The Hoboken Police Department headquarters at 106 Hudson St. is in need of repairs, but Mayor David Roberts wants to take it a step further.
He wants to build a whole new complex elsewhere, and sell the prime real estate on Hudson Street to a developer so the city can get more tax dollars.
Last week, Roberts asked the council to allow the city’s Planning Board to conduct a study of the area, including the Bank of America property on the corner of Hudson and Second streets, to evaluate whether the plots are in need of redevelopment.
Designating land redevelopment zones allows cities to clean up rundown areas by granting unconditional zoning variances and unconventional tax payments that go directly to the city.
But some members of the public protested last week, saying the area is certainly not blighted.
The Police Department came to that building in 1993. Their headquarters was formerly in the ground floor of City Hall.
“The police station is falling apart,” Roberts said in an interview on Thursday.
Acting Police Chief Robert Lisa said the biggest problems are the heating and air conditioning, the roof, and lack of storage space.
Lisa said the officers are relegated to using space heaters in sub-35 degree weather, and the air conditioning routinely breaks down.
He said the administration has made minimal renovations to the building because of the long-term hope for relocation.
Putting on “Band-aids,” as Lisa put it, has kept the station functional, but not optimal.
Public Safety Director Bill Bergin agreed, adding that the police have “outgrown the building.”
A discussion about the possibilities ensued at the City Council meeting last Wednesday.
Theresa Castellano, 1st Ward Councilwoman, said, “Redevelopment zones were structured to lure development, and I don’t believe Hudson Street fits that description. I don’t think we need to lure anybody.”
“The insanity of this city never ceases to amaze me.”
– Michael Russo
Residents and council members also said the city had mishandled the sale of the city’s municipal garage, and did not want to repeat that process.
The sale of the garage is just being completed after years of borrowing against the final payout, and a new site to house city vehicles has yet to be arranged.
“We’re talking about selling another city asset in the same format,” said 3rd Ward Councilman Michael Russo. ‘The insanity of this city never ceases to amaze me.”
The sale of the municipal garage also included three different bidding processes – the last of which led to a lawsuit.
Beside that, many residents wondered why the city would sell one of its assets in such a shaky real estate market.
Housing Authority commissioner Perry Belfiore recommended consolidating the relocation efforts.
He said the city could centralize its services and build a complex for both the police and the municipal garage, as well as a parking garage to bring in revenue.
He said that revenue could be used for open space and parks.
But some say that such a bustling station would add noise to any neighborhood.
When Councilman-At-Large Peter Cammarano recommended building a complex at a formerly mercury-contaminated site on Grand Street near the center of town, Councilman Russo objected to a large complex like that being placed in his ward.
“I don’t think we need to lure anybody.”
– Theresa Castellano
The other problem is that a few years ago, when the federal government put that land up to bid, the city was outbid by developer and Board of Education trustee Frank Raia, who now owns the property.
Roberts said Thursday that the redevelopment zone designation is not the most important aspect of the process, but it is an important one.
He said the police need a new facility either way, but that he wants to get the most tax dollars out of the area.
For questions or comments on this story, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.