In a fairly unexpected move, the Hoboken City Council voted to reintroduce, and then okayed, the first reading of an amended rail yard plan at last night’s meeting.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“I wanted to know: we’re moving [ordinance] back to 1st reading?,” 3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo asked Council President Jen Giattino.
“On December 4th,” she answered.
“Why aren’t we doing that tonight?,” Russo continued.
“It was removed from the agenda because members of the public were told that there would be a subcommittee meeting and they’d have a chance to speak about it again,” Giattino explained.
A hot button issue during this past election cycle, the first reading of a similar, but different, ordinance had first reading approved back in September.
That incarnation of the plan, which has existed in some form since 2005 and had another draft approved in 2014, calls for an 18-story, 300-foot tall (up from 200-feet) office building, as well as a 28-story building that was initially expected to be 24 stories tall.
However, it was recently amended after residents expressed public, traffic, and environmental concerns at a public forum last month.
Arguably the most significant change is that a 944,000 square-foot area previously designated as “future potential development” has now been roped off as a “no build zone” for NJ Transit – who owns the 80 acres of land – due to the $230 million Rebuild by Design flood prevention project.
Also, the 10 percent affordable housing designation has been changed to a minimum requirement (the 10 percent wasn’t defined before) and the Redevelopment Agreement will require a shadow study.
1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco, who vowed at the October 15th meeting to address the concerns brought forward, said that he felt it would make sense to vote on first reading since the public would have at least two more opportunities to have their voices heard before the council votes on second reading.
“So council president, since I raised that concern, it’s been brought to me attention by LCOR, the designated developer, that they’re willing to hold a robust community meeting in the train terminal on November 25th. The administration has further agreed to send out a Nixle alert, alerting them of this community meeting,” he said.
Also noting that the planning board would meet before the next council meeting, on December 3rd and December 4th, respectively, DeFusco further stated he saw no reason to delay the second reading until around mid-February.
Giattino still expressed discontent with such a move since members of the public who wanted to speak on the matter had left, with other residents not attending since they were told the agenda item was removed.
Nevertheless, Russo made a motion to override Giattino’s decision to remove the agenda item, which DeFusco seconded. The measure passed 5-3(1), with DeFusco, Russo, and Council members-at-Large Jim Doyle, Vanessa Falco, and Emily Jabbour voting yes.
Giattino, 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, and 5th Ward Councilman Peter Cunningham vote no, while 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos abstained.
The subsequent vote on 1st reading of the measure was later approved by a 6-3 vote, with Giattino, Fisher, and Cunningham voting no.