At the Hoboken City Council meeting on Wednesday, the council revised the city’s flood ordinance (which regulates development in low-lying areas) so that some property owners who would have been forced to do away with their basement apartments if renovating – as a result of state laws enacted after Hurricane Sandy – can keep those apartments.
Also at the meeting, the council discussed a revised plan for the Northwest Resiliency Park, which will now include the coveted basketball courts. The council also looked at the proposed $118.6 city budget.
The council also considered new loading zones in residential areas, because of so many residents using delivery services (see sidebar).
Court space added to park concept
The City Council unanimously approved a new design for the Northwest Resiliency Park after listening to a presentation from the designers and engineers, including an updated design concept. The final park will be created on the site of the current temporary park at 12th and Adams streets.
Two weeks ago the group presented a concept design for the permanent park at a public meeting (See April 15 cover story “Proposal floated for NorthWest Park”) During the meeting several residents expressed disappointment that there was no court space (tennis, basketball, pickle ball etc.) included in the design, as they said the courts are heavily used in the existing temporary pop-up park.
The newest concept, revised since the last meeting, includes two in-ground half-basketball courts in the northwest corner of the park.
The courts will be sunken into the ground to help combat flooding in the area by temporarily retaining water during heavy rain events.
According to Director of Community Development Brandy Forbes, the city is looking to place pickle ball courts under the viaduct a few blocks away.
The council members suggested that the two half courts be turned into one full basketball court.
The design currently includes a multiuse athletic field, storm gardens, central terrace with café and meeting space, a fitness loop, and an open lawn, which could be used for events like movies under the stars.
Resident Hany Ahmed urged the council to be cautious of the city’s land constraints and stated that he believes residents want more passive open space to lie out and enjoy the sun.
“Look at the people crowded on the lawn of Pier A…” said Ahmed. “They are telling you something. They need open space they aren’t getting…We have limited land.”
He said the city already has active recreational spaces nearby including the athletic field at 1600 Park Ave., and basketball and soccer pitches under the viaduct a few blocks away. He said tennis courts could be built on the roofs of the city’s municipal garages for residents to use.
Two stop signs will be added at Eighth and Clinton streets.
Flood ordinance changes
The city council unanimously approved a final ordnance to change the city’s code entitled “flood damage prevention.”
After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the city passed laws stating that in certain low-lying areas, developers creating residential housing and property owners doing substantial renovations to their buildings could not have basement apartments. To compensate property owners with existing basement (or “garden”) apartments, are allowed to add an additional floor.
The council approved an ordinance removing two parts of town from what is considered the flood area for development purposes, so that these construction regulations don’t apply to homeowners in those areas.
The flood damage prevention chapter of the city code outlines rules for more resilient development. It also establishes what types of ground floor commercial properties can open in flood zones.
Some felt that the new guidelines were changing some neighborhoods unnecessarily, and that those areas didn’t flood during Sandy.
The ordinance change, sponsored by Councilwoman Jen Giattino and seconded by Councilman Michael DeFusco, removes the X and Shaded X zones from enforcement and will help preserve Hoboken’s character and scale in those areas, according to Giattino. Giattino represents the 6th Ward in the center of town.
The Resilient Building Design Guidelines were created in 2015.
“Clearly areas that are in the flood zone still have to comply with the flood ordinance but the X and Shaded X zones,” said Giattino. “None of them flooded during Sandy and it’s changing neighborhoods in ways that it doesn’t have to and it’s also making it difficult on residents who want to do more than 50 percent of renovation on their homes.”
Budget vote May 2
The council opened a public hearing on the proposed $118.6 million municipal budget, but no members of the public spoke.
The public hearing will continue during the next meeting on May 2. Then, the council will take a final vote on the spending plan (see previous cover story, “Budget climbs to $118.6M from March 25, on hudsonreporter.com.)
Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, who chairs the council’s Finance Subcommittee, said there have been some last-minute amendments to this year’s budget, but the changes will not increase taxes.
“We recommended some adjustments to the proposed budget but we were able to keep the tax rate the same,” said Fisher.
Fisher said some of the adjustments included adding funds to the Historic Preservation Committee and IT upgrades to certain departments like the rec department and rent control department.
Fisher explained that this year’s budget is tough because of a “dramatic increase in health care costs” for town employees.
The city is self insured, and although the actuary projected that healthcare costs would cost the city roughly $13 million last year, in actuality they were about $19 million “due to catastrophic type events” of roughly nine or 12 people. They could not have been predicted, Fisher said.
This year the budget includes $19 million for employee health insurance, including police and firefighters.
New stop signs, and loading zones in residential areas
The council unanimously introduced an ordinance to permit two new stop signs at the intersection of Clinton and Eighth streets for better safety in the area, as well as a 180-day pilot program for 17 residential loading zones throughout the city.
The loading zones are being contemplated because so many residents get deliveries these days, both of purchased items and food.
The program’s goal “is to reduce the demand and frequency of double parking, facilitate safe and orderly curbside loading in predominately residential areas, and improving street safety for all users.”
The loading zones will prevent people from parking in them during daytime hours, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, but can be used for street parking over night.
The temporary loading zones could take up an average of 30 feet and would be placed on the east side of Clinton Street near Tenth, Ninth, Seventh, and Sixth streets, on the south side of Eighth Street near Garden Street, on the east side of Park Avenue near Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth streets, on the south side of Sixth Street near Garden Street, on the east side of Garden Street near Tenth Street, on the west side of Garden Street near Seventh street, on the east side of Willow Avenue near Eighth, Sixth, Ninth streets and on the west side of Willow Avenue near Tenth Street.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at email@example.com.