SW Re-development Plan Archives
Here you will find historical coverage of what has been happening in regards to the re-development plan in Southwest Hoboken. This covers articles published from September 28, 2006 through July 11, 2007. It has been re-located from the original thread “SW Re-development Plan Continues…” due to it’s large size. All new coverage plus all previous comments will continue to be posted in the original.
Comments have been disabled for this post. Please use for reference only.
On and on we go….
Planning Board Hearing Rescheduled
Mark your calendars: The Hoboken Planning Board is scheduled to meet again to consider the proposed designation of the Southwest Redevelopment Zone at 7pm on Monday, July 16 at City Hall. This is the meeting that was supposed to happen June 18, but didn’t for lack of a quorum (see more below). On Monday the board will hear testimony from a planner (who will probably be legally sworn in this time) about the massive proposed redevelopment area. The public will also be allowed to speak on the study before the planning board votes.
Assuming they will approve the study – since this is a court-ordered “do over” of what the board has already done – it then gets sent back up to the City Council for their approval. This means the council may vote on whether the Southwest is an “area in need of redevelopment” as soon as the meeting on Wednesday, July 18th. Perhaps this is why the Jersey Journal reported on June 29th that:
Attorney Alex Booth, representing (Chris) Campos, said the swearing in (of Dawn Zimmer) should be postponed until after the trial due to an important July 18 council meeting, which cannot be pushed back. Decisions made at this meeting, Booth said, could not be changed even if Campos were eventually reinstated as councilman in the fourth ward.
6/18/2007 (not much of an) Update:
The City Council chambers was packed for the Planning Board’s special meeting on the Southwest Redevelopment Plan. Packed with everyone except members of the Planning Board, that is. For the second meeting in a row there were not enough members of the Planning Board on hand to hold a proper meeting. The Hoboken Southwest Parks Coalition had an attorney on hand to attack the designation, and several landowners and developers had attorneys on hand to protect their interests as well.
22 minutes past the advertised 7pm start time the Planning Board attorney announced to the crowd that there were not enough Planning Board members there to hold the meeting, so it would have to be canceled. Only four members of the nine member board were there, including Councilman Peter Cammarano, who is the City Council representative on the Planning Board. Mayor David Roberts strongly supports the developer-driven Southwest Redevelopment Plan, and his designee on the Planning Board — Environmental Services Director Joe Peluso — was also on hand for the meeting.
Roberts and Fourth Ward Councilman Chris Campos were pushing for quick action on the Southwest Plan so it could be considered for a vote by the City Council this Wednesday. That is now legally impossible. The Planning Board will have to schedule another special meeting. Last week a special Planning Board meeting to consider the creation of the “NoHo Redevelopment Area” was also canceled because not enough members of the board showed up, and Councilman Cammarano had a conflict and couldn’t vote on the issue. The law firm Cammarano works for is politically well connected, and does work for New Jersey Transit, which owns land in the proposed NoHo Redevelopment Area.
HOBOKEN PLANNING BOARD – ‘SPECIAL MEETING’
SOUTHWEST IT DISTRICT REDEVELOPMENT
JUNE 18, 2007 7:00 P.M. COUNCIL CHAMBERS CITY HALL
PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that the Planning Board of the city of Hoboken will conduct a ‘Special Meeting’ 7:00 on Monday, June 18, 2007 in the Council Chambers, 94 Washington Street, Hoboken New Jersey.
ON THE PROPOSED DESIGNATION OF VARIOUS PROPERTIES IN THE SOUTHWEST CORNER OF THE CITY OF HOBOKEN (ALSO KNOWN AS THE (“SOUTHWEST IT DISTRICT”) AS AN AREA IN NEED OF REDEVELOPMENT
PURSUANT TO N.J.S.A.40A:12A-6
5/16/2007 Update 2:
Press release from Dawn Zimmer’s campaign:
4th Ward Saved from Overdevelopment by Lawsuit
Southwest Now has the Opportunity to Create a Plan that Benefits Residents
The Dawn Zimmer for Council Campaign today announced that Fourth Ward residents have been saved from a badly designed redevelopment plan that would have resulted in more overdevelopment without sufficient quality of life improvements. The Redevelopment Plan was thrown out yesterday by the decision of a Superior Court judge on a lawsuit brought by concerned residents. The lawsuit was brought by five 4th Ward residents, including Dawn Zimmer.
