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September, 2017

City of Hoboken to Host Public Workshop on Comprehensive Master Plan Update

The City of Hoboken will host the first public workshop as part of its Master Plan Reexamination process on Tuesday, October 10th from 6:30pm to 8:30pm at the Multi-Service Center, located at 124 Grand Street.  All interested residents, business owners, property owners, and other interested parties are invited to share their ideas about how Hoboken should grow and what assets the City should protect over the next 10 years.

The City of Hoboken Planning Board is now “reexamining” the 2004 Hoboken Master Plan, which will result in the preparation of a 2018 Master Plan Reexamination Report.  The Master Plan serves as the guiding document for Hoboken’s land-use decisions, such as zoning and capital improvements.  It documents community-established principles, guidelines, and strategies for the orderly and balanced future economic, social, physical, environmental and fiscal development of the City.

Municipalities in New Jersey are required to go through a process of reexamining their Master Plans at least every 10 years; however, it is good practice to conduct a reexamination process whenever there is a need to document, or plan for, major changes in a community.  The City of Hoboken last prepared a Master Plan Reexamination Report in 2010, and much has changed since that time.  The economic picture is very different, with Hoboken having emerged from the Great Recession with a strong housing market and a robust development pipeline. The City’s development landscape continues to evolve as new development and redevelopment projects are planned and built.  At the same time, the City has made significant investments in new parks, infrastructure, and other quality-of-life amenities. In addition, the impacts of Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and other flooding events have stressed the importance of planning for a future that is resilient.

The 2018 Master Plan Reexamination will look to address how Hoboken can maintain its character as a historic, close-knit urban community, while simultaneously being able to accommodate the anticipated growth in and around the City as demand increases for parks and recreation, infrastructure, schools and daycare, affordable housing, and an effective multi-modal transportation system. The Reexamination will also look at strategies to become a “Smarter City” in order to make better informed decisions, develop appropriate policy, better allocate City resources, and improve Hoboken’s long-term livability, workability and sustainability.

The basic requirements for a Master Plan Reexamination are set by New Jersey Statute within the “Municipal Land Use Law” (MLUL).  The City has retained the consulting firm BFJ Planning to assist the Hoboken Planning Board in preparation of the 2018 Master Plan Reexamination Report.  As part of this effort, the Planning Board will also update the Land Use Plan Element of the Master Plan, which will set the stage for future changes to the City’s Zoning Code.

Maximizing citizen participation is an essential part of the 2018 Master Plan Reexamination Report. There will be numerous opportunities for public input, including community workshops, an online survey, various focus group meetings, and interviews with key stakeholders.  The City encourages all residents and stakeholders to attend the public workshop and make their voices heard. For further information, visit www.hobokennj.gov/masterplan.

Hoboken Opens Southwest Park – New Jersey’s First Resiliency Park


Mayor Dawn Zimmer, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, and other elected officials joined together this morning to officially open the Southwest Park, located between Jackson Street, Harrison Street, Observer Highway, and Paterson Avenue. The nearly one-acre park is designed with integrated green infrastructure to hold approximately 200,000 gallons of stormwater runoff to reduce localized flooding.

“This is a great day for Hoboken, and I invite residents to come out and enjoy our newest park,” said Mayor Dawn Zimmer. “Not only will the Southwest Park provide much-needed open space for the growing southwest neighborhood, but as the first-of-its-kind resiliency park in the state, it will serve as a model for New Jersey and beyond. This project was a team effort that began with a vision from advocates more than a decade ago. I thank the City Council for their continuous support of this project, North Hudson Sewerage Authority for partnering with us to design this park so that it reduces flooding, Hudson County for providing open space funding, the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust for providing low-interest financing, and all of the advocates, planners, contractors, and professional staff that worked tirelessly to make this park a reality. I invite residents to join us next Wednesday for a community event to celebrate the opening of the park.”

The park features passive recreational space, green infrastructure (rain gardens, shade tree pits, porous pavers, a cistern for rainwater harvesting and reuse) and an underground detention system to reduce stormwater run-off and localized flooding. It includes a dog run, moveable cafe tables and chairs, a pop-up market zone, a restroom, multi-level seating for small performances, a solar-powered mobile device charging station, and a lawn (temporarily closed to allow grass to grow). The park will also feature public wi-fi, which is currently being installed.

