The Hoboken City Council has adopted a resolution in favor of the redevelopment and land swap agreement between the city and the developers of the embattled Monarch site as well as plan amendments to the Public Works Garage site.
The latest iteration of the agreement between the city and Ironstate Development includes the transfer of both the Monarch waterfront property and 1.45 acres of land at 800 Monroe St. to the city from Ironstate for public open space.
In exchange, Ironstate will redevelop the city’s Department of Public Works Garage at 256 Observer Hwy. This development will include no less than 15,000 square feet of commercial retail space along Observer Highway and Willow Avenue, 331 market-rate residential units, and 40 affordable housing units.
The DPW garage will be relocated to the north end.
According to the agreement, the city will no longer need to vacate the garage by September of next year but instead will be permitted to stay for three years while it locates a new permanent site for the garage. In exchange, Ironstate will add another 30 units to the DPW redevelopment, increasing the number to 361.
If the city vacates the site in two years or less, Ironstate will give the city $500,000.
Ironstate will also pay the city $2.5 million to account for the difference in assessed value between the Ironstate properties being transferred to the city compared to the assessed value of the DPW garage site.
Ironstate will pay the city an additional $1 million to improve and clean the Monarch site or “for any other public purpose connected to the agreements.”
The council also introduced an ordinance sponsored by council members Emily Jabbour and Michael Russo to amend the redevelopment plan for the DPW garage site to accommodate the agreement.
Plan amendments include decreasing the minimum size of residential units from 1,100 square feet to 600 square feet, increasing the number of units from 240 to 361, and increasing the height of the building on Park and Willow Avenues from 87 feet to 90 feet, and the height along Observer Highway from 127 feet to 165 feet from Design Flood Elevation.
A number of residents urged the council to move forward with adopting the redevelopment and land swap agreement, noting it would provide the city with more open space and protect the public’s access to a continuous waterfront. Several residents who supported the plan overall, and lived in the first ward, opposed the amendments to make the development at 256 Observer Hwy. taller.
“The height of the building is the main concern that we’re having,” said resident Sean Iaquinto. “I agree with what Councilperson DeFusco has been maintaining in the community, the idea that if we keep increasing the height of the DPW, it could threaten other buildings and construction around the area.”
Said Resident Jason Lagomarsino, “It’s going to set a bad precedent for other developers. I just encourage the town to really make sure they take a hard look at it, with the idea that sensible development is the most important thing for the community and large, monstrous buildings are not going to fit well within the neighborhood.”
Adam Lederman said the tradeoff of a protected waterfront for increased height was worth it.
“The complaints that were coming earlier in the meeting claim to be from the community at large, but in reality, they were from the first ward residents and neighbors who don’t want to be inconvenienced with construction … and it’s not about the first ward, it’s about everyone in Hoboken and making Hoboken better overall,” he said, arguing that Hoboken’s waterfront attracts people and stimulates the economy.
Several council members discussed pushing the vote to the next council meeting, with First Ward Councilman Michael DeFusco opposing the height of the Observer Highway Development along Willow and Park avenues and Second Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher questioning why the development does not include a project labor agreement.
Fisher and Council Vice President Jen Giattino asked why the administration seemingly rushed to put the measures before the council instead of waiting two weeks for the next council meeting.
Attorney Joe Maraziti explained that negotiations with Ironstate have been intense, noting that the settlement agreement adopted in February delineates a strict schedule.
“Based upon the intensity of the negotiations … it has been the very rigid position of the other side that time is absolutely of the essence and fixed in stone in their mind,” he said.
He added that Ironstate is “anxious” to finalize an agreement with the city quickly so as to not lose the opportunity to begin developing the Monarch site if the agreement does not come to fruition.
He explained that the NJ DEP permit obtained by Ironstate to demolish and reconstruct the pier has a time limit and can be done only during certain months so as not to adversely impact endangered species in the Hudson River such as the short-nosed sturgeon.
The council adopted the redevelopment and land use swap agreement with a 7-1-1 vote. Giattino voted no, and DeFusco abstained.
The Public Works Garage site redevelopment plan amendments were introduced with a 7-2 vote. Giattino and DeFusco voted against the measure.
The redevelopment plan amendment will now go before the planning board for a Master Plan Consistency Review before a final vote by the council which could be by the next meeting on May 19.
If there are no setbacks, the city could acquire the titles to the Monarch and 800 Monroe properties by this fall, according to the city.
“Last night’s vote cleared the most important hurdles to date in facilitating the acquisition of the Monarch waterfront property and the 1.45 acres at 800 Monroe for public open space, along with the revitalization of downtown Hoboken and the relocation of the municipal garage to the North End,” said Mayor Ravi Bhalla.
“My administration will continue to aggressively pursue this once in a lifetime opportunity to protect our waterfront while moving forward with a park on one of the few remaining parcels of undeveloped land in Hoboken. I thank the residents who made their voices heard at the council meeting, as well as the seven Councilmembers for their affirmative votes.”