Hoboken rail yard plan roils residents due to parking, traffic, & environmental concerns

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A public meeting on the Hoboken Yard Redevelopment Plan had many residents and commuters alike roiled over parking, traffic, and environmental concerns, though they were assured that the plan is in its infancy and won’t move forward any time soon.

Before the public session, hosted at the Multi-Service Community Center at 124 Grand St., Council President Jen Giattino tried to quell some of the worries of the crowd by announcing that the second reading of the plan would not be voted on this evening.

Even so, concerns clearly remained rampant among the crowd of over 100 people, who began yelling out their questions early and often before 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco (the project is in his ward) also tried his hand at trying to calm things down.

“The council is part, is half, of the redevelopment body of the city. It’s a check and balance,” he began, before getting cut off by members of the public.

“When has an agreement ever gotten smaller?,” one woman questioned.

“Wouldn’t it make more sense to look at the study and say ‘hey, based on the traffic study, the most we can have is 10 stories.’ Instead of wasting time, approving 20, then going back and saying ‘you know what, just kidding it should be 10,'” another annoyed resident exclaimed.

As HCV detailed last week, the project spans over about 80 acres of NJ Transit-owned land and will be developed by LCOR.

The current 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.

While the 2014 plan called for about 2.3 million square feet of development, the newer version outlines 1,357,000 square feet – though 944,000 square feet of “future potential development” clearly had some in attendance uneasy, at best.

According to 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, the current amendment was a change of pace for what took place under Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s administration.

“This is a change recently, under this administration, where we are amending plans, and then agreeing with developers to basically fit the development within the plan. I personally think we need to do more work.”

LCOR Senior Vice President Brian Barry said that given the number of partners involved in this project at all levels of government, the time is now to act – or it’s possible the $100 million development goes up in smoke.

“We have NJ Transit’s engagement in leadership. We have the State of New Jersey. We have the DEP [Department of Environmental Protection] we’re working with closely. The city: I know there is diverging interest there,” he began.

“We’re working with them closely, trying to move us forward. The PATH is fully engaged: now is the time you have to realize this. This opportunity is not gonna be there forever. One change in leadership … it’s over.”

Barry did his best to try and alleviate two of the biggest concerns among attendees: reiterating several times that this project would not impact Rebuild by Design and that the land allocated for future development would be an industrial site, if anything at all.

“This is a FEMA accredited resist barrier that requires certain clearances – let me just give you a little example. They need to be able to physically get a vehicle [through] in case the wall needs to be repaired,” he explained.

” … I don’t have the ability to build an area clear enough to drive through the base of the building. It’s just not feasible to be able to accommodate whoever controls the wall, whoever manages its modifications … and there’s a significant liability.”

After a short shouting match ensued after yet another audience member still expressed further concerns regarding flood preparedness, Barry doubled down that the $230 Rebuild by Design plan would be untouched by this project.

He also again expressed that seeing any unexpected development pop up here was a non-issue.

“I know there’s a future site, a million square feet. It was 2.3 [million] and I know there’s an opportunity for another site down the road – 1.3 to 2.3 [million] – it’s a smaller foot print. It’s a smaller development,” Barry stated.

“We are not going … the wall that’s built, that development, that area is not built. We have professionals who will speak to that.”

Maser Consulting’s Michelle Briehof briefly tried to address the traffic study performed back in the spring, but that conversation did not last long as concerns were continually shouted from the crowd.

“There’s going to be more traffic, I’m not going to stand here and lie by saying there won’t be more traffic,” she said before the public question and answer session ended.

After Giattino said last week, and repeated last night, that the second reading of the redevelopment ordinance would not be voted on tonight, Mayor Ravi Bhalla weighed in via a statement released after the meeting that he also felt the vote should be postponed.

“While I appreciate the proposed amendment to integrate the elements of Rebuild by Design into the plan by the City Council, it is clear that there must be additional time to incorporate the community feedback received by my office and at tonight’s community meeting before a final vote can occur,” he said.

“I’m asking the City Council, which is the redevelopment entity of the City of Hoboken, to postpone the scheduled vote on the Hoboken Yard Redevelopment Plan so this can appropriately occur.”

According to the City Clerk’s Office, the measure was tabled to the November 6th council meeting as of this past Friday.

