the plaza and h o w it has
been allowed to decay, but he is also hopeful about the role Journal Square can play
in the future in this diverse city.
SL: It's sporadically in use, it's a horror. You might as well call it the Bud
Lite Series. It's hugely dysfunctional, an open area - undeveloped - it looks
like a war zone after the war. This could come straight out of a Kurt
Vonnegut novel - call it Slaughterhouse Square. I'm happy they're taking it
down [the old Hotel-in-the-Square and the adjoining properties]. There's
still an excitement to do a project here. People still see optimism here - they
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want to invest here. The Mayor should [pause], my point is, get him to talk
to Jerry [Milsap] and the community groups.
EF: I've been told that Journal Square never declined to the point that other
urban places have.
SL: The rental rates have stayed high only because of the PATH. Let's not
say Boulevard Drinks is selling a better dog, it's not. That's not why. Other
than the college buying a greater presence into the area, not much has
happened. Dunkin' Donuts will continue to do well - people are on the
move - it's a quick hit. But what else do you have? Puccini's? There's not
a good restaurant around here. I'm a strong supporter of the Harwood
project - we need residents who can anchor stores. I think also, The Beacon
and the Canco Lofts 87 , they're nice bookends. They're like pillars on the side
- and then you have the Harwood project in the middle.
EF: So, um, you're saying that the redevelopment area could be re-imagined
as a larger project that incorporates other parts of the city?
SL: Sure. People are looking to these residential areas for their access to
New York and other places. You know it's part of it.
EF: Last time we met you mentioned taxes.
SL: Canco came in and said 'you gave Beacon a tax break, we need it to stay
competitive.' I believe in competition.
EF: Do you feel a strong connection to this ward? Is it your placel
87
Steve is referring to the old Jersey City Medical Center that has been converted to luxury, residential
units, and the old American Can Company factory that has been gentrified and converted to upscale,
loft living spaces.
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SL: I don't see it as my ward - 1 see it as integrative with all of the other
dynamics that play into it, redevelopment, also in terms of cultural
development.
EF: By cultural development do you mean the ongoing work at the Loew's?
SL: The Loew's continues to be a problem. My thinking is [pause] imagine
a multi-cultural [American] idol and put on a nice show. If you had a Journal
Square New Year Eve's party - throw in a 'celebration of self in the
community. It has the capacity to bring in the Indian community, the Arabic
community, the Philipino community.
EF: What does that do for the Square?
SL: It makes it a residential rather than a commuter area. If you took the
non-profit groups, the other groups, you could create a day of sharing. You
could have a montage - some Philippine, some Arabic - then you allow
different groups to set up a table. It's an exposition - sort of like 'come out
and meet your neighbor.' You sort of dovetail it - you know they have the
farmers market - dovetail it into the evening. 'Come on over, see a movie
from 6 : 3 0 - 9 : 0 0 . ' We could showcase independent artists from the town.
Then you could do follow-up and focus on an issue. The [Journal Square]
vision plan could be discussed. You could talk about what a 'Journal Square
home' looks like to me - bike stations, umm, community gardens — is there a
way of taking an area, at the PATH, put together an organic garden, emulate
Michelle Obama? A community watch - can we get to "Mrs. Johnson" - we
know her son is putting out the lights. The next question is: who orchestrates
this?
We wind up bumping our heads - people say 'we tried that a year ago' or
'we've always done it this way.' The program could be one of attraction, not
persuasion. The [Culinary] park out here is great. I think we need business
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involved - if we, in conjunction with the city, promoted Jersey City, shirts
and hats and things, if we did something with a private vendor we could sell
it out of the Kiosk. Put the money back into funding a real tourism bureau.
You could highlight, you know, Speer Cemetery 88 , the Apple Tree House 89 .
You could make the Apple Tree House into a restaurant. Even if we ran
historic tours, the Old Bergen Church. Cap it off with films at the Loew's.
EF: What are the blockages to making these things happen?
SL: It's the role of the leader. We talked about what will be the greater
impetus; I think it's the city. The city can make this happen; it already has an
EDC and an HEDC set up.
With that, he motioned that he had to go. I was glad that he took the time to
see me. H e had worked hard for change in Journal Square. After our meeting, I
researched several articles that had been written about Steve in the last f e w months.
In a letter to the editor published in the Jersey Journal,
he had written:
I need to step back because I did not manage my life well. I let alcohol, at
times, become a fix for the stress I was experiencing, and my poor judgment
resulted in numerous problems and indescribable embarrassment to the
position I hold and to me personally. I am stepping back to deal with these
issues.
90
88
The oldest cemetery in Jersey City on Vroom Street between Van Reypen and Bergen Avenue.
Many of the old Dutch colonists are resting here.
89
The Van Wagenen homestead is on Academy Street. Local legend has it that George Washington
met the Marquis de Lafayette there. The house is being slowly restored with financial assistance from
Jersey City. Like the larger Journal Square, however, it sits boarded-up, waiting to be brought into its
next form. It waits in a suspended state.
90
See http://www.politickernj.com/matt-friedman/26979/urinating-councilman-officially-not-running
136
As I straightened out m y office I thought about Steve's situation. I k n e w that he
would continue to try to be of service to others and that Journal Square had not heard
the last f r o m him.
Interview, Brienne Guirantes: 11/18/08 2:45 pm
Brienne is 19 years old; she is one of three late-teens w h o I met with during
the research o n Journal Square. Having lived close to Journal Square all of her life,
she brings a fresh, y o u n g perspective to the study of the changing times in the
neighborhood. Currently, she lives just a f e w blocks f r o m the Journal Square P A T H
station. W h e n she comes to meet with m e I note that she has remarkable, lucid white
eyes with dark, b r o w n centers, light brown skin, and is wearing a grey and brown
sweatshirt with a white shirt beneath.
W h e n I ask Brienne to describe herself she says, " I ' m a painter. I was raised
by a single mother, m y grandmother and aunt, strong females, self-sufficient, I mean,
they did it all - raised families, bought their own houses, cars. They were not w o m e n
w h o depended on people. I ' m one of the sheltered kids. I ' m a Leo." T w o of the teens
I interviewed consider themselves to be "sheltered"; their parent restricted their social
activities and kept them in the house while other children spent more time out on the
Jersey City streets.
