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City’s Master Plan reexamination survey ignores important areas


Dear Editor:

Many Hoboken citizens have received the City’s invitation to a survey regarding the Master Plan Reexamination. We are very concerned that it does not, in a meaningful way, cover a wide variety of issues that are important to us and many in the community.
In many ways, it feels like a “transportation survey” and a “rental apartment assessment survey”. Both have roles in creating the new Master Plan, but a survey so limited in focus should not receive appreciable weight in the Master Plan Reexamination. We are concerned that the survey “leads the witness” by the limited number of areas explored and the specific multiple-choice answers offered.
The cover note asks us to help identify “what assets the City should protect over the next 10 years” and what should be the “key priorities” in the Master Plan Reexammination. Those are valid requests. Ours include the following, many of which receive no or minimal coverage in the survey:

  • The mostly reasonable scale of this City
  • Lower building heights than found in many other, congested sections of the New York City metropolitan area
  • The historic nature of many of our structures and neighborhoods
  • The presence of mid-block green spaces, benefiting the surrounding buildings.

These ideas should be explored with the wider public:

  • Addition and expansion of historic districts
  • Landmark status to more buildings
  • New measures to protect “the donut” — encouraging within-the-block, well-planted, green, water-absorbent areas
  • Limiting building add-ons
  • Tight controls and use of neighborhood-compatible materials on new facades
  • Encouraging stoops and other architectural elements that fit a neighborhood
  • When added height is permitted, use of step-backs to allow more light to reach sidewalks, streets and backyards

Sadly, none of these approaches are surfaced in the survey. The existing survey also asked about size incentives in exchange for higher LEED certification levels. Green should be a given, not a negotiating tactic.
The City should add such questions and action alternatives to a subsequent
survey to better inform the Reexamination process. To do less is to ignore
the enduring qualities that have kept so many here, while attracting others to the
Mile Square City.

Terry Pranses
Member, Responsible Development Alliance (“RDA”) of Hoboken

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