Hoboken officials discussed the possibility of constructing a temporary Department of Public Works garage at a virtual municipal complex meeting last night.
At the beginning of the 42-minute meeting, Business Administrator Jason Freeman said the version of the project residents favored in a recent survey would cost about $192.5 million, with $152.5 million for the civic center and about $40 million for amenities including a pool, field house, rec center, and parking.
He continued that the city has identified $154 million in funding: $85 million in assets for redevelopment, $55 million in developer contributions, and $14 million in grants: leaving a $38.5 million balance over 30 years.
“This balance could be covered by a variety of sources including, but not limited to, financial contributions from the public library, revenues from the municipal complex like parking and recreation, among others. Parking revenues should be at least about a half a million dollars in monthly parking per year. That doesn’t include anything related to daily commuter in and out parking,” Freeman explained.
“ … We are nearing the end of spring and we have not acquired the property due to a minority of the city council that’s refused to approve a bond ordinance to fund the acquisition, just the acquisition of this property … Therefore, we have been forced to evaluate options for a temporary public works operation.”
In February, the city council narrowly approved two measures in 5-4 votes: one to give the city the ability to use eminent domain at 1501 Adams St., the Poggi Press site, and another related $44 million bond ordinance to acquire the property.
However, for the bond ordinance to be approved on second reading, six affirmative votes are required and it was finally removed from the agenda last week after being carried twice.
“ … It is unfortunate that a minority of the council members have chosen either not to participate or prevent this project from advancing all together,” Freeman also said.
1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco, 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos, and 6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino all voted no on first reading, with Ramos and Giattino accusing the administration of trying to horse trade to get them to switch their votes.
While the proposed municipal complex would include headquarters for the police and fire departments, along with the office of emergency management and volunteer ambulance corps, council chambers, and a municipal court, the city must find a new home for their DPW garage by the end of 2024 as part of their Monarch settlement with Ironstate.
Director of Environmental Services Jennifer Gonzalez noted that a temporary location was not ideal, but may be necessary due to the project recently coming to a standstill.
“We need to prepare for Plan B and that’s a much less ideal scenario which includes disparate, temporary operations for public works at other available city-owned property,” she stated.
Gonzalez also said facility needs about 83,000 square feet and two potential locations are 201 Marshall St., the former PSE&G substation site, and 1301 Jefferson St. – the north lot of the Northwest Resiliency Park.
She also said it may be possible that they could still use a portion of 1501 Adams St.
“We don’t have estimated costs for the temporary facilities yet and that is because we first need to know if we’ll be able to utilize a portion of 1501 Adam St. for our temporary operations while phasing construction,” Gonzalez began.
“That will inform whether we need to construct a temporary structure for interior storage, operations, and parking. If we did construct a temporary structure, it would likely be at 201 Marshall St. and/or whether we need to utilize a portion of the north lot specifically for office trailers.”
During about a 15-minute question and answer session with residents, Paul Presinzano, a frequent critic of the administration, asked if they realized that payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) deals and selling city assets would still have a cost to taxpayers.
“The portion that we’re looking for is added impact to the municipal levy and that’s where we’re looking at here. Frankly, the city is not a real estate investment company, it is not a redeveloper: we are looking for ways to operate and reach the city’s best potential by getting the highest and best use of these properties,” Freeman replied.
“The PILOT money is money generated for municipal purposes, that is correct, so in that way it is taxable funds but what we’re trying to do is utilize what PILOT money represents and that is an injection of a heightened dollar amount of those funds to offset the tax burden that would otherwise be on the average citizen,” added Mayor Ravi Bhalla.
Last week, counsel for Charles Poggi said that he still opposes the condemnation of his property and would rather redevelop it himself.