The Hoboken City Council adopted a last-minute addition to the agenda on Jan. 6 opposing the proposed Palisade Cliffs Protection Act.
The act introduced on Dec. 10, aims to limit the height of any development below the cliffs east of Palisade Avenue in Hudson and Bergen counties. Palisade Avenue extends from Jersey City in Hudson County to Fort Lee in Bergen County and would impact 10 municipalities between the two counties.
Under the bill, no structures, including those with mechanical elements on top, could be higher than ten feet below the cliffs, or ten feet below Palisade Avenue.
The amended bill “would protect the views enjoyed by residents who live in the historic neighborhoods above the cliffs, and preserve the topographical features and the natural character of the Palisades.”
State Senators Brian Stack and Nicholas Sacco introduced it.
Stack represents District 33, which encompasses Union City, Weehawken, Hoboken, and parts of Jersey City. Sacco represents District 32, which includes North Bergen, West New York, Secaucus, Kearny, Edgewater, and Fairview. Stack is also mayor of Union City, and Sacco is also mayor of North Bergen.
Hoboken council members say the state legislation conflicts with New Jersey’s “home rule” government, which allows municipalities to self-govern and make laws pertaining to development within their borders.
Hoboken cries foul
According to the council, the act would limit Hoboken’s control over its land use, which could negatively impact all economic, housing, and public safety decisions going forward.
“These bills will devastate Hoboken for the benefit of just a few property owners in Union City,” said Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, co-sponsor of the resolution. “Hoboken partners with developers on redevelopments that often include developer-funded infrastructure and resiliency upgrades, municipal and educational investments, and transportation improvements. These proposed bills do not protect against overdevelopment or even the character of Hoboken. What they do is put the full burden of paying for critical upgrades solely on the backs of Hoboken taxpayers.”
Hoboken ands Edgewater are the only municipalities east of the Palisades in their entirety.
“Hoboken only has 1.4 square miles, and we have to work resourcefully within these land constraints to address the needs of our growing population,” said Councilwoman Jen Giattino, also a co-sponsor of the resolution. “New Jersey is a home rule state, and Hoboken’s future should not be determined by anyone other than the residents of Hoboken and the city leaders they elect.”
According to the resolution, the act threatens the feasibility of plans that would promote economic development, create jobs, reduce pollution, increase affordable housing, expand education opportunities, fund critical investments and amenities, and improve the quality of life for Hoboken residents.
Fisher said it puts several plans, already in the works, at risk, including the redevelopment of the Department of Public Works garage, the redevelopment of N.J. Transit’s Lackawanna Terminal and Hoboken rail yards, the local investments required for North Hudson Sewerage Authority’s Long Term Control Plan, the revitalization of the Hoboken Housing Authority’s main campus, and Stevens Institute of Technology’s Strategic Plan.
The two councilwomen pointed out the “irony” of the act’s intent to “preserve the views and topography features of the Palisades” given “the recent practices in the towns of each of the sponsoring Senators/Mayors where portions of the Palisades have literally been gutted entirely to accommodate projects built directly into the same cliffs these bills state they are trying to protect.”
One such project, according to Fisher, is the Hoboken Heights development in Union City.
The resolution will be sent to the mayors of the towns that are directly impacted by the proposed legislation, including Alpine, Edgewater, Englewood Cliffs, Guttenberg, Fort Lee, Jersey City, Tenafly, Weehawken, and West New York.
Councilmembers Michael DeFusco, Emily Jabbour and Ruben Ramos voted in favor of the resolution. Councilman Michael Russo voted against the resolution, stating he wished to first speak with the bill’s sponsors and see if a compromise could be reached.
Councilmen Jim Doyle and Phil Cohen abstained, stating that they had not had the chance to read the resolution or the bills pertaining to the act as they were sent during the council meeting.
Fisher said the resolution was last minute because she had just recently heard that the bill could go before committee as soon as Jan. 14.
During the same meeting, the council elected new leadership.
Hoboken 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos will now serve as the city council president with former council president Jen Giattino serving as his vice president.
“That’s a pleasant, I don’t know what to say, thank you I guess?” Ramos laughed after the 5-3 vote to approve his nomination. Councilmembers Phil Cohen, Jim Doyle, and Emily Jabbour voted against his nomination, and Councilwoman Vanessa Falco was absent.
“I appreciate your confidence, and I’ll do the best I can,” Ramos said.
Giattino’s nomination as vice president was adopted unanimously, 8-0.
Ramos has held elected office for roughly 20 years serving on the city council in at-large and ward seats and in the New Jersey General Assembly representing the 33rd legislative district.
He may again seek to be mayor; he filed a D1 form creating the “Ramos for Mayor” committee on Dec. 2 with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.
He ran for mayor in 2013 against incumbent Mayor Dawn Zimmer but lost the election.