“As a party to this suit, I am pleased that the Court invalidated this ill-advised redevelopment plan – a plan that put the interests of the big developers ahead of the pressing needs of the 4th Ward. The task now is to craft a new plan that includes the infrastructure, traffic controls, and park space needed to provide a better quality of life for all of the residents of the 4th Ward,” Ms. Zimmer stated.
Zimmer went on to say, “This is a victory and real opportunity for the people of the 4th Ward. Now the City has the chance to go back to the drawing board and establish a process that ensures the quality of life concerns for 4th Ward residents instead of rushing to pass a plan that principally benefits developers.”
The redevelopment plan the City Council was rushing to pass included at least 1,200 condos in an area already plagued by unbearable traffic, and unacceptable levels of flooding. It also included a park plan that fell far short of the six acre park envisioned by Hoboken’s Master Plan.
As a result of the lawsuit, the SW Redevelopment Plan has been remanded back to the Planning Board by a Superior Court to hold a new hearing, including sworn testimony on the Southwest redevelopment designation.
The lawsuit was filed last year after the redevelopment designation was passed by the City Council because the plaintiffs were concerned that the City and City Council would develop a plan that prioritized the profits of the developers rather than the needs of Hoboken residents.
“I believe the 4th Ward needs a redevelopment plan to develop the Southwest, but it must be based on a complete and comprehensive economic analysis, so that a true public/private partnership fair to developers and the community can be created,” Ms. Zimmer stated.
Judge O’Shaughnessy threw out the area designation and remanded the matter back to the Planning Board to hold a new hearing on the SW designation with all testimony under oath.
Statement of Dawn Zimmer upon Decision invalidating Redevelopment Plan
“As a party to this suit, I am pleased that the Court invalidated this ill-advised and illegal redevelopment plan–a plan that put the interests of the big developers ahead of the pressing needs of the fourth ward. The task now is to craft a new plan that includes the infrastructure, traffic controls and park space needed to provide a better quality of life for all the ward’s residents”
Press release from the Hoboken Parts Organization:
SOUTHWEST PARK AREA
PUBLIC MEETING ON MAY 14, 2007 at 6 PM CITY HALL ON SW REDEVELOPMENT PLAN
At the urging of the public, the City Council did note vote to adopt the SW Redevelopment Plan on May 2, 2007. Instead, the Zoning & Planning Committee of the Hoboken City Council will meet in the City Council chambers on Monday, May 14, 2007 at 6:00 p.m. to discuss revisions to the proposed Southwest Redevelopment Plan. This meeting is open to the public. We encourage you to attend.
HPO has very serious concerns about the SW Redevelopment Plan and doubts it will ever produce parks. While the Master Plan calls for over 7 acres of contiguous street level park land in the southwest, the SW Redevelopment Plan may not produce more than 1 acre at street level. We will be lucky to get 3 acres total and that is only if we allow 12 story buildings all over the SW. By the way, much of the 3 acres would be on parking structures. The buildings proposed under the SW Plan could bring more than 3 thousand new people to an area already overrun by traffic and flooding problems.
TIME TO SPEAK OUT!
If they have their way, this is probably what the park will end up looking like. Greaaat.
Last 4/4/2007 Update (this is exhausting):
411 reader Red Haven sums it up in a prediction in this comment:
Prediction for tonight: The Southwest Redevelopment plan remains on the agenda, but the Council will blame the Mayor and declare their newfound independence from Roberts by making a big show of removing the SW plan from the agenda, and there will be much bloviating about how the Mayor is screwing up the town, blah blah blah.
They won’t vote on it tonight, but watch for it to be approved before a New City Council takes their seats on July 1st.
Another 4/4/2007 Update:
Here’s a communique between 411 reader John Gregorio from Elizabeth Vandor:
John – when an ordinance is introduced (this includes redevelopment plans), an advertisement is automatically placed by the City Clerk for a possible hearing two weeks later. That has been their policy for some time. The Southwest Plan will not be heard by the Council tomorrow night – it will be carried to the next Council meeting on April 18th.
The Planning Board meeting tonight is not technically a “hearing” on the Plan. It is for the report on consistency with the Master Plan which is required before the Council can vote on the Plan. The Board will take comments from the public but it is not required to. The full hearing takes place at the Council.
Elizabeth Vandor, P.P., AICP
To: Ms. Vandor,
Thank you for your reply.
The Hobokennj.org web site has the ordinance listed for tomorrow night’s City Council meeting.
I can only go by what is being listed by the City’s official web site.
Can you have them change that information?
Has the Planning Board addressed all of the points the public had made at the last City Council meeting?
