Candidates on the NJ Transit Project

6/4/2009:

The Hoboken Rail Yards Task Force is very concerned with what will transpire with the whole development of the NJ Transit Rail Yards. As a result, they felt it was important to ask the six potential Hoboken City Council candidates what their positions were in regards to said project – since they’ll have this issue to deal with for the next four years if elected.

While I personally feel these written answers are an exercise in futility, since you honestly don’t know how they were composed – however, at least you now have them all “on record.”

NJ Transit Plan

Question to Hoboken City Council Candidates

“Your position is crucial. We request your feedback to the following by 5:00 PM, Friday, May 29. Answers* will be shared with our members, other interested citizens, citizen groups and the media. We also suggest that you post our question and answers you provide to your own and/or your slate’s website(s). Please send a link to such a posting, once it is available.”

Background:
City Council is the designated redevelopment planning body for the City of Hoboken. Many citizens, including the members of the Hoboken Rail Yards Task Force, are concerned about the high-rise proposal for the Hoboken Rail Yards, which constitute the largest area for redevelopment within our City. We would like to know your individual thoughts on this matter, as citizens vote for individual candidates and Council members will be voting on such matters individually, even though all currently running will are running within slates. Many, but not all, of our members would like specifics. Those would include, but not be limited to: height in stories, height in feet and/or height relative to other buildings near the Rail Yards and elsewhere in Hoboken.

And the Question is:
“What is the maximum height of buildings that should be allowed on the NJ Transit property, given that the Master Plan recommends preserving the view corridor of the historic Terminal building, avoiding construction over the tracks and limiting the height of any development on the property to be consistent with surrounding areas?”

SEE ALL SIX RESPONSES AFTER THE JUMP!!

(Rail Yards Question, continued…)

Council Candidates Respond

First, we have the Cammarano slate:

Raul Morales
Hoboken Rail Yards Statement
In these tough economic times, the City of Hoboken needs to have smart economic development, which should include commercial, retail, residential, and open space. It should focus on creating new jobs and business opportunities, built with green technology to improve the quality of life. It should also include affordable housing, to main the diversity of our community. Any new development should conform to the character of the area. The current plan proposed by NJ Transit for the Rail Yard project is completely unacceptable, and would overwhelm our current infrastructure and impose a greater burden on the taxpayers of Hoboken. The development should include significant public open space, parks and access to the waterfront. The primary objective of this plan should be the restoration and preservation of the Terminal site. The scale of the development should not have a negative impact on the rest of our City and the quality of life of its’ residents. I know that we will be able to accomplish all our goals without developing any building on the Rail Yards Redevelopment Site higher than what is now within our community.

Vincent Addeo
Hoboken Rail Yards Statement
Any proposed plans being considered for the New Jersey Transit property should include a combination of residential, retail, and commercial space to generate new job and business opportunities for residents and local businesses. The proposed plans should also incorporate a significant amount of public open space and expand waterfront access. Infrastructure improvements should be made that address conditions on the site and within the City. The historic Hoboken Terminal should be rehabilitated and revitalized as a new and exciting retail and entertainment place. Affordable housing and work force housing should also be built to meet the needs of Hoboken residents. As to the scale of the project, I strongly believe that the size and height of the buildings should not have a negative impact on the neighboring community and on the quality of life within the City. The height proposed in the Transit plan should be dramatically reduced.

Angel Alicea
Hoboken Rail Yards Statement
The Hoboken Rail Yard plan should be a balanced, mixed-use program, that provides a variety of housing and business opportunities and economic vitality for the City. The centerpiece should be the restoration of the historic Train Building and the development of the Train Building area as a retail economic area. Open space has to be an important element that includes public access to the waterfront. At least 20% of the residential development should be affordable to meet the needs of Hoboken residents. The scale of development should be consistent with the urban context along Observer Highway. Height and density should be of a scale that does not have a negative impact off-site on the City’s quality of life. The development should compliment the City’s existing communities.

nj-transit-redevelopment-plan-looking-south-from-hoboken

And the Dawn Zimmer Slate:

Dave Mello:
As Hoboken’s Master Plan states (page 129) when referencing the Hoboken Terminal, “Any new development should be limited in scale so as not to overwhelm historic Terminal buildings.” Thus far, what has been proposed for the terminal area is vastly out of scale with all of Hoboken, and would not only overwhelm the Terminal, but would overpower our entire City. As with any redevelopment area in Hoboken, I feel strongly that a mix of commercial, residential, and retail spaces must be sought, along with the creation of active open space. Building heights here should not exceed eight to twelve stories.

