The City Council took a major step toward developing the area around the city’s northern borders on Wednesday night, unanimously designating the “north end” – an area north of Fourteenth Street and west of Park Avenue – as an area in need of rehabilitation. The move is a crucial first step in a process that could see the neighborhood change drastically in the coming years, a city official told the council.
The council voted on the measure after the city’s Planning Board met earlier this week to decide whether the area would be deemed in need of redevelopment, or rehabilitation. The language is important because it determines which tools the city can employ in managing the size and scope of development that will take place in the area.
Under state law, designating a neighborhood as an area in need of rehabilitation allows municipalities to offer developers interested in building within the zone five-year tax abatements, but does not allow invocations of eminent domain with regards to specific properties.
Historically, Hoboken has offered significant abatements to developers, but recently used eminent domain to condemn and take control of a 1-acre parking lot in the southwest of town that is set to become its next public park. On Wednesday, some council members expressed reservations over tax abatements, while others said they could be useful tools in filling city property tax coffers over a longer period of time.
“It would be good for us to be able to get some more money for the city in the long run,” said Third Ward Councilman Michael Russo.
“I’ve been told this is a housing issue, I’ve been told it’s a city issue, but it’s really a public safety issue.” – James Figueroa
“One of my big concerns is that when we give tax abatements, the city brings in significant funds but none of that funding goes to the school board budget,” he said, noting that the increase in population resulting from possible residential development in the neighborhood could put stress on the Board of Education’s budget.
The next step in the rehabilitation process will be to hire a planner, who would then spend the next year or so developing a proposal for the area that would take into account the opinions of current residents and business owners, as well as the views of the Planning Board, City Council, and the administration of Mayor Dawn Zimmer, said the city’s director of community development, Brandy Forbes.
Safety concerns at Fox Hill
Council President Peter Cunningham, who represents the city’s Sixth Ward, said he planned to investigate new safety measures at Fox Hill Gardens, a senior building, after resident James Figueroa presented a petition with 300 signatures arguing that a lack of traffic enforcement in the area is endangering residents.
Figueroa discussed the danger that he said motorists and construction vehicles pose to residents when they use the building’s parking lot as a thoroughfare. He said this occurs frequently because motorists want to avoid having to go around the block because Clinton and Thirteenth Streets are one-way roads.
According to Figueroa, who brought photographs of various types of vehicles using the parking lot as a roadway, his and several of his neighbors lives have been put at risk by the dangerous situation. Figueroa had previously brought his case to the council and the Hoboken Housing Authority, which maintains the building, and said Wednesday night that the bodies must work together to protect the residents.
“I’ve been told this is a housing issue, I’ve been told it’s a city issue, but it’s really a public safety issue, and something needs to be done about it,” he said, suggesting that “Private Property” sign and a surveillance camera be placed at Fox Hill’s gate to deter motorists from entering.
Cunningham said that while he had seen an increase in police activity in the area, it has not been on a consistent basis. He also noted that there is a significant amount of construction taking place in the neighborhood, and said it would be worth speaking to the companies about the laws regarding the parking lot.
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