A community celebration event for the park will take place on Wednesday, September 27th from 4:30pm to 7:30pm.  The family-friendly event will include activities for children and adults. For children, it will feature entertainment by Ron Albanese (AKA Polka Dot), balloon animals, face painting, and more. The event will also include music, food trucks and vendors, free food samples, neighborhood businesses, free fitness activities from local gyms, and more.

Hoboken Community Invited to Southwest Park Opening Celebration


All members of the community are invited to celebrate the opening of Hoboken’s Southwest Park at an event on Wednesday, September 27th from 4:30pm to 7:30pm. The park is located between Observer Highway, Paterson Avenue, Harrison Street, and Jackson Street.

The family-friendly event will include activities for children and adults. For children, it will feature entertainment by Ron Albanese (AKA Polka Dot), balloon animals, and more. The event will also include music, food trucks and vendors, free food samples, neighborhood businesses, free fitness activities from local gyms, and more.

The park will officially open with a brief ceremonial ribbon cutting on Friday, September 22nd at 11:00am, which is also open to the public.

The park features passive recreational space, green infrastructure (rain gardens, shade tree pits, porous pavers, a cistern for rainwater harvesting and reuse) and an underground detention system to reduce stormwater run-off and localized flooding. It includes a dog run, moveable cafe tables and chairs, a pop-up market zone, a restroom, multi-level seating for small performances, and a lawn (temporarily closed to allow grass to grow). The park will also feature public wi-fi, which is currently being installed.

Reminder & Time Change: North End Redevelopment Plan Community Meeting to be Held September 28th

The City of Hoboken will host the first community workshop as part of the community planning process for the North End Redevelopment Plan on September 28, 2017 from 7:30pm to 9:30pm at the Wallace School gymnasium, located at 1100 Willow Avenue. Please note that the start time for the meeting has changed from 7:00pm to 7:30pm due to a conflict with Back to School Night, which ends at 7:00pm.

In December 2013 the City Council declared the North End Area in the City of Hoboken as an Area in Need of Rehabilitation. The area is generally north of the 14th Street viaduct between Park Avenue and the palisades and is bounded to the north by the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail tracks.

The City of Hoboken is now in the process of developing a redevelopment plan for the North End in order to determine land uses, development patterns, transportation and transit solutions, and flood mitigation appropriate for the area.

As the first step of the community planning process, an online survey was issued in March, 2017 to provide public feedback on the vision for the North End. The survey results can be viewed at: http://hobokennj.gov/content/wp-content/uploads/North-End-Survey-Results-Memo.pdf.

Open Letter from Mayor Zimmer Regarding Water Infrastructure & Proposed Suez Agreement

As perhaps everyone in Hoboken knows, the City’s aging drinking water infrastructure is in desperate need of major investment. The City is upgrading the water mains along Washington Street and other priority areas, but much more funding will be needed to cover the extensive costs for city-wide upgrades. The City’s proposed Suez agreement would fund investments every year. Taxpayers should not have to pay for all the costs of the upgrades to the system, and that is why reaching a fair agreement with Suez to provide much-needed funding was so important to me. Until the necessary infrastructure upgrades are done, unfortunately, our City will continue to be plagued by damaging, disruptive, and costly water main breaks.

Usually, costs of maintaining and upgrading a City’s water system are fully covered by the system itself through the water ratepayers.  That way everybody who uses water shares in the cost proportionately, based on how much water they use.  For example, a car wash will pay proportionately more than a family of four, based on how much water each uses.

Unfortunately, in June 2001, during the transition from the Russo Administration to the Roberts Administration, Hoboken amended its 1994 Agreement with our water company in a way that imposes enormous unfair costs on Hoboken’s taxpayers.

Unbelievably, that Amendment actually reduced the amount the water company was required to pay each year for repairs and upgrades from $550,000 per year to $350,000 per year (with the City responsible for any repair costs exceeding $350,000) for 23 years from 2001 to 2024. In addition, the agreement stated that starting in 2014, the water company is permitted to “pass through” the “excess” cost of water to the City to the extent it exceeds the water cost levels of 2011 (although the contract doesn’t say when or how that “pass through” is supposed to occur).  Not a penny is provided to pay for our desperately needed capital improvements beyond the reduced amount for emergency repairs.