Carol Marsh:
Development around the NJ transit terminal should be designed to enhance the quality of life for all of Hoboken’s residents. Many residents have expressed a desire for the terminal buildings themselves to be preserved as historic sites and reused for our current needs. Whatever is developed in the area should enhance the accessibility and usability of the historic sites, and make them pedestrian friendly community areas. Dawn Zimmer has stated publicly that she supports buildings with a mix of heights between 4 and 16 stories. I agree with her position and add that there are members of the community who have spent their valuable time and resources studying this area. Before any plans are approved, these residents and all interested parties should be encouraged to openly discuss their views of the area in a public forum. Even in the context of this election I reiterate our view that development should start with the community. Further, major projects should only be considered in the context of the entire city. The master plan was intended to be a blueprint for Hoboken’s future but its value was diminished as the implementation of the actual ordinances was delayed. The master plan needs to be updated with particular attention paid to preserving our options for developing recreation space and commercial space, and for preserving and enhancing historic sites such as the Hoboken terminal area.

Ravi Bhalla:
In my opinion, the maximum height of buildings on the New Jersey Transit property, for both commercial and residential development, should be no more than twelve (12) stories. Development in this area, in terms of height, should be conservative and cognizant of preserving the view corridor of the historic Terminal building, avoiding construction over the tracks, and limiting the height of any development on the property to be consistent with the surrounding areas. I understand that the height of buildings along the north side of Observer Highway are approximately 16 stories. This was a mistake and I do not believe a future City Council should be bound by the mistakes of prior administrations that chose to overdevelop along Observer Highway. I believe that a height limitation that is lower or even with current heights, such as 12 or 16 stories, is a form of development that is consistent with the surrounding areas. I do not believe that buildings that exceed 16 stories, such as 27 story buildings, are consistent with development in this area. I am also concerned that such development may disrupt the preservation of the view corridor along of the historic Terminal buildings. In the event a developer claims that it cannot build over the rail yards with a 12 story height limitation and still make a reasonable return on investment, the burden should rest with the developer to provide the City Council with clear and convincing evidence of such an assertion. Upon such a showing and the exhaustion of all other possible alternatives to maintain a 12 story height limitation, I would consider a 16 story height limitation.

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10 Comments on "Candidates on the NJ Transit Project"

matt_72
Member

Red – they gave thoughtful responses you could drive a truck through and use to justify 200 story buildings. It is the same as with the budget. If you don’t set a concrete benchmark you can absolutely justify anything.

And Ken – the company that owes us a pool filed for bankruptcy. Sorry, no pool, not unless we give the company (post emergence) more variances for larger buildings (not that they will deliver even then).

Yip Yap – as for 70 story buildings, I think those can be built. I am no engineer, but seems to me that from an economic perspective, it is cheaper to build (on a per sq ft basis) a 70 story building than say a 20 story building after you factor in the cost of the land (or lease on land) & the platform over the rail yard. So larger buildings are more likely to get built than smaller ones. And as long as the city grants approval, it isn’t as if construction would start next tuesday. They may not break ground for years. Shoot – how long did it take them to start construction on Maxwell once that was finally approved? What was that, three years? And that project was simple compared to what they envision for the rail yards.

HOB424
Member
HOB424

How about don’t develop there? We need a transportation hub. No valid reason for commercial development there.

homeworld
Member

The same could be said for the rail yard that is now Grand Central Terminal and Park Ave in Manhattan.

In response to HOB424 who said:
How about don’t develop there? We need a transportation hub. No valid reason for commercial development there.

YipYap
Member

We do need to build more in town, there is blight in a few areas. How much is obviously an issue. In the current market I cannot see 70 story buildings being funded by anyone right now. Heck we cannot even get the WTC rebuilt how is anyone going to build and sell huge buildings in Hoboken in this economy?

