Tax Abatements & Schools: What Does 1.88 Students Look Like?

On Wednesday night, the City Council approved an 80-unit abatement in downtown Hamilton Park.  Here are some of the specs on the property:

  • located at 9th & Brunswick in downtown Hamilton Park a community
  • the abatement will extend for 20 years
  • contain 80 units, including 20 3-bedroom units and 35 2-bedroom units
  • 1.88 kids from the building will attend the Jersey City Public Schools.

Wait a second…hold on.

One. Point. Eight. Eight. Students?  Can a student also be a fraction?  Last I checked, my children were whole human beings, not point-eights of a human.  Hmmm.  It’s an official city number – 1.88 students – so it must mean something, right?

But…what does 1.88 kids even look like?

Mayor Fulop’s lawyers pointed towards an answer at the Council meeting: 1.88 students is based on a “formula from Rutgers” that is used when developing an abatement fiscal impact study.  This “formula” is not readily accessible online (I checked) which is in keeping with the general lack of transparency around abatements that I wrote about in my last abatement post.

Since I cannot find much information on the “formula from Rutgers,” I asked around.  What exactly does 1.88 students look like?  Local political satirist angryjcmom was kind enough to give me her take on the 1.88 student question:


Wow…angryjcmom really knows how to capture the inane stuff that goes on in Jersey City!!! That’s so funny, the way the little girl is smiling but her face is cut off at the top and–

Wait…hold on.

This is serious.  The abatement is for 20 years and by then my kids will be in college and I’ll be preparing for retirement and probably still paying property taxes on our home and…

Wow.  Maybe this isn’t so much funny, as much as it’s a bit crazy. And concerning.

Ok, back to business.

What exactly does 1.88 students look like? It must mean something, right?    

It’s an extremely important question, because the abatement was approved.  And if more than 1.88 students from this 80-unit building do attend JCPS, then the argument for the abatement weakens.  In fact, if just seven students from this 80-unit building attends JCPS, then the abatement will start to cost the City. The math is pretty easy to adjust, just take a look at the impact study below:

Fiscal Impact-9th Street

So maybe the council members who voted for the abatement know what 1.88 students looks like.  Who can we ask?  Councilwoman Osborne voted for it.  So did at-large Councilman Rivera.  As did Councilman Boggiano.  And Councilman Ramchal.  And…oh, well, you get the point.

But wait.  Two council members voted against the abatement. Councilman Yun of Ward D and Council President Rolando Lavarro.  Come to think of it, Mr. Lavarro asked about this 1.88 student issue, posting the question directly to the administration lawyers, asking if they were confident in the “Rutgers formula.”  And the lawyers indicated they had to “check the numbers again.”  This was before the vote.

Yet seven out of nine Council members then voted to approve the abatement.

But why?  Don’t they realize how bad this looks?  1.88 students is insane!  It belies common sense!  It shows a significant flaw in our City’s abatement analysis, particularly with respect to our public schools, one of the biggest items on our City budget!!!!  If the “Rutgers formula” is incorrect, or at least requiring a “check” by the administration’s lawyers, then couldn’t other aspects of the abatement analysis be incorrect too?  How, in good conscience, could seven out of nine Council members vote for this????

Hmmm…what could be going on here?  Hmmm……

Ahhhh, I finally get it!  I know what 1.88 students looks like!!!!

Embarrassing, unconscionable, and shameful governmental dysfunction.  

 I attended the City Council meeting this past Wednesday (3/26/2014).  Also, full disclosure: I received my undergraduate degrees from Rutgers grad and think it’s a great school, despite their “formula.”

Please sign the petition to save the Cordero PS 37 Annex. Read a parent’s concerns about the annex here.


  1. JPhurstMarch 28, 2014

    First Question – Is it rental or condominium?

    Second Question, what was the “buy up” provision that turned what would be a 10 year abatement into a 20 year abatement?

    Unless I’m mixing it up with another building, this is one of the sites that Fulop wanted BOE to lease for pre-K capacity. Is that part of the buy-up or did they change it when BOE said we don’t need that as a school?

    As I’ve said in other posts, I live in an approx 300 unit condo, and I am aware of only 2 children in the building who attend Jersey City public schools, one being my older daughter, the other being an autistic student who goes to a school in the Journal Square area that specifically services his needs (and very well). I know just about all the other families in the building too, and they send their kids to OLC, Primary Prep, or I Can’t Believe It’s Not Montessori. I know one family that put their older kid into the zoned school and then took her out and put her back in OLC. They are moving to Montclair in a few months.

