Hoboken Special Improvement District approved

Bhalla: 'This will be a game changer for our city'

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It's hoped that people will visit Hoboken and support its businesses.
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The Special Improvement District is designed to stimulate economic growth and development. This could mean fewer empty storefronts.
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It's hoped that people will visit Hoboken and support its businesses.
  2 / 2 
The Special Improvement District is designed to stimulate economic growth and development. This could mean fewer empty storefronts.

The Hoboken City Council has voted to create a Special Improvement District (SID) to stimulate economic development throughout the city. Through this measure, passed 8-1 on July 10 with Councilman Michael Russo opposed, the council will create the city’s first and possibly only SID, since draft plans incorporate the entire city as the district.

Local business and property owners and SID Steering Committee members Armando Luis, Eugene Flinn, and Donna Garban were appointed by the council as the incorporating officers for the new District Management Corporation that will manage the SID.

Next, a board will be selected, bylaws of the SID will be written, and a draft budget will be created and presented to the council for approval. Currently, that budget is anticipated to be $1.35 million.

“The formation of Hoboken’s first ever Special Improvement District demonstrates our firm commitment to helping our small businesses thrive in our city,” said Mayor Ravi Bhalla. “The SID has been a proven way to help revitalize commercial corridors across New Jersey, and will play an important role in promoting economic growth and support to our local small business owners. This will be a game changer for our city, and I thank all the members of the SID formation committee for moving this forward.”

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, who represented the council on the steering committee, called the SID approval a “historic moment for Hoboken that will bring the necessary focus and resources for the first time in over a decade to grow our local economy.”

She called local businesses the backbone of the economy and said they are what attracts people to live in and visit Hoboken.

“Last night’s vote resets the trajectory for Hoboken, and establishes what I am confident will be a strong partnership between our local commercial property and business owners and our local government going forward,” she said.

Not all convinced

During a roughly two-hour public hearing on the SID at the July 10 council meeting, members of the business community, property owners, members of the SID steering committee, and council people spoke for and against the SID.

While some agreed that it would stimulate business and make Hoboken a place where people want to shop and visit, some residents and property owners questioned why they needed to pay into the SID through a yearly assessment and what that money would be used for.

Councilman Russo proposed an amendment asking for the Third Ward, which he represents, to be removed from the SID. He said he did not agree with the assessment that would be taken from properties zoned 4C, residential buildings with five or more units.

“So far I haven’t heard one direct specific benefit for that eight-family home, owned or occupied,” Russo said. “Why are we asking, as a city, those people to pay for something that they won’t get?”

Stuart Koperweis, the SID’s economic consultant hired by the city, said that residents will have quality-of-life and experiential benefits such as cleaner, more beautiful sidewalks and streets, and that Hoboken will be a better and happier place, noting “all boats rise with the tide.”

Funds to pay for SID programs and services are generated from a special assessment paid by the property owners of commercial or mixed-use developments, as well as rental buildings with five or more units. Those are properties zoned as 4A, 4B, and 4C under New Jersey’s Property Tax System Qualification Codes.

The assessment is billed and collected by the municipal government and then disbursed by the SID management corporation, The Hoboken Business Alliance, Inc., which delivers the district’s supplemental services, such as marketing plans or additional trash removal.

The assessment will vary from year to year, based on the district’s goals for the year, the services rendered in a specific area, where the property is located, and the yearly budget.

“Before we call a vote, I’m asking my colleagues to allow an amendment to remove the Third Ward from the SID, and I’m asking all of you to vote in favor of that so that I can govern the Third Ward as the residents in that ward are asking me to do,” Russo said. “I’m asking you to support that. I would do the same for all of you if your residents came to you … most of the people who came here tonight are Third Warders, people saying they don’t want to be included in this, and multiple residents have called me and emailed me to say no to the SID.”

His amendment failed 2-7, with only Councilwoman Emily Jabbour joining him to vote in its favor.

During the meeting, Fisher said that the steering committee and management corporation could address concerns before the SID is officially finalized. Several council people, including council members Peter Cunningham and Jabbour, noted that further public meetings would be held before the council would pass the budget.

For updates on this and other stories keep checking www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com