It seemed to be a 3 1/2 hour “formality” meeting, where hearing public input made no difference to whether it passed or not, since the planner had already prepared a 5-page report saying it was consistent with the Master Plan the day before. They did vote “yes” to several recommendations, such as Block 11, and LEED roofs. They will “memorialize” the plan at their next meeting on May 4th so there is a chance it won’t go to the council until after the election. Peter Cammarano did say it is not going to be voted on by the city council at tonight’s meeting, but that will not be absolutely certain until it’s over.
It was video taped, trying to see when and where notable clips will be available.
4/4/2007 Video Flashback:
Here’s a 2 minute clip of the rhetoric about how “it doesn’t mean it’ll be pushed through the planning board in two weeks, it could take months, even a year”… What happened last night?
It got pushed through.
Let’s see what the council does tonight.
Southwest Redevelopment Plan TONIGHT
At the last City Council meeting residents who spoke out against the council’s move to fast track the Southwest Redevelopment Plan were told it could take “months” for the Planning Board to review the proposed plan. It will apparently take less than two weeks. In a typical Hoboken backdoor move, Mayor David Roberts snuck the Southwest Plan — complete with High-Rise Condos and “parks” on top of parking garages – onto the agenda for the Planning Board’s meeting TONIGHT.
To make the move even more sneaky, the agenda for the Planning Board meeting has NOT been placed on the City’s official website as it supposed to be in advance of a meeting. Making matters worse, the Mayor wants the City Council to consider any changes the Planning Board suggests (though no changes are likely from them) with less than 24 hours notice. Roberts has placed the Southwest Redevelopment Plan up for a Second Reading, Public Hearing, and Final Vote THIS WEDNESDAY NIGHT.
All this during Passover and Holy Week, forcing residents to choose whether to attend religious services and seders, or fight for what they believe is right for their community. If the Planning Board places it’s rubber stamp on the Roberts/Campos plan for Southwest Redevelopment, the City Council will hold it’s final hearing and vote on Wednesday night. Despite their claims that they will take all the time needed to plan the Southwest properly, the Mayor wants the process completed in TWO WEEKS.
Why? Because Roberts doesn’t know if he will have the votes to pass the high-rise plan for his developer friends after the results of the upcoming municipal election, and he has made promises to the developers and land speculators in the southwest part of town. Campos has already said he is “100% behind the plan” and only one member of the Council – the retiring Richard DelBoccio of the Second Ward — voted against it two weeks ago. Council members Ramos, Russo, Giacchi, Cricco, LaBruno, and Cammarano joined with Campos to move the plan forward despite community concerns.
Councilman Peter Cammarano is the City Council’s representative on the Planning Board. He can stop this move to thwart the will of the community by making a motion to table the Southwest Redevelopment Plan at Tuesday’s Planning Board meeting, and by making certain he has a second and a majority to carry that vote. Tabling the Plan at the Planning Board level would block it from reaching the City Council on Wednesday for a rushed hearing and final vote.
From an email sent by Hobokenparks.org:
SOUTHWEST PARK AREA – MARCH 21, 2007
City to introduce SW Redevelopment Plan
12-story buildings + 3000 NEW people!
The Hoboken Master Plan calls for a 6+ acres park in the southwest. On July 30, 2006, Mayor Roberts’ ad in The Hoboken Reporter said: “We have identified seven acres in the southwestern section of Hoboken as the next park site…”
Here’s the real story:
On March 21, 2007 the City Council will introduce a high-density Southwest Redevelopment Plan. Under the proposed plan, 1500 new condo units (3,000 new people) will be added to the southwest in tax abated 10-12 story buildings.
According to nationally recognized park standards, Hoboken would need 7.5 acres of new parkland just to serve the needs of the 3000 new people. We are making our park deficit worse, not better!
Back in June, 2006, the City Council reluctantly authorized an appraisal of certain SW properties for potential purchase as park land. Not until February, 2007 did the Council admit they have not done the appraisals. The City Council says the only way we can get parks is from redeveloper deals but the City Council doesn’t have the information they need to negotiate a deal. Just remember the last park the City negotiated in a redevelopment zone….the Shop Rite parking lot benches and gazebo.
Stay tuned for the public hearing date on this SW Plan in the next few weeks…
One of the previous crazy renderings that was circulating around.
I’ll put my observations in, as well as some points from 411 reader James. See below.
The meeting was painful last night. Very poor presentation (impossible to read screen, microphone wasn’t turned on until the break three hours in, etc).
