The little ethnic enclave a stone’s throw from Newark is becoming Jersey’s latest hotbed for urban redevelopment. The March issue of New Jersey Monthly wonders if Harrison is the next Hoboken ….
Will Harrison become the new Hoboken? Mayor Raymond McDonough would like to think so. Seventeen years ago, two years after taking office, he initiated a redevelopment plan to transform the Hudson County town’s blighted industrial section into a gentrified neighborhood of condos, rental apartments and hotels, all coalescing around a renovated PATH station.
“I started this project years ago to lower taxes,” says McDonough, 64, reflecting on the burden residents had to bear after the mile-square town’s once-bustling factories shut down several decades ago. The idea came to him in the late 1990s, after an elderly woman broke down in tears in his office because she could not afford to pay her taxes. McDonough found a quick solution for the woman but realized Harrison itself needed a long-term plan.
He started investigating what could be done about the town’s vacant industrial sites. With help from allies in Town Hall, he formulated a redevelopment vision that would come to include tax incentives for developers and enticements, like new residences and shops, for young professionals. “If things pick up in Harrison,” McDonough says. “We’ll be able to help more people.”