State Senator (D-32) and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco and State Senator (D-33) and Union City Mayor Brian Stack have introduced new legislation they say will protect the Palisades cliffs.
Over the past few months, Sacco and Stack have reiterated their support for legislation they introduced in December that aims to protect the Palisades cliffs by limiting the height of any development below the cliffs east of Palisades Avenue. The bill made it to committee but did not progress further in the legislature.
The new bill, introduced on June 10, dubbed the “Palisades Cliffs Protection and Planning Act,” aims to protect the Palisades cliffs by creating the Palisades Cliffs Preservation Council.
The council would be a political subdivision of the state and have 10 voting members appointed by the governing bodies of the municipalities within the Palisades cliffs area, and “would be conferred with powers, duties, and responsibilities associated with preserving and protecting the Palisades cliffs.”
One person from Jersey City, Hoboken, Union City, North Bergen, Weehawken, West New York, Guttenberg, Cliffside Park, Edgewater, and Fort Lee will serve on the council.
The members will serve four-year terms and be residents of the appointing municipality. If a member is the chief financial officer, business administrator, municipal administrator, or municipal manager of the municipality making the appointment he or she need not be a resident of the appointing municipality.
The bill would also create the Palisades Planning Region consisting of the land within the municipalities that extends up to 2,000 feet east of the Palisades cliff crest at each location along the Palisades cliffs, according to the bill statement. Eight of the ten municipalities would have nearly all or part of the views of New York City preserved. Hoboken and Edgewater would not.
Unless approved by the council, no development may be constructed in the Palisades Planning Region, according to the bill. The maximum height of the proposed development, including any mechanical structures constructed on top of the building or structure, must be below the height of the sightline looking west of the proposed development which would include at least the eastern half of the Hudson River above the highest point of the proposed building or structure.
Where there is no discernible highest point of the cliffs immediately to the west of the proposed development, the height of the beginning of the sightline looking east will be the elevation of Palisades Avenue directly west of the proposed building or structure.
Changing the point of reference
While Palisades Avenue was the reference point for all municipalities in the old bill, the new legislation has moved the reference point lower in some municipalities.
The elevation of certain streets in some towns will be used as a reference point instead: Kennedy Boulevard East in North Bergen, Guttenberg and West New York; Kennedy Boulevard East, Hamilton Avenue, King Avenue, and Kingswood Road in Weehawken; and Mountain Road and Manhattan Avenue in Union City. In Cliffside Park, an elevation of 170 feet above sea level will control this section instead of Palisades Avenue. There aren’t any specifications for Jersey City, Hoboken, Edgewater or Fort Lee.
Any decision rendered or action taken by the council may be appealed to the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division. The council is required to make an annual report of its activities for the preceding year to the governing body and the chief executive officer of the municipalities in Hudson and Bergen counties.
“The Palisade Cliffs Protection Act is legislation that will guarantee the communities who call the Palisades home are directly in charge of regulating development that might affect the breathtaking cliffs,” Sacco said in a statement. “That is exactly what The Palisades Cliff Preservation Council will aim to do. By forming this coalition, these communities are able to fight together and curtail the efforts of those who seek to overdevelop on the Palisades Planning Region which gives us such magnificent landscapes.”
Hoboken remains opposed
The new bill does not yet have a hearing scheduled, but has drawn the ire of the Hoboken City Council, which previously opposed the first such bill by Sacco and Stack.
In response to the first bills, the council adopted a resolution in January opposing the legislation, cosponsored by Second Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher and Council Vice President Jen Giattino. They have said the 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 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 Giattino. “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.”
Hoboken and Edgewater are the only municipalities east of the Palisades in their entirety. The bill would limit Hoboken’s control over its land use, which could negatively impact all economic, housing, and public safety decisions going forward.
“This bill should be called the Manhattan View Protection Act instead because that’s all it is, a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Fisher said. “Although now disguised as a regional planning commission, it is still just the same special interest bill that destroys economic growth in two cities – Hoboken and Edgewater – to protect some views in the neighboring cities of Union City, North Bergen and Jersey City.”
‘Worse for Hoboken’
The legislation would also threaten 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,” according to the council’s January resolution.
Fisher told the Hudson Reporter: “Hoboken relies on developer-funded infrastructure and municipal investment and upgrades. If this legislation passes, it would put the full financial burden of these critical improvements solely on the backs of Hoboken taxpayers. This revised bill is worse for Hoboken because it lowers the allowable height further calling into question the feasibility of Hoboken’s North End Development Plan.
“This puts at risk, among others, building the new DPW Garage that is needed to complete the Monarch and 800 Monroe Settlement Agreement. The reduced heights in this bill now protect the views of the Hoboken Heights project that Union City recently approved that fully gutted the side of the Palisades, the same Palisades this bill supposedly protects. How ironic.”
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.