NJ Transit Rail Yards Plan
NJ Transit / Hoboken Terminal Yards Redevelopment Plan update
We’ve been covering the NJ Transit Rail Yards “redevelopment plan” for the past six or seven years. And this
political football topic has been around for more than 15 years! And look – still nothing done! Yet they keep talking about it as if it’s going to happen “any day now!”
We’re here to tell you it’s NOT.
Hoboken terminal plan is just rhetoric (and bad ideas!)
There’s yet another
meeting dog and pony show tonight at City Hall to “discuss” this “plan.” Countless other “sideshows” disguised as “community input meetings” have been held over the years. These accomplish a few goals.
- Make the community feel as if their input matters (it rarely, if ever does)
- Give attention to politicians, make them appear competent, knowledgeable
- Mask incompetence, divert spotlight from failed promises
Why the plan will not happen any time soon
political football pipe dream may seem within touch for some people, but the reality is that it is nowhere near close to happening. It’s all rhetoric.
For one, before any building is built – a TON of infrastructure work has to be completed.
PSE&G is in the midst of ripping up streets all over town. They “project” they’ll have the “upgrades” down in two or three years (not including any unforeseen “discoveries” and other un-planned for circumstances). Any projection from a public utility can easily be doubled. So say five years is more realistic.
And that doesn’t include any of the work that United Water needs to do as well.
Add in a healthy mixture of legal battles, environmentalists, hearings, a revolving door of politicians, elections, unforeseen weather events, economic intangibles, and scandals – and I’d be very surprised if anything is even started by the year 2025.
Why the plan (in general) is a bad idea
Let’s say they “break ground” tomorrow (they’re not), only for sake of discussion. We think this plan is another one of those Utopian “pies in the sky.” Urban planners all over the world have a massive track record of failure to plan for growth appropriately. Not just here in Hoboken, but everywhere. Highways too narrow, bridges & tunnels too small, over-developing in climatologically risky areas, etc.
In this case – they want to redesign the downtown area with a full suite of accouterments that are currently ranking high (in terms of progressive “buzz.”) Like bike lanes, “eco-friendly” drainage, pedestrian (homeless) piazzas, green roofs, and all the other lingo. Missing from that batch of fuzzy feel good propaganda is a healthy dose of logic and reality.
Another big part of progressive plans like these are “traffic and pedestrian safety measures.” Including speed bumps, curb cutouts, special lanes for bicyclists, handicapped people, and so on. They also like to throw in “traffic calming” features as well, which slows movement. Let’s sum up what would really happen if they built this massive project as proposed today:
- Traffic bottlenecks will drastically get worse (even with fancy signals and timing mechanisms).
- Minor incidents will now result in catastrophic delays in terms of the effects they’ll have on volume.
- Desperate drivers will seek alternate routes – quite possibly increasing volume on streets that normally don’t experience it.
- Adding offices, jobs, and residential units will only compound the problem (i.e., people still love cars).
- And most importantly – parking will get even MORE difficult.
It sure would be nice if someone stood up and said “wait a minute, are we really thinking this through?”
Sucks that only profit and political scores are the lone things that result from projects like this. All that happens is that (realistic) issues are “kicked down the road” and become someone else’s problems (sort of like how every headache in Hoboken today was effectively caused by someone else 10, 20 or 100 years ago).
NJ Transit Redevelopment Meeting Feb. 2013
As many of you know, the NJ Transit Redevelopment plan along Observer Highway has been on the radar for quite some time.
A meeting (i.e., “sales pitch”) over at the Elks Lodge (1005 Washington) took place on February 21, 2013.
LCOR and NJ Transit will be on hand to tout how great their plan is, how it will miraculously solve flooding problems, increase safety, and more. You can download the entire NJ Transit Redevelopment Plan here – and read a brief excerpt below.
I don’t know what crystal ball the developers and NJT have (must be one that shows a vault filled with gold bullion) – but how in God’s name will this project not simply cripple Hoboken to it’s knees?
