A virtual meeting on the Hoboken Neuman Leathers Redevelopment plan went off without a hitch last night after their December meeting was abruptly cancelled due to a Zoom bombing.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen, the chair of the council’s community development committee, apologized for the disruption.
“It was disrespectful of your time. I regret the fact that your time was not respected … Our new platform will prevent that from happening again,” he said at the beginning of the meeting.
Community Development Director Chris Brown explained the project would be a mix of residential units and industrial arts tenants. He said COVID-19 halted a plan that had been steadily developed after council approval was received in 2015.
That plan included adding permanent rent protections for industrial arts tenants. Additionally, the new proposal can accomodate more residents since it has more stories.
“The density that would be provided is key to making the project financially viable to ensure artist protections,” he said.
“The complex has been a center of the arts since … at least the 1970s. We are grateful to the City of Hoboken … We are here to voice support for this project,” said Neumann Leathers Arts Community Association Chair Winifred McNeill said.
A video depicted the various professions housed in the complex including an architect, painters, model makers, writers, furniture makers, costume makers, music businesses, a photographer, and video professionals.
“It was counterpoint to a national developer leveling the property,” architect John Nastasi said regarding the design. He is also a member of the Neumann Leathers association.
He explained they plan to refurbish the site and build new structures, further explaining that there would be retail stores and food in the courtyard of the arts compound.
To that end, the courtyard would double as a resiliency park that can collect 120,000 gallons of stormwater during storms.
“The thought of retail on this side of Newark sounds like a long overdue concept,” he added.
“Could you specify the number of residential units?” Brown asked.
Nastasi said there would be 375 units and 16 stories in certain parts of the complex, emphasizing that there would be multiple buildings in the complex at varying heights.
“What about traffic? Those roads are already terrible,” resident Maria DiMurro asked.
Nastasi said they are creating a new public street that will make getting to Observer Highway easier and ease congestion, also noting that a parking garage is part of the complex.
“I’ve been sitting in these windows for 32 years. I’ve watched literally daily the activities on Newark Street,” he added.
DiMurro followed up by asking exactly how much parking there would be.
“We’re not proposing 1:1 residential. It’s a seven-minute walk to the train. We don’t see this as a quasi-suburban development,” Nastasi answered.
“I live like 10 minutes from the PATH. I own a car. I’m just concerned about congestion,” DiMurro replied.
Nastasi said they were trying to encourage people to use mass transit.
“The administration, myself, and [4th Ward] Councilman [Ruben] Ramos are working on remedies for Observer Highway … to accommodate the higher traffic counts,” chimed in 1st Ward Councilman Mike De Fusco.
He said the study was approved last year and the transportation committee is monitoring the situation.
“It is heard loud and clear Maria that traffic in and out of town is terrible,” De Fusco reiterated.
“The parking is even more concerning,” DiMurro responded.
“The city is incentivizing people to take alternative measures. Out-of-towners should pay for the luxury of parking on our streets,” De Fusco continued.
Another resident, David Krempels, also asked how many parking spots there would be.
“I think we were close to .4 or .5 per unit. When I arrive in the morning at 7:30, the lot is full with neighbors who go to work at 8 o’clock,” Nastasi answered.
“Do you know the unit breakdown?” Brown asked.
“It was an even mix … of 1s, 2s, and 3s,” Nastasi said.
Stephen Dunn then asked for an explanation on automated parking, to which Nastasi said that once parked, the car will be moved by a mechanical device if need to accomodate other cars.
“I’m worried about the shadows and the light of the art spaces. How much of that interior courtyard will be in shadow all day? How much of the artist space is lost, if any?” Roberto Verthelyi asked.
“Back when we as a tenant association were fighting this national developer, we said to the city we need 70,000 square feet to keep up intact,” Nastasi said, indicating that his plan would include 71,000 square feet.
“I think it’s the right number to accommodate just about everybody who would want to stay,” Nastasi added.
Cheryl Fallick asked if they were considering a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement for the project, as well as if residential rental protections would be part of the deal.
“This project does contemplate a PILOT,” Brown replied, stating that it may be needed to keep the art space rental rates low – potentially a two percent limit on rental increases.
“The loading dock, can you walk through those again?” 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher asked.
“This is an industrial complex that caters to industrial uses. We’re carving through our private property to make a Grand Street extension. You could back a track in and go in the building,” Nastasi responded.
Nevertheless, Fisher was concerned about residential deliveries and Uber drivers blocking traffic, to which Nastasi said the new road would accommodate drivers.
Furthermore, DeFusco said they have been working on the plan since he first began serving on the council in 2016 and that the neighbors are supportive of the plan.
He said it was a unique project because it was “holding on to makers, creatives and innovators in perpetuity. This creative community … is really what’s important to the future of Hoboken.”
“What efforts have been made to consult the Hoboken Public Schools? PILOTs … inevitably lead to new students,” former Councilman-at-Large Dave Mello, a high school teacher in Jersey City, questioned.
Brown said they had not discussed it with the schools since they want to hold the public meeting first before presenting the plan to the city council.
He hypothesized that the formal agreement might take a year to negotiate. After that, it would need planning board approval, and even then, construction likely wouldn’t start before late 2025.