Hoboken council hears public art ideas such as sculpture at Pier C, statue of LGBTQ icon


The Hoboken City Council heard public art proposals including a mural in city hall, a sculpture at Pier C, and a statue of LGBTQ icon Marsha P. Johnson at last night’s three-hour meeting.By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View

Hoboken Business Administrator Jason Freeman explained there wouldn’t be a vote Wednesday evening and this was simply a presentation to give an overview of the potential projects.

“This artwork will provide color and visual excitement to our civic space,” began Hoboken Arts Administrator Annie McAdams

The first art project was a mural of the waterfront proposed to be in City Hall for a cost of $11,600.

The second proposal was a statue honoring Marsha P. Johnson in the northwest corner of Stevens Park, with McAdams explaining she was a leading LGBT activist helping transgender, homeless youth, and AIDS patients in particular.

“Marsha chose Hoboken as her home for the final 12 years of her life, There’s no comparable bronze to Marsha anywhere else. It’s a celebration of an unsung hero,: McAdams added, noting that the final design is still underway.

The statue has an estimated cost  of $250,000.

The last proposal was called “The River That Flows Two Ways,” which would be a sculpture at Pier C park, which McAdams said it would reflect the history of the waterfront and the Hudson River. This piece of art would be the most expensive for the city at $500,000.

“How are the locations of the two statues determined?” 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher asked.

“I can defer to Jason or Liz for that or Caleb,” McAdams said.

“It was more aspirational than specific,” Assistant Business Administrator Caleb Stratton answered.

1st Ward Councilman Paul Presinzano was curious about the sculpture proposed for Pier C.

“I’ve seen people sit on the top … or jump in the river. Have they looked at anything that would stop something from happening?” he asked.

He was also concerned about the sculpture breaking and the city’s legal liability if someone were to climb on it and get injured.

“We’re immune from certain things,” Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia replied.

Presinzano continued that he wasn’t sure if a mural in City Hall was worthwhile since the building still isn’t fully open to the public.

“Why would we select that place? You have to make an appointment to get into City Hall,” the downtown councilman stated.

“It would still be beautiful,” McAdams replied.

“City Hall is not closed to the public. His opinion is his opinion,” Freeman said.

“If you can’t walk through the front doors Director Freeman, if you can’t walk through the front doors uninhibited, without that, that’s not open,” Presinzano argued.

Giattino agreed and expanded on her colleague’s point.

“Until this January, if I didn’t have an appointment at City Hall, they would not let me in,” she explained.

Councilman-at-Large Jim Doyle said that City Hall tends to loosen restrictions on days when they’re hosting public meetings, along with other exceptions.

“I think people are struggling the most with the one on Pier C. 98 percent of the emails we got were against having a large structure on that spot. I’m excited about the future of this,” Fisher said.

Liz Ndoye, of the Hoboken Arts Committee, explained that there was an extensive selection process, along with time and budget constraints.

“We spent many, many months vetting artists … Art brings in revenue,” Ndoye added.

“Was there any discussion of art west of Monroe Street?” 3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo asked, to which Ndoye said there was.

During public comment, Randolph Wicker approved of the Marsha P. Johnson proposal, noting she was featured in Time Magainze. He added there was a previous proposal to build a statue of her, but it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If you approve this statue, you will beat New York City and show Hoboken is the real art center of this country,” Wicker said to applause.

“The statue that never got made of her in New York was so popular a local sculpto r… created a bust of Marsha and put it up illegally. It stood up there for a few months,” LGBT historian Devlin Camp explained.

“She’s one of the most famous figures to come out of Hoboken in recent memory,” he added.

During her remarks, Rose Marie Markle asked if the money to pay for art came from bonds, to which Giattino said it did (the Public Arts Trust Fund).

“We’re talking $761,000 worth of public art. If you walk around Hoboken, it’s filthy. We have so many other issues. This isn’t really a need,” Markle claimed.

She noted it was noted at the last meeting when the issue of the costs of the Hoboken Housing Authority (HHA) and Damon “Nunu” Murray’s murder were discussed.

Hoboken LGBTQIA+ Liaison Laura Knittel said she liked the Johnson statue proposal.

“She was a symbol of hope for people who suffered persecution. The City of Hoboken is to be commended for its plan. As a symbol to all those who must hide who they are …i t will serve as a beacon of hope for all of us,” she stated

“I think it’s a wonderful location, and it will be an inspiring statue for our community. Art is powerful because it tells a story. The Marsha P. Johnson statue in particular, tells a story of acceptance, of pride and will convey especially to children in our community who are also queer, who are trans, that they are valued and welcomed here,” Katherine Williams noted to applause.

After public comment on the art proposals, Councilwoman-at-Large Emily Jabbour noted that some residents have expressed concerns about having The River That Flows Two Ways sculpture on Pier C since it would obstruct the waterfront view.

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  1. The fortress at City Hall is in place to allow the Mayor to feel more important/vital. This in turn allows Vijay and Jason to feel as though they are managing a vast, complex urban mecca when in fact they are little more than a couple of guys shooting cap guns.

    Grow up!

    • Ravi Bhalla has always proceed in his career by framing himself as a victim. Trying to advance that by saying I need to put expensive bullet proof plexiglass barriers and metal detectors etc between him and the public works for him.
      We should all remember that he is the first and only elected official in Hoboken who demanded those draconian measures to harden City Hall against the people of Hoboken. Is it just that Ravi Bhalla is so disliked or is again part of portraying himself as a victim for political gain?

  2. Yet another case of the manipulation and lack of transparency by the Bhalla Administration.
    The public again only is given a look behind the curtain at the last minute with no real input.
    When Bhalla hand picks a group of his supporters to chose public art and then gets to decide the final pieces for the taxpayers to purchase without the public being shown the alternatives it is not transparent. The Mayor constantly uses the buzz word transparency and then does the exact opposite.

    While I am and always have been a supporter of the taxpayers of Hoboken investing in public art the Bhalla system to make that happen is broken .

  3. Why don’t they put up these monuments in their homes and leave the taxpayers out of it? Stop flushing taxpayer monies down the toilet for your pet projects.