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She has brought copies of photographs of some of her paintings with her. As
she is taking t h e m out to show t h e m to me, I ask her where she learned to paint:
BG: I went to Jersey City Performing Arts High at NJCU (New Jersey City
University). When you go in there it's a world unto itself. The standards are
high - they really break you down. It was hard, no doubt, but it made me
who I am today - It gave me discipline. I got to a place where I can be
passionate and objective. I was like ok, we can move forward now. Ok, you
can do this.
Brienne not only lives nearby but she also uses the square as a place to go to meet
people, to shop, and to be entertained. I ask her h o w she would describe Journal
Square?
BG: It's kind of a neighborhood. It's a melting pot. You've got all kinds of
people running through [puts her hands up while talking]. You can walk
around the corner and have one ethnically-dominated neighborhood and turn
the corner and have a totally different ethnic group. It's kind of like a mini
mall too, in a business sense. You have a whole avenue of merchandise
[laughs]. You can buy anything in the Square. When people can't get to
Newport [mall], something cheaper or less money, you go to the square.
Like I'd rather walk to the C-Town. It's so convenient to get here - you have
the PATH train and the PATH terminal right there.
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Even in the short time that I have been conducting research here, many
changes have taken place, including several stores going out of business and other
evident signs of ongoing decay. S o m e of the concrete on the medians has been
falling apart, sidewalks are falling into disrepair, and on the corner of J.F Kennedy
Boulevard the fa9ade above the retail stores has begun to fall down, necessitating the
installation of steel scaffolding at the square's central corner.
EF: Does it look the same to you now as it always has?
BG: Of course it's changed physically, some stores are gone. A lot of
people told me that you only had to go up to Journal Square, you didn't need
to go anywhere else to get anywhere else. They're like [chuckles] 'you don't
understand.' I can see the changes. Places like Boulevard Drinks and next
door is Loew's Theater. Loews is such a sad story. Like here's this
beautiful, magnificent theater, if you walk in there and you have an
imagination you can imagine how nice, how grand it was. That's history
right there. I feel like it's this crusade around here. They're trying to
modernize this area at the risk of losing its history. The other theater right
across the street I think the Jehovah's Witnesses just took it over. It's like
succumbed to infrequent meetings and events. I'm like 'o.k.' [she rolls her
eyes up].
At this point I engage Brienne in looking at several photographs I have taken in
Journal Square. T h e first one includes the square's central fountain.
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BG: This is that fountain. I found it funny that they renovated it. They
renovated it but it was a cosmetic thing. It's a half-assed job. It's just a
place for taxis to hang out and bums to hang out. There's people begging
and asking you for change and peeing all over. They made it all pretty for
nothing. And I think it's proof of the gentrification of the neighborhood (I
learned that word in high school). They're pushing out everyone. They're
wiping out the whole history of the area. It's just gonna be pictures in books
that's left. They're moving in new and expensive things that no one can
afford. Downtown they're doing all this renovation and doing all of this
artsiness and they don't know Jersey City.
The second photograph that w e look at together is an image of the site of the old
landmark Canton Restaurant.
BG: The sad thing is when I look at this, this won't be here. The Chinese
[Canton] restaurant, everybody used to go there, they had the best Chinese
food. They're taking it out for what, a Bally's Total Fitness. The people
who live and work here won't use it. It will be the people who just kinda
pass through here on their way to somewhere else.
Brienne reacts strongly w h e n I show her a photograph of the semi-demolished Hotelin-the-Square site. It seems to be a symbol for m a n y Jersey City residents of h o w the
square has remained in an in-between state of existence as a suspended place.
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BG: This is like the ugliest thing I've ever seen them do. Like they partially
take down a building. It really sucks what they're doing here. They leave it
crappy for everybody to walk around and look. Like they start a job and they
won't finish it. You have drunk crack heads hangin' out here now because it
looks so bad. And they're sitting on a bench right next to a nice old lady.
Such harmony. They're all on one bench.
Jersey City is a big city in a small-town mentality. There's a lot of
fun stuff goin' on even around the square. At the farmers' market we can get
fresh, fresh, fresh, good Stuff there. It's got dirt on it; it's like fresh off the.
farm brought here. It's not from like Florida. It's fresh.
EF: What other kinds of things can you do there?
BG: You can pick up jewelry, clothing, glasses and get a great hot dog there.
Whoa. And there's a bar there. It's dark. The bars here you don't really
want to go in. It's kind of funny - it's part of Jersey City, places you don't
go-
EF: What do you find special about Journal Square?
The Public Service building that the college uses, the PSEG building, it's a sculpture - 1 really, I mean I really - it's been there forever. It's one of those
things like it's there. You pass it, it almost blends in with everything now.
We've got the modern and the old in Jersey City. But the square, parts of it's
basically where the bums hang out. You don't chill there.
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The last photograph I share with Brienne is a snapshot of one of the ubiquitous
banners hanging throughout the plaza and the neighboring streets. It reads, "The N e w
Journal Square: A n U r b a n Enterprise C o m m u n i t y . "
BG: The New Journal Square. That's a whole bunch of bullcrap. This is a
whole lot of bullcrap right here. An urban enterprise zone community
[chuckles]. An enterprise zone where they took out a place of substance and
history to put in a Bally Fitness. Why does it have to be the "New" Journal
Square? Why can't it be the revived Journal Square? "New" suggests we're
going to make something new here. Journal Square is old! "New" from
urban is suburban. They give you heads up to what they're going to do.
They, the people in charge. They, the people who move here from other
places who don't get Jersey City. The people downtown stay downtown.
They're terrified of going somewhere else, like it's the ghetto. Those are the
people who are the main cause of change, taking down really important stuff
that sets us apart from Newark and New York. We are who we are. We
shouldn't be stagnant but you shouldn't come in and make the new Journal
Square.
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Monthly meeting of the Magnolia Avenue Block Association (MABA). Saturday,
4-4-09,11:30 am, 2nd Floor of the Historic Pathside Building at Hudson County
Community College.
The anthropologist Clifford Geertz, in "Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese
Cockfight" (1973), vividly recounts h o w he and his wife arrived as researchers in a
Balinese village in 1958:
A small place, about five hundred people, and relatively remote, it was its
own world. We were intruders, professional ones, and the villagers dealt
with us as Balinese seem always to deal with people not part of their life who
yet press themselves upon them: as though we were not there. For them, and
to a degree for ourselves, we were nonpersons, specters, invisible men. (412)
There w a s a cockfight taking place in the public square and Geertz and his wife went
to observe. Cockfights were illegal in Bali and they found themselves in the middle
of a police raid.