The first reading of the ordinance passed unanimously last month and was tabled by a vote of 7-1(1) on October 2nd, with 3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo, one of the sponsors of the measure, voting no. Councilwoman-at-Large Emily Jabbour abstained.

Given that Russo and 5th Ward Councilman Peter Cunningham traded hard shots at that meeting, it’s not surprising that he again took a gloves off approach when weighing in on the project – this time also putting the mayor in his crosshairs.

“Mayor Bhalla has purposely continued to misrepresent the size and scale of this project to Hoboken residents for his own political gain,” Cunningham said in a statement.

“The administration has failed to follow the proper redevelopment amendment protocols to weigh how this could potentially negatively impact our existing community. With Councilman Michael Russo’s support to rush through this approval process, it has become abundantly clear that the two are only concerned about appeasing their union donors and protecting their own campaign contributions.”

In response, city spokesman Vijay Chaudhuri noted that Cunningham “conveniently missed the memo” that the mayor asked for the measure to be tabled, as well as that the councilman okayed the 2014 version of the project.

“The Councilman has likely forgotten that he in fact voted for the original Hoboken Yard plan in 2014 that called for substantially more development, and any amendments are the product of the City Council, not the administration,” he added.

19 COMMENTS

  1. Ms. Fisher’s complaints about the process are more than a little disingenuous. She has acknowledged meeting privately with LCOR herself to discuss the plan. The plan was approved by a council committee chaired by her ally Mike DeFusco and on which her ally Ruben Ramos also serves. It was then passed with her vote on 1st reading. She did nothing to publicize the fact that a 2nd reading was on the agenda.

    All this occurred without Ms. Fisher mentioning a word about the process being different than that followed under Mayor Zimmer, and without Ms. Fisher including even a mention in her long winded e-mails to constituents. The same goes for Giattino and Cunningham.

    The three of them played “gotcha” at the 2nd reading – putting politics ahead of policy just like they did with ED on UDD ahead of the 2017 election. If they had spoken up at the start of the process either privately or publicly I’m confident Mayor Bhalla would have listened, public hearings would have been held long ago, and they would deserve credit. By again playing political games they have earned their full share of responsibility for a decision that was made collectively by all of our elected officials.

    I’m glad this important project will get the public vetting it should. I’m even gladder that the confusion about the “potential future development” has been cleared up with the announcement that it is permanently off the table and that RBD will not be delayed to accommodate the development.

    I’ll be even gladder if this upcoming election yields a City Council without Fisher, Giattino, et al. that doesn’t spend it’s time trying to score political points instead of doing their jobs.

      • I guess the truth hurts, huh? When you’re (once again) entirely unable to debate any points made, simply resort to lazy, juvenile name calling and sage retorts such as “will you shut up”.

        Why even bother?

    • I’ll be glad when Dawn Zimmer and her Puppet Master Stan Grossbard get lives and stop trying to score political points for their 28% puppet Mayor.

    • Councilmen DeFusco and Ramos supposedly worked on the LOCOR proposal for more than a year with all the stakeholders and somehow they and their City Council slate mates running for re-election in less than four weeks were surprised as what was in it on second reading when the cameras were running ?

      NOT BUYING IT.

      Tonight is the last City Council meeting before the election. Expect even more of same old desperate political hysterics.

    • LindaL, I’m surprised at you. Guess you’re joining the administration in putting out dishonest talking points, eh? There is never any discussion on 1st reading. I daresay, it’s not even truly allowed, but you know that. So to put out that Councilwoman Fisher (which is the correct way to identify her) is being disingenuous for not doing what council members are not supposed to do, is laughable at best.

      What’s even more laughable is your suggestion that the mayor would have listened if they (the city council members that are ‘yes people)’ had brought this up earlier. How is the mayor going to listen when he won’t even talk with them unless he can’t get away with avoiding them.

      Most laughable of all is that it was the mayor who had absolutely no plans to offer a public meeting on this plan until the council forced the meeting to happen by having the courage to table the ordinance until after a public meeting.

      Oh and you are really clever suggesting that “future potential development” area is off the table now. It’s not off the table until the plan states “no future development” in writing, but I’m guessing the mayor’s massive campaign donors (Stronger Foundations) won’t permit that change.

      • You’re not seriously suggesting that the 2nd reading was the very first opportunity for Fisher, Giattino and Cunningham to inform the public about this proposal are you?