But I have some general rambling questions for all people involved, as it is my opinion that it’s not as cut & dry or black & white as “to develop or not to develop”. Perhaps someone can entertain these inquiries and try to help form a better snapshot of what’s actually at stake here.
- It seems to me that there is no feasible way to just build a “beautiful and giant park” without any development. The arguments at hand where “How Much?” development would be necessary to afford a decent “park”. The Mayor had mentioned something along the lines of $10 million dollars these developments would contribute to the bottom line of Hoboken annually. How much less would smaller development scenarios contribute? Is the city’s official stance “we must have such a dense development to afford any park”? Or is the wool just getting pulled over our eyes? Can anyone explain?
- It was also mentioned that there are plenty of available federal funds that could be used to help build the park, but I got the impression from the city that you’re not allowed to use those funds for “just parks”. If that’s true, how would the city pay for a park without and contributions from developers?
- How much would it cost the city EXACTLY to build ANY of these proposed parks? Including developer contributions for amenities such as sidewalk enhancements, lights, etc. Maybe I missed it, but is there an actual cost analysis anywhere that can someone can read to quickly determine what’s going on and how much is involved? It would be nice to be able to “comparison shop” the way you would for a car or computer. How else do you weigh the pros and cons of a proposal without understanding how it impacts all areas (park space, accessibility, tax revenue, traffic, etc)? Where’s Ross Perot and his charts when you need him?
- But regardless of how badly we could use a park down there, and despite “stop gap temporary fixes” that Campos mentioned from the sewerage authority, the sewage and drainage issue is a long ways off from being permanently solved. It seems as if the NJ Transit redevelopment and its included sewage/drainage overhaul should logically happen first. Thus, my question is: How important is it to re-develop SW Hoboken sooner rather than later? Even if it takes 10 years, shouldn’t we wait until the other fundamental infrastructure changes happen first? Why the rush? Is Hoboken going to go bankrupt if we continue to wait? Isn’t the saying “Haste makes waste”?
I just feel that no one is really taking a look at the “big picture”, because the more this is discussed, more questions arise, more players and cities get involved, the more complex it gets.
Perhaps we need to take a step back, and re-evaluate this from a wider angle, and include all the other factors involved.
Then again, I could be way off-base, and should stick to reviewing taco places.
James gives his viewpoint below.
Attended last night’s meetings and have a few comments that are fresh in my mind, unfortunately I can’t pull up the site right now.
- The concept that planners and the city would acknowledge a sewage system that is already inadequate and problematic and they DO NOT CONTROL nor has any firm timetable for being corrected, yet admit they have not hesitation in moving forward shows either inept or insincere leadership.
- The representative of Heyer first said that they would build 6 story building without give-backs to the community such as ‘park benches and dog runs.’ Later he commented that 6 story buildings would not allow for the parks the people wanted. Is this to say that if the city is willing to pay for its own benches and dog runs they would lock in the 6 story buildings?
- They are willing to build all of the parks with ‘ground level access’ above the parking on Marshes. They admitted to this, and not one ‘representative’ questioned the long term liability of the company when the parks and parking are condemed in 10-20 years.
- There were no hard numbers. No number of current total parking spots and current free (street) parking spots. Lost in the dog and pony show is that by making these 15 foot sidewalks (that they can charge more rent to restaurant owners) is that the public loses a free spot in lieu of a $250 per year parking spot. It is criminal that these ‘favors’ to the community never say exactly what is going on.
Suggestion- a running tab of parking spots lost and created during Roberts term, as well as residences. Honestly, up north they went from 420 spots to 320 while adding 160 some units and commerical sites? This would be a clear measurement of actions meeting promises.
Keep up the good work!
Tonight the City is presenting their SW Redevelopment plan which offers many new 8-12 story buildings.
But this plan does NOT include:
- A Park
- A Flood & Sewage Study
- A Traffic Study
This is your last chance to voice your opinions!
7pm tonight – Council Chambers at City Hall.
Behind-the-Scenes Vote on Southwest Redevelopment Planned for Wed. Feb. 21st
Southwest Parks Coalition Concerned about High-level Density & Vague Park Plan
The City of Hoboken plans to introduce a high-density Southwest Redevelopment Plan to the City Council this Wednesday, one week before Mayor Roberts invites residents to participate in a public meeting to learn about the plan from the firm hired to develop it. (In the Hoboken Reporter on Saturday the City invited residents to a public meeting on Feb. 26 at City Hall, to learn about the plan directly from Heyer, Gruel & Associates and give residents a chance to ‘Be a Part of the Solution’. The ad failed to mention that the plan will be voted on by the City Council TODAY at City Hall at 7:00pm).