In the midst of the third match, with hundreds of people, including, still
transparent, myself and my wife.. .a truck full of policemen armed with
machine guns roared up. Amid great screeching cries of 'pulisi!' 'pulisi!'
from the crowd, the policemen jumped out, and, springing into the center of
the ring, began to swing their guns around like gangsters in a motion picture,
though not going so far as actually to fire them. (414)
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I mention this episode f r o m " D e e p Play," here in the work on Journal Square, because
of what transpired next for Geertz and his wife. After the police arrive, everyone
present at the cockfight ran away in different directions and Geertz and his wife
collided with another fugitive w h o s e w i f e "had apparently been through this sort of
thing before." This local w o m a n proceeded to " w h i p out a table, a tablecloth, three
chairs, and three cups of tea, and w e all, without any explicit communication
whatsoever, sat down, c o m m e n c e d to sip tea, and sought to compose ourselves"
(415). A policeman, seeing strange white people, interrogated them. Their Javanese
host lied to protect them, telling the officer that they "had been there drinking tea and
talking about cultural matters all afternoon and did not k n o w anything about any
cockfight." Geertz writes that "[t]he policeman retreated in rather total disarray."
W h e n they w o k e the following morning, Geertz recalls that the village "was a
completely different world for u s " (416).
Not only were we no longer invisible, we were suddenly the center of all
attention.... Everyone in the village knew we had fled like everyone else.
(416).
This w a s the true "turning point" for Geertz; after these events they "were quite
literally ' i n ' " (416). Similarly, m y attendance and participation at the block
association meeting described b e l o w became a turning point in m y research in Journal
Square. N o t only did I attend the meeting, I also actively participated by asking
questions and challenging the meeting organizer. After this I began to receive regular
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communications f r o m m e m b e r s of the association and they looked to me for advice
and ideas. This w a s also the point at which I began to perceive that the work would
need to end soon, that I had a crossed a line f r o m participant observer to participant in
m y ethnographic research.
11:30 a.m. Association Meeting
Being the first to arrive at r o o m 207, the opportunity to take some notes about
the space presents itself. R o o m 207 is a standard college classroom outfitted with a
large whiteboard and about 25 desk-chairs. The room has an excellent view of the
demolition occurring d o w n b e l o w at street level in the square. Since I am early, I
take a f e w minutes to watch the big K o m a t s u and Hyundai demolition/earth-movers
tearing a w a y at the last remaining structures where McDonalds and the martial arts
studio once stood in the center of the square. Seven m e n stand around in white,
plastics hardhats, while t w o others are hosing d o w n the debris as it falls to the ground
after the impact f r o m the earth-movers. It's fascinating to watch the rapid destruction
of the built forms, brick and plaster crumbling and succumbing to the machines.
Through the dusty w i n d o w I can hear the grinding of the Komatsu engines - it is like
the revving of a great motor in neutral.
At 11:35 Jerry Milsap arrives. H e is wearing a dark grey sweater, black slacks,
black-rimmed eye glasses, and expertly shined black shoes. He takes a seat at the sixfoot table serving as a desk at the front of the r o o m and greets the m e m b e r s who
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arrive for the meeting. K a m a l Zaki comes in quietly followed by Jerry's wife, Nancy.
Chris Bernardo is here, focused on his hand-held blackberry device. Jerry sees me
and scolds m e for not checking the association's website (he must have a way of
monitoring w h o logs in - and w h o d o e s n ' t log in - to the website). Each member
w h o arrives takes a seat at one of the desk-chairs. They talk amongst themselves in
t w o ' s and t h r e e ' s (what Simmel called dyads and triads). J i m m y King, a candidate
for a local council seat, comes in. H e is tall, about 6 ' 2 " , and white-haired. Mr. King
is sporting wire glasses, a tan sports coat, b r o w n slacks, and a patterned tie. I can
hear the earth-movers' engines churning and straining outside. At 11:45 Jerry starts
the meeting with little in the w a y of introduction.
JM: First we're going to talk about last month's meeting [he has distributed
an informal agenda that includes a section of 'old business' with bullet points
and a section for 'new business.' He starts talking and expects the attending
members and guests to pay attention and end their conversations]. Last
meeting I introduced Chris Bernardo from the Special Improvement District.
He is our website developer. He registers people on the website and takes
updated email information. Our discussion focused on the Harwood Plan.
We discussed the vision plan.
At this point, without thinking - wanting to correct what I perceive to be a crucial
misperception - 1 interrupt Jerry, essentially crossing over f r o m the role of observer
to the role of engaged participant.
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EF: Jerry - 1 just want to make a distinction for the members. The
Harwood, uh, Harwood and his partners, are moving ahead but this project the towers - are connected and not connected to the larger, long-term vision
plan that you've been discussing.
JM: Thank you, Eric, for bringing that up. We've discussed this in prior
meetings. You are more knowledgeable than others on details of the project.
I'd like to move ahead with today's agenda. New Business. Irina Zaki is
taking over as President. She is going to assume the role of President. I will
be around, it's not like I won't be around but my mother has passed.
Jerry continues by informing the group that he has two guest speakers at the
meeting: " I ' v e invited Jim [Jimmy King] to speak to us. I can tell you that Jimmy
King is an advocate for h u m a n rights. Here he is." M a n y of these local association
meetings in Jersey City provide important places where politicians running for office
can speak to residents about their platforms and try to gain their support. Jimmy
stands u p in front of the r o o m and addresses the group.
JK: I lived in Jersey City all my life. We have a civic association, we feed
four hundred adults, we deliver to seniors and shut-ins. At Christmas we
have a toy drive. We go to all the hospitals. We sponsor a little league team.
We take care of people. We support Hudson Cradle. We're in existence for
six years. During that time we helped a lot of people. A lady needed a
wheelchair, we got her a wheelchair. We're proud of the things we do. We
had a couple of fellows who were living in the street, we got them off the
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street, got the furniture. We started block associations that works with us on
quality of life issues. We don't feel that crime is under control up here in
Jersey City. There used to be a booth right in the middle of the square some of you [he smiles] are too young to remember - da booth was right in
the middle of the street. There was a police officer right in the middle of the
street. We want that back. We're for that. We're also trying to get a senior
center. We responded to over 4,000 complaints. This to me is a 24/7 job.
It's not a job that you can say two months before the election, "Hey, I'm
runnin'." If anyone can think that they can come in and just take over and
win this election - they can't. My wife Cookie [he points to her] is my
backbone. I also want to say that we have the only club that takes care of the
homeless. I don't think there's any other elected official that has a club.
