JERSEY CITY — Bob Cotter, the city’s top planner, is retiring after 26 years on the job, a span that saw the city’s Waterfront transformed from an industrial backwater into one of the most desirable real-estate markets in the nation.
Cotter called Jersey City’s growth “the stuff of legend” in a statement released by the city last week.
“The city is a much better place than I found it, and that is what city planners hope and study to do,” Cotter said.
Bob Antonicello, who led the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency for seven years starting in 2006, called Cotter’s retirement “a significant loss of the city.” If there were a Mount Rushmore of Jersey City real-estate development, Antonicello said, Cotter would be on it.
“Developers come and go, politicians come and go, redevelopment directors come and go, but Bob has been the one constant,” he said.
Cotter, a city worker since 1980, became chief planner under former Mayor Gerry McCann in 1990. McCann said today that Cotter has lasted as administrations have come and gone because he is a “professional” and dedicated to Jersey City.
“He even bought one of the houses that Peter Mocco built on First Street,” McCann said, referring to the Downtown Jersey City home where Cotter still lives. “Even at that time, no one was building anything like that.”
Cotter has at times felt the wrath of neighborhood groups. Residents of the Powerhouse Arts District in particular feel city planners turned the area from an artists’ enclave into a field of luxury high-rises.
Gerry Bakirtjy, who once chaired the development oversight committee for the Historic Paulus Hook Neighborhood Association, said Cotter deftly balanced the needs of neighborhoods and the desires of developers. If the balance tipped too far in favor of developers, Cotter wasn’t to blame, Bakirtjy said.
“I suspect Bob tried to do the best he can considering the political desires at the time,” he said. “Development is change and change makes people unhappy and time will tell whether it is good or bad.”
The city is expecting nearly 3,000 residential units to come online before the end of the year, while developers are expected to break ground on another 3,000 in the next 10 months.
Cotter departs as the city is the midst of a building boom that has pushed beyond the tony Downtown and into neighborhoods farther west, like Journal Square. In a statement, Mayor Steve Fulop said Cotter’s legacy “will be with Jersey City for decades to come.”
“We wish him the best in his retirement and thank him for his years of service that have contributed to where Jersey City is today,” Fulop said.
The city is now seeking his replacement. Interested candidates can see a full job description and apply online.