A preliminary review of the plan by Southwest Parks Coalition raises the following concerns and questions:
- Newly named as the “Southwest Green,” the current redevelopment plan gives no specific requirements for park space. “The only specifics provided relate to building size – an estimated 5,000 new residents will be added to the southwest in tax abated 8-12 story buildings. While there are repeated references to a park, there is no actual park plan. Therefore, we have no idea what kind of park, if any, will actually be built,” explains Stan Grossbard, a Southwest Parks Steering Committee member. “Maps we’ve seen in the plan show they are planning for high rise buildings, parking and park space in the same locations. Based on the city’s track record, we are extremely concerned this plan will result in ‘Shop Rite’ type parks rather than the active park space which the Mayor has promised and our neighborhood desperately needs.”
- Impact on Traffic & Flooding: How many people will the plan bring into the Southwest? The plan consists of block after block of 8-12 story buildings, but fails to give any estimate on new density levels. “It would be irresponsible to pass a plan without evaluating all the implications of adding so many new residents to our neighborhood,” says Sara Stojkovic, another Southwest Parks Steering Committee Member. “A major public concern has been the impact on traffic and flooding caused by new development, but this plan does not refer to any studies by experts on how new density levels will impact these important issues.”
- Lack of Public Input on Final Plan: “As elected officials, the City Council has a responsibility to hear out residents’ concerns before they cast their vote. If they care about Hoboken residents, then they will postpone Wednesday night’s vote until after the public hearing,” says Dawn Zimmer, a Southwest Parks Steering Committee Member and candidate for 4th Ward City Council. “It is the City Council’s job to make informed, independent decisions, not to simply rubber stamp the Mayor’s proposals. After the public meeting, the Council will be better informed about the plan itself and the public’s reaction to it.”
Voice Your Concerns: Attend the City Council Meeting on Wednesday, 2/21, 6:45 pm
Where: City Hall, Washington Street (between 1st and Newark)
More history below…
CITY POSTPONES CONSIDERATION OF SW REDEVELOPMENT PLAN
The agenda for the City Council’s meeting this Wednesday December 20, does not include consideration of the Southwest Redevelopment Plan. Apparently, the city has reconsidered its ill-advised plan to rush through its Plan before the holidays.
It is imperative that the city take whatever time it needs to ensure that the Southwest Redevelopment is done right.
In today’s update, we’ll talk about some exhibits that were recently presented by the city’s planners, Heyer & Gruel.
It’s important to note that this plan does not use actual numbers and leaves everything open regarding density. Also, it does not have any park amenities though the city is saying that can be done later which is highly unlikely. We all know that unless it’s written into the plan with guarantees, you will not get it later. Only developers benefit from the “later” concept when they are given additional floors for their buildings. Maxwell Place is the perfect example of that scenario, a passive little triangle park with big buildings – and no baseball field that the public was promised.
Also, the big point here, whether any of us like or dislike the city’s plan is irrelevant at this point since the acquisition study has not been done. It’s been 6 months and the city has not done the economic analysis to determine details such as park acreage and building height. In other words we don’t know the cost of any of this, so for the council to vote on this incomplete plan would be very irresponsible of them. It doesn’t matter if they like this design “concept”, as of now, they don’t have the numbers in front of them to make a valid decision regarding the city’s plan which is why if the vote is on the agenda for December 20th, the council should table it until they have a complete plan to study.
Read more about the exhibits below – Note that Chuck Latini, the planner, said that there will be a few small changes to these, so they may differ slightly when presented at the next meeting.
Don’t forget to attend the Council meeting on December 20th!!
It’s gonna end the year with a bang!
The planners spent a bulk of the time speaking about Exhibit 1 (above). There are various problems regarding this “sketch”. It lacks concrete measurements, and amenities were not defined or labeled. Logistics are off. Who wants a dog park two feet from their window? Additionally, the one flat, open space in this plan has a road going right through it, which breaks up the continuity of the open space. Furthermore, the steep stairs make this an unfriendly design for parents with strollers as well as handicapped and elderly people. Even the overall design is poor. With limited access, and a “coliseum” effect. Lastly, even though these concepts show what appear to be 5-story buildings, there is NO cap to what the building height can be. They are quite possibly drooling over bumping the height up.