Jerry, sensing that Mr. King is done, looks at the audience and then turns to
Mr. King: " O n e thing I k n o w is that leadership is about action. You have embraced
the homeless and you help the homeless."
JK: We actually have a table for the homeless. Also, what I'd like to try to
do for the seniors is the taxis. They're [the seniors] gettin' ripped off.
They're supposed to get a senior rate! I feel like I've been working as the
councilman. I'm running on Louis Manzo's ticket. I'm not a guy that I'm
controlled by any mayor or anything.
This brings applause f r o m the small crowd. Jerry stands u p as Jimmy King sits down.
T h e n Jerrry sits again and from his seat he introduces a local property developer who
wants to discuss the challenges he faces as a small-scale developer.
JM: I just want to say thanks to Jimmy and Cookie for coming. You guys
have been doing [applause] something for Journal Square, you just haven't
had the title. Our second guest speaker - 1 think a lot of you guys know the
green house, 300 Magnolia. Mr. Srinath Kotla wants to talk to us.
SK: I'm a developer in Journal Square. I worked with the zoning board.
Some properties I made money, some not. This building is not for sale we're going to build an apartment building. I just approved the city. I have
developed over 60 properties in Jersey City.
JM: It's going to be apartments?
SK: It's in process. It's very near to CBD [Central Business District].
According to the law I'm eligible to build a lot - 33 units. But if I build 33
units it's not going to work out.
It is at this point that I cross the ethnographic line again and I interrupt Mr. Kotla.
EF: What is the decision? I'm curious to know whether the style, the
aesthetics of the surrounding neighborhood are taken into account? For
example, does the history of the area come into play in the design phase?
SK: It has to match the looks of the neighborhood.
JM: It has to be homogenous.
SK: A building that fits will be taken into consideration. Then the city takes
it into consideration and... there's a redevelopment zone declared by Jersey
City, redevelopment zone of Journal Square area, you can see the website. It
is done by the town planner. It has not been resolved yet. As of now it is
zoned for 110 feet. What they want to do is all of the CBD they going to do
modifications.
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Carla [a member]: Is this redevelopment zone the new 'vision plan"? This is
the first I'm hearing about the redevelopment zone. You're saying, sir, it is
in process. Right now it's 150 buildings per acre?
SK: Right now Journal Square is an office/residential zone.
JM: That is subject to change. With eveiy project the building department
looks at the issues. They review it; they look at parking.
Nancy Lu: Why are they going to revise it?
JM: Bob Cotter, the Planning Department, they're going to look at the block.
SK: My building they're going to look at the present and the future. I need
approval in two month. Otherwise, it sits and I go on to the next thing.
JM: First of all, Magnolia Avenue, in my view, is the Grand Concourse.
From Magnolia Avenue you have access to a transportation-oriented county.
Magnolia Avenue is the cream of the crop - that block has taken on a
transformation that hasn't been seen. You picked that block because that
block is a gem.
SK: Any mistake - that will hurt the neighbors too. What the city does
sometimes is say, "This is how you do it - we don't care."
JM: They know that I care and we all care. We - I'm here to ensure that our
progress is sustained.
SK: Point 1: I am not here to sell and leave. Point 2: I am a member of the
MABA. Point 3: I need association help. If I don't get approval in two
months, I run into winter. That two months process is not happening.
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JM: They are stalling because the elections are coming up. The
administration may change.
SK: My other projects, 2-family houses, were very simple. This project is
not simple. My problem is more than two months I fall into winter. I cannot
go all they way high up or all the way low. If I build low, property values
will go down. If I build high - it is not economical. I do not have to do
anything. I have two daughters.
NL: You have to fit in the current zoning.
SK: That's not a problem.
JM: You want to see [Robert] Cotter? How many units?
SK: Sixteen.
JM: I could say this - 1 think Bob Cotter is one of the best master planners
around.
SN: I can't get past Mary Anne, the secretary.
JM: In real estate you have to hold on. Right now the transition of this
whole community is taking place.
A s a guest m e m b e r of M A B A, over time I w a s able to get to k n o w some of the other
participants w h o are closely connected by their strong ties of mutual concern over the
quality of life in the Journal Square area. They are each a part of a larger Journal
Square c o m m u n i t y - a m i x of races, ethnicities, ages, and social classes - w h o take
responsibility together for this urban place. They share c o m m o n beliefs about safety
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and pleasant, attractive living environments. M a n y of the m e m b e r s are not afraid to
confront local authorities w h e n garbage dumpsters f r o m local businesses go
untended, or street lights need repair. As N a n c y L u puts it: " Y o u care cause you
united party and you care about the quality of life. I think that for our block
association, at least w e w a n t to have improved quality of life. That's, I think, a sense
of community. T h e r e ' s always pretty active discussions about the c o m m o n concerns
in the block" (interview).
Interview, Joseph Panepinto, Real Estate Developer. April 2009.
As President and CEO of Panepinto Properties, I am
expanding upon my long-held belief that Jersey City
is a treasure-trove waiting to be rediscovered.
- J. Panepinto, "President's Message" in
company brochure
During the research phase of the project, several people have mentioned that I
should not complete m y dissertation without a meeting with Joseph Panepinto, an
influential local property developer. His office is located at the Harborside Financial
Center on a strip of wind-whipped, new-construction high-rises d o w n at the upscale
Jersey City waterfront. I have arrived for our scheduled meeting in the midst of a
spring storm in April. Intense rain and blowing gusts intensify as they meet
resistance f r o m the tall buildings that line the redeveloped Jersey City shore across
f r o m N e w Y o r k ' s d o w n t o w n financial district. It becomes a struggle to cross the
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street-level parking lot full of deep puddles and I lose m y best umbrella to the lashing
wind that practically lifts m e off m y feet. The brutal force of the storm actually
scares me. I a m hoping that the weather is not an indication of h o w the interview will
go. It has taken several months to gain access to Mr. Panepinto since he travels out of
state during the winter. Joe Sansone, the Director of the Foundation at the
c o m m u n i t y college has provided m e with Stephanie Panepinto's contact information.
Stephanie is Mr. P a n e p i n t o ' s daughter and a H u d s o n County Community College
Foundation board m e m b e r . I had met her at a Foundation gala event held at the
college w h e r e the administration raises much-needed f u n d s for a variety of
scholarships.
