Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla says the city has a pledge in place from the Western Edge developers to reduce the height of the project, but they disagree with that assertion.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
” … I am glad to have received a commitment from Pegasus Partners to reduce the permitted height of their proposed buildings to 145 feet, thus ensuring that there will be no structures built above the height of the Palisades,” Bhalla said in a statement, noting that stakeholders have been involved in conversations for weeks.
“I believe this is a reasonable compromise that reflects the quality of life and feedback of residents in neighboring municipalities, while also allowing for what we anticipate will be appropriate community givebacks for Hoboken.”
He continued that in the event that the redevelopment plan, which was introduced by the administration and approved by the city council just under a year ago, was not revised, the city would “take immediate steps to rescind the portions of the plan” they had committed to changing.
Furthermore, Bhalla thanked state Senator Brian Stack (D-33), also the Union City mayor whose legislative district includes Hoboken, for finding “a balance of community-sensitive development” for the two neighboring Hudson County cities.
However, Mark Luis Villamar, of Pegasus Partners, said that they met with Bhalla and members of his administration on Tuesday about the possibility of altering the height of their two projects within the Western Edge Redevelopment Zone, however, denied committing to anything.
” … Pegasus Partners met Tuesday with the Mayor and members of his administration to discuss the possibility of altering the height of our two projects, without committing to any course of action or specific building heights,” he said.
“It is our intention to continue to move forward with two great projects that ensures housing for homeless veterans, creation of affordable housing, flood mitigation, jobs creation, and other community givebacks, all of which have been years in the making and with full municipal involvement. We look forward to continuing the conversation with the Mayor, his staff, and the City Council.”
Nevertheless, city spokesman Vijay Chaudhuri said that Pegasus’ best option is to take the deal currently on the table since the alternative won’t be in their favor.
“If Mr. Villamar is unwilling to compromise and honor his commitment to 145 feet of height, Hoboken will expeditiously move forward to rescind the agreement, and restore the original maximum height of 116 feet, plain and simple.”
The plan the council approved on July 29th, 2020 allowed a maximum height of 208 feet, a residential complex with 357 units, including 37 affordable units, as well as designating $3 million towards a potential pool and flood mitigation infrastructure.
The mayor vocalized his support for this plan at the time, indicating that it “will add substantial quality of life benefits to our mile square.”
2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher blasted Bhalla for what she feels is putting Union City’s interest ahead of Hoboken’s.
“Last summer, Mayor Bhalla celebrated this 196-foot project with all of the community benefits yet now when Senator/Mayor Stack screams about the view impact to Union City residents, the Mayor changes the rules to benefit Union City,” she said in statement.
“Threatening both the City Council and the developer to reduce the scale by 25%, veterans and affordable housing and other community amenities and infrastructure investment for Hoboken. Why is Mayor Bhalla putting the interest of Union City before Hoboken?”
The Western Edge project, which had a draft first approved back in 2015, has encountered a number of delays in recent memory as they currently await a hearing in front of the planning board.
Last April, it appeared that Stack and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop would filed suit against Hoboken over the project, though cooler heads prevailed in the 11th hour.
Then, last June, the Fair Share Housing Center filed a lawsuit alleging that the development violate state affordable housing requirements, though an a settlement was reached outside of court in short order.
Additionally, Stack, along with state Senator Nick Sacco (D-32), also the North Bergen mayor, introduced the Palisade Cliffs Protection Act in December, updating the bill last month to include the proposal of a 10-member preservation council, as HCV first reported.
The legislation would oversee projects in the “Palisades Planning Region,” which is defined as “land within the municipalities which extends up to 2,000 feet east of the Palisades cliff crest at each location along the Palisades cliffs.”
When asked about the legislation as his re-election campaign kickoff last week, Bhalla said he hadn’t read the updated version of the bill in detail yet, but had no issue putting his faith in the legislators in the 33rd District.
“We defer to our legislative delegation, in Trenton the 33rd District is well represented and I’m sure whatever the outcome of the legislation, if it’s driven by the 33rd District, it’s intended to protect the interests of the residents of the 33rd District,” he said at the time.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a comment from 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher and city spokesman Vijay Chaudhuri.