While the City did receive a one-time payment of $2.7 million, which it used to close a budget gap in 2002, the 2001 ten-year extension and Amendment actually COST the City over $17 million compared to simply leaving the pre-existing Agreement in place until scheduled termination, and then extending it 10 more years without any changes. This cost includes $4.6 million in lost maintenance investment ($200,000 less per year for 23 years) and the City’s agreement to a “pass through” of bulk water costs for 10 years (costing an estimated $13 million through scheduled contract termination in 2024).

Even though that Amendment was entered into 17 years ago, it is far from ancient history. It still has seven years to run, and terminating it now would cost the City a termination fee of almost $5 million.

In order to address the problems caused by this onerous Amendment, my Administration has been working for 2 years to re-negotiate our water agreement. In June of this year, we reached a tentative agreement, subject to City Council approval, on the terms of a new agreement. The Agreement was presented to the City Council in early July, shortly after negotiations were completed. In hindsight, it might have been wiser to wait until after the November election, so that the City Council could consider it without the distraction of an upcoming contentious election. However, it is still my hope that before the end of the year, the City Council will take a vote so that we can move forward to resolve these critically important issues. The proposed agreement is a dramatic improvement over the existing agreement that would enable Hoboken to finally address decades of underinvestment in our infrastructure.

These are the highlights of the proposed re-negotiated Agreement:

1.  Approximately $40 million in benefits to the taxpayer, including over $30 million in new infrastructure investment (approximately $1.8 million per year, compared to $350,000 per year currently) and almost $10 million from the elimination of unfair costs (relating to excess emergency repair and bulk water costs) imposed under the 2001 Amendment that would otherwise have had to be paid (either by taxpayers or through a rate increase) before the contract expired in 2024.

2. Installation of “smart technology” that would enable detection and repair of small leaks before they become big ones.

3.  Extends the Agreement 10 years until 2034.

Unfortunately, a lot of misinformation has been circulated about this Agreement. For example, the $40 million benefit to taxpayers is NOT simply being shifted to ratepayers. The only rate increases included in the Agreement are 1.8% in the first year to pay for a $150,000 annual increase in the emergency repair budget, an additional 2% per year for years 1 through 6 to phase in the actual cost of bulk water, and annual CPI adjustments.

In addition, some Council members have suggested that instead of resolving the unfair costs described above through a re-negotiation of the 2001 Amendment that caused the problem, the City should have included these costs in past budgets and raised taxes to pay them in past years. I strongly disagree, as did the legal and accounting professionals on whose advice the City relied upon. The charges had not been billed and were not going to be billed until negotiations had been completed. Put simply, the amounts were not yet due and were not likely to ever become due as the result of a renegotiated agreement or the city’s ability to pass the costs on to ratepayers.

Ultimately, it is important for residents to understand that the taxpayers of Hoboken should never have to shoulder the burden of the extremely unfair existing agreement that was passed in 2001 and currently extends until 2024. If the City Council approves the proposed agreement, then the City will be able to annually invest in its water main system and avoid these unfair excess bulk water and capital improvement costs. Holding the taxpayers responsible for these excess costs agreed to in 2001 is not necessary or appropriate now and was not necessary or appropriate over the past two years as some Council members have suggested. Prematurely taxing the people of Hoboken for a cost that was not yet payable and was likely never to be payable by the taxpayer would have been irresponsible and simply wrong.

The following documents provide additional information on this important issue:

Milling and Paving of Newark Street Scheduled for Friday and Saturday

Newark Street between Henderson Street (Marin Boulevard) and Harrison Street is scheduled to be milled and paved on Friday, September 15 and Saturday, September 16.

Milling work will begin on Friday at 9am to avoid peak hour traffic, however drivers should expect delays and are urged to avoid the area if possible. Police will be on hand to direct traffic. Efforts will be made to maintain travel lanes where possible, however road closures will be required. Paving operations are scheduled to begin at 8am on Saturday, September 16, weather permitting. The rain date for paving is Monday, September 18.

The roadway will be striped consistent with the Southwest Traffic Improvement Plan (http://hobokennj.gov/content/wp-content/uploads/SW-Traffic-Improvement-Plan.jpg). The plan includes the addition of a turning lane onto Madison Street and traffic signal at Madison Street and Observer Highway to create an entry point into southern Hoboken. The new Madison Street signal is scheduled to be set to flashing mode on Thursday and be fully operational on Monday, September 18.

