Gov. Phil Murphy (D), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia Fudge, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), and U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-8) joined Hoboken officials to break ground on their $230 million Rebuild by Design project.
“We know, that given the impact of climate change, it is not a question of if, it is when Hoboken and this region will be struck by another severe storm. I vividly remember how the [Hurricane] Sandy storm surge brought the Hudson River in on Hoboken in the north and the south,” recalled Dawn Zimmer, Hoboken’s mayor between 2009 and 2017.
“It transformed Hoboken into a tiny island with more than 80 percent of the city flooded with a toxic brew of Hudson River water combined with raw sewage.”
The destruction that Hurricane Sandy brought to the Mile Square City in late 2012 led to Zimmer and her administration seeking federal funding.
As a result, Hoboken entered the Rebuild by Design competition and secured $230 million from HUD by mid-2014, submitting a plan to protect communities along the Hudson River from storm surge flooding and rising sea-level threats posed by climate change.
When Murphy took the podium, he pointed out that when New Jerseyans think of the devastation from Hurricane Sandy, they typically think of the shore region, but the governor noted that Hoboken suffered immensely as well.
“The comprehensive and innovative Rebuild by Design infrastructure project will mitigate the range of weaknesses along the Hudson River exposed by Superstorm Sandy and provide a suite of innovative solutions to address sea-level rise,” he said in a statement after the event.
“Smart, future-focused infrastructure that will make our communities more resilient from the adverse effects of climate change, while creating good-paying jobs, is the future of American infrastructure.”
Fudge, a former mayor and congresswoman from Ohio, made her first trip from Washington D.C. for this event, expressing excitement about how far Hoboken has come in just a few years.
“In my next interview with a reporter, when they ask me ‘why are water and sewer infrastructure?,’ I’ma tell ’em ‘go to Hoboken: they can tell you.’ When they ask why it’s important to build parks and waterways and playgrounds, I’m saying ‘you need to go to Hoboken because they can tell you,'” she remarked.
“The next time they ask about jobs from project that we do, I’ma tell them to come to Hoboken, because what I know is this: government can work when we have the will to make it work.”
As for Booker, he vowed to proactively work together to make sure Hoboken’s best days are still ahead, that is after remarking that “Hoboken needs more Fudge,” drawing laughter from the crowd and his former colleague.
He and Sires also commended Zimmer’s drive and commitment to come to their offices in D.C. and continuing asking for funding for a flood prevention plan.
“Hoboken doesn’t know how to do anything small,” Sires joked.
Furthermore, Bhalla, as other speakers noted, said that Hoboken hopes to serve as a national model for cities around the country when addressing today’s “historic” groundbreaking.
“This project will now serve as a model for the rest of the country, integrating proven resiliency features with community amenities and a park that will help prevent storm surge from breaching our community, like it did during Superstorm Sandy.”
Murphy said afterwards during a brief question and answer session with reporters that he expects the Rebuild by Design project to be completed by sometime in 2024.
Other dignitaries in attendance included Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, Assembly members Raj Mukherji and Annette Chaparro, County Commissioner Anthony Romano (D-5), as well as Hoboken Council members Tiffanie Fisher, Phil Cohen, Jen Giattino, Emily Jabbour, and Jim Doyle.