Waterfront group objects to city’s Sinatra Drive plan
Zimmer, veterans against moving WWII Memorial
by Dean DeChiaro
Reporter staff writer
Dec 15, 2013 | 7276 views | 14 14 comments | 111 111 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MOVEABLE MEMORIAL? – Hoboken’s WWII memorial is at the heart of a disagreement between the administration of Mayor Dawn Zimmer and a group of waterfront advocates over how to best redesign a large portion of Frank Sinatra Drive.
MOVEABLE MEMORIAL? – Hoboken’s WWII memorial is at the heart of a disagreement between the administration of Mayor Dawn Zimmer and a group of waterfront advocates over how to best redesign a large portion of Frank Sinatra Drive.

A waterfront advocacy group is opposing a proposal introduced last week by Mayor Dawn Zimmer to redesign a large section of Frank Sinatra Drive. The group says the plan does not take advantage of what its representatives have called a golden opportunity to extend Hoboken’s waterfront park to Eleventh Street.

The plan, proposed by the New York City-based design firm Kimley-Horn and Associates, largely addresses some of the existing traffic and safety issues on Sinatra Drive. It would adopt the city’s “complete streets policy” by planting trees, expanding the sidewalk, and creating bike paths from Fourth Street to Eleventh Street.

However, the proposal contains no plans to extend the city’s public southern waterfront park north of Fourth Street onto land owned by Stevens Institute of Technology and the Union Drydock and Repair Company. The group objecting to Kimley-Horn’s plan, Fund for a Better Waterfront (FBW), says that it devised an alternative plan years ago that would satisfy all of the involved stakeholders and provide Hoboken residents an additional half-mile of public park space.
“This plan doesn’t address even half of the issues with this section of the waterfront.” – Ron Hine
“The solution here isn’t difficult, and the Kimley-Horn plan isn’t necessarily a bad one,” said Ron Hine, a founding member of FBW. “We support the idea of complete streets, but this plan doesn’t address even half of the issues with this section of the waterfront.”

FBW’s plan, on which Hine said Zimmer, members of her administration and the City Council, have been briefed, goes far beyond Kimley-Horn’s. In addition to advocating a complete streets policy, FBW wants the city to purchase the Union Dry Dock land and agree to a massive construction project by Stevens that would move the school’s waterfront facilities across the street in order to make room for park space.

Zimmer refused to discuss Kimley-Horn’s proposal last week because it has not been approved by the City Council. Hine said that she has refused to meet with members of FBW about their ideas for Sinatra Drive and criticized her administration for their closed-door policy on the Kimley-Horn plan.

“This is the plan they’ve chosen to put up for a vote, they should be able to defend that choice,” he said.

Council not clued in?

The issue first became public at a City Council meeting two weeks ago, when Zimmer asked the council to approve a $106,000 contract for Kimley-Horn to create a concept and vision design plan for the area. The firm was one of 11 that responded to a request for proposal (RFP) from the city in October.

According to Director of Parking and Transportation John Morgan, who testified before the council when the contract came up for a vote, the proposal was chosen by himself, Assistant Business Administrator Stephen Marks, and city spokesman Juan Melli.

Hine and another FBW member, James Vance, spoke in opposition to the plan, calling it insufficient.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and we have to make sure it’s not wasted on a plan that doesn’t address the major issues,” said Hine.

After Hine spoke, several council members raised questions about the proposal itself and the process through which it was chosen. Councilman-at-Large David Mello, who heads the council’s Parking and Transportation Committee and Development Committee, said he hadn’t been briefed on the plan at all and was uncomfortable voting on it.

First Ward Councilwoman Theresa Castellano and 2nd Ward Councilwoman Beth Mason both said the city should include plans to purchase Union Dry Dock in any plan to redesign Sinatra Drive, and 4th Ward Councilman Tim Occhipinti said FBW should be a “strategic partner” in the process of choosing which plan would come before the council for approval.

Council President Peter Cunningham, in response to the concerns, tabled the contract and asked that Mello’s committees meet with the administration and discuss the plan and the process by which it was chosen.

In an interview, Hine acknowledged that another proposal the city received was submitted by a firm that employs an FBW member, but said it had nothing to do with his group’s objections to the Kimley-Horn plan.

“The objections we raised before the council were solely based on our issues with the proposal that was chosen,” he said.

Disagreement over WWII Memorial

The city’s World War II Memorial, situated where Fourth Street meets the waterfront, seems to be at the heart of the city’s apparent disagreement with FBW’s plan, which would require the memorial’s relocation to a spot elsewhere on the river. In order to expand the city’s Little League field to regulation size and Stevens Park, FBW wants the city to extend Fourth Street in a straight line to the river, instead of maintaining the existing curve onto Sinatra Drive that could pose significant danger to pedestrians.

