Will we ever get more parks? Part II
In response to overwhelming public pressure on the city to act on the Master Plan’s Southwest Parks plan before the area is redeveloped with high-rise buildings, Mayor Roberts rushed a resolution to the city council asking them to “Authorize the City to conduct preliminary studies for the acquisition of 4 acres of property” for a park. The Mayor’s resolution primarily included land owned by Jefferson Street Partners, AKA the Academy Bus Company on Blocks 9 and 10.
A lawyer for Academy stood up in opposition to the resolution, saying they have been “singled out” among the many large landowners in the Southwest portion of town, and that they have their own plans to develop the property. The attorney said Academy had put together their application for variances to build on the site with the Zoning Board of Adjustment that very day in response to the City’s actions. (He didn’t say what the application includes, but you can bet it’s not a park.) The ZBA is heavily influenced by developers, who get 95 percent of the variances they ask for, which led to projects like the 17 story Sky Club towers.
Several members of the public asked why the study the Mayor suggested only included the Academy Bus property, and a few smaller lots. They pointed out the Master Plan calls for over seven acres of parks in the Southwest, and identified not only Blocks 9 and 10, but 11, 12, 14, and 24 for parkland.
Members of the Southwest Parks Coalition and HobokenParks.org asked why the Mayor’s proposed study didn’t include ALL the properties that are identified for parks in the Master Plan? They noted the study was only preliminary and non-binding, so why not make it complete. Several people made this argument, which carried enough weight with the City Council for them to agree, rejecting the Mayor’s limited study of Academy property and amending the resolution to study the other blocks as well.
The Parks groups also asked the council to do a full traffic study for the Southwest area, and consider re-routing Paterson Plank Road to alleviate traffic, as was called for in the Master Plan. The Council rejected that citizen-proposed amendment, saying they would rather a traffic study be done in conjunction with the overall Redevelopment Plan, as opposed to this non-binding Parks Study.
People supporting new parks were happy that the additional blocks were included in the study, but stressed this is a very small step in a long process, and the only thing that has been accomplished so far is that they have forced the Mayor to consider a study for parks in response to opposition to his Redevelopment Zone.
Still looming: Developer proposals already on record for 15, 14, 13, and 12 story builings throughout the Southwest Redevelopment Zone which will once again place the interests of taxpaying residents against those of influential developers.
Mayor Roberts did not show up to the special meeting he called.