Hoboken 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos and Mayor Dawn Zimmer are trading shots over the $17 million Washington Street redesign plan that is slated to last through July 2018.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“I was proud to help approve the Washington Street redesign because the Mayor allowed the streetscape to deteriorate into conditions which were unsafe for cars and pedestrians,” Ramos said in a statement.
“However, now that work is underway, it’s becoming clear that the impact of some of the new design elements, especially the curb bump-outs, is a lot more problematic in practice than it looked on paper.”
The Washington Street redesign project includes many new pedestrian safety features, including curb bump-outs at crosswalks on all four corners of intersections along the thoroughfare.
This is a feature designed to protect pedestrians waiting to cross at corners, but the councilman believes that this has inadvertently narrowed vehicle travel lanes, and reduced the number of parking spots along the thoroughfare.
However, the long-awaited project was delayed all the way until January of this year.
“The curb bump-outs are now causing a whole different set of safety problems for people along Washington Street, both in cars and on foot,” continued Ramos.
“We need to hit pause on this and work with our Police and Fire Departments to make sure their ability to get around on our streets isn’t impacted by the new curbs. I’ve expressed these concerns to the Administration and was told that the work would continue.”
The ex-Assemblyman also accused the city of committing “a major blunder” by removing the historic bluestones in front of City Hall, pointing to recent construction projects on Jackson Street and Observer Highway as examples of poor planning that cost the city millions.
Zimmer of course disagreed with Ramos’ assessment, indicating that the curb extensions are a vital safety aspect of the project.
“Washington Street is one of our most dangerous corridors, with a high number of vehicular-pedestrian collisions, including a senior citizen who was struck and killed by a turning car in 2015,” Zimmer began in her own statement.
“Curb extensions prevent dangerous illegal parking in crosswalks, improve visibility, shorten pedestrian crossing distance and exposure, and were specifically designed for the turning movements of Hoboken’s fire trucks.”
“They are a key element of making Washington Street a safe street for all users, including our most vulnerable citizens – the elderly, disabled, and young children. Deliberately allowing vehicles to illegally block three out of four crosswalks along Washington Street would be extremely irresponsible and borderline negligent,” stated Zimmer.
Zimmer and Ramos have had an icy relationship for years, with the former unsuccessfully challenging his political rival for the mayor’s seat in 2013.
After easily getting elected back to the council in 2015, early speculation was that Ramos may seek to rematch Zimmer in 2017.
However, that did not come to fruition, as Ramos has instead backed 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco to succeed Zimmer, who is not seeking a third term after all and is supporting Councilman-at-Large Ravi Bhalla’s candidacy.
The Washington Street redesign project currently has a completion date of July 24th, 2018, with “all work contemplated from Observer Highway to 8th Street” supposed to be finished by January 20th, 2018, according to the official project website.