After riding the silent elevator u p several stories, I check myself to see h o w
wet I have b e c o m e f r o m the rain. I had wanted to look somewhat professional for this
interview. Visitors enter the Panepinto Properties' luxury office suite through a pair
of clean, transparent, shiny glass doors. Once buzzed inside by a m a n in a white shirt
and red tie behind another set of glass doors, inviting leather furniture beckons the
visitor to take a seat. T h e glass and the leather serve to define the situation,
as
symbolic interactionists would say. They are set out as special kinds of markers that
provide clues to the visitor as to the types of activities that occur in this office space
and the social class of the people w h o c o m e here to do business and transact realestate deals. The objects mean luxury and power. They define the waiting room
space as one of 'distinction' where those with refined taste operate (see Bourdieu
1984).
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After a f e w minutes, Mr. Panepinto (Joe) comes in f r o m the outer hall as well;
he has been out on business and shakes his umbrella to free it of raindrops before
entering the office suite. H e shakes m y hand, telling m e (in a soft-spoken voice) that
he will see m e shortly. Five minutes pass, I leaf through a couple of the oversized
c o f f e e table books about architecture and design. Eventually, Stephanie comes out to
greet m e and she leads m e back towards her father's office. I greet him again and
thank him for agreeing to meet with me. It is all very business-like. Stephanie takes
a seat to m y left, in front of J o e ' s desk. She has a stenographer's notepad on her lap
and holds a pen. She is cautious and quiet. I lean m y old brown leather shoulder bag,
the one with the deep patina, against the leg of m y chair. The Panepintos, like many
of the other subjects, are careful people, w a r y of an inquisitive sociologist. Joe has
m u c h at stake and does not want to speak to m e alone since developers in Jersey City
s h o w u p in the Jersey Journal on a regular basis. The images of sociologists - despite
Peter B e r g e r ' s f a m o u s admonitions in Invitation
to Sociology
(1963) - are still
occasionally misunderstood by the general public.
The views through Joe Panepinto's office w i n d o w provide outstanding
glimpses of the slow-moving H u d s o n River and the lower Manhattan skyline. It
almost seems f r o m u p here that one could skip a rock f r o m one shore to the next. I
a m m i n d f u l of the fact that not everyone can c o m m a n d these views. J o e ' s selection
of office locations is m e a n i n g f u l in the sense that the things w e put on display for
others to see are incredibly meaningful. Like Preedy in Erving G o f f m a n ' s seminal
text, The Presentation
of Self in Everyday Life, Joe selects objects and locations that
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signal to others w h o he is and where he stands in the social hierarchy. Joe is a
successful m a n w h o has c o m e a long w a y in his life and it is important that others
k n o w this about him. In a Veblenesque m o m e n t , he points out (without m e asking)
that his other daughter is in a Ph.D. program in Public Health Administration. 9 1
I glance at m y list of general questions and decide to start by asking about
property development in the area rather than asking questions about his life:
Thank you for seeing me. I am trying to talk to as many key people as I can
who are, um, movers and shakers involved in the changes taking place in
Journal Square. Uh, it seems like an anomaly to me - an area centered
around a transportation center, so close to New York City, with a PATH
station where you can catch a train and be in downtown New York in
minutes - it seems odd that this area is not as developed as...
Joe interrupts m e , wanting to help m e to understand his perspective and to see Journal
Square in its relationship to other development in Jersey City.
The reason why Journal Square is where it is in terms of development is
because it has a plethora of ownership. In the early seventies, I was an
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Veblen (1899) coined the term "vicarious consumption" to describe, for example, the display of
those things that one provides for children, such as college education or designer clothing, that can be
consumed by the child and serve to reflect the parents' social status. A good example is the parent
who buys a bumper sticker at the college that his daughter is attending. By affixing the sticker to his
own car, people will see that he is in the economic position to provide this valued education at a
prestigious college for a member of his family. It is easy to see the foundation that Veblen provided
for Goffman's later forays into symbolic interactionism, specifically Goffman's dramaturgical notion
of "impression management" (see The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life).
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attorney for the planning board. In the sixties and seventies the railroads
were going bankrupt and I was handling those cases. The waterfront was the
rails. Because they filed for bankruptcy, it made it easier for the city to
condemn and acquire those properties. There were no homes there with
people that had to be moved. Everything was done in the seventies under
Paul Jordan who was the mayor at that time. In those days everything was
ethnic, Lithuanian, Irish, Italian, you name it. Journal Square had become
the new business hub back in the thirties. The fifties was really the height of
it all for that area. Journal Square was the hub for all of the parades. In the
fifties on Sunday afternoon you went to see a movie or a show at the Stanley
or the Loew's. I was at a party at a friend's house a couple of weeks ago and
[Mayor] Bloomberg was there. We were talking about the old theaters.
H e gets u p f r o m his desk and walks over to the big, plate glass w i n d o w and looks
d o w n b e l o w at the buildings surrounding the one w e are in. He motions for me to
j o i n him at the w i n d o w and points to different structures below.
JP: Boston, New York, all of them went through a redevelopment phase.
They went through having to placate all those landowners. Gerry McCann
[the former Mayor of Jersey City] got President Reagan to give a forty
million dollar grant and I used it for infrastructure down here [on the
waterfront]. Because of the economic downturn now, you're probably set
back ten years in the square. It's a different story there. The cost of
construction is too high.
156
H e turns to look at m e and says, " M o s t of the development in Journal Square is
because of m e . " T h e n he gazes out u p o n the built environment that he has helped to
transform over the last thirty years. I a m realizing, there at the window, that this
interview is as m u c h about h o w far he had c o m e in life as it is about the square and
Jersey City and the changes that have occurred over the last century. There was a lot
to k n o w about this m a n but little time in which to discover who he really is.
EF: What else makes Journal Square different?
JP: Listen, Journal Square was a vibrant hub in the fifties, sixties, seventies
but the city was in decline. The federal government had programs to the
detriment of the cities [pause] it was counter-productive
planning, they were
counter-productive programs that made things worse. I grew up in Jersey
City; I wanted to see the city recover. The Port Authority demolished
everything and killed the neighborhood. The square had to get to a low point
before it could rise again. Fast-forward in Journal Square. It has gone down
economically to a state where it should start to rise up again. The area is in
good shape to be re-developed. Port Authority owns one chunk, Harwood
owns one, I own one, and another developer owns a piece by the old Verizon
building. There will be four development sites in that core. The problem is
access to the site [he leans forward towards me]. Automobile access is
almost impossible.
