The City Council approved two pilot programs at its meeting on Wednesday – one to extend the hours of operation for outdoor cafes until midnight on certain June dates, and another to complete a gap in the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway. By state law, each developer and municipality that owns land along the Hudson River has to contribute to the continuous 18.5-mile public waterfront walkway from Bayonne to the George Washington Bridge.
The council also appointed Hovie Forman to the volunteer board that oversees the city’s federally funded low-income housing projects.
The first pilot program extends operating hours for outdoor cafes for 12 days in June, the typically slow summer days.
Also, a measure securing $12 million in bond notes for the milling, repaving, and rehabilitation of Washington Street – an anticipated agenda item – was postponed until the council’s June 1 meeting.
Sinatra walkway may become permanent
The final portion of the state-mandated waterfront walkway will grow out of a plan introduced on Wednesday to determine how exactly to extend a portion of Sinatra Drive along the central waterfront for joggers, cyclists, and pedestrians. The swath of land starts north of the Castle Point Skate Park and runs between Sinatra Drive and the Union Dry Dock abutment into the water.
“We’re going to experiment during the pilot period so we could put pavers, planters, or something else that delineates the area to be exclusive for a multi-use walkway.” – Councilman Ravi Bhalla
The 1,090-foot long, 10-foot wide path would begin at Sinatra Drive North and run between the existing road and the Dry Dock property. The city tested ideas during Earth Day weekend last month by allowing joggers and cyclists to use the stretch. Barricades and cones separated the designated walkway area. The city will now seek an aesthetically pleasing version at a low cost to residents, according to Councilman Ravi Bhalla.
The permanent creation of a 10-foot wide walkway would mean the loss of 34 parking spaces on Sinatra Drive.
“I really believe this will be a great asset to the waterfront,” said resident Peter Kim at the meeting. Kim has lived in Hoboken for three years and said he plans to raise his family here.
Union Dry Dock – the last fully functioning vestige of Hoboken’s former shipping industry – has been approached by developers and agencies that wanted to use its land for various reasons. The city’s plan may change if Dry Dock allows this portion of the walkway to run onto the Dry Dock property or if Dry Dock sells the land to someone else who allows it.
The Hoboken-based non-profit Fund for a Better Waterfront has said they would like to see the land turned into public space.
Because the existing sidewalk is very narrow, pedestrians and bicyclists on the existing Sinatra Drive often detour onto Sinatra’s blacktop, causing a safety hazard.
“[I believe the plan for the walkway] is a continuation of the discussion on protected bike lanes on Washington Street,” said Fifth Ward Councilman Peter Cunningham, referring to a plan passed earlier this year to redesign Washington Street and place on-road bike lanes downtown. During the Earth Day pilot, 72 percent of 373 respondents to a survey said they wanted to make the multi-use path on Sinatra Drive permanent, according to city officials.
Councilman Jim Doyle, who co-sponsored the measure while crediting Councilman Bhalla for taking the reins, said that the ordinance might be rescinded if changes occur to the Union Dry Dock property.
“We’re going to experiment during the pilot period, so we could put pavers, planters, or something else that delineates the area to be exclusive for a multi-use walkway,” Bhalla told the Reporter after the meeting.
Making the walkway permanent will be up for a final vote on June 1. If it is tabled, the city has until Sept. 30 to vote to reintroduce and finalize it.
“This is the Gold Coast,” said Cunningham. “This is the jewel within the Gold Coast in Hoboken, and everybody loves our waterfront.”
Housing Authority appointment
Following a verbal spat between Councilman Michael Russo and resident Patricia Waiters, the council voted 8-0 to appoint longtime Hoboken resident Hovie Forman to the Hoboken Housing Authority.
Before voting, Waiters said the council should appoint someone who lives in the Housing Authority. Forman, Waiters, business owner Joe Branco, and former City Council candidate Melissa Blanco all applied for the five-year volunteer position.
Waiters, an activist who has run for both the council and school board, felt her efforts in the Housing Authority were not being recognized. She said that Councilman Russo had not responded to her recent calls about the matter.
Russo replied, “I have many constituents and many others citywide, that I answer every single phone call, every single email when I get the chance to do that…excuse me if my personal life got in the way and I couldn’t call you back.”
Russo said that in order to earn respect, she had to give it.
Waiters responded, “For you to overlook what I do and disrespect me like this…don’t ever excuse [me] of being disrespectful.”
In the end, Russo nominated Waiters, with a second by Councilman Ruben Ramos. However, Council President Jen Giattino then called for a vote on Forman and all council members agreed upon him.
Outdoor cafés allowed to stay open longer in June
For twelve days next month, the city will allow cafes with outdoor seating to stay open an additional hour on certain June dates, until midnight.
“The city’s restaurants are typically slower in the summer months,” reads an excerpt from the resolution, “and the weather lends itself to outdoor dining. And extending the hours of operations of sidewalk cafes during summer months will allow for an extra hour of outdoor dining for residents and visitors.”
The resolution passed on a 7-1 vote with 1st Ward Councilman Michael DeFusco in opposition.
“Due to our dated zoning [which has the city’s only central business district ending at Fourth and Washington streets] the bulk of bars and restaurants are all concentrated in my district,” said DeFusco in a statement following the meeting. “I would love to see restaurant rows in redevelopment area where a true café culture can flourish. Until that happens, allowing outdoor cafes to stay open one hour later will not help business; rather [it will] further disrupt my neighbors.” DeFusco’s ward is the southeast part of town.
According to Council President Giattino, there are more than 100 establishments with outdoor seating in Hoboken. Currently they can operate from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.
These cafes will be allowed to stay open until midnight on the following dates: June 2 to 4, 9 to 11, 16 to 18, and 23 to 25.
Factors like whether the outdoor cafes will be as noisy as bar patrons who wait on lines on the weekend may determine if the change is made permanent.
Steven Rodas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.