KenOn10
Member
KenOn10

No 70-story buildings? How are we going to get our community pool? And what about the PILOTs that are going to reduce my taxes?

In response to YipYap who said:
We do need to build more in town, there is blight in a few areas. How much is obviously an issue. In the current market I cannot see 70 story buildings being funded by anyone right now. Heck we cannot even get the WTC rebuilt how is anyone going to build and sell huge buildings in Hoboken in this economy?

bnr4real
Member
bnr4real

Nothing gives a clearer signal about the intentions of a candidate than when he intentionally avoids answering a direct question. When asked “What is the maximum height of buildings that should be allowed on the NJ Transit property?”, none of Peter Cammarano’s council candidates give an exact answer. Meanwhile, all of Dawn’s candidates give an exact answer. No further questions, Your Honor!

matt_72
Member

Notice who doesn’t specify limits on the size of the buildings……….I wonder why? Oh yeah, bigger buildings means more tax dollars to fund the bloat. Not only that, but if these guys don’t peg themselves to a number then they can easily be “convinced” that all those extras they also also asked for justify going to 20, 30, 40 or more stories.

But if you peg yourself to a number, people ask hard questions why you didn’t stick to it………

KenOn10
Member
KenOn10

If I’m reading correctly, some of these guys will push for a 70-story building then call it a victory for Hoboken.

Next up: Lenz spotted on 126 bus, clearly selling out Hoboken to NJ Transit. 🙄

In response to matt_72 who said:
Notice who doesn’t specify limits on the size of the buildings……….I wonder why? Oh yeah, bigger buildings means more tax dollars to fund the bloat. Not only that, but if these guys don’t peg themselves to a number then they can easily be “convinced” that all those extras they also also asked for justify going to 20, 30, 40 or more stories.

But if you peg yourself to a number, people ask hard questions why you didn’t stick to it………

Red Haven
Member
Red Haven

No, you are NOT reading it correctly KenOn10.

Raul and Vinny offered thoughtful responses while the Marsh-Mello-Bhalla crowd has decided to play junior planner. It’s rich that Mello is just fine with living in a 17-story building (SkyClub) but claims he would limit the NJTransit height to less than that.

For the record (and for better or worse) Cammarano used numbers at one of the debates. He called for no waterfront office building at the terminal to rise any taller than the W Hotel, and for the buildings along Observer Highway (which LCOR/FXFowle wants to rise 45 stories) to be no taller than those already on the north side, which average about 12 stories (NOT 16, Ravi).

This is all BS anyway, because if Zimmer gets in she will be completely bulldozed by NJTransit/LCOR/FXFowle who will see her for the lightweight she showed herself to be in the debates.

In response to KenOn10 who said:
If I’m reading correctly, some of these guys will push for a 70-story building then call it a victory for Hoboken.

Next up: Lenz spotted on 126 bus, clearly selling out Hoboken to NJ Transit. 🙄

KenOn10
Member
KenOn10

Even if you don’t agree with them, the Zimmer slate gave specific answers. The Cammarano slate did not. Case closed.

I do agree that it’s all BS, because if Cammarano gets in, he will sell out in a flash to NJT/LCOR/FXFowle who will see him for the machine politician that he is, having many, many favors to pay back and costly ambitions to fund.

But thanks for not dragging Lenz into this one post – that couldn’t have been easy for you.

In response to Red Haven who said:
No, you are NOT reading it correctly KenOn10.

Raul and Vinny offered thoughtful responses while the Marsh-Mello-Bhalla crowd has decided to play junior planner. It’s rich that Mello is just fine with living in a 17-story building (SkyClub) but claims he would limit the NJTransit height to less than that.

For the record (and for better or worse) Cammarano used numbers at one of the debates. He called for no waterfront office building at the terminal to rise any taller than the W Hotel, and for the buildings along Observer Highway (which LCOR/FXFowle wants to rise 45 stories) to be no taller than those already on the north side, which average about 12 stories (NOT 16, Ravi).

This is all BS anyway, because if Zimmer gets in she will be completely bulldozed by NJTransit/LCOR/FXFowle who will see her for the lightweight she showed herself to be in the debates.

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