The Hoboken City Council met Wednesday, May 3 to discuss improvements to Newark Street, near the city’s southern border. In the end, they voted to introduce the plan and will need to adopt it at a subsequent meeting, after a hearing.
Residents of southwest Hoboken have complained of safety issues in the area, especially for pedestrians.
Wednesday, the council heard a presentation from Adam Gibson of Kimley-Horn on proposed changes to Newark Street, west of Willow Avenue. Safety measures include flashing signs, curb bumpouts both painted and physical, a protected bike lane, loading zones, and a pedestrian island. A bumpout is a curb extension that can be concrete, landscape, or just paint, which narrows the distance a pedestrian has to travel in the road.
At the intersection of Willow Avenue and Newark Street, the proposal includes two bumpouts on the northern side of Willow Avenue with a loading zone on the northwest corner. On the southeast and north east corners there are potential landscaped curb extensions.
According to Gibson, bumpouts will improve pedestrian safety by not only shortening the distance in which a pedestrian is in the road but also by making them more visible.
“Also they help to make pedestrians more visible to drivers,” said Gibson. “This allows pedestrians to get seven feet closer to the edge of the travel lane and allows motorists to see them much more easily.”
Gibson also added that landscaped bumpouts will also “green it up a little so it’s not just a sea of asphalt.”
At the intersection of Newark and Clinton streets, there will be curb bumpouts on the northern side of Newark Street, shortening the crosswalk across Clinton Street, and a new crosswalk across Newark Street.
At Newark and Grand streets, there will be a new crosswalk across Newark Street from the northeast to southeast, with a landscaped curb extension on the northeast side. There will also be a bumpout at this corner and a painted bump out to the northwest corner of Grand Street. This intersection will also have a Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon (RRFB) sign which flashes alternating lights, much like a police vehicle, when a crosswalk button is pushed to alert drivers of a crossing pedestrian.
At Newark and Adams streets there would be a physical bumpout on the northwestern side, shortening the crosswalk across Adams Street, met by a painted bumpout on the northeastern corner. There is also a proposed loading zone along the northwestern side of this intersection.
In between Adams and Jefferson streets on Newark there will also be a midblock crosswalk with a pedestrian island in the middle and another RRFB light.
At Newark and Jefferson streets there would a landscaped curb extension from the northeastern curb to northwestern curb of Jefferson Street.
“Some residents call this the ‘crossing of death.’” – Michael Small
The plan also proposes additional signs such as “bikes yield to pedestrians” and “pedestrian ahead” signs, directional signs, and upgrades to existing crosswalks, and does not eliminate any parking.
The public speaks
Residents of southwestern Hoboken spoke on the plan, urging the City Council to approve it.
“Those of us who live on the south side of Newark Street have to get to the north side of Newark Street to access the rest of Hoboken,” said resident Michael Small. “Some residents call this the ‘crossing of death’ and find it difficult to do. In the summer months, you sort of play a game of chicken, leaning in and out hoping to make eye contact with drivers so you can cross.”
Neil Blecher said, “When I walk out of our building and walk my kids to day care or to the path train or the light rail, I literally take my life into my hands every time I leave my building.”
Ron Rosenberg said, “Newark Street doesn’t have the look and feel of a regular Hoboken street. It’s like a highway. I encourage you to adopt this sooner rather than later, and see to it that we implement many of these features as soon as it’s possible, because it is a life saving measure.”
Some residents questioned whether flashing lights were necessary, if all the curbs would be ADA compliant, and if the county would approve a stop sign on the road.
Gibson said the lights only flash when a pedestrian pushes a crosswalk sign and would alert vehicles to a pedestrian crossing, that all the corners and crosswalks were ADA compliant, and that the county was in the midst of a warrant study to determine if a stop sign could be placed on Newark.
Council to approve bumpouts
The council approved a resolution requesting that the administration of Mayor Dawn Zimmer receive approval from the council prior to constructing curb bumpouts.
The resolution, sponsored by Councilman Ruben Ramos, was approved by a 7-2 vote with Councilman Jim Doyle, and Council President Jen Giattino against.
Resident Alec Perkins said he didn’t understand the purpose of the resolution, and “why the council needs to micromanage itself.” He said he believes this will “only slow down already approved traffic modifications.”
According to Ramos, the council approves all other modifications to traffic, including stop signs and traffic lights, and believes bumpouts should also be approved by the council.
He said he is hoping to avoid engineering mistakes that cause large trucks to jump the curb when making turns near bumpouts, by “having an extra set of eyes on it.”
Resident Peter Kim said he enjoys Hoboken because it is such a walkable city but “a lot of locations throughout the city are not very safe.”
He said he believes curb extensions are necessary in some areas and that it’s “not necessary for the council or public to act as armchair engineers” as the city hires engineering consultants.
Giattino said, “In these instances, I’d prefer the engineer tell me if a bumpout is needed,” and that members of the council have been against bumpouts in the past.
Ramos said engineers can be wrong.
“Traffic signals have to go through us, stop signs have to go through us, this should go through us,” said Ramos.
Councilman Peter Cunningham said, “I do like the idea that it’s a traffic calming device, like a number of other measure we discuss all the time… I think the public has the right to know what we are doing in our neighborhoods.
What’s in a name?
The council also approved a resolution proposing that the area near the train terminal bounded by Hudson Street, Hudson Place, River Street, and Newark Street be referred to as the “Railhead District.”
According to the resolution sponsors, Councilmen Michael DeFusco, Councilman Ravi Bhalla, and Giattino, the resolution simply renames the area. DeFusco said it’s also a first step to promoting the area as a marketplace. Giattino said the idea would go before the Historical Preservation Commission for review.
The resolution included images and renderings of possibilities for the area, including signage designating the area as the “Railhead District” and a possible visitor’s center.
According to Giattino, these are just ideas and not up for approval themselves.
“I was a little surprised something as comprehensive as this made it to agenda before being discussed in any community development subcommittee… but I’m not going to vote no because I think it’s a great idea,” said Cunningham. “There are a lot of areas in Hoboken that are already destinations by name that are informal, and I think formalizing them is a great idea for a number of reasons.”
Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher said the resolution left her with more questions than answers because it wasn’t clear what its purpose was.
“I unfortunately struggle with how it’s being presented,” said Fisher. “There are way more questions that haven’t been asked and I have concerns moving forward from this launch pad.”
Fisher said that it looks like the beginning of a private public partnership but that there are no details such as what are the costs, what the city will get in return, if the chief of police has security concerns, and more.
The council approved the resolution with Fisher and Mello against.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at email@example.com.