The Hoboken City Council approved of new zoning creating the University District, which encompasses most of Stevens Institute of Technology. The designation will allow Stevens to develop their land more easily without having to go before city boards for variances.
One new planned development includes a new student center and housing towers on the cliffs.
Roughly 25 members of the Hoboken community spoke at a special meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 15, including Stevens alums, faculty, neighboring residents, and government officials. The majority of speakers were in favor of the new zoning.
The council was also to vote on an introductory ordinance for a new waterfront district, which encompasses the Stevens’ parking lot and Griffith building, but it was pulled from the agenda.
Several members of the public said they had wanted the waterfront property owned by the university to be included in the new University District when it was first proposed in July. The council’s response was to create a subsequent ordinance encompassing the land.
Councilman Michael DeFusco, who sponsored that ordinance, asked that it be pulled from the agenda to make changes. He said it will probably be back on the agenda in September.
“I don’t think Hoboken is the proper space to expand.”—Barbara Gross
The University District includes four subareas, a change from the originally proposed July ordinance, which contained only three.
One subarea is the Castle Point Sub-Area, encompassing the institute’s four tennis courts and their northern parking lot abutting Elysian Park to the north. This subarea’s purpose is to limit development in the northerly portion of campus to maintain the surrounding residential community. Here only small structures can be built, such as a tennis shed, which can be a maximum of 13 feel tall.
The Transition Sub-Area extends from Hudson Street to about Castle Point Terrace from Fifth Street to Eighth Street. The purpose of the Transition Sub-Area is to create a buffer between the residential areas of Hudson Street and Castle Point Terrace and the campus. The maximum building height would be 40 feet.
The Edge Sub-Area is on the southeastern portion of campus abutting the cliffs bound by Sinatra Drive. There, building height is the tallest and cannot exceed 160 feet accept for two new housing towers which can be 225 feet tall. This is a change from the original ordinance, which set the maximum building height for all buildings in the area at 225 feet.
The Core Sub-Area takes up the majority of campus and extends roughly from Fifth Street almost to Tenth Street. Here the building height can be no more than 120 feet.
The ordinance also provides a new definition of impervious coverage meaning any type of man made surface that doesn’t absorb rainfall such as rooftops, patios, driveways, which now also includes sidewalks.
It is “much more limiting for Stevens” said Beth McGrath the university’s vice president for government and community relations, referring to the new definition of impervious coverage. She said this will force the university to use green infrastructure.
The ordinance also includes annual “parking and transportation demand management” reporting starting in 2019 with the goal of reducing traffic, pollution, and congestion. Stevens must implement strategies to reduce single occupancy vehicle trips in Hoboken by encouraging mass transit or other alternatives such as biking, walking, or preferential parking for low-emission vehicles.
Stevens alums, faculty, Hoboken residents, and a local official addressed the council.
Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro supports the new zoning that includes the two 225-foot tall dorms the University has planned. The average story is about 10 feet, meaning the dorms could be roughly 20 stories high.
She said the university has been a great neighbor to the community, noting their volunteerism in the city. She said moving the students back to campus would provide them with more supervision and make it easier on campus police.
Stevens alum and resident Cara Napolitano said that students want to live on campus because otherwise it makes it difficult for them to be involved in campus life including clubs, sports, and other activities.
Resident John Khadem said he supports the ordinance because it would help get Stevens shuttles off the street. Students living off campus take the shuttles.
Resident Claire Lukas said she was concerned about keeping the green space in Stevens, as did Resident Sylvia Schwartz who said the green space on campus was important to her as it’s good for students’ mental health.
But resident Barbara Gross said she was concerned with Stevens’ plans to grow enrollment. According to the Stevens website, Stevens had 3,123 undergraduate students and 3,793 graduate students in 2017.
“We live in a mile-square city and the fourth most densely populated city in the U.S.,” she said. “I don’t think Hoboken is the proper space to expand.” She suggested a satellite campus elsewhere.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.