A new uptown residential development proposal has neighbors and open space activists up in arms, and the City Council even opposed the plan at Wednesday’s meeting by unanimously passing a nonbinding resolution.
But the president of the Ironstate Development, which wants to develop two 11-story buildings, said their proposal will comply with all of the city’s open space requirements, and they will do what they can to minimize interruptions to the lives of those in the neighborhood.
“We’re not prejudging anything here.” – City Attorney Mark Tabakin
Some are particularly concerned because almost exactly a year ago, part of a road built on a pier near the proposed site collapsed.
Ron Hine and Jim Vance from the Fund for a Better Waterfront, a local activist group, spoke against the proposal at Wednesday’s meeting. Residents from the Hudson Tea Building also implored the council to vote to oppose the proposal.
The council eventually voted 8-0-1 on the resolution to oppose the development, with Councilwoman Carol Marsh abstaining, since she serves on the Planning Board. The resolution does not actually have any legislative effect except to make the council’s displeasure known.
The nine-member Planning Board is the body that must vote on the project later in the application process.
Wouldn’t need a variance
Franz Paetzold, an uptown resident and former City Council candidate, said he opposes the proposal because he believes it “disrespects the city’s master plan” and “will strain the overburdened infrastructure of the 2nd Ward.”
The city’s 2004 Master Plan and the 2010 Reexamination Report of the plan recommend that the property along the waterfront be reserved for open space. However, Shipyard Associates does not need to acquire a zoning variance from the Zoning Board in order to move forward with their proposal, because the master plan doesn’t actually change the existing zoning, it just makes recommendations. Zoning changes in Hoboken are done by ordinance, meaning the City Council must vote to amend a zoning area.
Besides the Planning Board, the developers need approval from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
Even if a project doesn’t need a variance, the Planning Board still has some leeway in what it decides. It can determine whether a project complies with the city’s master plan.
Concerned about their views
Among the objectors on Wednesday were residents from the nearby Tea Building, a luxury condo building where studio apartments start in the $400,000s. Famous residents include athletes Eli Manning and Kris Humphries.
The building currently has unblocked views of Manhattan. If the buildings are constructed, the views of the Tea Building residents will likely be impacted.
Eric Goldberg, an attorney for the Hudson Tea Building condo association, told the council, “Send the strongest possible signal that what is being proposed is inappropriate on so many levels. We implore you to please support the resolution in opposition to this project.”
Michael Henderson lives in the neighborhood of the proposed project.
“It’s important for the people to let you [the council] know that this is a big issue not just for Hudson Tea but for the entire neighborhood,” Henderson said. “This project would set a precedent we don’t want to set.”
Every council member opposed the proposed development.
“They told me that we’d have tennis courts on that area,” said Council President Ravinder Bhalla, who until recently lived in a Shipyard building nearby.
Councilwoman Beth Mason, who represents the 2nd Ward, called the resolution “a step in the right direction.”
Councilman Peter Cunningham said he does not support any buildings on piers.
Another uptown resident, Cecelia Carroll, opposed the project as well.
“The walkway should be an area where people can ride bicycles and take a stroll without traffic being there,” Carroll said.
Michael Barry, the president of Applied Companies and Ironstate Development, said the proposal would include more open space than what is required.
“The plan is compliant with the Department of Environmental Protection,” Barry said. “And there’s public access on all three sides of the platform [for public use]…there will be complete public access around the building.”
The building will not be built on a pier that sticks out into the Hudson River, he said.
“There’s been a lot of miscommunication, with people saying we want to put a tower out on a pier that would sit to the east of Sinatra Drive,” Barry said. “There’s no development proposed for the finger piers.”
The building would be west of Sinatra Drive, but east of the Tea Building.
Barry said he understands there will be some impact on the views for Hudson Tea residents, but said he thinks there would be a “fairly minimal impact.”
“There’s maximum possible separation [between the two buildings] to mitigate the impact of views,” Barry said. “We’ve designed it to be as least intrusive as possible.”
As far as concerns about waterfront construction, Barry said the piers will be reinforced.
“From the engineering aspect of it, the project will be designed in accordance with established engineering guidelines and principles,” Barry said.
‘We’re not prejudging’
Despite the fervor from the council on Wednesday, city attorney Mark Tabakin said the council should let the process run its course.
“We’re not prejudging anything here,” Tabakin said.
Barry said they are waiting for a hearing date before the Planning Board.
Boswell Engineering, the city’s engineer, has opposed parts of the proposal, including in a May letter to the mayor and council.
Joseph Pomante, the city’s engineer, included a total of nine concerns about the development. The city owns 20 percent of the pier area, but the new development would not be built on the city’s property.
Community Development Director Brandy Forbes sent a letter on May 18 to the state DEP noting that the city recommends that the property be used for open space, to be consistent with the 2010 Master Plan Reexamination Report.
Mayor Dawn Zimmer also wrote to the DEP opposing the Monarch project.
“It’s not fair for the city to say ‘we envision your privately owned land for a park’ without any negotiations,” Barry said, adding that he hopes there is more communication in the process.
The next step is for the NJ DEP to rule on the proposal, and the Planning Board to hear the case. Residents may attend those hearings and speak out.
The Applied Companies have built subsidized and luxury housing in Hoboken since the 1970s, including the Shipyard project and a luxury tower at 333 River St. Their founder also co-owned the Reporter newspapers from 1983 until 1999.
Ray Smith may be reached at RSmith@hudsonreporter.com