Not so fast, Jersey City residents defy redistricting

March 21, 2022 (Jersey City, New Jersey) The New Jersey Appleseed Public Interest Law Center, Inc. Bromberg Law LLC., and Matsikoudis & Fanciullo, LLC. filed a lawsuit in the New Jersey Superior Court, Law Division, Hudson Count, on behalf of more than fifteen organizational groups around the city and Councilman Frank E. Gilmore in an individual and official capacity. Neighborhood associations and several citywide organizations include Jersey City United Against the New Ward Map, Downtown Coalition of Neighborhood Association (and its six organizational members), Greenville Neighborhood Alliance, Friends of Berry Lane Park, Riverview Neighborhood Association , Pershing Field Neighborhood association Sgt. Anthony Neighborhood Association, Gardner Avenue Block Association, Lincoln Park Neighborhood Watch, Morris Canal Redevelopment CDC, Harmon Street Block Association, Crescent Avenue Block Association, and the Democratic Political Alliance.

Plaintiffs want to ensure that Jersey City is organized into six compact, equally populated neighborhoods that respect neighborhoods, natural divisions and communities that share common municipal concerns. Claimant groups are outraged by the lack of transparency in the process; and in particular, residents throughout the city believe that the gross reconfiguration of Ward F, resulting in the relocation of many residents of Ward F to Ward A, and the splitting of the historic black neighborhood of Lafayette, was done in retaliation for their support from Councilman Gilmore, his platform, and in particular, his support for more affordable housing in their neighborhoods.

Plaintiffs seek an order:

1. Invalidation of the Commission card;

2. Declaring that the Commission map violates the Municipal Wards Act and the New Jersey Constitution;

3. Declaring that the Commission’s map violates the freedom of speech and association rights of residents of Ward F, and those formerly in Ward F and now in Ward A, which are protected by the New Jersey Constitution ;

4. Stating that the Commission Map violates Plaintiff Frank E. Gilmore’s freedom of speech and rights of association by executing impermissible reprisals against him by suppressing a significant number of his supporters, suppressing the Opportunity Zone Federal Ward F and removing several proposed developments and/or approved projects in the ward he was elected to represent;

5. Set a reasonable time for the Commission to redraw wards in a manner consistent with the Municipal Wards Act and the New Jersey Constitution, including the requirement that each ward consist of a compact territory, which does not unnecessarily divide neighborhoods or otherwise break apart communities of interest, and

6. Declaring that the Commission unlawfully prevented the public from attending and participating in certain meetings held by the Commission prior to its public meeting held on January 22, 2022, and declaring the Commission’s approval of the Commission Map void and void and in violation of the Open Public Meetings Act.

Chris Gadsden, spokesperson for Jersey City United Against the New Ward Map and an organizer for the community groups represented in the lawsuit, is thrilled. Gadsden said: “Residents of Jersey City were appalled at the way our city was re-divided. We are united in our determination to see this map changed to something fairer and more reflective of who we are as a city. “The process by which the new neighborhood map – which will affect Jersey City neighborhoods for the next ten years – did not take into account community input, natural boundaries or the history of our town.” “We deserve a map that reflects the real Jersey City!”

Jersey City United Against the New Ward Map is working with NJ Appleseed to ensure the Ward Commission redraws the map of Jersey City neighborhoods according to law.

Gadsden wants to rally the community behind this lawsuit. Gadsden explained, “Efforts to detain entities like the Ward Commission require research, resources and money.” Anyone wishing to make a contribution to ensuring municipal accountability, particularly with respect to ward redistricting, can do so by donating to https://njappleseed.org/donate/. All contributions are tax deductible.

For Lafayette resident Dana Patton, it’s a matter of justice. District F was cut the most. Ward F was loud and clear in voting for Councilor Frank Gilmore. The mayor and former council member did not represent us but served the developers, and in return the Ward Commission attempted to remove power from Ward F.

The New Jersey Appleseed Public Interest Law Center, with the help of Brett Pugach and William Matsikoudis, is honored to be able to represent organizations from every neighborhood in the city to hold the Jersey City Neighborhood Commission accountable and ensure that the law is applied in a way to protect the integrity, cohesion and compactness of neighborhoods, which constitute communities of interest, and to ensure equitable representation within their municipal council.

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