• Terry Pranses

Hoboken Yards -- Add your inputs -- City Council review on February 19th

Updated: Feb 17

You’ll have another opportunity to support or question the current version of the City’s new plan for the Rail Yards. Most changes for the latest version were presented on January 22nd at a special City Council session and amended on February 5th.


On Wednesday, February 5th, City Council held a “First Reading” of some changes to the Hoboken Yards Plan. That version was passed for continued discussion, with a late-breaking amendment to cut the parking ratio at Site 1 to half the earlier allotment.

Several members of the public had questioned why roughly 200 spaces would be neededat the transit-oriented development, and the Council voted to cut the numbers.


There is a version of the City Council agenda and related exhibit package for Wednesday, February 19th, starting at 7:00 PM, now posted at:

http://hobokennj.iqm2.com/Citizens/Default.aspx


The agenda shown on February 17th is a bit hard to interpret. Is this saying the Rail Yards are back to a 1st reading, or will it be a 2nd reading with public discussion and a Council vote, or it is somehow (for unknown reasons) within a “closed session”?

Recheck Council agendas on the meeting date, as they change frequently. Or call your Council representatives!


Even if there is not be an assigned discussion during that Hoboken Yards portion, there is always a general public speaking section at Council meetings. It’s generally prior to specific new business.


In summary, with the Plan as last amended, the Task Force is very thankful for the changes that have:

Tentatively reduced Site 1 height

Tentatively returned Site 2 to Commercial use

• Reduced the parking formula for Site 2


For the Task Force, here are our leading concerns as the latest version of the Plan moves forward:


Regarding Site 1/Corner of Hudson Street and Hudson Place:

Building Height: The Plan limits building height to 200 feet for site 1, unless it can be demonstrated that additional height is needed for financial feasibility, up to a maximum of 300 feet. We do not support any scenario for 300 feet. Hopefully the consultants hired by Hoboken will provide ideas as to how best to have the building succeed at the lower height.


Regarding Site 2/On South Side of Observer Highway, roughly between Washington St. and Bloomfield Ave.:

On the Feasibility of Commercial Use: The Plan has happily changed this from Residential to Commercial development, but left the height at 330 feet. However, a return to Residential is permitted if the feasibility analysis determines commercial/office use to not be feasible on the site. The Plan states: “The feasibility study shall consider in its assumptions that adjacent Site 1 will contain a successful Class A office building and that the Ferry Terminal Building will be operational with a mix of commercial uses. Further, as the City of Hoboken desires the TD District to be a regional commercial hub, the feasibility study must consider creative development options that would help effectuate commercial development, such as building or cantilevering over the RBD resist feature as a way to increase the size of a building floorplate.”


We do not support any scenario for a massive Residential building this close to PATH and the Terminal. Hopefully the consultants hired by Hoboken will provide ideas as to how best to have the building succeed as Commercial.


The City of Hoboken commissions these feasibility studies.  As the developer, LCOR finances the studies, but pays Hoboken, and Hoboken pays the consultants. At least this scenario funnels the pay check through the City which has different priorities than a developer.


Another Site 2 issue — parking — has been mitigated, although Site 2 still has some and that could be argued. Many of us know the existing traffic congestion on Observer Highway and near the Terminal. The public was quite upset about attracting more cars to the site, as the reason for the large development is to get people to utilize public transit.


The new, reduced formula for the number of parking spaces is 0.125 spaces for every 1,000 square feet of Commercial space. As it covers both Sites 1 and 2, the approved parking could be 93 spaces with the 200’ tower at Site 1 and could be 121 spaces if there is a 300’ tower at Site 1. These are based on rough calculations; the City’s Office of Community Development should verify or provide their own.


This is much improved, but is this still too much parkingto provide for office workers at a transit-oriented development? Do we need these additional cars twice a day into Hoboken’s most congested area?


When and how … more comprehensive discussion about traffic and transportation in this part of Hoboken. That should include existing and ongoing capacity issues with PATH and the 126 bus. How will new workers at the complex fit into the complicated transit and traffic flow proposed? Be sure to weigh in.


The Records Building — So Far, Not in the Plan

Local preservationists, Task Force members and others in the community are troubled that NJ Transit, the current owner of the land, has not properly maintained this unique structure.


NJ Transit sent the City a notice of intent to demolish. The City, State Office of Historic Preservation, Hoboken’s Historic Preservation Commission and others have begun discussions. Why is the Records Building shown, but not addressed, in the Plan? It’s hard to imagine the full adaptive reuse potential in this condition, but as a reference, go to Google maps, plug in 1 Washington St., and look across the parking lot and Observer Hwy. See the small copper turrets and steep roof on this 3-story brick structure.


For discussion on the historic Records Building, please visit:

https://www.rd-taskforce.com/post/real-and-current-threats-to-the-records-building


Concerns about New Stress on Existing Infrastructure

We believe the developer LCOR will provide good infrastructure to the new buildings at Sites 1 and 2. But what will be the impact of the added water and sewerage demands on our frail, existing City-wide systems? Many think new developers of this magnitude should contribute to a City fund, covering anticipated system stress and resulting costs down the road.


Site 3 – Far West in the Zone:

This site is not addressed specifically in the proposed 2020 changes. That is fine with the Task Force, as the Commercial designation in late 2019 did not track for many, based on a location near Jefferson St. NJ Transit has no close-in timeline to clear this area for potential development.


Continued thanks for your interest, feedback and support!

Please attend the related City Council sessions and let your City Council representatives, both the At-Large and the Ward-specific ones, know of your concerns.

RD - Task Force

Responsible Development Task Force — Protecting the Historic Character of Hoboken

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