During his second annual State of the City Address, Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla emphasized several accomplishments including new parks, infrastructure upgrades, a climate action plan and Vision Zero implementation, among other initiatives.
First, he highlighted one of the city’s largest quality of life projects: the ongoing construction of the Northwest Resiliency Park that’ll include an ice skating rink, playground equipment for children, a large athletic field for soccer, baseball and lacrosse, as well as a great lawn and amphitheater.
He then noted that the city council will be finalizing the North End Redevelopment Plan, which calls for redeveloping 30 blighted areas in the area. He hailed smart development over projects that prioritizes easy bucks for developers.
“I thank the Council and Director Chris Brown for prioritizing smart development — with responsible residential growth, and an emphasis on commercial development,” Bhalla said at the Mile Square Theatre this evening.
“Hoboken, it’s important you know that the days of prioritizing a developer’s bottom line over the interests of our residents are long gone.”
At a press conference in April, he introduced the city’s first Climate Action Plan, saying that action on the local level was urgent because President Donald Trump (R) and his administration have been rolling back one environmental regulation after another.
With the plan, the city is seeking to become the first municipality in New Jersey to purchase 100 percent renewable electricity for all city-owned buildings.
On an another environmental front, the city last year initiated a single-use plastic bag ban. Now, it wants to institute a full ban on all carry-out plastic bags.
“So, starting on March 8th, when the law is updated, Hoboken will have one of the strongest plastic bag bans in the entire state, in addition to a ban on all carry-out styrofoam,” Bhalla said.
The city last year endured a series of water main breaks that finally compelled the city to file a lawsuit against the water utility Suez.
Then also in April, the city and the utility reached an agreement where the city would be investing up to $33 million to upgrade the Mile Square City’s aging water mains.
The most significant aspect of that agreement is the establishment of a new water utility, where the revenue from the bulk water consumption would be managed by the city, which would then allocate funds towards yearly infrastructure upgrades.
“We are finally implementing plans not just to put band aids on our infrastructure problems, but instead providing lasting solutions for Hoboken’s future,” noted Bhalla.
In another first for the city, the mayor signed an executive order in August to establish a Vision Zero pedestrian safety campaign with the goal of reducing pedestrian injuries and automobile-related fatalities to zero by 2030.
During the press conference for the signing, Bhalla noted that over the past five years there had been 376 people injured, with three people killed due to crashes.
That’s why he wants to reduce the city’s speed limit to only 20 miles per hour, after asking his transportation staff to review the feasibility of a citywide reduction.
“The unfortunate reality is, if a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle traveling 30 miles per hour, they are four times more likely to die from an injury than if struck by a vehicle traveling 20 miles per hour,” exclaimed Bhalla.
Furthermore, the mayor noted that after a years-long struggle, he believes the city’s feud with New York Waterway over Union Dry Dock will be over in the foreseeable future.
” … I would be remiss if I didn’t reiterate my administration’s unwavering commitment to securing Union Dry Dock to create a waterfront park. While you may not have heard many updates recently, rest assured that we are making real progress behind the scenes with both New York Waterway and the governor’s office. I’m optimistic that we will finally see a positive ending this year that preserves Union Dry Dock for public, open space.”