Exhibit #2 (below) shows the “point” building (block 14, where Downtown Pub currently is). According to the plan, Jackson Street would be closed, and this whole block will be building. They seemed to have focused on this picture to stress the “architecture” and how “pretty” this project will be, all while never mentioning serious issues like acreage and building height!
Exhibit #3 (below) is their high-tech 3D model of the proposed plan. They conveniently made this appear flatter than it actually is, but the actual flat, open space is very limited. Plus the buildings surrounding the park have plans in the works to make them much taller, including more 12-story condos with 100% lot coverage. Great surroundings for a park, right? It seems like that number is just a starting point, as many developers may feel that they can go 17-stories (like the SkyClub building).
Exhibit #4 (below) was essentially a useless elevation drawing that some thought weren’t very helpful, despite using references to existing structures (like the Skyline building).
12/13/2006 Another Update:
SW Parks Coalition & Academy Bus Present Alternative Park Plan to City
Please Attend Dec. 20th City Council Meeting to Stop Undefined Park Plan
On Tuesday December 12th, the Southwest Parks Coalition Steering Committee and Academy Bus, the largest property owner in the Southwest, met with Hoboken City representatives to share their concept of a jointly developed park vision for Southwest Hoboken. The envisioned plan offers more than four contiguous acres of park with a multi-purpose field, a sledding hill built on top of a garage, basketball courts, a dog run, innovative playground equipment for various ages, as well as an open lawn area, complemented by retail and residential development. Southwest Parks has been working with Academy for several months to develop a plan that balances residential, commercial, and park space needs.
“Academy’s plan is a serious attempt to design a truly beneficial park for our Southwest community,” says Stan Grossbard, a Southwest Parks Steering Committee member, “but the details of the park must be specifically set out in the Redevelopment Plan, together with zoning that limits residential density to a level that the infrastructure of the Southwest can accommodate.”
During the meeting, Fred Bado, Director of Redevelopment for Hoboken, described a process in which the City would present a redevelopment plan that up zoned properties to permit the building of high rise apartments, but left the park planning to be finalized by developers at a later date. Historically in Hoboken, this formula has always resulted in the promised open space being reduced or eliminated. The much heralded baseball field at the Maxwell Place was reduced to a plaque as a result of the City’s policy of leaving the park “details” for later.
“Through the redevelopment process the city has the power and authority to zone specifically for park amenities such as a dog run, multi-use field, etc. Stan Grossbard explained. “All we are asking them to do is take the time to clearly define and zone for the park amenities as well as development, rather than leaving residents to simply hope for the best.”
Please plan to attend the City Council meeting on December 20th and ask your City Council person to table the vote for the Southwest Redevelopment Plan.
From the SPC:
Not So Fast!
Don’t Let the City Council Approve Mayor Roberts’ HIGH DENSITY Plan in Southwest Hoboken.
On July 30, 2006, Mayor Roberts’ ad in The Hoboken Reporter : “We have identified seven acres in the southwestern section of Hoboken as the next park site…”
On November 28, 2006 Mayor Roberts’ planners presented the public with a small, approximately 3-acre park with grass on rooftops, and numerous 12-story buildings, without any evaluation of the costs, or commitment to park and neighborhood amenities!
This is NOT the park that Hoboken residents and Southwest Parks Coalition have been fighting for – we all deserve a real park!
We need all of you to attend the City Council meeting on December 20th at 7:00 pm, City Hall. Your presence makes a difference!
Ironically, the NJ Supreme Court ruled last week that towns can use eminent domain to seize property from developers to make room for parks, and to NOT allow areas to become over-developed.
Do you think our city government likes that? Noooooo.
A Southwest Parks Coalition member has this to report regarding the latest meeting about the parks in SW Hoboken:
Last night, the city’s planners, Heyer & Gruel, presented the city’s plan for SW Hoboken. They also announced that this is the third and FINAL public meeting. The only council person in attendance was Ruben Ramos. Unfortunately, the city plans these meetings without regard to the fact that the 4th ward councilman, Chris Campos, works as the municipal prosecutor in West New York on Tuesday nights.
Problem #1: The Concept
For those of you who did not have the opportunity to see the park model displayed at last night’s meeting, you will have to try to envision four blocks in SW Hoboken, Blocks 9, 10, 12, and 14 where, on the city’s park design, most of these blocks are consumed by 5-story buildings which graduate down into a pit, an open space area of about the size of a soccer field, but the area is intersected by Harrison Street.
