After a lengthy public portion, the Hoboken City Council voted to approve the latest version of the Monarch project settlement that will have significant impacts on open space and the future of the Department of Public Works garage.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Within the first few minutes of the meeting, Council President Ruben Ramos made a motion to table the measure, which was seconded by 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco, as a good faith effort to give the public more time to understand the deal at hand.
That motion failed by a tally of 6-3, with Ramos, DeFusco, and 6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino voting yes to table.
During the public portion, several residents of the Metro Stop Condominium, located at 800 Jackson St., applauded the parameters of the agreement, which was many years in the making and came to fruition after the city lost their final appeal in front of the New Jersey Supreme Court in May.
“I think this is a win-win all around: this is an opportunity for Hoboken that comes once in a lifetime or may not ever come again to acquire land of this size that will become a public amenity,” said Ariel Kemelman, who has lived in his current neighborhood for about a decade.
” … I think we all love Hoboken, I think that everyone who live in Hoboken has a special connection to it and I think that providing these kind of amenities for the neighborhoods and for the city at large is future proofing our city.”
On Tuesday, officials including Mayor Ravi Bhalla announced the proposed settlement, which includes Ironstate Development to transfer 1.4 acres of undeveloped land at 8th and Monroe Streets to the city.
This replaces a previous concept that would have had Ironstate, who at one point sought to built to 11-story towers on the Hoboken waterfront in the 2nd Ward, build a new municipal garage at the current location: 256 Observer Highway.
Nevertheless, Metro Stop residents, whose condo association donated $1,000 to then-Councilman-at-Large Ravi Bhalla’s successful 2017 mayoral bid, praised the plan in front of the council for the majority of the roughly one hour and forty minute public portion.
“I see this decision as a no brainer. I know that people raised the cost of buying this property or swapping this property for remediation, etc. – the property’s been remediated. I’ve been living here for 12 years: it’s been remediated,” stated Lisa Rothman.
“Contrary to the Shipyard project by the Hudson Tea Building, that’s gonna cost the city $20 million to remediate, so I don’t see why any council person on this call would vote against swapping this property to become a park … it’s just political in my very humble opinion.”
Still, the future of the DPW garage remained a contentious issue for some. The temporary site would potentially be housed near Northwest Park, which sounded like a non-starter for some 5th Warders.
“It’s clear to me that this mayor has springed these last minute deals on you guys, not only his constituents, but also on you a day or two [before] you’re asked to vote on it after the NYC media has been alerted so I feel sorry and thank you for your service,” said Matt Majer.
” … I agree this needs to be tabled and I think while it’s ultimately good for Hoboken overall, it lacks transparency. It was only late this afternoon that I made the president of a 1300 Grant St. Condo Association and another board member aware that later this year, they’re likely to get the Department of Public Works facility directly across from their condominiums.”
Majer, who lives at 1200 Grand St., said that he and his neighbors were not made aware of this aspect of the agreement and only found out that snow plows, garbage trucks, and other heavy pieces of machinery would be housed in the 5th Ward by doing their own research.
He also claimed that this was an election season tactic by Bhalla to garner support ahead of November’s mayoral contest.
Robert Griffin, a partner at Griffin Alexander P.C., represents the Jefferson Trust Building and the Observer Plaza. He questioned if Ironstate’s development was specifically capped in the parameters of the agreement.
“14 stories and a portion of it and eight stories in another portion of it but that’s what it is currently zoned this is not an agreement to change it to that, responded Councilman-at-Large Jim Doyle.
Doyle continued that whether or not the buildings would include parking spots was yet to be determined.
Prior to the vote, Joe Maraziti, counsel to Hoboken on land use matters, cautioned that if anyone with a perceived conflict in this matter voted that could lead to the resolution being invalidated by a court challenge.
2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher had previously recused herself from any votes related to the Monarch project during the time that she was serving on the Hudson Tea Building board.
Maraziti also said that the agreement does not require that the north lot, located near 13th and Jefferson Streets, be used as the temporary DPW location claiming “it’s not binding on the city” and that another location can be selected.
Finally, after over two-and-a-half hours of discussion, the resolution was approved 8-0(1), with Giattino abstaining.
Shortly after the vote concluded, Bhalla released a statement thanking the council and vowing to find a location for the DPW garage that works for everyone.
“I thank the City Council for adopting the Monarch settlement agreement tonight. This is a critical step forward that will facilitate continued negotiations with Ironstate to protect our waterfront from large-scale development, add much-needed open space, revitalize downtown Hoboken with 15,000 square feet of commercial space, and make quality of life improvements for our City,” he said.
“While no deal is perfect, we are well on our way to creating a historic agreement that will benefit all of our residents for many years to come … My commitment to Fifth Ward residents, and their Councilman Phil Cohen is to diligently explore a temporary location for our municipal garage in the North End that minimizes impacts to residents.”