Last week’s Hoboken City Council meeting saw a dramatic back and forth on a resolution to approve a revised plan for a significant project along the city’s western edge.
After nearly being tabled in a 5-4 vote requesting more time to study impact, the 11-acre Hoboken western Edge development plan was passed by City Council 7-2, allowing for sizeable modifications to an original plan that has been underway since 2015. The new plan will allow for a hotel—originally approved at 166 feet—to rise 216 feet above Hoboken’s northwestern corner, in addition to higher residential buildings.
In exchange for the additional vertical space, the developer and the City have reportedly agreed to, “amend the Redevelopment Plan in an effort to create opportunities for the construction of public recreation space, including a public swimming pool.”
Spearheaded by Councilman Ruben Ramos, the Ordinance states, “the City has determined that creating opportunities for recreation and a community pool facility is consistent with the goals and objectives of the Redevelopment Plan and further, effectuates the goals of the City’s Master Plan.”
The issue of a swimming pool has long been a political football in Hoboken. Another perennial concern is that of affordable housing. Per the addendum, “The Master Plan offers consistent support for affordable housing in the City of Hoboken throughout the 2018 Land Use Element and Re-Examination Report. It does not, however, provide specific recommendations for the quantification of affordable housing requirements.”
The Bhalla Administration maintains that it has differed to the Council in these negotiations to date.
“As the redevelopment entity for the City of Hoboken, the City Council created and adopted a framework for the Western Edge Redevelopment Plan. Mayor Bhalla respects the central role of the Council in this initial process, and appreciated the hard work by Councilman Ramos and the members of the Western Edge sub-committee to pass their plan,” said Hoboken City Spokesman Vijay Chaudhuri. “Mayor Bhalla looks forward to now negotiating an agreement that provides important amenities and community givebacks that improve the quality of life for Hoboken residents.”
Second Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher maintains her concerns over the scale and impact of the project.
“There has not yet been an economic analysis completed around the height increase and potential economic impact,” says Fisher. “There also has been no further analysis of the potential impacts to what will be significantly more density in the area. The administration is saying the details will be negotiated in the final developer’s agreement, and that maybe we actually won’t need the proposed additional height. But the saying goes ‘give an inch, they take a mile’, not ‘give a mile and they take an inch.'”
Concerns over the impact extend beyond Hoboken. Earlier today, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop took to social media to address his plans for combating this approved development [The Mayor’s post has since been deleted—SEE UPDATE BELOW].
“Senator [and Union City Mayor Brian] Stack and I informed the Mayor of Hoboken that we likely to be filing a lawsuit here and if this takes 5-10 years to litigate we are in for the long haul,” said Fulop in his facebook post. “This project will go well above the Palisade Cliff line. There was no impact analysis, there are procedural issues, and overall,” adds Fulop, “it is really unconscionable to sneak in a massive zoning change during a pandemic let alone one that will impact Union City, Hoboken, and Jersey City for decades.”
As for the timing, Hoboken Spokesman Vijay Chaudhuri says, “Despite COVID-19 remaining the primary focus for the City, Mayor Bhalla’s office of community development will help ensure this important redevelopment project will be ready to advance when the crisis is over, putting people back to work and vastly improving a blighted area in our city.”
UPDATE—12:45 p.m. Mayor Fulop contacted hMAG directly, offering this update on the situation:
“Mayor Bhalla and I spoke again this afternoon and I feel more optimistic as we are in a better place. We all share a goal of avoiding litigation and Mayor Bhalla committed to working together to find common ground on changes that both meets Hoboken’s community benefit goals but also respects the importance of the Palisades. Mayor Bhalla is going to follow up with Mayor Stack and I on next steps and I’m thankful Mayor Bhalla was willing to listen to our concerns. I’m glad we are on a path to a better route forward.”
UPDATE—1:30 p.m. Mayor Stack has issued the following statement:
“I have been in regular discussions with Hoboken Mayor Bhalla about this issue and have expressed my concerns regarding this project to him directly. Mayor Bhalla and I have always worked together, most recently on strengthening tenant protections in the middle of this pandemic, and we have agreed to continue working together to resolve this issue in a manner that that is mutually satisfactory to both of our city’s residents. A lawsuit is a means of last resort and our approach is to work cooperatively to resolve this matter.”