Hoboken is not an island – don’t turn it into a bathtub, either

Hoboken certainly was in the spotlight quite a bit since Hurricane Sandy rolled through and disrupted the lives of many residents. And now as we approach nearly five months since the storm, political discussion about what Hoboken should do (if anything) to prevent devastation from these once-in-a-hundred year storms.

First Ward Councilwoman Terry Castellano shares her commentary regarding these recent events and hot topics – as well as some advice for Mayor Dawn Zimmer.

Hoboken Flooding

Letter: Tell Zimmer to step out from Disneyland

By First Ward Councilwoman Theresa Castellano

The 2013 State of the City Address must have been a feel good moment… for Mayor Dawn Zimmer and her staff. But let’s face it; the state of our city is not great.

Hoboken Letters to the Editor Zimmer Sea Walls Terry CastellanoAs we move into 2013, our community faces a multitude of issues, from the lack of a long-term financial plan, the non-transparent award of attorney contracts to 21 different firms for mostly unspecified litigation (in addition to three in-house lawyers), the snail-pace repairs to Sinatra Park and our soccer field and the lack of administrative closure of our obligation to the Hoboken University Medical Center.

However, Mayor Zimmer’s latest state of the city address focuses mostly on the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. Indeed, the catastrophic aftermath and its severe economic affects to residents and businesses will be felt for years. As will Hoboken’s public perception to our many visitors and tourists.

As to the prevention of a repeat performance of a future hurricane or superstorm, the Mayor said she has devised a plan to prevent such a re-occurrence: namely the construction of storm walls to our north and south and the addition of more sewerage pumping stations to alleviate future flooding. While this ambitious plan sounds fine, the mayor neglected to provide financial or engineering details. Moreover, even the New Jersey Sierra Club last month rejected this pie-in-the-sky scheme.

While a priority should focus on immediately making residents and businesses financial hole in the short term, the long-term objective should incorporate the findings and recommendations of FEMA, the state and surrounding communities, not an insular approach which neglects addresses the need of neighboring communities. I would suggest that Mayor Zimmer step out from her Disneyland and take a realistic walk on the streets of Hoboken.

car drives through flooded streets in Hoboken NJ

In theory, it would appear that the mayor, who said her plan was grounded by discussions with educators and a local developer, could potentially turn Hoboken into a flooded bathtub. Does she now support massive development to bring this plan into fruition? Will it actually work?

We know that much of our flooding is caused by the swelling of ground water from our sewers. A mid-summer thunderstorm or an occasional nor’easter proves this each year. “Walling off” the city off could potentially provide much more dire consequences.

Instead of looking for sound bites, the administration should be looking at real solutions grounded on the upcoming evaluations of FEMA and other qualified agencies. At the very least, the mayor should be engaging in dialogue with our neighboring communities.