In essence the planners showed us something resembling a small coliseum, the development which would include condos and retail space surrounds the park area and builds up into at least five tiers or levels. We were presented with a lot of fuzzy math that did not add up. The planners claim that this is a 5.4 acre park because open space can be created on all the different levels. Realistically, the only useful open space from this plan is the park space they have at grade (street level), the size of a soccer field. A regulation soccer field is less than 2 acres. In addition, we were informed that the maximum for surrounding buildings will be 12 stories! The planners encourage mixed heights, some 5-story buildings and some 12-story buildings, but who are we kidding?
Now that they put out that 12-story number, every developer in the area is salivating over the fact that they get to put up a 12-story building. Developers certainly are not thinking that they’ll be the one to max out at 6 stories when their neighbor is building 12 stories.
In a nutshell, here are the problems with the City’s park concept and surrounding development:
- The proposed park is TOO SMALL. The city says it’s 5.4 acres of open space, but realistically it’s less than 2 acres of useable space and it’s not contiguous, Harrison Street is open to traffic. The rest of the acreage (the graduated tiers) is pocket space built on top of condos/and or parking garages.
- If the graduated tiers or levels can be used for open space, the measurements are not defined, in other words, we don’t know how big these levels are or if they lend themselves to be used for real park amenities such as a playground or a dog run. These levels do not appear to be a park-friendly concept since they obviously limit what can be used in the space. The most likely scenario is that the various green levels will host park benches, not basketball courts, not baseball fields, not even a real playground.
- Density. Huge problem. The 5-story buildings sitting on the park do not necessarily have a cap. We were told, some of them may go higher. In addition, allowing surrounding buildings (more than 4 blocks worth) a maximum of 12-stories is TOO HIGH!
- It doesn’t even loosely follow SPC’s or HPO’s park concepts. The city’s plan was created to benefit developers, not residents.
So what we are ending up with is a park less than 2 acres, surrounded by 5-12 story buildings with a lot of lot coverage. The model I saw last night makes the park look like a large courtyard for a lot of buildings. It’s making SW Hoboken look like Jersey City’s Newport area.
Problem #2: The Rush
The acquisition study has not been completed! If it has, it has not been given to Heyer & Gruel, the planners.
The city is rushing this plan to the city council on December 20, 2006. The planners have not defined the actual park amenities or buildings, yet in the next 3 weeks they will be completing all of that (without public input) and presenting it to the City Council as the FINAL REDEVELOPMENT PLAN with or without the appraisals. They are going to write the zoning ordinances for this by December 20th!
This summer when Mayor Roberts sent out the tax letter to the community, he also included a flyer with his open space achievements, and here’s a direct quote: “We have identified seven acres in the southwestern section of Hoboken as the next park site.”
So our 7-acre park promise has turned into a non-contiguous 2-acre park paired along with a development nightmare.
I urge everyone to attend the City Council Meeting on December 20th (7:00 pm at City Hall) and let the city know you object to this rushed plan! Yes, it is the holiday season, precisely why the city has meetings at these times, so the public is unaware and cannot attend. You need to be there. It is very important to let the council know that it is irresponsible of them to vote on this plan without giving it serious, thoughtful consideration to park acreage and amenities, zoning and building density, traffic, and neighborhood infrastructure and needs.
Concerned Southwest Parks Coalition Member
It looks nothing like this at all.
Southwest Parks Coalition member Chris G. provided this great recap of last week’s meeting, since we were over-booked with other events.
It certainly seems as if the second meeting was much more productive than the first one (see more history below).
Last Thursday night, the Mayor’s office and the City Council held the second public meeting to discuss the ongoing plans for the southwest redevelopment area. This time, Mayor Roberts stumped his views of the area and interacted with the concerned citizens fighting for parks and sensible development. Despite his presence, there wasn’t much work done and the only accomplished goal, although healthy, did not further the idea of a large 7+ acre park in the area.
Roberts started the meeting with a long speech on what he thought would be good for the area and laid out his vision for the future development plans. His monologue stressed traditional development as what he sees for the southwest by frequently referring to how the building complexes should look; Mr. Roberts believes that modern – visually attractive, unique, and memorable – should be the dominant traits people take with them after leaving the area. He also envisioned that area to become a destination for people and thought that commercial office, retail, and residential space would be crucial to making that vision a reality. The Mayor also did feel that parks were a part of that equation and promised to try to build a seven acre park the citizens believe is not only needed for the area but the rest of Hoboken as well. Roberts also admitted the appraisal study – currently underway with no planned completion date – will be critical in determining the scale of the park and surrounding amenities. After his speech, Mr. Roberts entertained questions from the crowd and, while many good questions were asked, the Mayor couldn’t answer them all because of the pending study; he also clarified his position on the vision and expressed optimism that the area will be something the residents could be proud of. After the Mayor left for another function the representatives from the planning board and the community planners took over.
