A new bill introduced by state Senators Nick Sacco (D-32) and Brian Stack (D-33) to protect the Palisade Cliffs would create a 10-member preservation council that would oversee development in the region.
“The bill provides that unless approved by the council, no development may be constructed in the Palisades Planning Region unless the maximum height of the proposed development … is at or below the height whereby the sightline looking east from the crest directly to the west of the proposed development would include at least the eastern half of the Hudson River above the proposed building or structure,” the nine-page bill statement says.
Now named the “Palisade Cliffs Protection and Planning Act,” the proposed legislation builds off of what the North Hudson senators, who also serve as the mayors of North Bergen and Union City, respectively, had come up with in December.
The legislation was introduced on Thursday and referred to the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. It does not have a hearing scheduled yet, nor does it have a compliment introduced in the Assembly, according to the NJ Legislature website.
The 10 municipalities that would be represented on the Palisades Protection and Planning Council are Jersey City, Hoboken, Union City, North Bergen, Weehawken, West New York, Guttenberg, Cliffside Park, Edgewater, and Fort Lee.
“The Palisades Planning Region shall consist of that land within the municipalities which extends up to 2,000 feet east of the Palisades cliff crest at each location along the Palisades cliffs,” according to the bill statement.
This excerpt would indicate that eight of the 10 municipalities would have all or part of their Manhattan views fully preserved, with exceptions for Hoboken and Edgewater.
In the cases of North Bergen, Guttenberg, West New York, and Weehawken, the elevation on Boulevard East will be used as a reference point instead of Palisades Avenue, along with Hamilton and King Avenues, as well as Kingsroad Road in Weehawken.
Additionally, Mountain Road and Manhattan Avenue will be the designated roads in Union City, with a 170 elevation above sea level being the designation in Cliffside Park. No such designations are listed for Jersey City, Hoboken, Edgewater, and Fort Lee.
Furthermore, each member of the preservation council, who would serve for four years, would be appointed by each municipality’s respective council or board of commissioners and would have to be a local resident, with a few exceptions.
“The members shall be residents of the appointing municipality, except that a member who is the chief financial officer, business administrator, municipal administrator, or municipal manager of the municipality making the appointment need not be a resident of the appointing municipality. The appointees may or may not be members of the appointing governing body,” the bill statement explains.
Any decision or action taken by the preservation council can be appealed to the New Jersey Superior Court Law Division and they shall present an annual report to each municipal governing body on or before March 31st.
“The Palisade Cliffs Protection Act is legislation that will guarantee the communities who call the Palisades home are directly in charge of regulating development that might affect the breathtaking cliffs. That is exactly what The Palisades Cliff Preservation Council will aim to do,” Sacco said in a statement.
” … By forming this coalition, these communities are able to fight together and curtail the efforts of those who seek to overdevelop on the Palisades Planning Region which gives us such magnificent landscapes.”
Speaking with HCV in March, Stack mentioned that an updated piece of legislation would call for creating a board similar to the New Jersey Highlands Council to evaluate projects along the cliffs.
Back in January, the Hoboken City Council approved a resolution co-sponsored by 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher and 6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino opposing the prior Palisade Cliffs Protection Act.
“New Jersey is a home rule state and Hoboken’s future should not be determined by anyone other than the residents of Hoboken and the city leaders they elect,” Giattino said at the time.
The following day, city spokesman Vijay Chaudhuri declined to specifically say if Mayor Ravi Bhalla was in favor of the legislation or not.
“[Bhalla] is committed to ensuring Hoboken continues to grow in a manner consistent with the scale, charm and character that makes it a great place to live and looks forward to amicably resolving any outstanding issues.”
Chaudhuri declined to comment on the latest version on the bill this morning.
However, this afternoon, Fisher again blasted the legislation, saying this was worse than the initial proposal.
“By lowering the reference road from Palisade Avenue to Manhattan Avenue, this will hinder development throughout Hoboken even more than the previous version. Hoboken relies heavily on development to fund infrastructure and community facilities and this legislation would devastate our local economy,” Fisher.
“This should be called the Manhattan View Protection Act, because that’s all it is, it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Interestingly, it is now protecting the Hoboken Heights project that Union City approved and fully gutted and clear cut the side of the Palisades.”
The Stack’s senate office did not return an email seeking further comment.
Editor’s note: This story was updated with a comment from state Senator Nick Sacco.