Gusciora Questions Christie’s 11th Hour Plan for Trenton: What’s the Rush?

Veteran Lawmaker Slams Outgoing Governor for Playing Politics with Capital’s Future

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon) on Tuesday slammed outgoing Gov. Chris Christie for his last-minute attempt to reshape the state’s presence in the capital city – by building two new, single-use office buildings on the fringe of downtown – without considering input from affected stakeholders.

The Governor’s proposal calls for the construction of two new office buildings to replace the aging Department of Health and Division of Taxation buildings in Trenton. Critics have noted that the Governor’s plan does not comply with the City of Trenton’s Master Plan, which calls for new, mixed-use construction on a previously designated development corridor; or with State Economic Development Authority (EDA) regulations, which specify that new office construction must take place within a 0.5 mile radius of public transit centers.

“On November 13, I participated in a meeting of the New Jersey State House Commission where members of the commission unanimously voted to table discussion on the construction of these office buildings because they do not comport with the city’s Master Plan or vision,” Gusciora said. “Yet, three weeks later, the Governor, in his typically bullish manner, has called for another meeting with the explicit purpose of overturning the will of the commission and strong-arming members into doing his bidding. It’s disturbing, and reflective of how much he doesn’t care about the future of Trenton, that he isn’t willing to consider the advice of urban planning experts or conform to the best practices of planning.”

Gusciora noted that the commission is scheduled to meet again this Thursday, Dec. 7, at the Governor’s behest. Gusciora plans to attend the meeting once again, which will take place at 9 a.m. in room 103 on the first floor of the State House.

“Projects of this scale have the opportunity to reshape our state capital for the better, if they’re done correctly. We need multi-use development in the downtown so that citizens are drawn to the attractions our city has to offer,” Gusciora explained. “What we definitely don’t need is more office buildings and parking decks that contribute to Trenton’s ‘nine-to-five’ culture. You can’t rebuild an economy in a city that stops at 5 p.m.”

Gusciora noted that advocates and planners have urged the state to put the plan on hold, arguing that the effect of thoughtless construction could be generational.

“The last time the state built projects of this scale in Trenton, it effectively created the commuter culture we see today – single-use office buildings that only encourage someone to come into work, sit at their desk, and then leave. We must focus on creating places that people want to visit – restaurants, bars, and cultural venues that they’d like to frequent after work – and that draw people from far and wide. It’s absolutely critical to the city’s revitalization and for the Governor to not even consider the input of local experts is, frankly, insulting.

“For the Governor to attempt to override the will of the State House Commission, which includes five members of his own party, really highlights how single-minded and authoritarian he has become. We won’t accept the crumbs he has to offer at the end of eight years in office. We’d rather wait for someone who actually cares enough to put the time and effort into understanding the needs of the city, rather than just blindly imposing their uninformed opinion on a generation of Trentonians. Christie should keep his hands off Trenton, just like he has for his entire tenure,” Gusciora concluded.