On Wednesday, December 10th, the Hoboken Zoning Board will vote on a request for a ‘use variance’ that would have the affect of changing the zoning for the currently vacant block between the Park Avenue and Willow Street viaducts at 16th Street (1600 Park). This block is currently zoned for industrial or commercial use, but the developer is asking for a ‘use variance’ to build a nine-story residential building with 140 apartments.
If you live uptown and are tired of all the residential buildings that are going up, with little to no commercial services to support them, you should go to this meeting. In case you don’t know, in addition to what has already been built north of 11th Street, 838 residential units have been approved on the old Maxwell House site; 660 and 868 are approved but not yet built at The Shipyards and at Hoboken Cove (River to Park, north of 14th). Hoboken Cove also currently has an application before the Planning Board to add 410 more units. In total, in these three projects alone there are more than 2,776 new residential units proposed or approved uptown. This total does not include hundreds more that have been approved in the Northwest Redevelopment zone (7th Street to 14th Street west of Clinton.)
Under the law, granting a ‘use’ variance is a pretty big deal and requires a higher standard of proof than just economic hardship. For the Board to approve, the applicant must demonstrate that the change in use will provide a benefit to the community and that it will have no negative impact.
Building more residential units in an area that is already glutted with them has a clear negative impact on the community. It increases the demand for city services and infrastructure that commercial use would not, it removes the benefit of a diversified tax base, and it increases traffic directly adjacent to the Lincoln Tunnel making your morning commute even worse. In fact, the draft Hoboken master plan recommends that the City encourage additional office and other commercial space given that the current land use mix is skewed toward residential and other non-commercial uses. Granting a use variance from commercial to residential would run counter to this recommendation. Hoboken’s draft Master Plan also recommends that the City aggressively acquire remaining open spaces including those in the vicinity of Weehawken Cove (e.g. the 1600 Park site) to create sorely needed outdoor recreational and park space on the northern end of town.
While the Board has asked some good questions about this project, they need to hear from the people that live uptown about the negative impacts. I know it’s the holiday season and it’s difficult to find time to attend a three-hour meeting. But this is something that will affect you directly for years to come. Please come to City Hall, Council Chambers at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, December 10th and tell the Board to vote ‘no’ on this project.