Hoboken officials touted the benefits of a “state of the art” public safety headquarters and municipal complex proposal, an ambitious plan for the northern part of the city that would be developed at 1501 Adams St., the current Poggi Press site.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
During a Zoom call last night, Mayor Ravi Bhalla echoed the sentiment from his State of the City Address, noting that first responders deserve to have facilities that are updated and of the highest quality after working through two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We could really create something visionary,” he also said, with Business Administrator Jason Freeman later indicating that the initial proposal by property owner Charles Poggi’s team would’ve had nearly 600 units and cost $22.5 million to have a Department of Public Works garage at the site.
Due to the city’s Monarch settlement with Ironstate Development, the city needs a new DPW site by November 2024.
The current DPW facility at 265 Observer Highway is expected to be developed into a mixed-use development with roughly 30,000 square feet of commercial space and 360 residential units, including 40 affordable housing units by Ironstate.
Acting Fire Chief Anthony Peskens and Acting Police Chief Steven Aguiar briefly spoke as well, with Peskens stating that current fire HQ at 201 Jefferson St. is 107 years old and was originally built to accommodate horse-drawn carriages.
“Our office and storage space does not meet current demands … we have no shared dispatch or emergency center,” added Aguiar, who said that they are so cramped at their 106 Hudson St. station that their meeting and training room had to be converted into the women’s locker room.
Department of Environmental Services Director Jennifer Gonzalez also said having many of the city’s departments in the same building would streamline services, especially during an emergency.
John Nastasi, of Nastasi Architects, echoed a similar sentiment during his presentation that looked at a preliminary draft rendering.
“Whenever you cluster these department togethers, there’s tremendous efficiency with shares services … I could see each of these departments being able to host educational events,” he explained.
The municipal complex would include a new municipal parking garage with approximately 405 public spaces, 144 municipal spaces, a 118,700-square foot DPW garage, as well as multiple indoor and outdoor community spaces such as a 5,500 square foot library, 18,500 square foot field house, 42,000-square foot recreation center and roof community garden.
The facility would also include the office of emergency management, a court room, and council chambers.
During and question and answer session where members of the public were randomly broken out into groups, resident Justina Debeuck asked why the fire department is facing 15th Street instead of 16th Street.
“The part of that that went into the decision making is that DPW has construction grade trucks going in and out quite a bit, we feel that’s going to be a very active part of the building, so that’s on 16th Street. The Fire Department is much less active than Department of Public Works,” replied Nastasi.
When asked about the size and scope of the plan, Gonzalez said this didn’t come together overnight.
“I wouldn’t call it sudden notice, this is something we’ve been working on diligently since December. We’ve been in discussions with the property owner for almost two years. It is our full intention to acquire the property with a fair offer,” she explained.
She added that she anticipated a full budget for the project being released this spring.
While the city council approved the ability to use eminent domain on the Poggi Press site earlier this month (by a tally of 5-4), a related $44 million bond ordinance that cleared 5-4 last month still awaits second reading.
All bond ordinances require six votes to pass and Gonzalez told HCV that a temporary location would likely be necessary if the council voted the project down.
“I don’t like thinking about that scenario, but if that happens, we’d have to look at other locations for at least a temporary public works facility,” she began.
“We’d have to look at other sites that we thought would be parks … We certainly hope that this will be our permanent location … We will certainly plan for a Plan B but it will be difficult.”
4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos, one of the council members who voted against eminent domain and the bonding ordinances, made it crystal clear that he would not be changing his bonding vote the second time around.
“This might be the worst urban planning in the history of urban planning. We spent years creating a plan that would allow for the property owners to help fund municipal needs and public uses and we’ve totally thrown that work out the window without even making an effort to work with the four property owners to create an area that can be vibrant and unique,” he told HCV.
5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen, whose ward is where the project is located, blasted Ramos’ take on the project.
“Councilman Ramos knocks Hoboken’s plans to support our tireless frontline workers and add long-desired services to the 5th Ward like an uptown Library Branch while adding zero residential density to an entire City Block, but he offers no alternatives,” he began.
“It’s a stark contrast to when the Councilman Ramos’s developer buddies propose dropping three 17-story towers into the 5th Ward, because then he can’t do enough. We are fortunate that Mayor Bhalla and our Public Safety community is engaging the community-at-large in order to plan for the long term needs of current and future generations of residents without overburdening the 5th Ward with unnecessary overdevelopment, even if that’s what Councilman Ramos prefers.”
In a statement issued just before last night’s virtual meeting, Poggi continued to take a stand in opposition of the concept.
” … How much is this project going to cost? The mayor threw out a number in his March 10 address of $40 million. That is unrealistic. The lack of transparency that accompanies this project is astonishing,” he said.
“Somewhere between November 2021 and January 2022, the entire concept of moving the city’s public works garage to 1501 Adams Street morphed into what is now what I speculate to be a $150 million project and no more than a handful of insiders knew anything about it. How did that happen, and why did it happen?”
Additionally, the city is soliciting community feedback on the project here.
Editor’s note: This story was updated with a comment from 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos and 5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen.