A Hoboken Zoning Board meeting Tuesday night had some unlikely guests in Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner and a busload of constituents, there to voice their opposition to a Hoboken dog care business looking to move into a Hoboken building he leased last year near the Weehawken border.
Unfortunately for the business owner, the city of Hoboken leased that same building a few months ago, with the intention of using it as a Department of Public Works site, and extended sharing privileges to Weehawken.
Now the business owner is in litigation with the city of Hoboken. Weehawken has gotten out of the deal, but Turner said his constituents are concerned about an increase in traffic in the area.
Fight City Hall?
Mike Stigliano, the owner of Hoboken Unleashed, has been trying for months to obtain a variance from the Zoning Board to move his business from 716 Clinton St. to 1714 Willow Ave., where he initially started paying $2,000 per month rent last June, and now pays $5,000 per month. He also still pays rent on the midtown property.
“How do you call me a detriment to the area if you’ve never met with me?” – Mike Stigliano
Turner said last week that he believes Hoboken Unleashed would add more traffic to a “very congested area,” and has hired attorney Ira Weiner to lobby against the business moving into the Willow Avenue space on the city’s behalf.
The public hearing in front of the Zoning Board on this matter will continue in the basement of Hoboken City Hall on March 1 at 7 p.m.
Risk to residents
Stigliano argued that his first-class dog care center would be nothing but an asset to the Weehawken community, which contains many dog owners, and that Turner did not play fair by only bussing in critics of his operation.
“[Mayor Turner] only bused in naysayers,” Stigliano said in an interview last week. “If he wanted to be fair, he should have sent out a notice inviting anyone [with an interest, positive or negative].”
Turner alleges that he sent out the bus due to various complaints, and said “we defend our neighborhoods aggressively.”
To Stigliano, his business is much more innocuous than Turner is making it out to be.
“It’s not like I’m building a 50-story high rise that blocking everyone’s view,” he said.
Turner insisted his action is, in no way, personal.
“It may be a fine operation,” he said. “It’s just the wrong location.”
Action on the part of Weehawken, Stigliano believes, is a “stalling tactic” to “bleed me dry,” which will be more of a detriment to the community than to Hoboken Unleashed.
“These cases are never overturned,” he said. “They’re going to be spending tax dollars on their attorney and postponing the appealing.”
It’s all about location
For the last 10 to 15 years, according to Mayor Turner, he’s had several meetings with Hoboken to come up with a zoning agreement to deal with the property that straddles the Hoboken/Weehawken border.
The “very dense” area is composed of narrow and dead-end streets as well as the mouth of the Lincoln Tunnel. The tie-up slows traffic for eight to nine hours a day, which could prevent the timely response of Hoboken ambulances, police, and firefighters.
Turner said that two residential complexes were recently approved for the area.
Mayor Turner said Hoboken Unleashed would be a “high-use” business that would add congestion.
“If [the operation] can’t be tightly controlled, it just adds too much congestion the area,” he said. “You can’t explain to [clients] what roads to take.”
Stigliano, however, said Turner never met with him to discuss his business, and if he had, would have learned that his business is run on a set schedule and that he is committed to diminishing traffic with a professional traffic engineer.
“How do you call me a detriment to the area if you’ve never met with me to discuss [the operations of Hoboken Unleashed]?” he said.
Stigliano and members of online communities have voiced the belief that Weehawken wants to edge Hoboken Unlimited out because it still wants to use the garage for equipment.
Mayor Turner said “[that consideration] is gone,” but gave insight into why it had previously entertained the idea with Hoboken.
“Government to government you can control,” he said, explaining that Hoboken and Weehawken had laid out routes that alleviated traffic, and that, by nature, public works vehicles leave early in the morning and in the evening before the rush hours.
“That’s a tightly controlled operation. It’s not random,” Turner said. “There are no people coming down [the streets] randomly.
Turner hopes that the Hoboken Zoning Board will be as sensitive to Weehawken resident’s concerns as it would be to its own, and not grant the variance for reasons of congestion and quality of life.
“Hoboken’s [prior] concerns are the same concerns we express. And our neighborhood‘s tougher [due to the Lincoln Tunnel],” he said.
He also noted that, historically, towns that share a border usually respect the impact that a decision could make on a neighboring community.
“This is what towns do. We help each other,” Turner said.
Stigliano has a different take on the matter, under the belief that Weehawken has no authority in Hoboken jurisdiction, and questions an ulterior motive.
“[Weehawken] could store [its] garbage trucks in another town, and that town’s going to bend over and let [it] do it.”
Deanna Cullen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.