(ABOVE: City of Hoboken photo)
The legal department at the City of Hoboken just got that much busier, with the City announcing on Wednesday that they will be moving ahead with their eminent domain claim against Academy Bus to acquire property in the southwest corner of Hoboken for an expanded park space.
“Today is an important milestone for Hoboken as we move forward with the acquisition of Block 10 to expand our Southwest Park,” said Mayor Ravi Bhalla.
This is not to be confused with the other eminent domain claim against regional mass transit provider NY Waterway, for their Union Dry Dock property in the Hoboken Waterfront…
The initiative to obtain the Academy property was approved by City Council in February of 2017 under Mayor Dawn Zimmer‘s Administration, following a bitter back-and-forth with Academy management over the value of the land.
In an online video posted in 2017, Academy’s CEO, Francis Tedesco acknowledges the need for a park in that area, but feels Academy deserves better compensation than the proposed $4.5 million on offer from the City.
“We offered up the park because we always knew that this southwest zone needed a park,” says Tedesco. “We’re in the business of making deals, we understand the need and we understand the want,” adding, “we submitted an appraisal, and the value of $13 million is quite fair.”
Academy has also pledged to continue fighting for the land. “This is our family-owned land, and we will not give it up,” says Tedesco.
Furthermore, the company had previously proposed building a 17-story building and a smaller park.
The City of Hoboken felt Academy’s plan would massively increase residential density and further complicate traffic problems in the area. Therefore, the Council voted in favor of the eminent domain. The City claims it has has attempted to engage in good faith negotiations with Academy Bus, but their refusal to negotiate a fair price without an unacceptable increase in the permitted residential development requires the use of eminent domain.
Hoboken says a $5.3 million deposit will be covered utilizing a $1 million grant from Hudson County’s Open Space Trust Fund, the City’s Open Space Trust Fund, and $900,000 from State Green Acres funding. The City also claims that no tax increase will be required to fund the acquisition of the property. Meanwhile the final purchase price, meant to reflect fair market value, will be determined through a legal process.
“This additional acre of land, which currently sits as a vacant lot, will provide much needed open space for our residents without any compromise of added residential density,” said Bhalla. “Not only will the expanded park provide important quality of life upgrades for our community, it will also include infrastructure to further address flooding in the region. I look forward to working with our residents through a public process to design the expanded park. Thank you to Mayor Zimmer and the many community members who helped advocate for this successful park expansion!”
Bhalla’s political allies on the Council were quick to praise the move.
“We are thrilled that Mayor Bhalla is moving forward to realize former Mayor Zimmer’s vision to acquire Block 10 in order to expand the existing SW Park. The expansion of this park is critical in the overall plan to provide additional recreation options, play spaces, and other open space equitably throughout the City for the benefit of all our residents, in this instance especially those in the Southwest neighborhood of Hoboken,” said Councilmembers Emily Jabbour and Jim Doyle in a joint statement. “We look forward to supporting this expansion of true public space without adding residential density and bulk concessions to the area.”
hMAG has reached out to Academy for their comment, and will update this article once their statement becomes available.