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 Yard Redevelopment Plan 2014 dog and pony show

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

This 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.

Observer Highway Hoboken proposed traffic jam squeeze

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

2/21/2013 Update:

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 redevelopment Hoboken NJ

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.

LCOR NJ Transit Plan

(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

NJ Transit Plan Hoboken NJ

Local community group says Zimmer’s transit plan is flawed

9/12/2012 Update:

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…”

Hoboken Mayor Zimmer proposes 19 story high rises but campaigned against over development

Read more from the FBW here…

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.”

Dawn Zimmer loves high rises in Hoboken NJ and Chris ChristieOver-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

Dave Mello:

Dave Mello Hoboken Councilman 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.”

Ravi Bhalla:

Hoboken Councilman 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.

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.”

Carol Marsh:

Hoboken Councilwoman 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. (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

12/13/2010 Update:

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.

NJ Transit Meeting Hoboken NJ September 27 2010

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.

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Thursday, February 21, 2013 2:59 pm

vpm raises a good point….. it’s not overdevelopment that is leading to traffic, it’s an inadequate public transportation system. Decades ago NYC invested in a massive public transportation system (mostly talking about subway, but also buses). It has allowed Manhattan to move millions of people around while building skyscrapers higher and higher. NJ did not take advantage of that when they should have. No subway forces residents to have cars in order to get around. The light rail was helpful to some degree, but it’s much slower than an underground subway. And it needs to be seriously expanded so that other portions of Hudson, Bergen and Essex county can be reached without car.

Thursday, February 21, 2013 2:24 pm

It’s so hard to predict what the effects of development will be. That’s why I would argue that a MASSIVE PLANNED DEVELOPMENT is not ideal for a small city already plagued by problems. What if this office space is not as desirable as everybody thinks it will be? This place could be a vacant wasteland, and the problem of an administration not making the current decisions and future residents for years to come. Unless of course, businesses are offered certain incentives to be there when they do not really want to be, at the expense of taxpayers. Or at the expense of workers, corporate socialism style (which by the way NJ tops the charts on).

Development this big, in a city this small, is not development anymore- it’s re-engineering Robert Moses style. And just look at how “successful” so many of his projects were.

Reply to  iforgotmymantra
Thursday, February 21, 2013 5:47 pm

Well its urban planning, certainly there are examples of large scale urban planning that works, look at battery park city. All the land was reclaimed from the river back in the 70’s and that has been turned into a thriving community. There are other examples where it has failed. If I was a betting man I would put my money on this project since it is so interconnected with so many transit networks. Obviously its a hard pill to swallow when you look at all those buildings in one image but if you designed them one by one you wouldn’t get the chance to make them part of a larger plan for the city. When you take a step back you can take advantage of things that you can’t when you develop one lot at a time. And the other thing is that you don’t build all these buildings at once. You do it in phases so if the market changes you can adjust. So there are lots of ways to make sure these buildings aren’t a failure. I assure you the developer’s care about that way more than the residents do because its their life savings on the line.[quote comment=”219577″]It’s so hard to predict what the effects of development will be. That’s why I would argue that a MASSIVE PLANNED DEVELOPMENT is not ideal for a small city already plagued by problems. What if this office space is not as desirable as everybody thinks it will be? This place… Read more »

Thursday, February 21, 2013 12:19 pm

I too am in favor of redeveloping areas that are in desperate need. I think this area along Observer is in need of it and I would support a slightly scaled back version of NJ Transit’s plans. This would be prime real estate for corporate offices. I’m also glad to see they are starting to work on redeveloping the northern end of town. It’s a shame to see so many plots of lands completely empty or not being used properly.

In terms of helping parking, the town should team up with Jersey City to build a giant parking garage along Jersey Ave or Coles St (southern border of Hoboken near American Self-Storage). Then have a shuttle from it to various PATH stations, Hoboken terminal, and/or the light rail.

Thursday, February 21, 2013 12:03 pm

your arguments contradict eachother. If you create more parking you will effectively invite more cars into the city which will cause more congestion. Limiting the amount of parking in effect reduces congestion. The solution to Hoboken’s transportation problems is not to increase automobile traffic capacity but to expand its transit network with trams and bike lanes, car sharing, and taxis. In order to do that you need more density which is why we need more development, to break through that threshold where a tram system becomes viable. If you believe that with the way our population is growing that Hoboken is going to keep its current density, which is borderline driver friendly, for the next 50 years you should climb out of your box.

Reply to  hoboken411
Thursday, February 21, 2013 12:45 pm

The problem is that the world population is rapidly growing and rapidly urbanizing. If there is no growth for the next 50 years in Hoboken what happens is your taxes will increase because the cost of a police officer goes up every year, etc. and rents and property values will dramatically increase because the the supply will be much lower than the demand. Controlling the growth so it is positive and it makes places worth caring about is what Hoboken needs. Eventually what will happen is we get to a growth point where the city is at a density (propably are very close) that these socialist types of transportation make it easier then driving to get around, which is why people will use them. The fact that this project is located next to a path station, ferry station, light rail, heavy rail station, taxi stand, and bus station makes it highly accessible and shouldn’t have a problem attracting visitors. I think this project is a good example of the city controlling growth because the first proposal obviously was bad development for the city, and the city is starting to bring the buildings down to scale. Whether they are there yet I’m not sure but I’ll find out at the presentation tonight.[quote comment=”219572″]Why build it if you’re not going to accommodate visitors. You can only force a percentage of people into socialist transportation – not everyone. If this area becomes known as unfriendly to vehicles – you’ll end up with many… Read more »

Reply to  hoboken411
Saturday, February 23, 2013 2:34 pm

“Limiting density” is more anti-capitalist than encouraging public transportation. [quote comment=”219572″]Why build it if you’re not going to accommodate visitors. You can only force a percentage of people into socialist transportation – not everyone. If this area becomes known as unfriendly to vehicles – you’ll end up with many empty storefronts and units.I know the big trending conversation these days is about bikes, trams and public transport – I think it’s a bit too optimistic because you discount the power of individuality.The problem here and in most urban expansions is that people hardly ever consider limiting the density of a particular area. The greed blinds the ability to logically reason. The whole “build up” mentality is not necessarily compatible with humanity.PS – my arguments were considering both WHY they’re building it and WHEN (or IF) it gets built.[/quote]

Thursday, February 21, 2013 11:35 am

I’m all for beautifying the more blighted areas. But I also have a tough time comprehending how they will manage the added traffic with the narrow roads we have. Coordinated traffic lights won’t do much if there are bottlenecks elsewhere. And what is the time frame for construction from start to finish? Will it be 10 years before it’s complete?

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