Residents of southern Hoboken bashed a proposed development at a virtual public meeting hosted by the city council after the city’s director of community development and the project architect presented the proposal.
The proposal at 83 Willow Ave, a subarea of the city’s Public Works Redevelopment Plan, would construct an 11-story mixed-use building on a current parking lot at the intersection of Newark Avenue and Willow Avenue.
The ground floor would be retail space, a residential lobby, and a garage entrance on Newark Avenue with a garage exit on Willow Avenue.
An elevator would then take vehicles to the second, third, or fourth floor, which would consist of 72 parking spaces: 51 spaces reserved for two nearby condo buildings and 21 spaces, including three handicap spaces, for residents of 83 Willow.
The seven stories atop the garage would consist of 42 rental units, including four affordable housing units on the fifth floor and a luxury penthouse on the top floor.
The building would take up 100 percent lot coverage.
Residents who spoke during the meeting primarily criticized the project’s height, noting that the area is zoned residential, R-1 specifically, which requires building heights not to surpass 40 feet or three stories.
“Let me just say right off the bat I’m a little disappointed,” said Michael Johnson, president of the condo association at 84 Willow. “We had two meetings thus far, and we’ve been very vocal that – and not only us but a lot of the surrounding community- we believe an 11- story structure is not appropriate for the area. You mentioned that you’ve been working with the community, but I don’t believe that’s true. We’ve provided suggestions and gotten back the same proposal.”
He noted that area residents who attended the previous public meetings suggested seven or eight stories and perhaps eliminating the ground floor retail.
Resident Ron Hine said he believes the existing “scale of the neighborhood needs to be maintained.”
Several residents challenged assertions that the project would not be economically viable at a lower height.
‘Scar the nighborhood’
“That is not a good reason to scar the neighborhood and dump the zoning laws,” said resident Steve Dunn who added it would “stick out like a sore thumb.”
According to John Nastasti, architect for the project, one of the challenges the developer faces is the deed restriction which requires the developer to provide 51 parking spaces to two neighboring buildings.
He said this is in part what increases the height of the building.
Neighborhood resident Karthik Ramachandran said “sorry not my problem,” noting that the owner of the property was aware of the parking requirement before purchasing it.
Jennifer Alexander, an attorney representing the Jefferson Trust Condo Association, echoed many of the same concerns on behalf of her client and voiced concerns about potential congestion, noting there was no traffic study presented to the public.
She also questioned the proposal’s parking set-aside for future tenants of the building.
“Although I can appreciate public transportation is nearby, people still love their cars, and I don’t see how 18 spots will be enough for 42 residential units,” she said.
Other residents requested shadow studies to understand the effects the building will have on sunlight toward the north and east because the architect presented a shadow study only to the west.
April Harris questioned the need for more “luxury development … when the greatest need is for more affordable housing.”
Jason Tuvel, an attorney for the developer, said they would be willing to do a traffic study, noting that typically occurs when the developer submits a site plan before the planning board.
He said the developer “doesn’t pick the size of the building out of thin air,” noting that the developer has to submit a financial proforma for the city to review and a financial analysis is done.
Councilman Michael DeFusco who chairs the council’s subcommittee on southern development, said the project will continue to be reviewed by his subcommittee.
An ordinance on the redevelopment plan amendments, which would allow the project to beconstructed, would have to be introduced by the council at a future meeting. The planning board will then review it for Master Plan consistency before the council would hear it for a vote on second and final reading.