Many weighed in at the March 15th public presentation; here are some thoughts and concerns about the latest changes to the Plan. The revised "resolution" with regards to the Yards (rebranded as "Hoboken Connect") has been removed from the 4/6 agenda. It's shown now as "carried" but no new date is shown.
We've shared our thoughts with City Council, the Mayor and Community Development:
Dear City Council Members:
We have recently viewed, along with many members of the public on March 15th, the latest plans for the redevelopment of Hoboken’s Rail Yards, now branded, “Hoboken Connect”. There has been a great deal of progress in the concepts for using the space allotted in the Redevelopment Zone and potential enhancements at Hoboken Terminal.
[Note: The pdf link shared by Director C. Brown in an email format does not appear to work within a website. So here is a link to the full presentation, which includes the same slides: https://us06web.zoom.us/rec/play/15Krk-drwJlrxmrMbzVwN_ZONwdL2dmoAO-2-cMr4E4LVzri7668cS_t6HlXPYgjsYkC1RAuM3VQvozz.MZ3X5SGhOGXDO6Fk
This note is designed to recap positives and to raise questions and potential issues as the plans move forward. Some of these may require review now while others are more likely issues for resolution in the related agreements as the project(s) progress.
Site One Building
The styling is generally appealing and appears to utilize a mix of materials that will complement the nearby Terminal Building and tower, as well as close-in masonry structures. It is a much larger building than its Hudson Place and Hudson Street neighbors, so care must be given to fit in, particularly at the lower levels viewed from the streets.
We have concerns about the sizable overhang along the east side of the building, impacting the River Street looking-south vantage. This is apparently driven by a “minimum plate size” dictated by the current market preferences for commercial space. That data should be checked by Hoboken’s Community Development group.
Looking east from Observer Highway there is a protrusion on the lower floor(s) that cuts out part of the view of the Lackawanna Clock Tower. That was questioned but not resolved in the public session, and Mr. B. Barry said he would look into it. Unless this extension is a structural requirement, we urge its removal to provide a full view of the Clock Tower.
Although LEED certification has been discussed, the level is not clarified in this latest round. Additionally it is not clear what is being done in terms of a green roof and/or solar panels at Site One.
Site Two Building, now residential
It is good news for Hoboken that the revised plan will still include no parking. We understand the shift to residential given the recent reductions in office demand in and close to New York City. There is, as with Site One, a good deal of attention to materials and landscaping which create a good entrance-level vantage as shared in presentation slide 62.
A frequent, initial reaction is that Site Two is seriously out of scale with Hoboken’s other residential structures. In fact, based on the numbers shared in the new resolution for the Yards, a.k.a. Hoboken Connect, the square footage has increased 10.6% to 361,550 versus the approved 327,000 square feet allotted when it had the preferred use as office space. Have Community Development and the City Council delved deeply into the financial rationale that was provided for this sizable increase?
There is a general need to reduce its visual disruption of streetscapes. There is, as with Site One, a good deal of attention to materials and landscaping which create a good entrance-level vantage as shared in presentation slide 62. The rough schematics shared to date show overhangs on higher floors extending east, over the sightlines south along Washington Street and west, over the sightlines south along Bloomfield Street. Although LCOR has shown comparisons vs. an earlier approved massing, some of those lower floors at one point included parking and may not have been updated after the parking was removed from Site Two.
Perhaps other ways of accommodating this scale have been explored but not yet shared with the public. Better articulated or detailed depictions reflecting the four-color versions shared in slides 60 and 62 can better represent the visual impact of these protrusions. (Such situational presentations were provided for Site One in slides 52 and 53.) Shadow studies of the impact of Site Two on surrounding streets could also be useful.
As with Site One, we ask about the LEED level and opportunity for a partial green roof and/or solar plates. The presentation emphasized some building-wide amenities on part of the roof, but it was not clear if some environmental improvements are possible.
Both Sites — Storm Water Control
We asked and have been informed if the sewers for these buildings will separate storm waters from sanitary. The answer is “yes” with the expectation that some or all storm runoff can be directed into the Hudson without a circuitous route into the City’s general sewer system. That is good news if implemented.
Historic Terminal Improvements
Preservation of this historic resource is of great value to Hoboken, but let us not forget that it is a benefit not just to our city but to all the 8.9 million residents of New Jersey. Therefore it is appropriate that some of the proposed cost burden be shared beyond the profit margin of this phase of the Hoboken Connect development.
Many of us remember a previous era for this historic plaza without chain-link fencing or disorganized parking and a trailer encampment. All of this has taken place without inputs from Hoboken, yet it is at the historic front door of our Terminal. The plan presented shows a new level of public access, but it seems the timeline is far into the future.
Interim Use and Access
We recognize that the first broad closure came with security concerns from September 11th. But that was over 20 years ago — many other security adjustments coming from that date were enacted, but subsequently adjusted, to provide the needed security, but without the perpetual loss of public use and inherent beauty. We request an interim approach that will improve aesthetics and eliminate or limit the “parking lot” use and look. It is not acceptable to put this general opening out until after Site Two comes on line.
Maximizing the Use of Belgian Block
In the March 15th meeting, it became apparent that the proposed renovations of the Plaza include a number of raised areas that are not Belgian block (the original surfacing, often referenced as “cobblestones”). We appreciate the moves to reduce vulnerability to flooding, but wonder if the coverage at those higher areas needs to be as extensive as shown in slides 34 and 41. Is it possible that some strategically-placed flood gates would further improve flood resistance?
We have requested those numbers but were told these details will be handled in agreements between LCOR and NJ Transit. We suggest that the broad community interest in the Belgian blocks be reflected in the redesign and that some of the raised areas also make use of the Belgian blocks that will be removed from some parts of the Plaza.
Adaptive Reuse of the Large, 2nd Floor Ferry Waiting Room
It is exciting that this space will be renovated and accessible for public uses. The slides for that space, and added north-facing window have great appeal. A related question is:
— Who will oversee these new uses and how will the programming and maintenance costs be covered?
As we look at the varied features in the renovation depictions, it is not currently clear that as much detail as possible is being retained in the ceiling, pillars, east-facing doors/windows and molding. We urge maximizing refurbishment vs. replacement whenever conditions allow.
New Bus Terminal
Based on the inputs from Community Development, an end concept has not been developed, so no specific comments are appropriate.
The Records Building
As referenced in the March 15th meeting, there has been no resolution or public ideation around the reuse of the materials saved and stored by NJ Transit since they “de-constructed” this important Hoboken structure. Ironically the LCOR presentation appears to include the original building or its outline on slides 46, 53 and 59. Is there now a suggestion that it return to its original site? If not, what progress is being made for the placement of this structure at another location in Hoboken?
Many thanks to City Council and Community Development for the progress made to date, in your work with NJ Transit and LCOR. Thanks in advance for your further review and addressing of many questions and issues as Hoboken Connect is implemented.
Liz Cohen Ndoye
Responsible Development Task Force of Hoboken