Statement by Mike Francisco, President, Harsimus Cove Association, to the Zoning Board on applications to demolish the Harsimus Branch Embankment
Remarks as given at during public comment portion of the Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting on August 23, 2011.
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen of the Board. My name is Mike Francisco, and I am the president of the Harsimus Cove Association, within whose boundaries the Embankment sits. I am also the current president of the Downtown Coalition of Neighborhood Associations, which is composed of five Jersey City neighborhood organizations: the Harsimus Cove Association, the Hamilton Park Neighborhood Association, the Powerhouse Arts District Neighborhood Association, the Van Vorst Park Association and the Historic Paulus Hook Association.
I’m speaking on behalf of the Harsimus Cove Association and the DCNA when I say that if the application to demolish the Embankment is approved, it would have a profoundly negative effect on the character of the surrounding neighborhoods, especially those of Harsimus Cove and Hamilton Park. Not only would we lose a grand reminder of Jersey City’s industrial past and the historical role the railroads – and our neighborhoods – played in the growth of this country, we would also lose one of the defining features of our neighborhood, the border between the historic districts of Harsimus Cove and Hamilton Park.
Notice I use the word “border” and not “barrier,” as I have heard the Embankment referred to on occasion by Mr. Hyman’s attorney and witnesses. Though it marks the border between the two historic neighborhoods, it does not separate them, but actually unites them. It makes all of us remember that a hundred years ago, because of the Embankment and the growth of Jersey City that came with it, our neighborhoods became what they are today – vibrant and thriving.
This unique structure – all of it, not just a block or two or three – needs to be preserved for the common good. If it is torn down and allowed to be developed by Mr. Hyman, the prospect of two historic neighborhoods being separated by shoddily constructed modern townhouses – or even worse, high-rises – would be laughable if only it weren’t so horrifying.
On the other hand, a park on the site of the Embankment will bring much needed open space and parkland that raises the quality of life for all Jersey City residents, as well as being a draw for visitors near and far. It will be an integral part of the East Coast Greenway, an urban bike and walking trail that already runs up and down the Eastern seaboard. And its loss would permanently alter the historic character of our neighborhoods for the worse.