Liberty Harbor North based on Manhattan urbanism


May/June 1999

Issue Date:

Sat, 1999-05-01

Page Number:



Project in Jersey City pushes the envelope in terms of density and transit access. A new waterfront neighborhood isplanned in Jersey City, New Jersey, using urbanism based on Central Park West, Grammercy Park, and other Manhattan neighborhoods. The 80-acre Liberty Harbor North may be the densest traditional neighborhood development yet designed, at 100 to 160 gross dwelling units per acre. Two light rail stations will be built on the site, which means that all residents will be within a three minute walk of rail transit. The neighborhood also is within a 10 minute walk of the PATH subway to Midtown and Down-town Manhattan, and a ferry to Down-town. “You can see how profoundly unnecessary it is to have a car on this site,” says architect Andres Duany, whose firm designed the project during a March, 1999, charrette. The block and street system of Liberty Harbor North essentially continues the grid of Jersey City, with modifications to discourage “cut-through” traffic. The fine-grained street network features blocks 200 feet wide by approximately 400 feet long. The lowest density buildings are planned as innovative four-story townhomes (two two-story units stacked one on top of another). Narrow liner apartment buildings hide parking garages. On the narrow ends of blocks, eight story apartment buildings are planned with retail on the first floor. The site includes a marina and waterfront drive, where the most intense development is planned — including buildings of 16 and 32 stories. An elementary school and a hotel also are planned on the site. Residential avenues on the site will terminate with a view of the Statue of Liberty. The waterfront drive features dual allees for walking and bicycling, and a walkway along the water. The waterfront will have buildings of similar massing and scale as Central Park West. About a dozen pocket parks, many embedded in corners of blocks, punctuate the plan, providing open space that is easily accessible from every part of the neighborhood. A central square that is a five minute walk from all homes in the project will be modeled after Grammercy Park. About 200 people attended the final charrette presentation in the city hall, including more than 100 residents. Some concerns were raised about traffic and compatibility with nearby neighborhoods, but most of the residents’ comments were positive. In addition to the street network designed to mitigate traffic, town-homes are planned on the perimeter of the property to smooth the transition from the site to surrounding townhouse neighborhoods. The site is currently approved for 40 units/acre, so developer Peter Mocco is requesting a substantial increase in density. Duany argues that due to the location and unusually good transit access, the site calls for a very intense use. Recent Jersey City waterfront development, although gated and anti-urban in some respects, has been of comparable density to Liberty Harbor North. Mocco hopes to have permits by the end of 1999, and to have the first units constructed within two years. The project likely has a 20-year buildout.