157
We've actually lost money at Journal Square [he looks over at his
daughter]. The cost of construction is the same as it is at the waterfront but
rents are lower. Through lower interest bonds and tax abatement, the city
helps to stimulate development. When I was building here the city dedicated
an extra lane of Kennedy Boulevard to make it possible.
We haven't reached critical mass in the square. We need a
Starbucks, a bookstore. It does have a good transportation infrastructure.
[Former Mayor] Schundler, to his credit, created the S.I.D. [Special
Improvement District]. Safety is an issue in the square. Tearing down those
buildings [the old Hotel-in-the-Square and the adjacent stores] is a start to
changing things. April 2009 is a start. Building the ADP building didn't
spur the change we thought it would. Maybe this is different.
You asked me why Journal Square was different. The square
touches on the average Jersey City resident. Journal Square represents Jersey
City to the Heights, to Greenville, to Lafayette. When I was in college, in
those days ROTC was required, they told us [that] ground zero for the
Russians was Journal Square. Everyone knew this place.
Joe is looking at his watch. I turn to Stephanie w h o has been silent throughout
the interview and I ask her if this has been interesting for her. She seems startled for
a m o m e n t and replies yes, shaking her head. Standing up, Joe says, " Y o u really need
to look at the aerial photos. Look at the aerial photos, f r o m McGinley Square to
Journal Square, to the courthouse, it's all one spread." Looking directly at m e he
says: " W h a t I ' m doing here is for m y children n o w . "
158
I have not seen the square f r o m u p above, f r o m the air, f r o m what De Certeau
(who gazed d o w n at Manhattan f r o m the top of the World Trade Center) famously
called "looking d o w n like a G o d " (1984, 92). Joe is suggesting that I shift m y focus
and see Jersey City as he sees it, through a developer's or a planner's eyes. Today,
through technologies like Google Earth, it is easy to gain this perspective, to perch,
like a winged bird, high above the street-level world of h u m a n s coming and going.
M y focus has b e e n d o w n on the ground talking with and observing people at ground
level, watching t h e m gather to talk, interested (as De Certeau might be) in watching
pedestrians struggle to cross the busy intersections in and around Journal Square,
those places of rapid interchange where in one short m o m e n t people cross, and in
another, automobiles careen past. I have been looking at a place where real people
walk and cars pass relentlessly. The story of these people passing through the space
of the square, with their carriages and their backpacks, much like De Certeau's
f a m o u s walkers, "begins on ground level, with footsteps" (p.97).
I a m wondering as I ride the elevator d o w n to the ground floor what the
square looks like f r o m the sky, what the cars and the buildings and the people must
look like f r o m u p above, tiny forms abstracted f r o m their everyday perspective. This
type of phenomenological shift (and the bracketing of the social it entails) was once
captured b y D e Certeau after he gazed out at N e w York City f r o m the lofty 110 th
story of the W o r l d Trade Center:
The gigantic mass is immobilized before the eyes. It is transformed into a
texturology in which extremes coincide - extremes of ambition and
159
degradation, brutal oppositions of races and styles, contrasts between
yesterday's buildings, already transformed into trash cans, and today's urban
interruptions that block out its space. (91)
When one goes up there, he leaves behind the mass that carries off and mixes
up in itself any identity of authors or spectators. An Icarus flying above
these waters, he can ignore the devices of Daedulus in mobile and endless
labyrinths far below. His elevation transfigures him into a voyeur. It puts
him at a distance. It transforms the bewitching world by which one was
'possessed' into a text that lies before one's eyes. It allows one to read it, to
be a solar Eye, looking down like a God. (92)
D e Certeau theorizes that the " i m m e n s e texturology spread out before o n e ' s eyes"
b e c o m e s nothing m o r e than a "representation, an optical artifact" (92) significantly
different f r o m the " e v e r y d a y " (93) perspective w e are accustomed to. Looking down
f r o m these heights enables a "flattening o u t " (94) that supports a particular kind of
gaze and the "rationalization of the city" (95). Once flattened out, the urban space
b e c o m e s a "landmark for socioeconomic and political strategies" (95) similar to Joe
Panepinto's. I am left to wonder h o w blueprints and maps provide a hyperrationalized v i e w of space that obscures the social and favors the economic. They are
flattened, fragmented, images that remake the world, miniaturizing it.
Bachelard (1994), in The Poetics of Space, also considers miniaturized space.
H e argues that miniaturization consititutes a "total inversion" of the "mind that
observes" (1994, pgs. 151-52). It is an inversion that exists for Joe and the other
developers in Journal Square, informing their daily work, allowing them to rediscover
Jersey C i t y ' s treasure.
160
A follow-up visit to Scott Harwood's office
6/19/09 11:00 a.m.
M y research phase is complete but I need to see Scott Harwood again; he was
gracious enough to allow m e to c o m e back u p to his office so that I can fill out certain
missing details in m y notes regarding what his office environment is like. It's a
cloudy day and I walk over to see him. A s I step out of the building where I work at
the community college, Joe Torturelli, the college's Facilities Director, sees me f r o m
across the street.
H e walks over, noticing m e jotting some things in m y pocket
notebook:
JT: This square mile has some history. It's also like the Bermuda Triangle.
It's a rough place; you can fall in and never leave.
EF: What do you mean?
JT: Well, you know, you get here and you realize how close it is to
everything, how you've got everything here, and you don't want to leave.
(fieldnotes)
A s I get closer to 26 Journal Square, the building where Scott's office is, I feel
the constant t h u m p i n g bass of a car stereo parked out front of the landmark structure.
Five people are talking and having f u n with each other, three youthful w o m e n and
t w o men, speaking rapid Spanish to each other, leaning against the small blue car,
flirting. O n e of the m e n is wearing a bright red cap and a red t-shirt with a busy,
unfamiliar graphic on it. Cars parked in the square often serve as extensions of
161
peoples' private space; people sit with the doors open, playing music, talking to
others on the sidewalks, sometimes eating lunch picnic-style. Oftentimes they will sit
in such a w a y that their rear ends are inside the car but parts of their legs and their
feet are outside (figure 25). This is one more w a y in which people use the space of
the square.
A y o u n g couple stops m e , as I a m about to enter the building. The m a n asks,
" D o you k n o w where 35 Journal Square is?" It is just as hard n o w for folks to figure
out where things are in the square as it w a s w h e n I started this project. I enter the
lobby, noticing the classical architectural details, the marble and the brass
chandeliers, and h o w they contrast with the large, bright P N C Bank logo decal on the
glass wall ahead of me. A m a n in a white sleeveless shirt enters the elevator with me.
