Mayor Dawn Zimmer promised more park space, better flood protection, and no new taxes this year in her seventh State of the City address on Monday night to a full house at DeBaun Auditorium.
Zimmer is up for re-election in November.
Zimmer noted that the mile-square city has improved on flooding on the west side of Hoboken, beginning with the $11 million investment for the town’s second flood pump through a continued partnership with the North Hudson Sewerage Authority.
“We are no longer the go to place for footage of flooding!” – Mayor Dawn Zimmer
“News crews were here to try and cover the flooding in our city last week, but all they saw was wet pavement,” said Zimmer of a nor’easter that hit Hoboken on Monday Jan. 23. “We are no longer the go-to place for footage of flooding.”
She also reminded the residents that the risk of flooding is still an issue noting the high water levels during the storm.
“Last week, during a storm that was hardly reminiscent of Sandy, the storm surge brought the Hudson River to mere inches from the top of the bulkhead, not very far from bringing the river flowing into our city,” said Zimmer. “This provided a strong reminder that we still have a lot of work to do to protect Hoboken. That’s why our Rebuild by Design project is so critically important. This vital infrastructure project, funded by a $230 million federal grant, will give our community the protection and peace of mind that we deserve with beautifully designed new urban amenities.”
The Rebuild by Design Project will prevent flooding using infrastructure like floodwalls, seawalls, and soft landscaping such as berms and levees which could be in the form of parks, rain gardens, bicycle parking, murals, and more.
It calls for construction of a flood resistance structure that stretches from 19th Street in Weehawken and extends south into Hoboken slightly inland from the river, with an additional resistance structure on the southern end of Hoboken.
The project will prevent 85 percent of Hoboken’s flooding during 100-year storm surges like Hurricane Sandy.
The project began in June 2014 when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded the project $230 million.
The estimated cost of the project ranges from $230 million to $274 million with an estimated annual maintenance cost that ranges from $1.4 million to $2.4 million.
Zimmer urged residents to show support for the Rebuild by Design Project by attending the upcoming hearing.
“But our work is far from done,” she said. “Although the federal funding has been allocated and appropriated, on March 16th at a legally mandated hearing, we need everyone in Hoboken joining together to send a loud and clear message that Hoboken supports this project.”
Zimmer added, “We need to send a message that this project is essential to our safety and welfare and that we will work together as a community to get it done. This project will set an example for our State and Country that we can protect our communities from climate change and rising sea levels by crafting real solutions, rather than putting our heads in the sand and denying that we have a problem.”
Hoboken has invested $12 million to upgrade the water main system, beginning with all the water mains along Washington Street and priority locations throughout the city. Zimmer also said she is currently negotiating a contract with Suez Water which she hopes will include payment for repairs and upgrades.
Zimmer said the agreement “includes $350,000 per year for repairs but nothing toward upgrading our water main system. I have made clear in our negotiations that one of the non-negotiable terms for me is at least a $1 million annual payment for repairs and upgrades to the city water main system, indexed for inflation. Hoboken would then be able to use these funds to finance approximately $20 million in improvements to our water system.”
The mayor also mentioned new open space in western Hoboken, including a 2-acre park and public gymnasium as part of the Seventh and Jackson Street project that broke ground Tuesday (see briefs), and 5-acre park on the former BASF site in northwest Hoboken that the city will begin planning this year. In the meantime the city hopes to open a temporary pop-up park on the cite this summer.
The city also plans to build a 1- or 2-acre Southwest Park, depending on whether they acquire private property.
All three parks will be built with green infrastructure and detention systems to hold back more than 1.5 million gallons of stormwater “to help deal with the increasingly severe storms our region faces, as well as any flash flooding that might exceed the capacity of our new pumps,” said Zimmer.
Zimmer noted municipal taxes will not increase this year.
“We are making a lot of progress as a community on many fronts, and I am very proud that Hoboken is growing stronger and stronger while also keeping taxes stable,” said Zimmer. “Thanks to some serious team effort, for the eighth straight budget under my administration, municipal taxes will remain stable as they have been since I took office in 2009. And we are doing it in a fiscally responsible way. Taking this city from junk bond status to a AA+ rating is one of my proudest accomplishments.”
“But at the end of the day, the most important thing about our city is the great quality of life that it provides our residents,” said Zimmer. “But working together as a community over the last 10 years, overcoming challenges like Sandy that I never could have imagined, we have made Hoboken an even greater place to live.”
She added, “Congratulations, Hoboken. Let’s be proud of our diversity, let’s be proud of our history of immigration, let’s be proud of our commitment to adapt to climate change, and our investments in infrastructure, and let’s keep working to make Hoboken stronger and stronger and stronger.”
At the annual ceremony, introductory remarks were given by Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro and new Stevens Institute of Technology Provost Christophe Pierre.
Chaparro said Zimmer, who is facing a reelection campaign this year, works to incorporate Hoboken’s diverse opinions.
“When you lead a city which is very diverse like ours, everyone has an opinion,” said Chaparro. “Not everyone agrees, but she has proven she wants to listen to everyone.”
Performances by the Garden Street School of the Performing Arts, and Hoboken High School Student Jeanne Cummins singing the National Anthem, preceded Zimmer’s address.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at email@example.com.