Despite the fact that residents were told a vote would not take place to introduce amendments to the Hoboken Yards Redevelopment Plan, the city council introduced it anyway at the Nov. 6 council meeting, after moving to override Council President Giattino’s decision to pull it from the agenda.
“There were several members of the public that were here and came to speak on the issue during the public portion, and they have left because it was removed from the agenda. It was removed. They were told it was removed. Members of the public called [Deputy City Clerk] Jerry Lore, and he said it was removed,” said Council President Jen Giattino, stating members of the public should be given the opportunity to speak on the issue before the council voted on it.
But the council voted 5-3-1 to overrule Giattino’s decision to pull the ordinance after Councilman Michael Russo motioned to overrule the chair, which was seconded by Councilman Michael DeFusco.
Both council members sit on the council’s southern Community Development committee.
Council members Tiffanie Fisher, Peter Cunningham, and Giattino voted against the motion. Councilman Ruben Ramos, who also sits on the committee, abstained.
According to the council’s bylaws, the council president has the authority to remove items from the council agenda. According to Roberts Rules of Order, any board chair’s decision, in this case, the council president can be overruled by a simple majority.
DeFusco said that although he had asked for the president to pull the introductory ordinance that he felt comfortable with its reintroduction given that the community would be able to speak on the project at a community meeting, at a planning board meeting on Dec. 3, and before the council votes on second reading at its Dec. 5 meeting.
The Hoboken Yards Redevelopment plan was first approved in 2014 and dictates how a development primarily south of Observer Highway on NJ Transit’s property could be developed. NJ Transit and Hoboken have designated LCOR as the redeveloper for the site.
20 years in the making
The Hoboken Yards area was declared an Area in Need of Redevelopment in February 2007.
In 2011, the city began to prepare a redevelopment plan for the site which included public input in the form of community meetings, stakeholder meetings, and surveys.
In September 2012 a draft plan was created, but it was never adopted because Super Storm Sandy struck soon after. The hurricane made the city consider additional issues such as flood prevention. A Redevelopment Plan was officially adopted in December 2014.
This year, in September, the council voted to introduced new amendments to the plan proposed by the Bhalla administration.
The proposed amendments would decrease the overall size of the proposed development by about one million square feet.
The original plan included buildings on an area which will now have a roughly 12-foot-high flood wall as part of the state’s Rebuild By Design plan, which aims to protect the city from flooding caused by storm surges.
The amendments also change what was to be nine development sites to four development sites; a roughly 300-foot-tall office building near Hudson Place and Hudson Street; a 330-foot-tall residential building south of Observer Highway between Washington and Bloomfield Streets; and a 145-foot-tall office building south of Observer Highway east of Henderson Street.
The fourth site is an area that now includes a 12-foot high flood wall. This fourth site is designated “future potential development.”
According to the amendments, 68 percent of the development area will be offices, about 29 percent will be residential, and 4 percent will be retail. Under the 2014 plan, 67 percent was to be office space, 25 percent was to be residential, and 6 percent was to be retail.
The amendments also reduce the open space requirements from 4.5 acres to 1.45 acres.
The council never approved these amendments because they wanted more community input.
After a community meeting in October the administration made changes to the plan to better incorporate community feedback.
Most notably, the newest amendments the council introduced in a 6-3 vote at the Nov. 6 meeting now eliminate site four which would now be called “RBD/ NJT Constrained Area—No Build Zone.” Council members Giattino, Cunningham, and Fisher voted ‘no.’
According to council documents, the area will now be limited to public open space such as walking trails, an active or passive park, or public art space.
The amendments also add the word “minimum” to the 10 percent affordable housing set-aside requirements, and includes language that gives the city control over the designs of the planned building, which will be addressed in the Redevelopment Agreement that will also require a shadow study to be conducted.
According to DeFusco, the developers of the project have tentatively scheduled a community meeting for Nov. 25 at the Hoboken train terminal at 7 p.m. at which time the traffic impact study and the plan amendments will be discussed.