The Hoboken City Council voted down a contract to evaluate a zone near the police station as a redevelopment zone at last night’s meeting.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
The resolution in question was for a $33,000 contract to Brightview Engineering to prepare a “scattered site redevelopment designation,” which Community Development Director Chris Brown said includes municipal lots B, G, and D, as well as the police station, and 5 Marineview Plaza.
4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos asked if the purpose of this measure was to begin looking into selling the police station and Brown said it was not.
“The purpose of the redevelopment … is modernizing the facility, potentially having recreation opportunities on the sites, and also having ground-level retail. If you walk down Hudson Street right now on that block … the garages essentially created a dead zone.”
2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher contended that since all of that property is owned by the city, there was no need to deem it a redevelopment area, to which Brown said the redevelopment of the garages would be a “pricey endeavor” and partnering with developers would be preferred to offset the costs.
“I’m a big no on this: I think that we should have a better sense of what we would like to do with the area before we decide. I know no matter what we can get any planner to make these redevelopment areas, we’ve proven that all across the city,” Fisher explained.
“So instead of spending money on this now, why don’t we actually just think about what we want to put in place first and let’s think through … before we start giving the city the ability to just give away property at prices that are not the best possible prices.”
Fisher also said that the best “political outcome” should not be put ahead of fiscal responsibility, reminding her colleagues that the Western Edge project American Legion Post 107 Commander John Carey spoke about has been in the works for the better part of the past decade.
This prompted Council President Mike Russo to ask if she feels any redevelopment plan that the council votes on is not a fair and open process.
“It is not the most fair and definitely not open process, and the answer is yes, every single one of them,” she replied.
“But you’ve voted on them?,” he inquired.
“100 percent … We don’t get to negotiate them, we just get to vote up or down,” Fisher responded.
Russo said he disagreed since the council has a lot more ability to negotiate in this fashion than if the mayor tried to negotiate a deal with the land owner.
6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino pressed Brown on what the purpose of including the police station in the zone was, to which Business Administrator Jason Freeman eventually jumped in and noted that the long-term plan was to include the police station as part of the proposed municipal complex.
“Thank you because everyone was kind of beating around the bush on that topic, and when it comes to that topic, it gets us right back to where we are today with selling our DPW site and not having a home for the DPW,” said Giattino.
“To Council Giattino’s point, the fix is already in: we’re making a plan to fit an objective and the objective’s already written out, which is to sell the police station to fund, I think Mr. Presinzano said ‘the municipal palace’ that’s what that proportions for. The deck is already made, it’s all done in everyone’s mind here so we’re just going through the charade,” Ramos exclaimed.
The administration has unveiled a municipal complex plan that could cost between $152.5 and $192.5 million, which would house the council, municipal court, police and fire departments, office of emergency management, along with several potential community amenities.
The development is planned for 1501 Adams St., the Poggi Press site owned by Charles Poggi.
While the council previously approved the ability to use eminent domain, this was the third meeting in a row where the second reading of a $44 million related bond ordinance was carried.
All bonds require six affirmative votes and the measure passed 5-4 on first reading (as did the ordinance regarding eminent domain).
Just before the vote, Councilman-at-Large Jim Doyle added that he had concerns about the scope and scale of the development in the city as a whole, and while the redevelopment could have some benefits, he felt that they already had enough on their plate.
The measure failed 6-2, with 5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen and Councilwoman-at-Large Emily Jabbour voting yes. Jabbour joined the meeting remotely while 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco was absent.