The memorial, Hine said, could be moved to an alternative location on the river, perhaps in one of the new park spaces that would be built near Union Dry Dock or on Stevens property. He also said that FBW has met with veterans groups in town to discuss a possible relocation and that they had been responsive.

But on Thursday, Roy Huelbig, a member of the Hoboken chapter of the American Legion, said that the memorial would be moved “over my dead body.”

“I don’t know where you’re going to put it that could be any better than where it is now,” he said. “I knew a lot of the men whose names are on that memorial, and moving it would be the same as digging up their graves and moving them somewhere else.”

Zimmer said she understood Huelbig’s concerns.

“I don’t think moving it is something that we can do,” she said. “It would be a very expensive thing to do and I stand with our veterans who don’t want that to happen.”

As for FBW, Zimmer said that she was open to meeting with the group over their concerns, but would not comment on their issues with the Kimley-Horn plan or why she had chosen that plan in the first place.

“I’m not going to get into it, but they’re a part of the community and we do want them to be a part of the conversation, but that’s all I’m going to say at this point,” she said.

Dean DeChiaro may be reached at deand@hudsonreporter.com

Comments-icon Post a Comment
December 17, 2013
This is an ideal location for a public large transient boat dock facility. Parking meters for boats could generate revenue. Summer dock attendants to keep an eye on the boats would be welcomed.
December 16, 2013
I think it would be great to take over the Stevens and Shipyard properties along the river and incorporate it into the river park.

Not sure the people who own the property would want to sell, what it would cost if they did or if not the cost if the City used eminent domain to acquire it.

It should be interesting
December 19, 2013
All part of the public process with community meetings that comes with a design firm to start that engagement process.

As Hine said and FBW continued to say at the last council meeting of the year last night.. blah, blah, blah, blah, the plan doesn't do this, doesn't do that, blah blah blah.

There is no plan. There's a design firm to sort through a plan.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and we have to make sure it’s not wasted on a plan that doesn’t address the major issues,”

That's Ron Hine pretending there is a complete plan and also him and his friends pretending they didn't have a financial stake with a bidder in the group of RFPs (the FBW member lost) and their own desire to win the RFP themselves.

There's no full out plan, it's a design approach for a section to be decided later but there's a real lack of transparency in how FBW behaved.

Another example of their "behavior" to Hoboken Veterans, Hine said, "FBW has met with veterans groups in town to discuss a possible relocation and that they had been responsive."

I think after the Vets' leadership saying over their dead body the next thing they told Hine was to "drop dead."

Yes, that would be considered "responsive."

The City Council passed the RFP for Kimley-Horn. Merry Christmas!

December 16, 2013
Neighbors in Hoboken:

I have attempted to publish this letter in the Hoboken Reporter for two weeks but am still told it is too long. I have gone back and forth with the editors trying to get it down and fix style issues but it is still too long. As another weekend has gone by I have decided to publish my final attempt here. I am hoping it will encourage some discussion rather then name-calling now and in the future. I am ready and willing to hear good reasonable responses so we may promote an open dialogue on these and other issues instead of what has come before. Thank you humbly,

Trying once again

Now that election is over, can we solve more of Hoboken’s problems?

Dear Editor,

Now that the mayhem has died down about the recent election, I have been talking with neighbors about its results and what they mean. I hoped to put my thoughts into a letter to perhaps invite some genuine and thoughtful discussion.

One big issue that has come up is, if a person does not conform completely to one political side or the other in this town they are made to feel like they should not get involved. But the voter numbers tell that there are many of us who have varied opinions as well as suggestions for positive change. 47 percent voted for the mayor, 53 voted for an opponent. They can not all be labeled the same way.

Now that the election is over and the candidates do not have to worry about posturing, I would like to know how my neighbors feel about some of these issues.

The art studio tours are held each year, recently for two days. I participate each year. This year the candidates were so busy with their own campaigns, I saw nearly no publicity and had only a trickle of people at our workspace all day. To put this much effort into a two day event it should have at least been noticed more than it was. Perhaps next time it should not be held the weekend after an election. Hoping those in charge will do better next year.

I would like to see action on the parking situation. Everyone I know has a relative or friend who will not come into town or has been falsely booted and stuck,. Certainly in some cases they should have read the signs-if they could figure them out-in other cases the signs did not make sense, as we have read before.