NJ Transit Plan has big issues – and missed opportunities
Here are my general issues with a development this massive:
- Congestion and volume. They talk about 11,000 office and retail jobs. A population increase of between 3,000 and 5,000 new residents. Over 100,000 square feet of shopping. And they’re even looking to CLOSE Hudson Place (which now allows cars to access River Street to get uptown fast – avoiding Washington Street). Hoboken already gets gridlocked every day – and the volume alone will cause downtown Hoboken to become a permanent traffic jam – no matter what they do. Because of the limited access in and out of town to the south – this will be a mess guaranteed.
- Parking. This is a PRIME opportunity to rectify one of Hoboken’s biggest problem – the LACK of parking spaces. NJ Transit’s plan called for 1,000 spots, while Hoboken’s version of the plan called for 700 spots. Do you see the problem I see? Those proposed spots would barely be enough to handle THEIR OWN parking. Why not build a satellite parking garage (or garages) for residents and visitors that can accommodate 10,000 cars (or more?) Why not? Because it means less profit. Sad to let an opportunity like this to go to waste. Good luck finding street parking after this monstrosity consumes the quality of life…
Their plan says that they’d be able to increase capacity on Observer by 30%, along with other “benefits” that they predict will result in lower auto usage. However – when have you ever seen a “pipe dream” plan like this work out? Just like politicians make promises to get elected (remember Zimmer’s “25% tax cut in the first year alone” BS?) – the promises can often be shoved down the drain once they get the green light.
History has taught us to use caution when listening to the hype. See an excerpt below – and download the full PDF here.
(Below is what LCOR presented in their proposal:)
The Crossing at Hoboken Terminal:
An Innovative Environmentally Sustainable Transit Oriented Development
This project will generate more than $100M in proceeds for community benefits, helping Hoboken continue to thrive.
- Transformation of Observer Highway into a pedestrian and bicycle friendly boulevard
- Traffic improvements to reduce congestion
- Public transportation benefits including a new enclosed bus terminal and improved PATH entrances
- Reinvention of Hudson Place into a pedestrian-only park
- Reinvention of Warrington Plaza into a unique shopping destination supporting local businesses
- Creation of 11,000 new permanent jobs
NJ TRANSIT and LCOR are addressing measures to help protect Hoboken against severe weather events at no cost to the city.
- Project design that serves to improve future flooding conditions
- Improved storm water management to reduce and redirect runoff away from the city’s sewer system
Local community group says Zimmer’s transit plan is flawed
More proof that Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer has caved to the bigger powers. Local community group Fund for a Better Waterfront also agrees that both transit development “plans” are seriously flawed.
The advocacy group clearly points out that “open space” Zimmer didn’t include ANY park space in her plan either:
“…there are no provisions for public parks. Rather, “mini-plazas” serve as front or side yards to private development. Left to private developers, many examples show these areas fail as truly public spaces…”
Zimmer flip-flops on Hoboken high rises: “development creep!”
After the city “revealed” new plans for the NJ Transit Development downtown yesterday, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer claimed she was looking for “balanced development,” and re-assured everyone that “We’re not saying NO to development – we just don’t want the city to be completely overdeveloped.”
Over-developed? Are you kidding me? Everyone thought Dawn Zimmer was wholeheartedly against high-rises. That’s what she has been promoting for the last three years. Low-scale green buildings. I guess she was referring to some other town.
This new Hoboken Plan for the Transit property is just as frightening as the original Transit plan. 12 to 19 story high rises? Remember, the flooding in the 4th ward became much worse upon the completion of the 17-story high rise, Sky Club (Which is Councilman Dave Mello’s building.) It was built on a high foundation for their parking garage and all the rain water runs down their hill and floods the neighborhood. I don’t see any flood mitigation measures being introduced in this new plan.
This area would be inhabited by several thousand new residents and all their cars, too.
More density, more traffic, and more flooding. We have a new nickname: DENSITY DAWN!
