The Hoboken City Council voted to create a Special Improvement District that is seeking to reinvigorate the businesses along Washington Street, despite the fact that 3rd Ward Councilman Michael Russo did not want his district to be a part of it.
“Before we call a vote, I’m asking my colleagues to allow an amendment to remove the 3rd Ward from the SID, and I’m asking all of you to vote in favor of that so that I can govern the 3rd Ward as the residents in that Ward are asking me to do. I’m asking you to support that,” Russo began at last night’s regularly scheduled meeting.
“I would do the same for all of you if your residents came to you … most of the people who came here tonight are 3rd Warders, people saying they don’t wan’t to be included in this, and multiple residents have called me and emailed me to say no to the SID.”
Back in April, the city’s SID consultant, Stuart Koperweis of Economic Development Strategies, LLC, gave a presentation at the Stevens Institute of Technology to Hoboken business and property owners about how a SID would improve residential and business conditions.
He rationalized that a SID would help bring maintenance, development and promotion to a commercial district.
Before Russo proposed his amendment, multiple speakers from the 3rd Ward expressed skepticism about the SID proposal because they fear they’ll see higher taxes without any additional economic and quality-of-life benefits such as improved parking conditions.
However, according to the council, the preliminary SID budget is $1.325 million, or about 1.8 percent of the taxes being paid by businesses that fall within the SID district, with roughly two thirds of that money being allocated towards marketing and visual improvements.
Before the council voted on Russo’s amendment, a couple elected officials emphasized that the alarming increase in storefront closures along the Washington Street business artery necessitates an SID to reinvigorate it.
4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos noted that it wasn’t long ago when cities like Jersey City looked with envy at Hoboken’s commercial district, but now it’s Jersey City that has created four SIDs in just the last 10 years.
“I’m in favor of the SID because what’s happened in the past 10 years in town is just not working, and we have to change direction. People looked at Jersey City 10 years ago, and Jersey City wished it was Hoboken. And in 2019, we’re seeing the opposite. We were the trendsetters, and now we’re having to catch up to that trend,” Ramos explained.
He pointed to recent policy initiatives and actions that he feels are contributing to making Hoboken uninviting to people in the surrounding areas and beyond.
“Allowing Washington Street to go into a state of disrepair for eight years is unconscionable. But yet, it was allowed to happen. It wasn’t rocket science that our residents were going to suffer because of that. Add to that, the war on parking with towing, ticketing and booting–an unfriendly environment. We’ve made the town uninviting, we cannot survive without outside residents visiting our community. We now need to change that direction.”
He reminded the council and the public that Hoboken isn’t just competing against Jersey City as a result of its four SIDs that is generating new retail and commercial opportunities.
“Grove Street has a SID district, Central Avenue has a SID district, West Side Avenue has a SID district. That’s what we are competing with, as well as competing with Weehawken and West New York, all towns that used to envy us. We can’t just stay stagnant, and now hopefully we can use the SID to reinvent ourselves,” said Ramos.
After Ramos’ remarks, the council took up Russo’s amendment to exclude the 3rd Ward from the SID for a vote that failed 2-7, with only Councilwoman-at-Large Emily Jabbour, who lives in the 3rd Ward, and Russo voting yes.
Finally, after over two hours of public comment, the vote on implementing a SID passed 8-1, with only Russo voting no.
â€œThis is a historic moment for Hoboken that will bring the necessary focus and resources for the first time in over a decade to grow our local economy,” added 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher.
“Our local businesses citywide are the backbone of the Hoboken economy providing important amenities to the residents of our urban village and the heart of what attracts people to live in and visit Hoboken. Getting to this point was a team effort that could not have happened without the vision, efforts and commitment of many.”
Mayor Ravi Bhalla also applauded the decision, calling it “a game changer” for Hoboken.
â€œThe formation of Hobokenâ€™s first ever Special Improvement District demonstrates our firm commitment to helping our small businesses thrive in our City,â€ he said in a statement.
â€œThe SID has been a proven way to help revitalize commercial corridors across New Jersey, and will play an important role in promoting economic growth and support to our local small business owners. This will be a game changer for our City and I thank all of the members of the SID formation committee for moving this forward.â€
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with a comment from Mayor Ravi Bhalla.