City Council 5/2/2007 – Recap
It took nearly four hours to do nearly nothing in the last Hoboken City Council meeting before the May 8th election. Southwest Redevelopment was put off, the brakes were put on pedicabs, the Mayor’s lack of interest in holding NJ Transit accountable for the flooding was decried, and there is talk of yet another high-rise project in the works.
Southwest Redevelopment Tabled
Developers and land speculators were out in force with green “Vote Yes” buttons to send the message that they wanted the City Council to turn approve the high-rise Southwest Redevelopment Plan. They want to gain the instant millions in windfall profits that come with a sudden up zoning of industrial land into high-rise condos. Residents also turned out in force to oppose it, but the council decided there was too much heat before to take action before Tuesday. The plan was tabled so there can be further review of the proposal, including the recommendations of the Planning Board.
There was talk of creating a citizen advisory committee to discuss the plan, but Fourth Ward Councilman Chris Campos was cool to that proposal. He did mention he was having a dialog with the Southwest Parks Coalition on issues related to the plan, and that more work needed to be done before it was ready for a final vote. The developers were quite annoyed that the Council put off the vote yet again, but it was seen as a victory for those calling for a more thorough, responsible plan. Whether further work is done on the plan, or if the Council is just putting the vote off until after the election is unclear.
Pedicab Moratorium Approved
It is now against the law in Hoboken to take people around in Pedicabs. Get caught and you face a $100 fine. Get caught a second time and the fine is $200. Fifth ward council candidate Scott Delea was the only person who stood up in favor of pedicabs, and against the ordinance. He called them safe and charming. Everyone else spoke their peace on the issue two weeks ago. Only Terry LaBruno voted against the moratorium.
The council was given a letter from the head of the North Hudson Sewerage Authority saying New Jersey Transit reneged on their pledge to fix the major sewer lines needed to lessen the flooding problem. The letter said NJ Transit promised to do its part to fix the flooding in a February 2001 memo outlining a plan. This was to be done as part of the construction of the Bergen-Hudson Light Rail. It wasn’t. Now the floods are worse than ever. NJ Transit has reneged, and now they only want to fix the sewer lines in exchange for agreements to build a massive high-rise complex on the rail yards. They want the sewer improvements to be seen as “givebacks” for the condos they want to develop.
Members of the council expressed outrage at the letter, and said NJ Transit should be made to meet their obligations to Hoboken. Ruben Ramos and Michael Russo blamed Mayor David Roberts for not doing what was necessary to make sure NJ Transit followed through on the plan. Russo said Roberts was more concerned about getting millions for a new clock tower at the train station than he was to make sure the sewer lines were adequate. Ramos blamed himself for “not being stronger with (the Mayor)” to get this done
Another Downtown High Rise
The Council approved a resolution allowing the developer of the Columbian Towers senior citizen apartment complex on Garden Street to apply for federal funding to build more subsidized senior housing on the parking lots of his property. The current building is 16 stories tall, and it’s parking lots serve as buffers to older four and five story buildings. Now the developer wants to build on the parking lots. Though no plan was formally approved, the resolution suggested the proposed building would rise 9 stories. That was considered a baseline, and the developer’s attorney was suggesting the buildings could go higher, perhaps 10 or 12 stories.
When people in the audience started grumbling about that idea, Fifth Ward candidate Perry Belfiore stood to support the resolution, and suggested it didn’t go high enough. 15 and 16 stories were mentioned. That was met with a response from a member of the public who pointed out Belfiore would not advocate a 15 story building in his low rise uptown neighborhood. Some say the candidate was using the senior housing resolution to pander to senior voters who watch the council meetings on TV. He also works in construction.
Next stop: ELECTION DAY! Tuesday, May 8th.
(see mini preview from yesterday)
Here’s a quick preview of tonight’s City Council meeting. It’s the last City Council meeting before the election on Tuesday, so watch for lots of pre-election posturing of candidates and council members as they get their last chance to grab some headlines. Several other minor items are on the posted agenda, but the bulk of the meeting will likely be spent on PediCabs and Southwest Redevelopment.
Southwest Redevelopment Plan
The plan was memorialized by the Planning Board last night, and developers and land speculators are putting a full court press on the Council to vote for it tonight. The Public Hearing and Final Vote is planned for tonight, and a big crowd is expected. The zone includes properties owned by Construction Code Official Al Arezzo, Fire Chief John Cassesa, and the Caulfields of Fields Development, who have been putting a lot of pressure on the mayor and council to upzone their lots for high-rise development before a new City Council is elected. The main proponents of the high-rise plan have been Mayor David Roberts and Fourth Ward Councilman Chris Campos.
PediCab Ban Again
Council members will be peddling their way through another debate over PediCabs in Hoboken. A public hearing and final vote will be held on an ordinance to place a moratorium on PediCabs, which have already been the subject of hours of public input and council debate.
The council caucus meeting begins at 6pm, followed by the regular meeting at 7pm at City Hall.