After two hours of public comment from Hoboken residents and employees of Academy Bus, the city council approved a measure (8-0-1) that would give the city the option to use eminent domain to acquire another acre of land for Southwest Park.
Academy Bus says the property, located at 111 Paterson Ave., is worth $13 million, however, the Mayor Dawn Zimmer administration says it’s only worth $4.5 million.
Academy’s Chief Operating Officer Thomas Scullen, like other employees, implored the council to take their time with the process rather then hastily moving to use eminent domain.
“Eminent domain could be costly, and it could add time,” he said, noting that Academy is still open to having negotiations with the city.
Meanwhile, resident Deno Bogdanos said using eminent domain as part of negotiations was a “bully” tactic.
“Eminent domain is viable tool? Really? So you want to walk into negotiations and be a bully. Well that didn’t work too well in Southwest Park, I believe the legal costs were in excess of $350,000. And court time. And seven years. And still no park,” he exclaimed.
Various Mile Square City parents, mostly from the 4th Ward where the park would be located, advocated for more open space in the neighborhood – though some were not in favor of doing so through eminent domain.
Former Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia and Rev. Alexander Santora, two of Zimmerâ€™s longest standing enemies, also spoke out against the concept.
After over 30 public speakers, with only a few that didn’t mention the potential Southwest Park expansion at all, the council eventually approved the first reading of the ordinance by a vote of 8-0-1.
1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco voted “present,” which counted as an abstention, explaining that he wanted to take more time to research the concept of municipalities using eminent domain.
In a statement issued this afternoon, Zimmer thanked everyone who spoke on the measure as well as the council for moving it forward – asking DeFusco, a rumored mayoral candidate, to support his colleagues on February 1.
â€œThank you to all Hoboken residents who took the time to come to the City Council meeting last night to support giving the City the tools it needs to negotiate a fair price for the long-promised expansion of the Southwest Park,â€ said Zimmer.
â€œThank you also to the eight City Council members who voted yes on first reading of the ordinance. I hope that Councilman DeFusco, who voted â€˜present,â€™ will after reviewing the materials provided to him, join his colleagues in providing unanimous Council support on the second reading at the Wednesday, February 1st Council meeting.”