The Newark City Council voted 7-0 Wednesday to approve a controversial zoning ordinance that will allow developers to erect buildings as high as 12 stories in the area around Penn Station, a move that residents say could change the character of the Ironbound neighborhood.
Two members – West Ward Councilman Joseph A. McCallum and At-Large Councilman Eddie Osborne were absent.
The re-zoning changes the height limit in the area around Penn Station at eight stories — or 96 feet – and instead allow for buildings as high as 145 feet – or 12 stories.
The plan has drawn opposition from Ironbound residents who say it will change the character of the neighborhood and lead to higher rents, which will force existing residents to move out because they can no longer afford to liver there.
Those fears were articulated again today during a public hearing prior to the council’s vote. A total of sixteen people spoke out against the plan, several of them noting that more residents would have shown up had the meeting not taken place at 12:30 p.m., the middle of a work day.
No one – not even potential developers who will benefit from the rezoning — spoke out in favor of the measure during the public hearing, prompting City Council President Mildred Crump to say, in remarks made just before the vote, that supporters felt “intimidated’’ from speaking. “The impression that the council does not care what is going on in the East Ward is not true,’’ she said. “. . . There are huge numbers of people in the Ironbound who support the ordinance.’’