The City Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to bond for $20 million for the acquisition of new park space. They also allocated $1.6 million of city money for improvements to existing parks, and accepted the deed from Toll Brothers to an area on the northern waterfront where they can build a park.
The $20 million will be repaid through the city’s Open Space Trust Fund, which is financed through a small local tax. Thus, Mayor Dawn Zimmer said, the parks will not cost taxpayers any additional money.
“I am committed to bring more park space to the western side of our city where it is most needed.” – Mayor Dawn Zimmer
Now that the council has approved the money, the city can negotiate to purchase new park space.
The public sounds off
During the hearing on the ordinance, several members of the public shared their views.
Fifth Ward council candidate Perry Belfiore questioned the specifics of the plan.
“Where’s the park?” he asked the council four times. Belfiore said he’s not against open space but felt not enough specifics were put forth by the mayor.
City attorney Mark Tabakin said properties throughout the city have been identified. Zimmer has said the west side of town is being targeted for more parks.
Many believe defeat of the ordinance would have hurt the political images of the candidates. Six of the nine council positions are up for election in May.
Belfiore said that pursuing the ordinance was also an example of politics.
“You have no environmental studies out and we’re seven weeks from an election,” Belfiore said.
“There have been parks identified by the 2004 master plan and additional parks identified as a result of public comment in the proposed reexamination plan,” said Leah Healey, founder of a local activist group called Hoboken Parks. “I just hope you’ll vote unanimously for this to demonstrate concrete action for park acquisition.”
Another resident, Don Pellicano, asked the council to wait until specific locations are designated before approving the money.
“I’m not opposed to parks; I’m opposed to the method,” he said. “And the method is terrible.”
Zabrina Stoffel, a co-founder of Project Play, an organization that raises funds to upgrade Church Square Park, also urged the council to vote yes.
“All of the people in Hoboken need this active space,” she said.
One 27-year Hoboken resident, Dale Fior, said in his neighborhood, children have been “riding their bikes in the garage” because of a lack of play areas.
Hoboken resident Lane Bajardi questioned the timing of the ordinance.
“I appreciate the urgent need to do this,” he said. “I also appreciated the urgent need to do this a year ago, two years ago, three year ago, four years ago. You’ve been put in a position, because of politics, to [vote yes] tonight. It’s done in a way to embarrass people in a political season.”
However, others saw it as a necessary ordinance.
“You only have a certain opportunity [to purchase parks] before it’s gone,” said Sylvia Schwartz. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”
Schwartz asked the council to think about planning “for a long-term perspective.”
Zimmer thanked the council in a statement after the meeting.
“As I said in my State of the City address, we must ensure that every Hoboken resident is a short walk from a quality park,” according to the statement. “Given the lack of park space on the western side of our city, my administration will be focusing our energy on that area of Hoboken.”
Five properties on west side
Zimmer was “surprised” that some council members “suggested in press releases and Tweets” that she had given them private assurances of park space in their ward.
“All council members were told in private precisely what they already knew based on my public statements before the first reading,” she said. “I am committed to bring more park space to the western side of our city where it is most needed.”
Not only did council candidates speak out in favor of the plan, but all of the council candidates supported by Zimmer sent out a release supporting the park plan, noting that some of their opponents voted against the plan on first reading.
“We finally have a plan to buy more land for parks, a mayor who will carry it out, and a community so passionately behind the idea that the [anti-Zimmer] council majority could not stand in the way,” said Rami Pinchevsky, a 4th Ward candidate for council.
Director of Community Development Brandy Forbes said the city has identified five properties on the western side of town, but did not provide specific addresses.
“We don’t want to tilt our hand too much as to what we’re going after,” said Councilman David Mello.
When specific sites have been chosen, Zimmer must seek council approval.
Uptown park land deeded from Toll Brothers
As part of a “planned unit development” in uptown Hoboken, Toll Brothers deeded over a 1.5-acre uptown park space to the city. When proposing large developments, builders must present plans for the entire area to the Planning Board. Part of their agreement for the uptown development was that park space would be given to the city. It will be the city’s responsibility to design the park.
Hoboken Cove is northwest of the Tea Building, close to another proposed park space at 1600 Park Ave., and the two park spaces will be designed together.
Other council business
The council did not address all of the items on the agenda because it was agreed the meeting would end at midnight. Over 50 members of the public had signed up to speak, so the council decided to suspend the agenda to move the public portion ahead of other items, although many of the names called were not in attendance.
-The council introduced small wording changes to the recently-amended rent control ordinance.
-The council voted to award a contract to 4Ward Planning, LLC, for consultant services for a marketing analysis of the Western Edge Redevelopment area, for an amount not to exceed $25,700.
-The council postponed discussion about the use of the municipal garage site on Observer Highway to the next meeting. A resolution that will reject the “proposed use [of the Observer Highway municipal garage] as a 24/7 impound yard” will be addressed at the next council meeting on April 6.
Ray Smith may be reached at RSmith@hudsonreporter.com
It appears that some Hoboken City Council candidates for the May 10 election were able to keep their desire to run for office relatively quiet before the filing deadline on Monday, March 14 at 4 p.m.
Six of the nine council seats are up for election this May.
In the 1st Ward, with no filing day surprises, a two-candidate race will feature incumbent Councilwoman Theresa Castellano against challenger Eric Kurta (see story, page 3).
In the uptown 2nd Ward, Council President Beth Mason will not only face Tom Greaney, but also Franz Paetzold and Patricia Waiters. Waiters, who filed just before the 4 p.m. deadline, is also running in the Hoboken school board election, which is on April 27.
The 3rd Ward will feature a two-person race with Councilman Michael Russo squaring off against challenger Greg Lincoln.
The 4th Ward candidates are Councilman Tim Occhipinti and Rami Pinchevsky.
In the 5th Ward, Councilman Peter Cunningham, a supporter of Mayor Dawn Zimmer, will face off against Perry Belfiore, Scott Delea, and Leonard Luizzi. Delea was able to keep his candidacy relatively quiet up until filing day, while the other three were expected candidates.
In the 6th Ward, Councilman Nino Giacchi will face Jennifer Giattino.