At Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s State of the City address on Wednesday night, the mayor declined to address a heated hearing earlier in the week about her proposed Washington Street redesign plan, but did give her own thoughts on the plan and mentioned upcoming park projects as well three anti-flooding measures the city is considering.
“I am excited to report that Hoboken is getting greener and more resilient every day,” Zimmer said.
At her speech at Stevens Institute of Technology, she touched on repaving the roadways, the Washington Street redesign, and affordable housing.
Making moves in the southwest
During her speech, Zimmer said the proposed six-acre Southwest Park, which the city is working to acquire land for, would go out to bid this week.
“I started my civic involvement in Hoboken fighting for this park and I’m so glad that we will start construction soon,” she said of the park near the city’s southern entrance. “The park is being designed to alleviate flooding with rain gardens and underground storage capacity for 200,000 gallons of rainwater.”
The park is one of three resiliency parks the city hopes to open for the public – including one at Seventh and Jackson streets and another at 13th and Madison streets.
“Flood protection does not have to come from an ugly wall.” – Mayor Dawn Zimmer
“The former councilman in this ward kept saying it will break ground soon,” he said. “I’m not going to be that guy.”
Ramos, who was unable to attend the State of the City because he was feeling under the weather, said he has not seen the bid yet. Less than half of the acreage to create the park has been acquired by the city, Ramos said. And although he hopes construction will begin soon, he will not make any promises until he assures plans are definitive.
As a recap, the mayor announced that a fifth of the streets in the mile square city were repaved in 2015. Also, nearly 200 new street trees were planted, and zoning code changes were made in order to that incentivize “green” development.
In her speech, the mayor said a developer’s agreement is being finalized for a new gymnasium, park, and plaza near Seventh and Jackson streets at the Monroe Center.
“This new open space is designed with almost 300,000 gallons of storm water detention and will be a great addition to the area, making the thriving Monroe Center an even greater place to work and visit,” said Zimmer.
The mayor, dubbed a “trailblazer” by 33rd District Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, who emceed the night, commended Police Chief Kenneth Ferrante for making Hoboken a safer place to live.
With the ever-growing city, the mayor said it’s key to “focus on ensuring that we have sufficient and accessible affordable housing for those who need it.”
Rents and home prices continue to climb in the city. Zimmer said that this is offset with the inclusion of affordable housing into all future redevelopment zones and a requirement that 10 percent of units in new larger buildings be set aside for affordable units.
“I specifically want to highlight the Wonder Lofts project which was recently approved and which will be creating six new units of affordable housing,” Zimmer said.
Flood protection doesn’t equal ‘ugly wall’
Two months after residents took city planners to task on proposed concepts to erect seawalls to help make Hoboken flood-proof, Zimmer said during her speech that it’s a matter of perception.
“Flood protection does not have to come from an ugly wall,” she added. “It could be a planter, a landscaped park, a vertical garden, a beautiful mural, a boathouse, outdoor seating, a playground, a dog park and more, depending on the community’s design ideas and preferences.”
Over 250 members of the public have given comments to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection against a proposed seawall. The overall sentiment is that the plan — as part of the $230 million federally funded Rebuild by Design project created in response to 2012’s Superstorm Sandy — threatens Hoboken’s prized views of Manhattan.
“Building a wall down a street is a ridiculous solution in today’s modern era. Are you trying to put us back to the Stone Age with this idea?” read one public comment. “Dig up the streets that are the lowest area and that get water the most…Blocking water is primitive and who ever came up with that idea should not be working in this sector.”
Planners say that the majority of commenters disapprove of the floodwalls.
“Specifically, those who reside in the waterfront communities of Maxwell Place and the Tea Building expressed opposition to Concepts B, C, and D, primarily objecting to the construction of a permanent seawall (or any type of resist structure) because of its effect on waterfront views and access,” said the planners.
A new public meeting is planned for next Thursday, Feb. 18 to discuss three concepts, whittled down from the original five after planners took comments into account.
After her State of the City, Zimmer told the Reporter that two of the three concepts are “significantly” different from the initial five. She would not comment further as to whether they include floodwalls.
The meeting will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Wallace School gymnasium at 1100 Willow Ave.
Stevens President Nariman Farvardin said at the start of the event that the city and institution are “tied at the hip” in a symbiotic relationship.
Also in attendance were former State Sen. Bernard Kenny, City Council President Jennifer Giattino, Fire Chief Anton Peskens, Police Chief Kenneth Ferrante, Superintendent Christine Johnson, and Hoboken council members and school board trustees.
Steven Rodas can be reached at email@example.com.