The Hoboken City Council adopted an ordinance to protect tenants in rent-controlled units from rent increases during their virtual meeting on April 15. The council also adopted amendments to the Western Edge Redevelopment Plan and an ordinance permitting religious institutions to use feathered flag signs.
The council adopted an ordinance to freeze rents at rent-controlled units with an 8-0-1 vote. Council President Jen Giattino abstained.
According to the ordinance, in light of these financial hardships residents face due to the ongoing public health emergency and the governor’s moratorium on eviction proceedings, “The city has determined that the regulation, control and stability of rents is best served by placing an immediate, temporary moratorium on all rent increases until no later than two months following the end of the [city’s] state of emergency.”
The ordinance prevents any increase in the amount paid in rent or any additional charges to tenants, including but not limited to charges for parking, pets, the use of furniture, security deposits, and damage and cleaning deposits.
After the moratorium on rent increases ends, a landlord will be able to increase the rent and surcharges to levels that would have otherwise been permitted under law. Future increases in rent and surcharges will be permissible and calculated as if the moratorium never occurred.
During public comments, resident Tony Soares voiced his opposition to the ordinance. He said it was “favoritism to a specific group for political gain” and put a hardship on landlords.
He claimed landlords are getting calls from tenants saying that they aren’t going to pay rent due to the governor’s moratorium on evictions.
The council adopted an ordinance amending the Western Edge Redevelopment plan that would allow the city to negotiate with developers for a new recreational facility and community pool in exchange for additional building heights and other allowances.
The amendments specifically establish parameters for maximum bonus development in the Jefferson Street Subarea of the Western Edge Redevelopment Plan, including up to five additional stories on all buildings.
If the developer contributes to the recreation facility, the city could grant a bonus floor area ratio which would increase the height up to 166 feet for mixed-use buildings with residential and up to a maximum of 176 feet for non-residential mixed-use buildings.
If non-automated self-parking is utilized and greater than 90 percent of total parking, the allowable height could increase up to a maximum of 186 feet for mixed-use buildings with residential, and up to a maximum of 196 feet for nonresidential mixed-use buildings.
A bonus floor area ratio may also increase the allowable height for a hotel in the Jefferson Street sub-area up to a maximum of 216 feet, but not more than 15 stories over one story of parking or retail space.
As for parking in the Jefferson Street sub-area, the redevelopment plan currently allows for 207 residential units. The amendment for bonus development for contributing to the community pool public benefit would allow a maximum of 150 additional units. These units would not be subject to the parking requirement meaning, that the total parking requirement for the entire development of a maximum of 357 units would be 207 parking spaces.
Resident Leslie Howard said she felt the project was “very much out of scale” with the neighborhood south of the 14th Street Viaduct.
She said she was concerned not only for the shadows the buildings would cast but also the increased density and traffic directly adjacent to the city’s North West Park currently under construction.
Amanda Davenport said the are already had massive flooding issues and said the increased density would exacerbate the problem.
“We are discussing a 23 story building for a pool. Are you kidding me?,” she said.
Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher said she struggled with the fact the city was voting on the ordinance now while the community was in the midst of a public health crisis. She questioned why the administration had not put out a Nixle alert to alert the public of the impending vote, saying that it looks like they are hiding the action from the public.
She said the plan would effectively allow a 12 story hotel to almost double in size to 23 stories, and for two residential buildings to increase from 11 stories to 16 stories.
She said the city has not had an economic analysis completed with reference to the height increase and potential economic impact, or an analysis of the potential impacts of the additional density in the area.
Ultimately, the council voted 7-2 to approve the amendments with Councilman Jim Doyle and Councilwoman Fisher voting against the measure.
Feathered flag signs
Religious institutions in Hoboken will now be permitted to use feathered flag signs despite the city’s Planning Board ruling that it was inconsistent with the city’s master plan, according to Councilman Jim Doyle, who is a member of the board.
The ordinance permits religious institutions to use the signs for a maximum of 60 days a year.
Giattino said currently some religious institutions already use the signs and are not fined for their use, so allowing all of them to use the signage would ensure equal treatment.
Doyle said the ordinance was discriminatory because other non-profits are not permitted to use feather flag signs.
“I just wish members of the council take discrimination seriously and vote against this,” said Doyle.
Councilman Phil Cohen said the city’s master plan recognizes feather flag signs as “ugly” and said the ordinance “smacks of favoritism to me.”
Giattino questioned which organizations were getting special treatment when some institutions already use the flags now.
“Rome is burning and we are talking about feathered flags,” said Councilman Michael Russo urging the council to move on. “We are talking about feather flags when people can’t leave their homes. Are we serious right now? If you don’t agree, vote no, if you do agree, vote yes. Move on.”
The council voted 6-3 in favor of the ordinance. Councilmen Doyle and Cohen and Councilwoman Emily Jabbour voted against the measure.