Heyer, Gruel, & Associates handed out an outline summarizing the previous meeting and gave a quick update on what they were doing to create a comprehensive plan. To that end, they presented three possible outcomes to discuss. Many represented well thought out ideas that offered several different park configurations for the community to decide on. However, the planners also noted that all their plans involve input from the county government – a lengthy task. Acreage ranged from six to a little over seven. Some plans even included a reroute of Patterson Plank Road – a necessity – for the safety and sanity of those people who will play in the new park. Still, the planners also admitted nothing they proposed meant much without the assessment; they do not know when it will be completed either. The community reacted well to the visualization, however, and offered new and alternative ideas for the architects to consider.
While little planning was accomplished, the city did seem to offer a good first step towards beautifying that section of Hoboken. The residents asked many relevant questions to which both the Mayor’s office and the community planners seemed to have much more knowledge to answer their inquiries. And, in the end, the people who are holding the officers of this town accountable felt that while much work still needs to be done, there is already a better sense of cooperation that will lead to the park space this town so desperately needs. In fact, the entire mood of the night was rather positive and not as contentious as the first – a sign that the incremental progress was healthy and represented hope for the future young voters of this town.
Councilman Chris Campos did attend the meeting as well, and provided a long campaign speech on affordable housing claiming he was “representing” the working man, woman, and elderly person. It was filled with his usual political rhetoric. It was obvious he wasn’t interested in parks and just wanted more and more projects for that already depressed region. He expressed his disdain for luxury buildings (he lives in the
SkyClubSkyLine and drives a Mercedes) and the people who would live in them fearing they will take over the city.
People were disgusted with his attitude and words and had to refrain from calling him on all his illogical arguments for subsidized and low income housing.
It should be noted that after Mayor Roberts’ speech, people were enthused at his words and ideas – just about everyone clapped in appreciation and thanks. Campos got nothing – not a single clap or ounce of gratitude for his remarks.
There is a second meeting today for the SW Redevelopment Plan. The last one a month ago was a big sham.
Click the fruity flyer to see a larger version (PDF):
From the SW Parks Coalition:
“Last night, the City held a Public Meeting, supposedly for the purpose of soliciting public input for its Southwest Redevelopment Plan. Not surprisingly, the meeting turned out to be a public relations charade. Absolutely no information was provided about either the redevelopment process, or the City’s thoughts concerning the outlines of a Redevelopment Plan. Instead, we were asked to take part in an elementary school exercise in which the public was asked to list the strengths and weaknesses of the City of Hoboken so that the answers could be written in big letters on a large tablet easel.
Thanks to the group of Southwest Parks Coalition members who attended, the City’s Planners were asked many serious substantive questions, all of which they refused to answer. As a result, all who attended saw the meeting for the public relations sham that it was.
Unfortunately, Chris Campos, the councilman for the Southwest, could not attend the meeting, but four other Council members did attend and sat with the audience: Michael Russo, Theresa Castellano, Richard Del Boccio, and Ruben Ramos. We did get the opportunity to provide them with our SPC literature, and all of them appeared to be reading through it. The discussion, which was relatively tense, occurred primarily between the City’s Planners and the public.
Last night’s meeting makes it clearer than ever that we need to continue to make our voices heard. We’ve already accomplished the first step – they know we’re here and they know that they have to deal with us. Now we need to keep the pressure on so that the Mayor understands that we understand the difference between real public input and political exploitation.”
Meeting is tonight. Please attend if you want to see what comes up! Anyone that does go, please let us know what happened!
Typical of the city to try and rush a public meeting so that they get less of a turnout. Have you ever known the city to be eager to listen to requests from residents and answer their questions about park studies, land acquisitions and future developments?
Buried in their website is this PDF announcing the Kick-off meeting regarding the redevelopment plan for the Southwest “IT” area. This will be announced in this weekends Reporter, but still, the meeting is on Tuesday, October 3rd. Minimal preparation time.
The meeting will be held at the Connors School on 2nd and Monroe at 7:00pm.
I have a prior obligation that evening, so if any of you attend, please report back what took place and how it went. Thanks!