Residents discuss southwest Hoboken at hearing; some concerned about traffic near park

The city held an Open House Thursday, March 10 for the future of Hoboken’s southern corridor that borders Jersey City. Although the city doesn’t own the individual plots that make up the area, a redevelopment plan would let property owners know what might be approved for the area.

Much of the dialogue at the first public meeting revolved around access to the city’s proposed Southwest Park, given the heavy traffic.

Dave Roberts, senior associate of Maser Consulting, told the Hoboken Reporter at the public forum on Thursday at the Multi-Service Center that the plan would preserve the industrial feel of the buildings, as well as create park and recreational space. But there are challenges: building on a low-lying area prone to flooding, and facing a “complex vehicular traffic area.”

The dates for two upcoming meetings to discuss the Block 12 property have not been announced yet.

Concepts will be made public at future meetings. The City Council and Planning Board will then vote to finalize a plan.

The park is one of three the city is currently working to open for the public. All three parks (including the proposed park at the BASF-site and the park/plaza at Seventh and Jackson Streets) would have flood retention capacity.

Mayor Dawn Zimmer said at the meeting that she expects construction to begin in the summer. However, 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos said at the last City Council meeting on March 2 that the city needs to “put its pom poms away” until solid progress is made on the park, since talks have gone back a decade. Bids are currently out for the project and have an April 12 deadline. The city recently submitted an application for a $6 million low-interest loan to extend the Southwest Park across the street, replacing a privately-owned parking lot.

Remarks from the public at Thursday’s meeting: “Find a better place for a park than an industrial area,” “Please build a park before you buy another,” “Please provide a real timeline,” “Build a very large parking garage with water retention,” “Traffic around park and safe access to park need to be considered.”

Lorenzo Magarelli, who has lived in Hoboken since 1955, fears for the safety of residents pushing baby carriages in the area. “I’m for open space but I think we have enough open space in the mile-square not to take property that could be used as a parking lot,” he said. “We have a parking problem, not a park problem.”

Another longtime Hoboken resident, Deno Bogdanos, here since 1978, was concerned about safety for kids in the high-traffic area.

In January, Observer Highway’s redesign narrowed the once four lanes into two lanes (one lane going each way) and added turning lanes.

Mia Costic, who hopes to move into a residence near Observer Highway, said she’s excited about the park but also weary of how people will get to it with so much traffic.

Roberts says a solution lies in building on the city’s recent pedestrian-friendly efforts like bettering the synchronization of traffic lights. Currently under industrial zoning, planners say it’s too early to say how much the southwest redevelopment would cost since it would depend on the property owners. The plan has the potential to alter the zoning laws in the area into mixed-use, which would open the door for recreation and shopping uses too. The preliminary phase for the redevelopment cost between $45,000 to $50,000 – a state post-Hurricane Sandy grant is footing a bulk of the bill. – Steven Rodas

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