The City Council at their meeting on Wednesday moved to approve a $5.3 million appraisal for around an acre of property currently owned by Academy Bus, which the city wants to add to the Southwest Park. The introduction of an ordinance accepting the appraisal doesn’t mean the price is agreed to by both parties, but may help clarify further negotiations for the land.
The council also reduced the speed limit along Sinatra Drive, added No Turn On Red signs to certain corners, and introduced an ordinance to restore a Green Team Subcommittee dedicated to addressing climate change.
A proclamation issued by Mayor Dawn Zimmer was read at the meeting that established Small Business Saturday on Nov. 25.
The proclamation urges Hoboken residents to support small businesses and merchants on Nov. 25 and throughout the year.
Will there be a higher offer for the parkland?
The council approved the introduction of the appraisal ordinance 8-0, with Councilman Ruben Ramos absent. The second appraisal for the land conducted by Federal Appraisal and Consulting established the fair market value of the property at $5.3 million, a higher amount from the city’s first appraisal of $3.97 million, according to city spokesman Juan Melli.
“That’s a step in the right direction,” said David Lehmkuhl, vice president of real estate for Academy Bus, which owns the land.
He added that once the council approves of the ordinance, Academy Bus’s own appraiser will evaluate it and determine their own appraisal.
In the past, the company has said the property is worth $13 million. It has offered a settlement if they can develop part of their remaining property into high density mixed use buildings, but the city has not taken them up on this.
The existing Southwest Park is a small, triangle-shaped 1-acre piece of land with passive space, rain gardens, café tables, and a dog run.
In February the City Council approved the use of eminent domain for the land if necessary.
Rules of the road
The council unanimously approved an amendment to the city’s Vehicle and Traffic code to reduce the speed limit on Sinatra Drive from 35 mph to 25 mph and to add No Turn On Red signs to several city corners.
Right hand turns during a red light will now be prohibited at the intersection of Fourth and River streets, Third and River streets, Second and River streets, First and River streets, Hudson Place and River Street, and Observer Highway and Jackson Street.
The ordinance amendment notes that studies show that “the likelihood of a pedestrian being severely injured in a collision with a motor vehicle increases from approximately 28 percent at 25 mph zone to greater than 60 percent at 35 mph zones.”
It also notes that Hoboken has “some of the highest pedestrian volumes in the state of New Jersey,” which is why they are implementing the safety measures.
Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher asked whether new signs would be posted to indicate the law change and warn residents. Director Ryan Sharp of the Department of Transportation and Parking confirmed they will be.
Combating climate change
An introductory ordinance sponsored by Councilman Ravi Bhalla and seconded by Council President Jennifer Giattino was passed 8-0 (Ruben Ramos was absent) to help the city combat climate change.
This may seem odd to some, as the two council people are opponents in the upcoming mayoral election, and Mayor Dawn Zimmer recently charged that Giattino doesn’t believe climate change is an urgent issue requiring government action. Giattino has disputed this. Zimmer has endorsed her opponent, Bhalla.
If passed on second reading, the ordinance would permit the city to endorse a city wide mobilization to attempt carbon –neutrality by 2027 and initiate an effort to reduce and remove green house gas emissions.
The city would conduct a community wide greenhouse gas emissions inventory and create a subcommittee within the city’s green team, and representatives from The Climate Mobilization, a grassroots environmental advocacy group, which would devise a plan to achieve community-wide carbon- neutrality by the end of 2027.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.