writing the following I've developed a greater appreciation
of architecture, and so apologize in advance to visiting architects.
If there isn't an AIA Guide to Jersey City architecture, maybe it's because we haven't built any worth cataloguing. We've got Exchange Place Centre and 101 Hudson; two tall buildings do not a skyline make. But then, we do not a skyline need. We've already got one across the river. Just because a couple of our guys tried to dismantle part of it awhile back doesn't mean we all feel that way.
Who needs the hassle of construction? The mating call of the jackhammer? The dirt and the dust? The signs which thank us for our co-operation then list our contribution -- the cost of the project -- like results of some prepaid telethon?
Just what have we achieved since our renaissance began? You call the Cali building progress? Why is the waterfall on the INSIDE?
And take Portside. Somebody, anybody. It has lovely Liberty Park and NYC views to be enjoyed by the guards who keep watch over their quiet domain. Portside has become a particularly useless addition to our skyline: empty and in the way of inhabited apartment buildings. It also serves as an unofficial truck stop for UPS, USPS and other carriers attracted to its embracing cul-de-sac which provides cover for long (well-deserved, we're sure) lunch breaks.
Then there's Port Liberté. You say tea, we say tay. New Yorkers see it as a shimmering vision across the Hudson; up close it's neighbor to a scrap heap, and for years not nearly as saleable. Joseph Barry, the real estate magnate who owns the complex, also publishes the Jersey City Reporter, which often runs articles on Liberté. You say conflict of interest, we concur.
Let's not forget the entire complex at Exchange Place, either. So what if the occupancy rate is high, as The Jersey Journal informed readers not long ago in a front page story which was basically a gift to the leasing agents. How many Jersey City residents do you think have to look at it, but can't get a job in it? Our mayor with the solid résumé, he could get a job in it. This is progress?
We have enough trouble at ground zero. Everywhere you look something's either being torn up or is naturally disintegrating. How often are they going to re-sew our patchwork quilt roads at the whim of utility companies? Grand Street in particular seems to be an experiment of some sort. Is Coles between 10th and 12th a thoroughfare or a synthetic lava flow?
City Hall, with its veil of scaffolding; the foot of Montgomery Street, presently experiencing deconstruction; the post-Holland Tunnel feeder road to 1&9, forever donating chunks of itself to an endless parade of trucks. It all falls apart. It all needs surgery. It all has to be done at the same time, keeping the patient forever prone.
We're always building for the future. Who knows, maybe one day future generations will thank us as they swallow their own petty inconveniences for similar promises. (While we're at it, why is it that 'eminent domain' for you and me translates into 'a good investment' for folks like Frank Guarini, the $6 million former congressman who sold PSE&G its new spread on the corner of Grand and Pacific?)
Have we no time for other constructive endeavors? Some Liberty Park alterations are long overdo, so we can use all of it and not just the edges and a narrow strip down the middle. Lay sidewalks into its entrances as an aid to pedestrians. Yes, pedestrians exist in New Jersey.
We might also consider clearing some of the clutter from otherwise vacant lots around town. Maybe get on the backs of landlords who are a disgrace to our firmament. Get them to stop renting billboard space to drug pushers in Greenville and Bergen-Lafayette. Or else grant equal time in Paulus Hook, Van Vorst, and Hamilton Park, and equal time to corner sensimilla distributors.
A modicum of pride suggests that we at least repaint the center strips on Newark Ave [see cover photo] just west of Grove Street station, before somebody takes them literally, and remove patronizing signs dating from administrations four mayors ago. Heck, as long as we're dreaming we could even train public employees (parking and sanitation workers come to mind) to be a little less exuberant.
The problem with these concepts is that none of them glows with Building for the Future, which never really comes. What's wrong with today? Is it too boring, because it's ALWAYS today?
Timecop, the new Jean-Claude Van Damme movie (yes, we've been waiting for it, too) has this redeeming ad copy: "They killed her 10 years ago. There's still time to save her." We couldn't have said it better.