After years of litigation, Hoboken and the developers of the controversial Monarch project may come to an amicable solution now that the Hoboken City Council has adopted a resolution approving a new settlement agreement.
The agreement with Ironstate Development will prevent two 11-story high-rises on Hoboken’s waterfront from being built, provide the city with roughly 1.5 acres of open space, and relocate the city’s Department of Public Works Garage.
The settlement agreement
The settlement 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.
In exchange, Ironstate will no longer need to build the city a new public works garage at 256 Observer Hwy. Instead it will be permitted to develop a new residential building at the site which includes ground-floor commercial retail space.
The settlement agreement will give 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.
According to the agreement, the garage could be temporarily located on an existing parking lot next to what will be the Northwest Resiliency Park, currently under construction.
The uptown waterfront Monarch property will also be transferred to the city as previously agreed.
Neighbor vs. Neighbor
For almost three hours, residents weighed in on the settlement agreement, with many calling it a win for the city overall.
“I think this is a win-win all around,” said resident Ariel Kemelman who lives in western Hoboken. “This is an opportunity for Hoboken that comes once in a lifetime or may not ever come again to acquire land of this size that will become a public amenity.”
“I see this decision as a no-brainer,” said resident Lisa Rothman who also lives in western Hoboken.
Several area residents cited the need for more public open space which could expand on the park at Seventh and Jackson Streets, noting the increase in density and families in the neighborhood.
“Last year we learned what outdoor space means and how valuable it means to just be outside, “ said resident Chrissy Bradshaw.
Other neighborhood residents like Amanda Davenport said the public open space would help with area flooding.
“It floods like crazy on our street,” she said, noting that the added water retention “is going to help us back here in our little neck of Hoboken.”
While residents of the west side applauded the settlement agreement, those in Hoboken’s northwest took issue with the temporary relocation of the DPW garage to their neighborhood.
“I think while it’s ultimately good for Hoboken overall, it lacks transparency,” said resident Matt Majer. “It was only late this afternoon that I made the president of a 1300 Grant St. Condo Association and another board member aware that later this year, they’re likely to get the Department of Public Works facility directly across from their condominiums.”
Residents who live in the neighborhood of the park said it would add to the noise pollution they already have, due to the Northwest Resiliency Park’s construction and the need to work from home caused by the pandemic.
They also questioned if it would in fact be only temporary, noting that housing the city’s snowplows, garbage trucks, and other vehicles near the park would be unsafe once it’s opened.
“We are not a dumping ground in this area,” said Laura Bruzesse, noting that neighborhood residents already face a Cubesmart storage facility and the new PSE&G substation. “We do not want a temporary garage across the street.”
Area resident Devinn Taffaro said the settlement pits one neighborhood against another, calling the move of the DPW garage to the temporary site a “travesty” that would cause physical, mental, and financial harm to area residents.
“There has to be another place to put it,” he said.
After a failed attempt to table the vote on the settlement agreement, the council adopted a resolution approving the settlement with an 8-1 vote. Council Vice President Jen Giattino voted against the settlement
The council also adopted a resolution, sponsored by Councilmembers Mike DeFusco, Jen Giattino, and Phil Cohen, to find a different temporary home for the garage.
The emergency resolution urges the city to identify a location for the DPW garage north of 15th Street to ensure it will never be placed near the Northwest Resiliency Park.
According to the city, the city owns the lot at 13th and Jefferson streets, which is why it was determined to be one of the few places the temporary garage could work in the short term.
Attorney Joe Maraziti, the city’s counsel on this matter, said that the agreement does not require that the north lot be used as the temporary DPW location but was merely specified in order to move the settlement agreement forward.
He said the city has already begun looking for other locations and won’t need to house the garage at a new temporary site until at least September at which time, if the city fails to vacate the current DPW site, Ironstates can terminate the agreement.
The lot is also earmarked to be developed as the city’s new community center.
Now, Hoboken and Ironstate will 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.
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 conduct an environmental review of the land at Eighth and Monroe streets before a redevelopment agreement is adopted.
Once it’s adopted, Ironstate will officially begin the process of transferring ownership of the Monarch and Eighth and Monroe properties to the city for proposed public open space.
Mayor Ravi Bhalla dubbed the settlement a “Win-win-win” for Hoboken, thanking the council for the adoption and committing to locate a new home for the DPW garage.
“This is a critical step forward that will facilitate continued negotiations with Ironstate to protect our waterfront from large-scale development, add much-needed open space, revitalize downtown Hoboken with 15,000 square feet of commercial space, and make quality-of-life improvements for our city,” Bhalla said. “While no deal is perfect, we are well on our way to creating a historic agreement that will benefit all of our residents for many years to come. I appreciate everyone making their voices heard in favor of the agreement, and also respect the concerns raised from some residents in Northwest Hoboken. My commitment to Fifth Ward residents, and their Councilman Phil Cohen is to diligently explore a temporary location for our municipal garage in the North End that minimizes impacts to residents.”