The mayors response to this situation I'm sorry to say has been appalling–to complain that the criticism came from her opposition, then to say she’d do something, then to say she will really do something years later when it came up in the election. Perhaps she cannot admit even a single mistake? In fact the criticism likely did come from her opposition, most do. But is it an accurate criticism worth a response? The newspaper correctly pointed out that a change was promised two years ago. Ms Zimmers response was in effect to dismiss the issue: “Oh, I’ll get right on that.” You had time, please do it now, whether it came from the opposition or a friend. Stop the politics and solve the problem.

Hoboken has wealthy new residents, artists, lower income, middle income, small business owners, rent controlled, not rent controlled and students. It seems that the mayor considers everyone except the first group a criminal if they disagree with her. I found the city hall blogs quite humorous until I asked a question anonymously and two people made comments threatening to boycott “my” business. I don’t own a business in town. If I did, I’d be afraid to express an opinion. I never commented again. Since when is threatening a peron’s livelihood an acceptable way to conduct discourse? If Mayor Zimmer supports this intimidation style is she really that different from the past?

Her response when asked about this by a Patch reporter? “What about when one of the blogs said I looked like an ape". The mayor doesn’t know the difference between having your business or family threatened, and being called a monkey? What if it was her own family?

I have heard that some in this town feel it is against reform to criticism your leaders. Nonsense, it is the very thing that reform is. It has been in the way in Hoboken since I moved here the early 1980s It is however still against reform to intimidate and bully just as it was in the days of Russo's and Capiello's.

I don’t want to make it seem that the mayor is responsible for all of town’s problems and she has done some quite positive things. But after four years it seemed the biggest achievement during the race was to keep reminding us that she’s not corrupt. While in this town that is indeed an accomplishment for many of us it is not. It is time to move forward, of the majority voters against her many are tired of being either intimidated or ignored when we present a serious issue. The mayor has a lot of potential and I believe it is being dragged down by thugs who whisper in her ear. She can do so much better in a new term and set an example for our children. I admired the strength on the Hola issue and see it as a good sign. Thank you for that.

I make art, I work in NYC part time, l live in a condo and I am the majority and I vote. I eagerly await responses and a true discussion without intimidation or name calling. Not supercillious posturing When our leaders get defensive it becomes apparent we have not come quite as far as we think.

December 16, 2013
Think I know who you are and I admire the work you have done on the waterfront issues. As for this though why bother any more? If a tree falls in the forrest does anyone care?
December 16, 2013
It seems the election is over but silly season goes on.

If you want a dialogue maybe you should consider attending the Mayor's office hours which she holds regularly. I'm sure she won't hurt you.
December 16, 2013
Not buying a word of it.

December 17, 2013
If BoxRebel goes to office hours, will his name show up on the internet the next day? :I wonder how much of a leader's good work is undone if there is a preception of intimidation
December 18, 2013
Still not buying a word of it.

To me Box is just more of the same tripe we have seen so many times under so many different names from the same guy.

December 18, 2013
Can you provide an example of someone coming to the Mayor's office hours and having their name posted on the internet the next day?

If the "perception of intimidation" is so damaging why are working so hard to create it?

Here's a suggestion. look back at the election and evaluate why you lost, what worked for you and what did not. Then consider whether the themes that did not work will work any better going forward.

Of course you can also continue to delude yourself that your sh*t doesn't stink, your BS actually worked and you are in the "majority" even though you lost by what's really an awful lot of votes.
December 18, 2013
You're right in a way.

That is, you're not serious enough about your complaint to give it to the Reporter per their parameters and would rather cut and paste it in the middle of someone else's valid letter to the editor.

You're right not to be serious. Do you really expect a reply to, "

It seems that the mayor considers everyone except the first group a criminal if they disagree with her." That's just plain childish. As is the approach you have taken to getting your message across. Also, asking the mayor to manage the internet is beyond silly. Get a grip.

Then again, this works fine and seems to suit you.
December 15, 2013
Even though I think dawn Zimmer has done a very good job as mayor, I think she needs to take a step back and rethink things. Though what fbw is proposing is obviously very expensive and will require bonding....their ideas are the correct direction the city should go to make this an excellent waterfront area.
December 15, 2013
A new plan for Hoboken's central waterfront is an opportunity to build a better WWII memorial, an idea that most (not all) of the Hoboken Vets support.

The crux of the problem is the lack of a vision for what our waterfront could be -- on the part of the administration & the Kimley-Horn proposal. We need to make sure that we end up with a plan that gives us the world-class waterfront that Hoboken deserves. This began some 20 years ago with the South Waterfront and should be continued north from 4th to 11th Street.
December 15, 2013
It is all well and good to have world class dreams but another to pay for it.

Somewhere between is what will actually happen.

Being able to move the massive granite Vet's memorial is highly doubtful and after the millions of dollars it cost taxpayers to build after the vets failed to raise the funds they said would is troubling.