Residents are organizing to oppose the new Hoboken high school

Residents have been organizing to oppose the proposed Hoboken high school. Image provided by the Hoboken Public School District.

A proposed new high school in Hoboken has become a contentious issue for a number of residents in the city, and some of them are organizing to tell others to say no to the plan.

The proposed new high school, which includes academic and athletic facilities and would cost $241 million, is being put to a referendum on Jan. 25 that will decide whether to approve buying 30 year bonds to fund the project.

The plan was first announced by the Board of Education in November. The board says the school is meant to fit the needs of a growing population, and has been hosting public meetings about it since then. But residents have disputed the plan, criticizing a lack of transparency about the project and its cost to taxpayers.

Two of the people that have been critical of the plan are now organizing to oppose it in the upcoming vote, with 40 to 75 residents working together on the effort.

One of them is Matt Majer, a founder of the Northwest Hoboken Homeowners Alliance, an advocacy group, who has raised issues with how the project was introduced.

“It’s awareness and transparency,” said Majer. “If this were being advocated the right way, and if people were forthcoming with this information, I don’t believe that would be done in the dead of winter in in-person meetings only.”

Matt Majer has been organizing efforts to oppose the proposed high school in the upcoming referendum. Photo provided by Matt Majer.

The other person behind the effort is Pavel Sokolov, the secretary of the Hoboken Republicans and the chairman of the Hudson County Young Republicans, who criticized the lack of community outreach for the proposal.

“I think it doesn’t go far enough to address the academic outcomes in our high school,” said Sokolov. “We need to be doing everything we can to support our students and our teachers, and framing it as ‘Oh, we’re going to build a new ice hockey rink’ really shows that the priorities of this proposal don’t reflect the needs of the community.”

The people who went to the first Board of Education meeting about the proposal gathered together to organize around the issue, according to Sokolov, with a number of meetings being hosted by them for the movement.

Both Majer and Sokolov said that they and the group are pro-education and that they want to look out of the interest of students in the district, but stressed that they don’t believe the direction of the proposed plan is the way to go and are concerned about the impact it could have.

Majer, for instance, has said that investments should rather be spent on teachers and educators, and that the financial impact of the plan would cause rent increases for the elderly and minority populations in the city.

Sokolov also dismissed the notion that the group consisted of those that are “weirdly ideological,” such as having issues with raising taxes.

“You have to make sure that the money is being spent wisely and getting the best impact for the student,” he said. “We’re down for education. We’re just against this specific proposal, because this proposal is not for education.”

Pavel Sokolov (pictured left) has criticized the lack of community outreach for the proposed high school. Photo provided by Pavel Sokolov.

The opposition efforts are working in groups to spread the message, with one led by Sokolov focusing on engagement, while another led by Jerome Abernathy, the president of the Hoboken Public Library Board of Trustees, engaged on advertising.

The groups will be doing canvassing and outreach such as going to events and transportation hubs, filing out mailers, and using social media to make people aware in the lead up to the referendum.

“In a pandemic, we want to get the message out that this is really going to impact the city and the community,” said Majer. “I believe there’s lack of transparency when people should see this happening.”

Registration to vote on the referendum is open until Jan. 4, 2022. The polls for the vote on Jan. 25 will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at all regular polling places.

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