" N o t m u c h progress going on around here," he says while he looks down at his feet
(fieldnotes). I a m surprised that he is thinking about what I have been thinking about
for the past t w o years. I wonder, is this on everyone's mind? Maybe he would like to
read m y work.
162
I enter #804, the H a r w o o d Properties office on the eighth floor, into a small
waiting area. T h e walls are clean and white. T w o chairs with round backs are set out
for guests. Joan, the secretary sits at a desk in front of the chairs. She has white hair
and a pleasant smile. It's easy to tell that she is comfortably settled in at her desk and
has worked here for quite awhile. The entire office space sports a light blue carpet.
Scott comes out to meet m e holding a c o f f e e mug, holding it with both hands as if he
is trying to w a r m his hands, and he slowly takes a sip. H e is not wearing a tie. It is
quiet and comfortable in this space. I shake his hand and offer him a gift, a pad with
a Journal Square photograph on it. " O h , " he says softly. W e are standing at the door
to his office. File cabinets piled high with n u m e r o u s papers and documents line the
short hallway. There are f e w pictures on the walls.
W e enter Scott's office and as I did at Joe Panepinto's office across town, w e
go over to the large windows. I take notes of his views of the Jersey Journal
building
next door and the apartment building that the H a r w o o d s constructed at the old State
Theater site. T h r o u g h the w i n d o w s w e can see several landmarks including the multibuilding Jersey City Medical Center ( n o w the renovated Beacon Condominiums) and
the N e w Jersey National Guard Armory, another Beaux Arts structure. I notice that
the binders on the bookshelf in his office slant over at an angle as if they are leaning
and taking a rest. All is extremely calm and peaceful up here.
163
Chapter 4: Reflections
" T i m e passes fast or slow. It all depends."
Three men talking in a doorway in
Journal Square in the rain
(overheard and recorded in
fieldnotes).
For John Reader (2004), throughout history "our cities have been the means
by w h i c h individual opportunists fulfill a m b i t i o n . . . " (75). Within cities, Reader
argues, demolition and reconstruction are the means by which these investors and
entrepreneurs attempt to realize their ambitions. H e sees our cities as "a cluttered
consequence of all the c o m p r o m i s e and conflicting interest that has been acted out
over the years" (75). I have argued that the numerous conflicts surrounding
demolition and redevelopment express themselves in a place like Journal Square
through discourse expressed in recordable language.
Journal Square has long been an attractive site for speculators as well as a
contested space where the drama of h u m a n tension reveals itself at any given
m o m e n t . "It is the top of the Palisades, set on a rock outcropping that ends on
Summit Avenue. I think Journal Square is unique in the United States and maybe the
world," states B o b Cotter, the city planner (interview). Visitors today behold an
alternately peaceful and chaotic urban place with a taxi stand, statues, trees, a
fountain, and a train station.
Even the n a m e of this place carries a legacy of a contest of wills and a power
struggle. In 1911, in a bid to draw the daily newspaper (the Jersey Journal)
and its
164
headquarters to the site where the square is today, the city offered to n a m e its n e w
commercial center after the paper. However, after a feud with the newspaper in the
w a k e of a series of articles criticizing his regime, Mayor Frank Hague, the infamous
machine politician, retaliated and pressured the city commission to rename the square
as Veterans Square. P o w e r f u l as he was, however, he could not get the public to refer
to it by its n e w name, and the people have continued to call it Journal Square. 9 2
This push and pull over the n a m e of the square is just one example of the long
series of language games 9 3 that persist there and contribute to its status as a suspended
place. Only today, the discourse and the counter discourse existing in and around the
square reflect very different w a y s of relating to this urban place. On the one hand w e
find statements that promote the inevitability of redevelopment (and all that goes with
it), and on the other hand w e find numerous criticisms and challenges to these visions.
At a planning meeting, for example, architect and engineer Fred Worstell stated
optimistically: "Journal Square is going to pop. W e ' v e got a lot of activity there. In
ten years the square will be a very different place" (fieldnotes). And Stephen Marks,
f r o m the Planning Department, states: " B y 2025 Journal Square will probably look
m u c h more like T i m e s S q u a r e . . . . " Taken together, these statements f o r m what
Y a n o w calls a "connective tissue"; together they promote a particular truth about the
future. Alternately, Colin Egan commented that "the square has been the subject of
lots of talk, but m a n y things never c o m e to fruition" (interview), and Charles Caldez
believes that "everybody just wants their piece of the pie in Journal Square 92
See "Journal Square Renamed," The New York Times, 10/31/1928. Also, "Loses Fight Over Name,"
The New York Times, 12/22/1928.
93
The phrase comes from Ludwig Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations (1953).
165
otherwise it would have been taken care of - you can see, nothing's happened"
(interview).
M y interest has been in finding out what the proposed change means for
variously positioned social actors. Additionally I have probed into what happens
w h e n the people do not want the changes proposed by City Hall or real estate
speculators interested in w h a t I would label as capital
magnification.
This ethnographic study, m u c h like F r e e m a n ' s There Goes the 'Hood, and
L o w ' s In the Plaza, provides us with an opportunity to inquire into the cultural values
behind the discourses. T o do so w e have to listen to narratives told by powerful and
not-so-powerful social actors. These players enter, promote, and reproduce the
language g a m e in Journal Square each time they activate either the redevelopment
discourse or one of the counter discourses. B y telling the story of the square that it
cannot tell for itself, the ethnographer unearths some of the answers to the question of
what goes on behind the charettes.
Standing on the steps leading into the transportation center, a cigarette stub in
his mouth, several days of stubble on his cheeks, Frank, a man w h o sells newspapers
in the square, had this to say about the impending development in the area next to the
plaza:
166
These buildings are going to go up and this place is gonna change. There
won't be no place for people to hang out. The homeless people won't have
nowhere to go - 1 know, I'm one of those people.
Everyone I speak with seems to sense the inevitable steamroller of neo-liberal spatial
redevelopment. "This is the last frontier in Jersey City; this is the only place that is
not developed," says Janine, a w o m a n w h o works in Journal Square. " Y o u see that
f e n c e ? " asks Catherine, a Jersey City resident w h o enjoys spending time in the plaza,
as she points at the fencing around the demolition site; "it means, 'Mine, d o n ' t touch,
this is private property n o w ' " (interview).