    With respect to the Liberty Harbor neighborhood as a whole, I don’t know any other students in the public school system. Some people look at me kind of funny when they find out that I send my kid to a public school. But people look at me kind of funny all the time, so…..

    I suspect that, in the not so distant future, the “formula” will underestimate the number of kids that go to public school from a building. That is largely based on my optimism of the rejuvenation of cities and not on any hard data. But in the instant setting, while at first blush the number sounds absurd it may not be that far off from the truth.

    1. brigdsouzaMarch 28, 2014

      Joshua – it’s a rental. With respect to your personal observations about Liberty Harbor North, I don’t think they’re relevant to this abatement because Liberty Harbor North is a different community from Hamilton Park. Further, the recent demographic study released but the Board of Education (BOE) shows pre-K is booming throughout many parts of Jersey City, but mostly in downtown. PS 37 (in Hamilton Park) is one of the schools with a current shortage of capacity (especially if the PS 37 annex is not used again). I’d challenge anyone to make a factual, data-based case that 1.88 students is appropriate for Hamilton Park.

      Demographic study Volume 1 here:
      Demographic study Volume 2 here:

      In general I disagree with your statement “But in the instant setting, while at first blush the number sounds absurd it may not be that far off from the truth.” I don’t think there are facts to come close to substantiating this statement. But in the spirit of giving you the benefit of the doubt I’d ask that the formula at least be transparent to the public, and that the City proactively discuss this issue with the public, vs. bury it within an impact study.

      1. KarinMarch 29, 2014

        Joshua, If I had their parent’s consent I could give you three names of children that go to PS3 (from liberty harbor ) as well and that is off the top of my head without doing an investigation on it. It might be good for your school area (PS16) that not all attend it since it would get just as overcrowded there as well. The I-would-not-put-my-child-in – PS parents deem DL in PS3 the only option for them and that is why so many are trying to get into the Dual Language program. They know that this DL program – housed in a new building at that – will give them for free what they pay for in private: segregation from the masses and being with ‘engaged’ parents. That PS 16 tests way better seemed not to be a convincing factor but I must say that people are in that zone are catching on now.

  2. Mary MillsMarch 28, 2014

    Hi. I asked this same question many many years ago. Its a planning book that all the planners have to use. Its created by Rutgers for every area. They were not calling pre k part of the school system then.

  3. JPhurstMarch 28, 2014

    Yes, Hamilton Park is different than Liberty Harbor. Why? Because Hamilton Park is largely owner occupied brownstones, which attract people who tend to raise families. The new developments, particularly the rentals, attract more transient residents. And 9th and Brunswick is a larger, denser, building than is the norm for Hamilton Park. How many owners in the new Silverman building are sending their kids to Cordero?

    You say that you doubt that there are facts substantiating this, but at the very least the city is basing their calculation on something empirical. The DOE study says that there will be elementary school growth downtown, but also acknowledges that there is a shocking waste of capacity in many of its facilities, including one High School that DOE expanded to shut down a fifth elementary school downtown. Not a few classrooms, a whole school.

    And of course, if the 80 units at 9th and Brunswick are such a concern, then why did BOE not even consider an offer from that very same property owner to build space for a school!

    So when DOE closes a school and doesnt take an offer to lease space in a new building that people are claiming will overwhelm the system with toddlers, I can understand the reluctance of the city to enter into a partial lease of a community center for 4 classroom spaces. And we haven’t even gotten into the fact that the DOE, allegedly being starved of funds by tax abatements, has a budget larger than the city.

    1. brigdsouzaMarch 29, 2014

      It’s an exceedingly fair point that whoever is running or overseeing facilities for the BOE needs to step up their game. I 100% agree with this and am actually chasing down personal issues in my daughter’s school with respect to that issue. But that is mutually exclusive from the 1.8 metric, which is in my opinion absurd and we can agree to disagree on that until a fact-based case is made as to why it is or is not absurd (I’m planning on learning a lot about the Rutgers formula in the near future and will share what i learn). If I’m wrong, then I will admit it. But given best information to date – current over-crowding in schools, known issues with abatement policy that persist with this administration (most notably the lack of transparency), and the obvious embarrassment of the city officials who had to say “1.88 students” – I’d say the 1.8 estimate reflects poor policy and a lack of attentiveness to the needs of our City, particularly with respect to the Mayor’s campaign promise that he would support the school system via his abatement policy.

  4. brigdsouzaMarch 29, 2014

    The “Rutgers Formula” has, I think, been unearthed! I have not read this yet, but wanted to share it ASAP since it adds to the discussion. Many thanks to the Mom who shared this w/ me. Shows the value of crowdsourcing and getting things out in the sunshine.

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