Hoboken council OKs two measures that may potentially scale back Western Edge project

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The Hoboken City Council okayed two measures that may potentially scale back the Western Edge project at last night’s meeting, three weeks after the developer said they had no plans of reducing the height of their plan.

A Jefferson Street building that is a key piece of the Western Edge Redevelopment Plan. Photo via Google Maps.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

” … I can’t wrap my head around why we’re putting this piece of property in an area of redevelopment, being that the North End redevelopment is on the same block, why are we putting it in the Western Edge and not the North End?,” asked 6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino.

The study area is Block 113, Lot 1 on the tax map that had previously been designated to include a pool, community center, and parking garage.

The project had been praised by Mayor Ravi Bhalla and the council last year, but is now in limbo due to height concerns raised by state Senator Brian Stack (D-33), the co-sponsor of the Palisade Cliffs Protection Act along with state Senator Nick Sacco (D-32).

Hoboken Principal Planner Jessica Giorgianni responded to Giattino by stating that the language was consistent with previous discussions about the Western Edge, but 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, who referred to the area as the “Stack box,” disagreed.

” … I feel like we should be doing more analysis on why this makes sense for our community, if it even makes sense from a financial standpoint to even consider contributing this lot into a residential development,” she said.

“I know that the Western Edge was amended to give lip service to the possibility of building a community center there, but the reality is that the math just isn’t gonna work so I think we are putting a huge cart before a horse. The application is before the planning board right now and a lot of this is just jumping through hoops for that application, to oppose actually that application. So I actually think we’re doing a disservice to the land use process.”

Councilman-at-Large Jim Doyle said that while these steps appeared to be non-definitive, he wanted to know if the city’s $5 million lot, also know as the North Flap, was acquired through “transportation bonding money.”

“The parking restriction is because part of the property was obtained through a bond ordinance and so through any sort of deal, the bond ordinance would have to be paid back to not have to use it for parking,” Giorgianni explained.

She added that the residential limitations on the ground and first story are due to a deed restriction.

At this point, Council President Ruben Ramos appeared to be frustrated since other developments, such as the recent Department of Public Works garage deal with Applied Development Company, did not receive the same level of scrutiny.

” … The original plan, the current plan that we all voted for, not all of us, but the plan that we voted for 7-2 is part of funding for the recreating center. And we should have learned our lesson from the Hilton Hotel when the judge said you had to included benefits directly to the redevelopment zone,” he exclaimed.

” … Whether we’re getting the recreation center or not, we should be telling Mayor Stack and Union City we’re gonna stand up for Hoboken as opposed to what they’re doing because residents tell me they enjoy the project, they’re looking forward to having the recreation center there.”

5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen said that there was no lip service in the agreement, and that a community center and pool would remain part of the plan regardless.

Fisher responded that the lip service is that she feels they are at risk of losing the community center since it cannot be built as originally planned.

The resolution referring the North Flap, or Block 113, Lot 1, to the planning board for a “preliminary investigation” to determine if it’s a non-condemnation area in need of redevelopment was approved 7-2, with Fisher and Giattino voting no.

The first reading of an ordinance expanding and amending the Western Edge Redevelopment Plan passed 6-3, with Fisher and Giattino voting no, while Councilwomen Emily Jabbour and Vanessa Falco noting they would vote yes on first reading only.