Playing the language game means internalizing and then repeating stories that
resonate with an actor's values. Whether it m e a n s telling the history of the square as
a cultural and entertainment center without mentioning the numerous conflicts that
are part of its history, repeating accepted revanchist mantras about the homeless,
denigrating the work done by the Schundler Administration to create a peoplefriendly public space (see Lipski interview), or supporting the privatization of the
public space of the plaza (see H a r w o o d interview), players become part of the
redevelopment g a m e by expressing themselves and their convictions through
language. The discourse and the counter-discourse I am referring to are constituent
elements of what Robert E. Park (1925) significantly called the "moral" organization
of the city:
.. .the city is rooted in the habits and customs of the people who inhabit it.
The consequence is that the city possesses a moral as well as physical
167
organization, and these two mutually interact in characteristic ways to mold
and modify one another. It is the structure of the city which first impresses
us by its visible vastness and complexity. But this structure has its basis,
nevertheless, in human nature, of which it is an expression, (p.25)
A rendering of a " N e w Journal Square" adorns the cover of the 1951 Master Plan for
Jersey City (see figure 28). The sketch shows several structures, including the
L o e w ' s theater and the landmark China Clipper restaurant on the left side of the
168
boulevard, a tree-lined m e d i a n in the center, and on the right side, B i c k f o r d ' s
cafeteria, the bus station, and the magnificent Stanley Theater. This is the square just
before the decades of neglect that brought it to its current state. This is the square that
old-timers like B o b Leach and ninety-two year old Jim Boylan remember
nostalgically. It is the square that shaped their young lives. Yet another image
presents itself profoundly to the visitor today, a banner hanging on a lamp post
announcing " T h e N e w Journal Square," and a sign next to it, mounted on tall posts, in
the center of the busy space of the central plaza, displaying a picture of One Journal
Square, the n e w luxury, mixed-use development planned for the site.
Postscript: Walking with Ben Dineen, June 29th, 2009
Ben, the Assistant Director of the United W a y and a former realtor in the area,
met m e for a walk on the first truly sunny s u m m e r day of 2009. For some time he
had wanted m e to see the neighborhood where Journal Square and Bergen Square
overlap. These are the back roads and alleys that those in automobiles on busy
K e n n e d y Boulevard or Bergen A v e n u e never see.
The residents here had endured several weeks of steady and intermittent rain.
The flowers in the planters seemed to be rejoicing for the pure rays of sunshine. Ben
w a s going to take m e to see some of the architectural gems in the neighborhood,
apartment buildings with lovely courtyards that retained some of their original 1920's
169
and 3 0 ' s details. H e met m e in front of the V.I.P. diner wearing a short-sleeved shirt
and a pair of comfortable khakis; he seemed very relaxed. This w a s his turf.
"They d o n ' t build e m ' like this anymore," he remarked as w e entered into the
quiet courtyard of the V a n R e y p e n Apartments (see figure 26). The courtyard is a
true oasis. Lamenting the changes in the neighborhood over the years, he said,
" Y o u ' d pass by and y o u ' d see people sitting in these little nooks." Ben k n e w the
neighborhood well having w o r k e d for years as a banker and a realtor in the area. As
w e strolled and stopped to look at houses and apartment buildings in various states of
disrepair or renovation, he stopped for a m o m e n t and turned to me: " T h a t ' s the thing
- this neighborhood, the people here struggled so." I asked him if he said that
because the suffering w a s a result of the decline of manufacturing and railroading in
Jersey City, and he shook his head 'yes.' It was easy to tell that he cared deeply
about this neighborhood and the city; I could feel his sorrow and his concern.
" O h I love the details on some of these buildings," he whispered to me as I
stopped to photograph some gargoyles (see figure 27). "Look at this, it's lovely!"
Jersey City, like other former manufacturing centers in the United States, is in
the midst of becoming something other than it was. It hangs suspended in webs of
history and longings for the future, wondering and waiting, suspended, trying to
understand what c o m e s next. In places like this, "[i]t is as if," writes Bell (2001),
"the walls of the factory had c o m e tumbling d o w n " (31).
170
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Appendix #1
Agencies Affecting Change in Jersey City and Hudson County as described by interviewees
who actively work with (or for) them.
Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ)
Jersey City Redevelopment Agency (JCRA)
Jersey City Economic Development
Corporation (JCEDC)
Housing, Economic Development, and
Commerce Department (HEDC)
Hudson County Division of Planning
Journal Square Restoration Corporation
Roberta Farber (RF), Director, UEZ: This is
a New Jersey State-level entity that selects
and oversees which municipalities are
eligible for reduced sales tax. Half of the tax
collected goes to a separate account and a
percentage of that account is allocated to
special projects such as keeping the square
clean and safe.
RF: A city agency that can take land through
blighting and applying eminent domain in
areas that are deemed to be not achieving
their highest and best use.
Stuart Koperweis (SK): This is an authority
that is created by State statute (where it gets
its powers). It has a separate board that
controls it and works on behalf of the City
Council. The Mayor appoints the board.
RF: A separate non-profit organization
contracted by Jersey City to oversee special
projects. This group solicits store owners
and businesses to enroll in the UEZ and
oversees UEZ programs.
SK: A city department that has a director
appointed by the Mayor. Sets policies and
acts on behalf of the governing body. Works
with the planning department. Hands the
plan to the redevelopment agency and directs
them how to do it (oftentimes using eminent
domain). They identify parcels, move them
together and create a development zone.
They identify the developers.
RF: Works with the developers hired by the
JCRA. Works with the JCRA to make
ethical and responsible decisions.
SK: Planning carries out the long-range
planning for Jersey City. They have site-plan
and subdivision review authority for all
developments in Jersey City.
RF: A corporation set up by local property
owners, modeled after the Business
Improvement Districts in New York. Based
179
on the idea that government does not
accomplish the micro-level activities needed
to keep the area attractive and safe. It deals
with fa9ade regulation, cleaning, and security
issues.
SK: It's modeled after the mall concept, one
property owner but multiple tenants. They
pay rent and common area maintenance.
Hudson County Open Space, Recreation, and
Historic Preservation Trust Fund
Steve Lipski (SL): They're large partners in
the farmers market. They do the live music.
They deal with the vision plan on a practical,
day-to-day basis.
SK: Back in 1997 the State Legislature
authorized counties to set up trust funds
dedicated to park improvements, open space
acquisition, and farmland preservation. This
impacts Journal Square, the Loew's theater,
the college, the courthouse.
SL: Do they work together? No. There's no
orchestra leader.
180
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