The meeting was the first of three to be held regarding the North End Redevelopment Area. It’s the area north of the 14th Street Viaduct, bookended by the Palisade hills on the west and Park Avenue on the east.
A company called Rockefeller group has bought up parcels making up three blocks of land there since 2007. Those properties were the subject of a controversy between Mayor Dawn Zimmer and the administration of Gov. Chris Christie in 2014.
That year, Zimmer alleged that Christie administration members had pushed her to expedite development plans in the area. Zimmer said that it seemed as though the administration made Hurricane Sandy aid contingent upon help with the plans, although administration officials denied this. The law firm representing Rockefeller was founded by David Samson, whom Christie named chairman of Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in 2010.
In May of 2015, federal prosecutors issued a letter clearing the Christie administration of wrongdoing in connection with allegations.
The total area of the district is 30 acres, or 16 blocks.
The Hudson-Bergen Light Rail line runs along the western and northern borders of the district. There has been talk of creating at least one new light rail stop on 15th Street or 17th Street, although some residents said last week they’d like to see both.
Currently the land is zoned for industrial uses. Some new restaurants and residences have gone up on the burgeoning blocks near the Viaduct. They were approved by variance by the city’s zoning board. If the redevelopment plan is created and approved, it will determine the zoning for the area and make it easier for certain types of projects to be built without the added step of obtaining a variance from the Zoning Board.
The area also includes North Hudson Sewerage treatment facility, PSE&G, Academy Bus parking, the Pilsner Haus & Biergarten, and Carpe Diem restaurant, to name a few.
“We want to hear from you about what you want to see in this part of town,” said Francis Reiner Principal Planner for DMR Architects.
Attendees discussed their preferences for types of buildings, new light rail stops, and land use.
The City Council at its February 18, 2009 meeting adopted a resolution to authorize the Planning Board to conduct a preliminary investigation of the proposed area.
In December 2013 the City Council, after receiving recommendation from the Planning Board, agreed with the Planning Board’s recommendation and declared the North End an Area in Need of Rehabilitation.
The Rockefeller Group proposed building a 40-story office tower in the area, the project that was at the center of the Christie allegations.
The same month that federal prosecutors issued their report, the city authorized the consulting firm DMR Architects to prepare a Redevelopment Plan for this portion of Hoboken.
They began the public process in March of 2017 when they invited members of the community to complete an online survey about what they would like to see in the area.
What people want
Most people in attendance were concerned with traffic and parking constraints and desired more public amenities in the area, including boutiques and restaurants. The majority of people said they wanted mixed-use space of both commercial and residential properties.
Northern Hoboken resident of over 10 years Tina Hahn said, “I really don’t want more residences adding cars and traffic to the area…all-residential would be a disaster.”
She added that all commercial development would also be a disaster, as you need both for a neighborhood and for local businesses to thrive.
Several people said they wished for Fifteenth Street to become the neighborhood’s main boulevard, with shops and restaurants.
Dave Chan, a resident for seven years near Adams and Fourteenth streets, said, “I would like to see more mom-and-pop shops and restaurants. As it is now, we have to go up to Washington Street to go grab food or do some shopping.”
Chan said he would also like to see an indoor recreational center.
“We have some good food in the neighborhood but not many options, “ said Chan. “I recognize restaurants need to have more people in the area in order to be successful, so that’s why I think mixed use development is best.”
“We do have people who live here in the north sector,” said Chan. “I’d like to see more than just a bus depot.”
Hugh Lester, a former resident of the Weehawken Shades area near the Lincoln Tunnel, and a current adjunct professor at Stevens Institute of Technology (who lives in Little Ferry), said he would like to see a pedestrian path between the Shades and Hoboken. He also said he believes a light rail station should be located at Fifteenth Street.
“Fifteenth Street is closer to the residential buildings and businesses which already exist,” said Lester. “People both north and south of Fifteenth Street would be able to use it. I think it better serves the area.”
In 2013 the Rockerfeller Group entered into a memorandum of understanding with NJ Transit to create a light rail stop near their property, which only came to light in 2014 during the Christie scandal.
One resident of north Hoboken who did not wish to be identified said she would prefer to see the light rail at 17th Street.
“Academy is not moving for a decade,” she said. “It doesn’t make sense to have the light rail there on their property. The Seventeenth Street station can better serve the soccer field, the Weehawken cove, and residents in northeastern Hoboken.”
Hahn agreed. “Fifteenth Street right now is dark and creepy,” said Hahn. “I don’t feel safe down there. The Fifteenth street light rail is too close to the Ninth Street station.”
Most residents said they would like to see both of those light rail stations created in the future.
Residents had varied opinions on building heights, ranging from six stories to even higher then the W at 25 stories tall.
Residents also wished to preserve the view of the Palisades and some wished to preserver the industrial feel of the neighborhood.
Next, DMR will meet with stakeholders to gather their input before scheduling another community meeting in which they will present two different possible plans for the neighborhood.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.