City of Hoboken Announces Call for Submissions for Outdoor Mural Project

The Hoboken Mural Arts Council is announcing a call for submissions for a mural project located at 1312 Adams Street with the theme “diversity, inclusion, and community.” The Arts Council, which includes Geri Fallo (Hoboken Cultural Affairs), Albert Barsky (Barsky Gallery), Elizabeth Ndoye (hob’art co-operative gallery), and Justine Uva (Urban Arts), was recently established by Mayor Zimmer to provide guidance and art expertise for a mural project approved by the Planning Board.

The project, which is a requirement of a Planning Board approval for the property, includes a $25,000 honorarium to the selected artist or arts group as well as paint, supplies, and scaffolding.

Three artists will be selected from all the submissions and awarded $500 each to develop a design based on the theme “diversity, inclusion, and community.” The Arts Council, with input from the project developer, will evaluate and select the winning design.

The mural will be 155 feet wide by 35 feet tall, starting 20 feet from the ground. The surface of the wall will be made from Kingspan panels in the mural area and finished with a Weather XL modified polyester finish in Imperial white. The artist will be required to paint directly onto the wall from  a suspended scaffold system hung from the roof of the building and should have experience painting murals on such a system. The developer will be responsible for prepping and priming the wall, paint, other needed materials, and scaffolding.
Interested artists (or group of artists) should provide submissions by September 30, 2017 through the following link: www.hobokennj.gov/mural.

Hoboken to Host Annual September 11th Interfaith Memorial Service


All members of the public are invited to attend the City of Hoboken’s annual September 11th Interfaith Memorial Service. Fifty-six Hoboken residents were lost on September 11, 2001.

The service will take place on Monday, September 11, 2017 at 6:00 p.m. on Pier A. This year, the event will take place next to the recently-completed Hoboken 9/11 Memorial in the northwest area of the park.

The memorial is aligned in the direction of the World Trade Center site and includes a steel beam base with a glass panel for each of the fifty-six Hoboken residents lost on that day. Each panel is engraved with a name and is illuminated at night. The memorial is located within the grove of ginkgo trees which are also aligned with the World Trade Center that were planted in 2002 as a living memorial. The perimeter of the grove includes steel plates on the ground engraved with quotes from those who were there on that fateful day.

Mayor Zimmer Asks City Council to Vote on Proposed Suez Water Agreement With $31 Million for Infrastructure Investments

Suez Water will be making a presentation to the City Council on leak detection technology that could prevent major water main breaks by detecting leaks early on. The proposed $2.5 million investment in the technology is part of the proposed amended agreement with Suez Water which includes a total of $31 million in infrastructure investments.

The Council agenda will also include a resolution to adopt the proposed agreement as well as an ordinance to mandate that funds received through the agreement be dedicated towards water main system improvements.

Hoboken’s existing agreement with Suez Water which extends through 2024 only requires Suez to make $350,000 per year in capital investments in the water system – less than the amount needed just to make emergency repairs. Under the existing agreement, the City is responsible for repairs exceeding $350,000 per year as well as excess bulk water costs as of 2014. The City’s current liability to Suez under the existing agreement is $8.35 million and is estimated to total $17.8 million through 2024.

The proposed agreement would extend the contract through 2034, forgive the existing liability, and provide an estimated $31 million investment in Hoboken’s water system. The proposed agreement would shift bulk water and capital repair costs from the taxpayer to the ratepayer.

“Given that the proposed agreement would provide $31 million for urgently needed infrastructure upgrades, I ask the City Council take a vote on this issue at their meeting next week so that my Administration can move ahead accordingly,” said Mayor Dawn Zimmer. “Under the existing agreement, the City – and by extension every taxpayer – is responsible for excess repair and bulk water costs. Ultimately, that means residents are footing the bill for car washes or laundromats that use millions of gallons of water, while the proposed agreement would make ratepayers responsible for their own water usage.”

The proposed agreement was introduced to the City Council on July 11th, presented and discussed at City council and subcommittee meetings, and the following provides the second set of responses to Council members’ questions regarding the proposed agreement: www.hobokennj.gov/docs/Suez-Agreement-QA.pdf.