Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s crowning achievement to date – saving the Hoboken University Medical Center against longs odds – is past glory but her foremost reason for entering the political arena looms with an ordinance on the table at the City Council meeting Wednesday night – the long held hopes for the creation of a Southwest Park.
Negotiations for the centerpiece of that dream in an area built around Block 12 are falling short and Mayor Zimmer is following through on a previous request to the City Council to approve an ordinance to provide the authority to use the powers of eminent domain to make a Southwest Park a reality.
The ordinance for the Southwest park is on the table Wednesday night and requires five votes. Previously, a resolution on eminent domain last July (see page 4 in attachment below) came down to one critical vote and put a defining issue before Councilman Tim Occhipinti. With Councilwoman Jen Giattino, an ally of Reform but voting no in only her third council meeting, the pressure on Tim Occhipinti to deliver for the fourth ward was front and center.
Block 12 is the City’s central objective for building a contiguous Southwest Park.
Occhipinti provided the fifth vote for the tool to pursue a southwest park but not property specific. The resolution gave the mayor the authority to pursue a southwest park vision with previously approved county funds. This time the stakes are real with actual lots from Block 12 designated as targets for a park.
MORTe as a whole is expected to vote against the plan the mayor is presenting for a Southwest Park; this with a one year deadline looming on a $3 million county grant set to expire this year.
The likelihood of Council members Terry Castellano (No to Pier A Park), Michael (what’s in it for me) Russo, and Beth (Develop or Die) Mason supporting the Southwest Park plan are quite low leaving Tim Occhipinti as the likely critical fifth vote to bring the plan to fruition.
The ordinance requires five votes on introduction to move to the next stage when public comment can be heard in advance of a City Council vote. If the ordinance fails to obtain five votes Wednesday night, there will be no public discussion on the ordinance and the Southwest Park plan is dead.
The $3 million from Hudson County reprogrammed toward the Southwest at the urging of Tim Occhipinti are also at stake. The County funds were approved with a one year deadline and the efforts at using those funds were focused as designated by county regulation on the southwest.
Talking Ed Note: There’s two types of eminent domain and the one on the table is not the controversial redevelopment version in the Supreme Court Kelo case but the version historically used for the public interest – rehabilitation – such as for parks, highways, etc.
This ordinance for a Southwest Park is where the rubber meets the road. The complete memo from Mayor Zimmer to the City Council follows below. Designating the lots in Block 12 eligible for eminent domain does not mean the owners aren’t compensated, only that the compensation would be set fairly.