Feb. 3 at the virtual 7 p.m. Hoboken City Council meeting, the council was set to vote on a new settlement agreement with the developers of the controversial Monarch site.
On Feb. 2, Mayor Ravi Bhalla announced his administration and Ironstate Development had come to terms on a newly proposed settlement agreement to prevent two 11-story high-rises on Hoboken’s waterfront to be built.
The proposed agreement includes the transfer of 1.4 acres of undeveloped land at Eighth and Monroe streets to the city for public open space. That land is currently owned by Ironstate and zoned for a 10-story building.
As part of the proposed agreement, Ironstate would be permitted to develop a new, modern building at the site of the current Public Works garage on Observer Highway, which would include ground-floor commercial retail space.
The uptown waterfront Monarch property will also be transferred to the city as previously agreed.
“Not only will this newly revised settlement preserve and protect our waterfront from development, it also adds almost 1.5 acres of public, open space in West Hoboken that would have otherwise been developed as a residential building,” Bhalla said. “This deal is a win-win-win for Hoboken: preserving our waterfront, adding open space and adding commercial retail space while revitalizing an area of downtown Hoboken.”
“The Shipyard’s proposal to build the Monarch Towers would have privatized a portion of Hoboken’s waterfront that is otherwise public,” said Ron Hine, executive director of Fund for a Better Waterfront. “This settlement brings to an end a contentious, decade-long battle that has pitted a developer against the city, the Fund for a Better Waterfront and neighborhood residents. Instead of residential towers on a pier jutting into the Weehawken Cove, we now can look forward to a small park but more importantly an opportunity to complete a continuous, public park for the entire length of Hoboken’s riverfront.”
The new settlement
Under the new settlement, Ironstate would no longer need to build the city a new municipal garage at 256 Observer Hwy in exchange for transferring the city 1.4 acres of undeveloped land at Eighth and Monroe streets.
The proposed settlement agreement will also provide the city the option to fund a temporary municipal garage in northwest Hoboken with funds from the developer before the city identifies a permanent location for the garage in Hoboken’s North End.
If the council approves the proposed agreement, Hoboken and Ironstate would move forward with the negotiation of a Redevelopment Agreement which the city anticipates completing by summer.
That agreement would include all the project details for the mixed-use project on Observer Highway.
The revised parameters of the anticipated redevelopment agreement at 256 Observer Hwy. would include a building with ground-floor retail and without a municipal garage.
According to the city, that building would be in scale with neighboring buildings, and it would have no increase in density above what is currently permitted in the Municipal Garage Redevelopment Plan.
According to the city, the city and Ironstate would also conduct an environmental review of the land at Eighth and Monroe streets before a redevelopment agreement is adopted.
Once a redevelopment agreement is adopted, Ironstate will officially begin the process of transferring ownership of the Monarch and Eighth and Monroe properties to the city for the proposed purpose of public open space.
Third Ward Councilman Michael Russo called the revised deal one of “the biggest wins for the Third Ward.”
“Instead of a 10-story building blocking views and ruining one of the best remaining pieces of real estate, west Hoboken now has another important piece of planned open space for our residents and families to enjoy,” Russo said. “To say I’m overjoyed at this deal is an understatement. I am confident my council colleagues will unanimously adopt this plan.”
At Large Councilwoman Emily Jabbour said she too was “thrilled,” noting it would bring more open space to a heavily residential area of town.
“This area was transformed by the addition of park spaces at Seventh and Jackson – seeing how heavily utilized these spaces have already been, particularly during COVID, demonstrates that residents are seeking more open space,” she said. “This is a big win for the neighborhood and all of Hoboken.”
Fifth Ward Councilman Phil Cohen echoed their statements.
“Adding over an acre of public park space at Eighth and Monroe in addition to permanently securing the public right of access to our waterfront park on the 15th Street piers — replacing two planned 11-story residential towers on those piers — is great news for the residents of the Fifth Ward, who will have easy access to spectacular, new green spaces in our city,” he said.
First Ward Councilman Michael DeFusco, who represents the ward where the Observer Highway project would be built, said he too supported the majority of the plan but said the agreement wasn’t without flaws.
“As part of this, I am proud to have successfully advocated to move the DPW garage to a new location out of my neighborhood. This will be a great improvement to the quality of life downtown — reducing noise, pollution and carbon emissions, and ultimately paving the way for a more positive gateway to our transit hub,” DeFusco said. “However, it is not to say this agreement is without flaws. Currently, the garage is planned to be temporarily housed next to the new northwest park with no plans yet in place for a new, permanent garage. Further, the affordable housing component is woefully inadequate at a mere 11 percent, and if the mayor and his allies are serious about affordability, this is our opportunity to make a meaningful difference. This has been a decade-long community conversation, and while I support the agreement, I think it is fair to ask for more time to receive community feedback before a vote…”
Residents provided feedback at the virtual council meeting on Feb. 3.
For a copy of the proposed settlement agreement, click here.