The Stevens Institute of Technology alleges they are being targeted by the City of Hoboken’s new temporary no parking ordinance, claiming it is a tactic being used to “extract” $4 million from the school to go towards their new University Center project.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
” … The City of Hoboken … demanded that Stevens pay over $110,000 per month for the use of 62 public parking spaces along Sinatra Drive during construction of a three-story, 70,000-square-foot university center building with two residential towers on its campus,” the college said in a lawsuit filed in Hudson County Superior Court on Friday.
A memorandum from the Hoboken Director of Transportation and Parking Ryan Sharp sent on May 7th informed Stevens that they would be expected to pay $110,000 per month for the use of 62 parking spaces along Sinatra Drive that would be part of the University District project.
The lawsuit says this would cost around $4 million over the three-year or so construction period.
The school pushed back against this request since on March 20th, the city council passed an ordinance which updated the regulations related to the sale and use of temporary no parking signs.
Under this new local legislation, non-profit organizations would be exempt from paying for temporary no parking signs.
According to the suit, Stevens representative began working on a compromise they referred to as the “Griffith Parking Lot License Agreement” prior to the July 10th council meeting.
This deal indicated that the college would make the 62 parking spaces available 24 hours a day, seven days a week during the construction of the University Center project, with the city able to install and charge meter fees.
Additionally, Stevens would contribute a total of $40,000 to take care of promotional and administrative costs, and would also allow 50 spots to remain open to the public until after the University Center is completed through the end of the 20-year agreement.
However, at the July 10th council meeting, the temporary no parking ordinance was amended so that non-profits could only waive fees for 10 calendar days out of the year.
Sources, who spoke under the condition of anonymity since they weren’t authorized to speak on the matter, said that the initial purpose of this was for charitable organizations to avoid have to paying additional fees for festivals and fairs.
Then, on August 8th, Mayor Ravi Bhalla sent a letter to Stevens President Nariman Farvardin stating that he would not be signing off on the Griffith Parking Lot agreement, despite the council unanimously approving a resolution authorizing him to do so.
” … I will not sign this Agreement because it is strongly against the interests of the City. This is not even a close question, and I am somewhat surprised this agreement has been presented to me for consideration,” he wrote in the letter, claiming his administration had “zero involvement” in negotiating the agreement beyond Sharp and one council member he choose not to name.
The three-count lawsuit seeks to nullify the amended temporary no parking ordinance, have Stevens exempt from the temporary no parking laws on the books, awarding the schools attorneys fees and costs of suit, as well as any other relief the court deems equitable.
Stevens spokeswoman Thania Benios said the litigation was necessary for the college to “protect their interests,” leaving the door open for a resolution that is mutually beneficial.
“As a charter member of Hoboken, Stevens has worked hard to build strong connections with the City and the community, particularly in recent years,” she said in an email.
“While litigation is always undesirable, as a non-profit entity, Stevens took this action in order to protect its interests. Stevens is hopeful that a fair and amicable resolution can be reached in this matter and cannot comment further due to active litigation.”
Hoboken spokesman Vijay Chaudhuri took a similar tone, though also noted it would be unfair to other members of the community for Stevens to be exempt from the temporary no parking rules.
“The City of Hoboken values the continued positive relationship with President Farvardin and Stevens. The City is simply asking Stevens to follow the same rules as everyone else to build their two large buildings which would remove 62 parking spots on Sinatra Drive over a three-year span,” he explained.
“In the past, Stevens has acknowledged these rules and regulations by purchasing no-parking signs for other construction projects without objection. To look the other way today, as Stevens is asking the City to do, would create an unfair double standard, would be financially negligent, and a disservice to Hoboken residents, parkers and taxpayers. The City administration looks forward to amicably resolving this situation in a way that is fair to both parties.”