The city council gave preliminary approval to acquire 12 lots on Ryle Avenue to create a new entrance to the Great Falls. Properties are being acquired using $1 million in green acres funding the city received from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Council members preliminarily approved the acquisitions last Tuesday night in an 8-1 vote. Councilman Michael Jackson voted against acquiring the ramshackle properties.
Jackson has previously argued acquiring the properties and turning the area into open space will reduce property tax income for the city. The properties, in varying state of disrepair, contribute little revenue to the city’s treasury. In fact, 10 out of the 12 lots, are delinquent in paying taxes, according to city records.
Properties being acquired are in a flood plain.
Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres has proposed turning the area into a new entrance to the Great Falls National Historical Park from the highly trafficked West Broadway. He has said West Broadway sees more vehicular traffic than McBride Avenue and Spruce Street combined.
Torres’ initial plan listed 15 properties for acquisition. The ordinance before the council excludes the flood damaged old Kansas Fried Chicken on West Broadway by the bridge. It also excludes the former liquor store and defunct soul food restaurant at the very corner of West Broadway and Ryle Avenue. It also excludes the large mill building that recently caught on fire, according to a map attached to the ordinance.
A final vote on the ordinance is scheduled for Sept. 19, 2017.