Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher: “Defending Our Waterfront This Week”
Dear friends and neighbors –
For those of you who, like me, are passionate about Hoboken’s waterfront, protecting it, defending it, and wanting to see it be complete from end to end, then this is the week you should pay attention. The last two sites that are at risk of being commercially developed – Monarch and the former Union Dry Dock – are closer than ever to being permanently returned to public ownership. The City Council will be voting on Wednesday night at the August council meeting on the following (more detail at the end of this newsletter):
- Monarch – Proposed settlement agreement between the City of Hoboken and the owners of the Monarch site (Applied / Shipyard / Ironstate).
- NYWW/UDD – First reading of an ordinance to acquire the site for an amount up to $13,500,000 (appraised value) through negotiation or eminent domain/condemnation.
The votes on both of these items will be at the beginning of the meeting which starts at 7pm. Please plan to attend to show your support for either or both! I plan to leave the HTB circle at 615pm and walk there if anyone would like to join me.
Additionally, there is also an information meeting tonight on the Monarch project at City Hall at 630pm if you would like to learn more and ask any questions.
The proposed settlement agreement is for the City to receive the Monarch site, a new state of the art DPW garage at Observer and Willow, and up to $1M towards both projects. In exchange Applied / Shipyard / Ironstate will give up their rights to build 150,000SF of residential at the Monarch site and instead will be able to build up to 264,000SF at the DPW site that is owned by the City of Hoboken. As Mayor Bhalla and Hoboken’s Director of Community Development Chris Brown explained to some of my 2nd Ward neighbors recently at a meeting at Hudson Tea, the process, if successful, is a three step process that will culminate in about a year from now with a binding Redevelopment Agreement.
- Step One – this Proposal
- Step Two – by October 30th, an interim cost agreement will be signed and Applied/Shipyard/Ironstate would be approved as Redeveloper (this is a NJ Redevelopment Law requirement). This step accomplishes two things: (a) gives the Redeveloper confidence they will be the one developing the project going forward and (b) outlines that the Redeveloper will be financially responsible for all the due diligence the City will be undertaking including financial, legal and environmental analysis on both sites.
- Step Three – By December 2020, a plan is agreed for both sites, a formal binding agreement will be entered into between both parties.
As one of my 2nd Ward neighbor’s asked the Mayor, what happens if it is determined that the value of the DPW Site is significantly greater than the value of the Monarch site? Mayor Bhalla indicated the exchange would be rebalanced with either side paying the excess in value to the other. This was expressly included in the Proposed Settlement Agreement in Section 8.
Why does this proposal seem more feasible than the one proposed in 2016? The 2016 proposal added significant bulk (and perceived burden) to an existing project in western Hoboken. Under this proposal the bulk at the Municipal Garage Site is being maintained. The only change being the developers are required to build a new state of the art municipal garage at the site which is a huge positive for Hoboken. Councilman Mike DeFusco, who is the City Council representative for the 1st Ward where the Municipal Garage site lies has expressed his support for moving forward with the proposed settlement agreement but is appealing for a possible public arts venue to be included in the development of the Municipal Garage Site as part of the exchange.
FORMER UDD / NYWW
The City Council will also be voting on first reading on an ordinance reflecting the Mayor’s recommendation to acquire the former Union Dry Dock site either through a negotiated sale or via condemnation at a price not to exceed $13,500,000 which is the most recent appraised fair market value for the property. In previous iterations, this step invoked a response from NJ Transit to step in and acquire the property directly, leasing it back to NYWW, which would eclipse our jurisdiction. I am hopeful that this time, because of the mayor’s continuing discussions with all parties to find a better location for NYWW’s operations, including Governor Murphy’s office, that that will not be the case. If you haven’t done so already, please add your name to the FBW Petition to ask Governor Murphy for his help in defending our waterfront.
For those concerned about any disruptions to NYWW ferry service as a result of this move, I believe firmly that ferry service is such a big enough priority to our broader community and the bigger transportation network of our area that any action taken will ultimately prevent this. So I plan to support this step and to continue to support his efforts.
ADVOCATING FOR OUR WATERFRONT
I have been advocating for Hoboken’s waterfront since 2011 when we all first received the news of a proposed 11-story, two-tower, 150,000SF residential project slated to be built along the northeast corner of Hoboken’s waterfront at a location we always believed would be tennis courts, open space and parking. That project was called Monarch.
Almost immediately, myself and neighbors from Hudson Tea and surrounding areas engaged with Ron Hine and Jim Vance from Fund for a Better Waterfront and the City of Hoboken and began what has been a collaborative, community partnership in advocacy for the past eight years to lead what became an epic battle involving countless municipal meetings, litigation and court hearings, conversations with elected officials, and engagement with the broader Hoboken community at the ferry, bus stops, on the streets and sidewalk to raise awareness and gather support and 1500+ signed petitions. This same community partnership remained and shifted intact in 2017 to UDD when we suddenly were at risk of losing to commercial development the only other remaining waterfront site, what we all know as the former Union Dry Dock site. We resurrected our resident advocacy coalition that I co-founded in the early days of Monarch, Hoboken Residents for a Public Waterfront, and with a new set of faces, launched a messaging and social media campaign in support of keeping the Union Dry Dock site as public open space.
Like the many in our community who came before me and have been fighting for the past three decades, defending our waterfront became my issue. The issue that got me off the couch and more engaged in my community. The issue that started the path to my appointment to the Hoboken Zoning Board in 2014 and the one that led Mayor Zimmer to ask me to run for and ultimately be elected to City Council in 2015. It is still one of the most important issues for me making it incredibly painful to abstain from voting on the Monarch resolution on Wednesday night. My long term advocacy on this issue speaks for itself and while I believe there is a strong case to be made in support of me voting on the settlement, I have always erred on the side of caution. Like over 250 of my neighbors, this issue has some personal interest to me because the view from my home would be impacted by the development.
I will never stop fighting for our waterfront, but for us to achieve the best possible outcome we need not one voice or one vote but full community and council support. On both these issues and like we have seen before, I am confident we will see this in the coming days and we can finally begin taking the necessary final steps to complete our open waterfront.
As always, please forward to anyone you think may be interested in this. And don’t hesitate to email me or call at 201/208-1674 to discuss this or anything else important to you.