And why do you think she’s against the Monarch Development at the Shipyard uptown which seems to be significantly smaller than this one? Does she really think her Transit plan is reasonable? (See the Marsh-Mello 2009 position on development below image.)
Shouldn’t Zimmer appeal this the same way she had the City of Hoboken use taxpayer money to appeal the Monarch development? Oh wait. Tubby Gov. Chris Christie supports the Transit Plan so “Puppet Zimmer” has to support it even at the expense of Hoboken’s quality of life.
So whatever you do, don’t let them fool you with sugar-coated press releases, and other media that just prints what they’re told to print. They’re conning you!
Zimmer team campaign quotes about NJ Transit in 2009
“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.”
“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.
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.”
“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.“ (411: that’s a huge departure from “12 to 19!”) “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.”
In the end, my guess is that the Hoboken plan was just a political ploy so they could say “we fought for you,” and they’ll crumble anyway because Christie loves the NJ Transit plan so he can hook up his buddy-buddy contracting firms for years and years! Stay tuned…
NJ Transit Meeting in Hoboken, NJ
NJ TRANSIT will host a Community Meeting on Tuesday, December 14th to present updated proposal that incorporates recent community input regarding proposed improvements and development at Hoboken Terminal.
Meeting takes place in the main waiting room of the terminal from 7pm to 9pm.
New buildings planned for Hudson Place
New Jersey Transit’s newly unveiled plan to build an office building on Hudson Place is actually a variation on a plan quietly discussed several years ago.
Before anyone had heard of LCOR or FXFowle, NJ Transit kicked around the idea of an office building on the triangle that currently houses the bus shelter, old PATH building and parking lot. With the FXFowle vision of New Jersey’s tallest buildings growing above the Hoboken rail yards as financially doomed as Bear Stearns, everything old is new again.
New building would be no taller than the W Hotel
NJ Transit says they have an interested company that wants to relocate to Hoboken. They say the offer is “time sensitive,” and that they want the city’s blessing before they’ll move forward. The building would be “no taller than the W,” which would be about a third the size of the building FXFowle was proposing for that part of the property during the Dave Roberts administration.
The new plan would bring 1740 permanent jobs and $2.4 million in annual PILOT revenue to Hoboken, according to those trying to sell it to the public. NJ Transit estimates the project would bring $24 million in state tax revenue, and could save the interested company from moving out of the Garden State.
New bus pattern, pedestrian plaza and PATH access
The area around the PATH entrance and Bus Terminal is antiquated and dingy, as is much of the “Warrington Plaza” north of the main terminal. NJTransit has plans to re-work the area to make it more pedestrian and commuter friendly. A two-story building would be built on the east end of the triangle connecting to a re-developed “YMCA building” to create a new Hoboken entrance to the terminal. The wider west end of the triangle is where the new +/- 25 story office building would be built.
Some wonder if the height is actually a starting point for negotiation with the city, but it’s a far cry from the 78-story tower talk that made the last plan Dead-On-Arrival. The Hudson Place Triangle is only about 3% of the NJ Transit property, and no plans will be made to develop the rest of the property before this one location is considered, according to transit officials.
Different faces, different tone from NJ Transit
Back in September 2008, when planner FXFowle and developer LCOR unveiled their roadmap to overdevelop the 65-acre property, the tone from the principals was “Too bad if you don’t like it, Hoboken.”
That tone softened with the economy, and in the face of hard opposition throughout the city. NJ Transit appeared far more interested in public input and discussion this time around, perhaps learning a lesson from the last time. Whether something along the lines of a 25-story tower will fly is another question. Going from proposing a cluster of the tallest towers in New Jersey to one building no taller than the highest building in Hoboken is progress. Whether it’s enough for a majority of the city to be sold on the plan is another question.
What’s your opinion?
Would the new amenities and newly Hoboken-centric terminal be worth dealing with another tall building? Comment below where NJ Transit officials – and city politicians – are watching.