Hoboken business and property owners voiced their concerns, mostly regarding parking, vacant store fronts and homelessness, during the first formal meeting to discuss bringing a special improvement district to the Mile Square City.
“Consequently, we have special improvement districts: they are a partnership, and most important thing, is that they are self-governed,” said Stuart Koperweis of Economic Development Strategies, LLC, an advisor for the Hoboken SID project.
“They’re created by you, run by you: the stakeholders, the business people, the property owners and you are the people who have a seat at the table and you control that destiny.”
Koperweis was one of several speakers who gave a just over an hour long presentation on a potential Hoboken SID at the Stevens Institute of Technology’s Howe Center last night.
The steering committee currently consists of 16 different local business owners, as well as four people connected to the local government: 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, Business Administrator Stephen Marks, Principal Planner Jessica Giorgianni and Jason Freeman, the deputy chief of staff to Mayor Ravi Bhalla.
In addition to stressing the benefits of having a seat at the table, members of the committee also emphasized that a SID would help bring maintenance, development and promotion to a commercial district.
According to the presentation, there are currently 90 SIDs in New Jersey, including four in neighboring Jersey City, a number of audience members who participated in the question and answer session expressed being apprehensive about the idea.
Freeholder Anthony Romano (D-5), who owns the bar Louise and Jerry’s, located near 3rd and Washington Street, indicated that he didn’t feel the idea would work given Hoboken’s constant parking struggles and homeless population, which he characterized as emotionally disturbed.
“You have First Street less taxed than we are, on Washington Street: well we’re the ones that are really suffering. First Street is actually growing. There’s a problem up here: you’re not gonna get the lights approved because public service denied us,” a clearly frustrated Romano began.
Greg Dell’Aquilla, of JDA Partners, initially stepped in to try and defuse the situation, though he was initially met with more resistance.
“You have the delicatessens, Christmas Eve, being summons, double parking,” Romano continued before waiting on a response.
“One of the things … one of them specific that I think is a hot topic for all of us is parking. We’re gonna be at the table, having this conversation, before that ordinance is on the [council] agenda and being seemingly put down our throat,” Dell’Aquilla reasoned.
Romano later said that he is supportive of the endeavor going forward, despite standing by his beliefs that some citywide issues need to be taken into account first.
Frank Mizzone, who has owned a vacant property on Washington Street for five years, asked what benefit he would get from being part of the SID, echoing Romano’s sentiment that the homeless are often vomiting, defecating or sleeping on his property.
“There are a lot of technical issues involved with that. One of the things that happened in Journal Square, which I was very involved with in terms of their improvement district, is that they actually worked with the governing body and the city to make sure that they put some programs together to help the homeless,” Koperweis said.
Despite some obvious skepticism and unrest during the two-plus hour public session, Fisher said afterwards that the meeting was “critical” and that the SID will do a tremendous amount of good for Hoboken.
â€œThis meeting was critical and a year in the making â€“ to educate and collect feedback from members of our community about a proposed SID – and our steering committee did a great job in doing both,” the councilwoman stated.
â€œIn order to restore Hobokenâ€™s local economy, our commercial property and businesses owners must have a bigger seat at the table, partnering with the local government, and a SID will achieve this.”
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.
If all goes according to plan, the city council will vote to form the concept of the SID by the end of next month and will then come back to review budget assessments by the end of the year.
In a statement, Bhalla also expressed enthusiasm about bringing a SID to the city.
â€œOur businesses are what make our city special, and I know a Special Improvement District would be a game changer for the continued revitalization of our city,” he said.
“Iâ€™m thrilled to support our business community as they move forward with Hobokenâ€™s Special Improvement District, which has proven successful in over 90 cities across the State. Thank you to all of the members of the SID committee for spearheading this important initiative.â€
Editor’s Note: This story was updated with a comment from Mayor Ravi BhallaÂ