My name is Marcus Perry, I have lived in Hoboken for 26 years. I am a member of the Hoboken Shade Tree Commission, a Den Leader in Hoboken Pack 18, and soon to be Scoutmaster of Hoboken’s first all-female Scout Troop. My wife is a math teacher at Hoboken High School, and recently spoke at a BOE meeting – her speech can be found here. We have three children at Brandt Elementary, and are vested members of the community, having seen it flourish over the last two decades. As longtime, active members of the Hoboken community, my wife and I strongly support the financing referendum next Tuesday. Let us explain our logic as to why.
Hoboken’s educational infrastructure is old. The cornerstone to Brandt Elementary was laid on December 15, 1920. The school is overcrowded, as are Wallace Elementary (note the “temporary” trailers along 12th and Willow), Conners Elementary and Hoboken Middle School. At Brandt, there is no room for enrichment classes such as art and music – the teachers literally must cart the learning material into each respective class. There is no library. Parking is a nightmare for residents, consider teachers dealing with Holland or Lincoln Tunnel traffic or zigzagging through back roads to get to Hoboken in time to find a non-street-cleaning-day parking spot.
Those who oppose the new school construction cite the high cost, and the building of an ice rink and pool as excessive. Yes, a $241 million price tag is a lot of money. Having spent my career in commercial real estate, I can attest that vertical construction costs can be expensive. Hoboken does not have 20 acres of land to build a 2-story school with a paved parking lot and multiple athletic fields. We have 1 city block to do everything, all in one. Land cost notwithstanding, (fortunately the city owns that) a simple free-standing parking garage is approximately 8x more expensive to build than a parking lot, and that does not include resiliency infrastructure requirements and additional considerations for building area above the garage. To put that in real dollars, a 110 car parking lot would cost approximately $325,000 whereas a parking garage would cost over $2.7 million.
The proposed school, effectively located in a flood zone, will also add flood resiliency that will benefit all Hoboken residents. If the ice rink and or pool are removed, would the construction costs go down by $5 million, say $10 or 20 million? We are the only town in Hudson County that does not have a town pool; isn’t it time our community’s children have similar amenities as others? My last point on cost: we have an opportunity to issue bond financing at historically low rates with this construction, which the Federal Reserve has indicated will be going up this year. Further delaying this issuance could put us at higher overall cost, even with a less-expensive option. Let’s act now.
Opposers to the referendum also cite the potential rise of real estate taxes. And, yes, they will go up. Yet, to focus solely on these increases is to not see the forest through the trees. As a licensed New Jersey realtor, it is my opinion that a new high school with the proposed amenities will do something far more valuable: increase property values. While a realtor cannot state qualitative factors in a listing description (i.e. “good” school system), it is perfectly acceptable to state facts, such as the location of parks and schools. Stating that a new high school has been approved and will begin construction with an expected opening date of September 2025, can/will be highlighted in every sales/rental listing. If approved, potential buyers/renters will decide on settling in Hoboken because of this new construction. Let us all think about the power and opportunity of that possibility. Perhaps it is time we focus more on the likely equity increase of our property, instead of only honing in on anxiety around tax increases. Please consider: here is an opportunity to physically see tax dollars spent in action, right in front of our eyes. And even more importantly, for our children.
Hoboken shed its industrial past long ago and is now a vibrant bedroom community, children being the glue that holds us together. All of us would agree that we want Hoboken to thrive and remain a vibrant, sustainable community. We should not let this great opportunity go to waste. Please join us in voting yes on Tuesday.