        You’re also not seriously suggesting that the City Council needs the Mayor’s permission to hold public meetings on a redevelopment proposal that is being actively reviewed by a Council sub-committee?

        Or that the mayor can somehow force the council to move a redevelopment plan forward on 1st reading with no discussion despite there having been no public process?

        The absurdity of those claims is remarkable, but it’s actually exceeded by your characterization of a vote to table the proposal as “an act of courage.”

        I certainly agree that the redevelopment plan amendment as currently written is inconsistent with LCOR’s presentation in terms of the finality of the RBD alignment and the “potential future development.” In addition to any other changes that result from the public process, the final language certainly ought to be amended to reflect the correct status.

        From your post, it sounds like Ms. Fisher could not muster the”courage” to raise this issue with LCOR when she met privately with them, or to raise it with anybody during the two months that the Council was considering this plan in committee prior to her “moment of courage” voting to table.

        No one has covered themselves with glory here, there’s plenty of blame to go around. But Ms. Fisher has no claim to either the high ground or anything resembling “courage.” More accurately, she spent months failing to properly do her job.

        • Come on Stan, you can do it! You’re a marketing guru, a strategist, a legal eagle and a real renaissance man.
          Keep posting here, you’ll really change minds.
          Just like you changed minds in depositions…like Dawn’s decision to SUDDENLY not run a 3rd time just weeks after a huge fundraiser.
          Funny, it came right around the same time as Carmelo Garcia got a cash grab settlement….

    • Wouldn’t Hoboken be a better place if a former mayor’s husband didn’t constantly opine about everything under a pseudonym? It makes you wonder if his former mayor-wife realizes how much her husband drones on and on and on without being enough of a grown-up to at least put his name to his constant blabbering commentary. Does she think the general public will never become aware of this unhealthy compulsion her husband has?

    • Doesn’t the article above say she paid homage to your wife? That’s what I heard her say last night. I was sitting to the right of you so you must have heard it too. It looked like Fisher came up just to make this point. I actually didn’t know about last night’s meeting until I got her email about it. It is crazy that the city is going to put forward a plan with no analysis whatsoever unlike what they did for the last go around in 2014 when your wife was Mayor which had extensive analysis. I only wish your wife was back as our mayor. Her only bad decision was passing the baton to this guy. The worst thing for Hoboken will be having inexperienced yes people for this mayor representing us.

    • WAAAAHHH our union puppet Ravi got caught doing a dirty deal selling out Hoboken. Here’s a cyberhanky for you Stanislaw. Peter Cunningham just carpet-bombed your boy Ravi and his ally Ravi to smithereens and God bless him for it!

      Now you get a front-row seat seeing Ravi and Russo try to pimp this town out to big construction special interests. You’re going to whine on and try to forget imaginary allies and point fingers at anyone? What a joke! You did this for whatever your self-benefit was in a lawsuit. Everyone with a brain knew Ravi is owned, lock, stock and barrel by the Stronger Foundations crew.

      Own it.

  2. “LCOR Senior Vice President Brian Barry said that given the number of partners involved in this project at all levels of government, the time is now to act – or it’s possible the $100 million development goes up in smoke.”

    Dear Mr. Barry: That would be just fine with a lots of people in town. Perhaps it’s best if you guys continue to make Jersey City look like a horrible, overcrowded mishmash of ugly buildings and leave us alone. We’ll manage.

    • But Mikey D likey high rise Jersey City and he likey developers like Frank “Pupie” Raia recently convicted of multiple counts of voter fraud and awaiting sentencing that gave him lots of cash.

      Just another political stunt produced and directed by DeFusco, Fisher, Giattino, Ramos and their joint political media firm. Their joint media spokesperson just happened to be at the meeting.

      • High Rise Ravi and Dawn support high rises too
        Just look at the SW redevelopment plan!The corner of Marin and Observer Zimmer gave her pals 16 whopping stories with minimal setbacks.

  3. Lindalou – You would be ok with Ravi’s slate winning all those seats, providing him with a rubber stamp? That sounds HORRIBLE to many in Hoboken. If there is one thing that Ravi and his circle show, it’s total incompetence. We need LESS of Ravi and his staff fumbling their way through all of this. They are totally outgunned in this development saga – look no further than the horrible way they went about introducing it. They need to go. All of them.

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