In a letter to the editor, Hoboken Councilman-at-Large James Doyle explains why he feels Ravi Bhalla’s ticket is the best choice to leader the city forward with smart development.
During this campaign, many residents have asked me what distinguishes Councilman Ravi Bhalla and our slate from our opponents. One major difference is our approach toward development. The next Mayor will be under tremendous pressure to permit large, out-of-scale development in our City. What is at stake is the charm, character, and scale that makes Hoboken a special place to live.
A good example of how our team differs from the others is the planned hotel tower on our waterfront overlooking Pier A Park. Ravi and I were the only Council members who voted against this ill-advised, 290-foot high tower to be squeezed into the parking lot behind the downtown, main Post Office. The project would directly overshadow Pier A Park, our gem of a waterfront park. It would be the second tallest building in Hoboken, at a height of a 29-story building.
Ravi and I and the rest of our team are supportive of a hotel in this location. It would help local businesses and provide extra tax revenue and good jobs for residents. The concept was to bring a 12-14 story “boutique” hotel to this location, in line with the heights of the surrounding buildings. This concept somehow morphed into a 290-foot high building, totally out of scale with this and any other area in Hoboken. In exchange for this huge concession, the City will receive no true community benefits.
Typically, when the City allows for increased bulk or height, it insists upon receiving public benefits from the redeveloper commensurate with the amount of “up-zoning” in a plan. Such givebacks might include the construction of a new school or park, provision of affordable housing (or a payment into the affordable housing trust), flood mitigation measures, etc. Here, however, the plan, supported by Councilwoman Giattino and Councilman DeFusco, provides no community “give backs” at all. Instead, the plan considers a for-profit, high-end rooftop restaurant and a for-profit banquet hall as alleged public benefits. There is no financial contribution toward maintenance of the parks in its front yard (like the other buildings along the waterfront make), and nothing for affordable housing, schools, or open space. Just a conference space for rent and a for-profit restaurant atop Hoboken’s second tallest building.
While many seemingly agree that commercial as opposed to residential development is a better choice in our City’s North End (north of the viaduct), its scale does matter. That’s why Ravi and I voted against an out-of-scale hotel plan downtown that has no public benefits. During the recent mayoral debate, Councilwoman Giattino said Ravi did not understand; she said she’d negotiate real public benefits. It is she who doesn’t understand – if it is not in the plan (that she approved), we’ve lost our leverage and legal leg up.
Our team, led by Ravi, is fully committed to navigating the redevelopment process in a manner that prioritizes the interests of residents over the interests of developers, and we will protect our community from similar, ill-advised projects going forward.
Councilman Jim Doyle