Spending big bucks

Council addresses park funding, pub crawls, and affordable housing

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Construction on the Northwest Resiliency Park will begin in August.
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Councilman Michael DeFusco introduced an ordinance to help cover the cost of bar crawls in the city.
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Construction on the Northwest Resiliency Park will begin in August.
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Councilman Michael DeFusco introduced an ordinance to help cover the cost of bar crawls in the city.

The Hoboken City Council voted unanimously to introduce an ordinance to fund the construction of the Northwest Resiliency Park, which will become the city’s largest park.

The ordinance would allow the city to issue a bond for $53,588,000 for the park’s construction, which is expected to begin in late August.

The council also introduced an ordinance, which would create a fund for cleanup costs related to annual bar crawls such as LepreCon, as well as an ordinance which would increase the number of affordable housing units in some new developments.

The park

The Northwest Resiliency Park will be the city’s largest. It’s bounded by Madison Street to the west, Adams Street to the east, 13th Street to the north, and 12th Street to the south. It also includes a portion of the 1100 block of Madison Street south of 12th Street.

Currently, the Northwest Resiliency Park space is used by residents as a temporary popup park, opened in August of 2017.

“Hoboken is one step closer to building our five-acre Northwest Park, which will provide much needed open space amenities and flood resiliency to our city,” said Mayor Ravi Bhalla in a statement. “This park will become a model for the rest of the state, with modern park features including an ice-skating rink, open lawn space, a pavilion, playground equipment, field space, among others, in addition to above- and below-ground flood infrastructure. Thank you to the city council for the 9-0 vote to advance this critical project forward.”

The design team for the Northwest Resiliency Park gathered information from residents through an online survey and through public sessions held throughout the city. After collecting community feedback, the team created a final concept.

The design was presented by the project team to the council on Wednesday, March 6. In addition to the recreational facilities, it will also store roughly one million gallons of storm water to help mitigate flooding.

During the meeting, Councilman Michael Russo questioned the cost of the park stating that the council was not told the park would cost more than $90 million when they were originally approached about purchasing the property for the park.

The city purchased the property for $36 million in 2016 from BASF, a chemical company. The purchase was financed by a state low-interest loan and Hoboken’s Open Space Trust Fund, which comes from property taxes.

In the summer of 2017, Hoboken opened the temporary popup park which currently sits on five acres and cost roughly $650,000 from the county Open Space Trust Fund.

“It’ll be beautiful when it’s done. It’ll be phenomenal, but it wasn’t presented as a $90 million-plus park.” — Michael Russo

If the final reading of the bond ordinance passes, another $54 million would be spent to construct the park.

“When we started this process the former mayor came to council and said we would acquire this land for $10 million and the build-out would be $30 million,” Russo said. “That was a total pie-in-the-sky conversation we had at this council table, and that was a bill of goods sold to the people of this city. I want to make sure everyone understands we are literally talking about $90 million-plus for this park. It’ll be beautiful when it’s done. It’ll be phenomenal, but it wasn’t presented as a $90 million-plus park.”

Councilwoman Jen Giattino noted that the city will be able to pay down the bonding for the next four years using the Open Space Trust Fund.

Business Administrator Steven Marks said that the city is using the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust to fund the majority of the project, which on the first 75 percent of the loan is at 0 percent interest; the remaining 25 percent is at 1 percent interest for the next 30 years.

The final reading for the Northwest Park bond ordinance is scheduled for the next city council meeting on Wednesday, March 20, at 7 p.m. at city hall, 94 Washington St.

 Cleaning up Con

In the wake of the annual LepreCon bar crawl, which occurred on Saturday, March 2, First Ward Councilman Michael DeFusco sponsored a new ordinance that would require liquor establishments that promote or participate in pub crawls to get a Pub Crawl Event Permit from the city.

“Bar crawls will continue whether we like them or not, but it’s long overdue that we stop dropping the bill on taxpayers.” — Michael DeFusco

“Taxpayers have long hoped to recoup tax dollars spent on policing and cleaning up after bar crawls like Santa-con and Lepre-con,” DeFusco said in a statement. “An overwhelming majority of bar owners are responsible partners and have looked to work with the city to contribute to a fund that would help support quality of life in downtown Hoboken. However, the administration has been unwilling to have productive conversations. Bar crawls will continue whether we like them or not, but it’s long overdue that we stop dropping the bill on taxpayers.”

As currently written, the introductory ordinance would require organizers to apply for the permit; the fee varies depending on the number of participants.

It also would require organizers to submit paperwork including approval from the Police Department, Fire Department, Department of Environmental Services, and the Business Director; an operational plan, security plan, a cleanup maintenance plan, and more.

Organizers who fail to adhere to the plans outlined in the application would be prohibited from getting a future pub crawl permit and could be penalized with jail time for no more than 90 days, community service for no more than 90 days, or be fined up to $2,000.

Affordable housing

Councilwoman Vanessa Falco, who chairs the council’s subcommittee on affordable housing, introduced an ordinance that would increase the number of affordable housing units in new developments.

The ordinance, if passed on final reading, would increase the percentage of affordable housing units in new developments from 10 percent to 15 percent.

The 15 percent would be triggered by any development over 11 residential units.

It also establishes income limits to determine eligibility for affordable housing and sets rent increases for existing affordable housing.

For updates on this and other stories check http://www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.