Construction will soon begin on the Rebuild By Design project, which aims to protect the city from flooding caused by 100-year storms like Hurricane Sandy.
The project, by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, will include sewer separation modifications; resist barrier construction; hard structures such as flood walls, deployable gates, and subsurface foundations; and landscape architecture elements to address flooding from major storm surges, high tides, and heavy rain.
According to a resolution adopted by the city council on March 17, starting on April 1 Underground Utilities Corp., the NJDEP’s contractor, will begin the sewer separation modification in the southeast area.
It will take place at 20 downtown locations, 14 of which will be conducted overnight.
“Overnight construction is proposed to avoid, minimize and mitigate conflicts with pedestrians, private motor vehicles, buses and cyclists in an area where construction during the AM or PM peak would cause significant negative impacts to transportation and circulation,” states the resolution in seeking approval for the overnight work.
According to city code, construction and demolition work excluding emergency work is not allowed on weekdays from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. or at any time during weekends and federal holidays.
With unanimous council approval, construction will be allowed on weekdays between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.
According to council documents, work locations run from the border of New Jersey Transit rail lines north to roughly Third Street.
Construction will take place from April 1 until the end of October.
According to the timeline, construction will begin near Newark and River streets before moving to Hudson Place and Hudson Street in May. In June construction will take place near Hudson Street and Observer Highway and in July it will occur at the intersections of Hudson Street and Newark Street, Sinatra Drive and Newark Street, and First and River streets.
Last minute resolution?
In August, construction is planned near River and Second streets, and by September construction will take place near Third and River streets.
Throughout the seven-month period, manhole sealing will be in place.
According to the city, the contractor has submitted a noise and vibration-monitoring plan that includes noise dampening materials. The DEP has submitted a communication plan to inform residents of the construction and a project management plan.
First Ward Councilman Michael DeFusco, who represents the area where the construction will take place, said he understood the project’s importance but questioned why the resolution was placed on the agenda at the last minute.
“I do have one building, 77 Park Avenue, in my district that has come out to oppose this but unfortunately they couldn’t show up on our meeting because I just learned about this last night,” he said. “It’s also why it’s on New Business and not on the general ledger of the council. So listen, I understand the importance of Rebuild by Design and getting started, and frankly I also understand the value of starting construction in the busiest corner of our city during the pandemic before things start to pick up. It’s a good time to do so, but I just, again, I’m dumbfounded as to why this administration continues to wait until the last minute to source not only council support but also neighborhood support.”
Assistant Business Administrator Caleb Stratton explained that part of the reason the resolution was late is because meetings between the DEP and the Hoboken Police Department, Hoboken Fire Department, and Office of Emergency Management were ongoing through the end of February into March, noting that if the council waited until its next meeting in April, it would be after the proposed construction start date.
He said he was committed to meeting with the building and DeFusco to address resident concerns and work “to avoid, minimize, and mitigate to the greatest extent practical those concerns that I am sure they have about the project.”
Fifth Ward Councilman Phil Cohen said he hoped the construction could be done sensitively, noting “this is obviously a critical project for the city.”
The council requested a Nixle Alert to notify the community that will include a map of the work zones.
In 2014, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the RBD project $230 million in the form of Sandy-related Community Development Block Grant Disaster Relief funds.
To get the funds, the project had a completion deadline of September 30, 2022. Last year, that deadline was extended to Sept. 30, 2023.
If the project is not completed by that statutory deadline, the federal funding would be forfeited.
For more information on the Rebuild By Design project go to https://www.nj.gov/dep/floodresilience/rbd-hudsonriver.htm.