Next year, The Hoboken Business Alliance will begin new initiatives to stimulate the city’s business community and help revitalize the local economy now that the City Council had adopted the $1.3 million 2020 operating budget for the citywide Special Improvement District.
“I’m thrilled that for the first time, Hoboken will now have dedicated resources to assist our small businesses through the adoption of the Hoboken Business Alliance’s budget,” said Mayor Ravi Bhalla after the 8-1 vote. “Special Improvement Districts are a proven way to help revitalize local economies, and I have no doubt that our community will benefit from this dedicated funding source.”
Business Administrator Stephen Marks, several members of the business community, and Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher sit on the board of the Hoboken Business Alliance that oversees the SID.
“This is 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,” said Fisher. “Our local businesses are the backbone of Hoboken’s economy and at the heart of what attracts people to live in and visit our urban village. This result could not have happened without the input, efforts, and commitment of many.”
An ordinance adopting the Special Improvement District was passed by the City Council and signed into law by Mayor Bhalla in July.
The SID will encompass all of Hoboken. The money to fund the budget will be collected through an assessment paid by the property owners of commercial or mixed-use developments, as well as rental buildings with five or more units.
The assessment is billed and collected by the municipal government and disbursed by the SID management corporation, The Hoboken Business Alliance (HBA), which delivers the district’s supplemental services, such as marketing plans or additional trash removal. Failure to pay would result in a property lien.
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.
According to the budget, the majority of funds will be spent on visual improvements like plantings, street furniture, seasonal decorations, and supplementary cleaning of streets and transportation centers.
Funds will also be used for a retail market analysis toward attracting business and major events as well as for branding and marketing, and the general administration of the SID.
Not all on board
Before the council voted to adopt the budget, Councilman Michael Russo questioned why the entire city was part of the SID, calling the decision arbitrary. He said that including certain residential properties was done only to generate enough funds from the assessment to get the operating budget the HBA wanted.
He said he didn’t believe all the properties that would be assessed would receive a “direct benefit” from the SID, noting he had originally requested that the Third Ward, which he represents, be removed from the district.
Fisher said that nothing about the decision was arbitrary, noting that a steering committee of business and property owners, herself, Marks, and a consultant had been working on designing the SID for two years.
She said many of those discussions were about whether or not to create a citywide SID or smaller neighborhood SIDs, but ultimately the committee decided a citywide SID made sense because everyone will benefit from its initiatives.
She noted that properties that would receive less of a benefit will pay a smaller assessment than properties on Washington Street that would receive a more obvious benefit.
According to council documents, there would be a 3.3 percent assessment on Washington Street properties, while properties in the “gateway south” sub-district in southwestern Hoboken would see a 0.81 percent assessment.
“I don’t feel there is anything arbitrary about this,” Fisher said.
Russo was the only dissenting vote.