City funds $5.2M water main upgrades

Council also discusses historic preservation, and Jackson Street traffic

The Hoboken City Council unanimously voted at its meeting on Wednesday to approve a $5.25 million bond ordinance to fund water main upgrades, an attempt to combat the water main breaks and flooding that have plagued the city.
Business Administrator Quentin Wiest discussed, in a presentation to the council, the city of Hoboken’s “water asset refurbishment program.”
He said that CDM Smith, an engineering and construction company, and Suez Water conducted an evaluation that identified 30 streets with 50 pipe segments with a total length just over 6.2 miles as the highest priority areas in need of refurbishment. The total estimated cost to fix all the pipes would be $ 14.6 million. The bond will cover a third of the cost, for the first phase..
Hoboken has about 41 miles of pipe under its city streets.
The city must take on this cost as their current contract with Suez Water only provides $350,000 a year for improvements. These funds are only enough to cover the constant repairs to the city’s water mains, according to city spokesman Juan Melli. The city is currently in the process of renegotiating the contract with Suez Water with the goal of obtaining more capital for infrastructure improvements.
The analysis was done in three phrases, the final phase looking at the consequence of a failure to upgrade, including effects on facilities such as the hospital, Fire Department, and Police Department.

“Let me tell you it is worse than it has ever been.” –Tony Soares
Nine areas will be upgraded throughout the course of the year in phase one of the refurbishment program and finished by the end of 2017. They include part of Park Avenue (Sixth to Eighth Street), Garden Street (Observer Highway to Second Street), Madison Street (Fourth to Sixth Street) River Street (First to Fourth Street), Clinton Streets (Sixth to Seventh Street), Jefferson Streets (Newark to First Street), Grand Street (Sixth to Eighth Street), and Seventh Street (Adams to Grand Street).
Councilman Ruben Ramos said that he would like residents in areas near the segments to get advanced notice of when construction would begin.
Wiest said that this project will require “high levels of coordination.”

Jackson Street traffic woes

Council members and residents also debated a resolution sponsored by Councilman Ruben Ramos for a 90-day pilot program to alleviate traffic on the south end of town. Ultimately, the council voted to approve it.
The pilot program will take place on Jackson Street between Observer Highway and Newark Street and will eliminate parking or standing on both sides of Jackson Street between the hours of 7 a.m. to10 a.m., and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, in order to accommodate a temporary left turn lane.
This is believed to help with circulation as people are entering and exiting the city southerly during rush hour.
The city will then collect data during the pilot, including travel delay times and safety of the program, to make recommendations such as whether or not to make the pilot program permanent.
Jim Vance, who has been a resident of Hoboken for 36 years, disagreed with the pilot.
Vance said the pilot will make it unsafe for pedestrians who “will now need to worry about two cars” due to the extra turn lane, and the council should be encouraging bicycle use instead.
He said that he is not sympathetic to people who sit in traffic and doesn’t believe that tax dollars should have to be spent to fix it.
Former Councilman Tony Soares, who lives in the Skyline building on Observer Highway between Monroe and Madison streets, said city has effectively “shut the arteries of the city.”
“I live on Observer Highway… nobody knows better than me, I’m sorry, I’m an expert, and let me tell you it is worse than it has ever been,” he said. “There is horn honking 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Soares stated that Hoboken is not only home to many businesses to which people from outside of town commute, but also is a town which residents commute from.
He said that people trying to visit Hoboken could easily be dissuaded by traffic and go to Jersey City instead.
He added that biking is an important option but that it should be promoted within city limits.
After hearing public comments on the resolution the council went into closed session to discuss the pilot and make adjustments. After making adjustments by including evening hours, mandating a police officer to be stationed at the location during the pilot, and changing the date so that the pilot begins Sept. 1, the council majority voted to pass it with Councilman Michael Russo absent and Council woman Tiffanie Fisher and President Jennifer Giattino dissenting.

A call for historic preservation

Preservation was also an important discussion topic during public comments.
Hoboken Resident Allen Kratz spoke about the importance of preserving the city’s history. He discussed an imminent tipping point in which residents will no longer feel the benefit of living in a historic town.
Resident Paul Somerville also addressed the council on the issue of preservation. He later said he had received phone calls and emails from neighbors upset over the demolition in town.
Somerville said, “I’m here because, despite the fact that I left the Preservation Commission a year and a half ago, I still get calls from all of your constituents. And I’m here to implore you to announce an extension of the historic district in this town.”
The city has a historic district that covers most of Washington Street, dictating what property owners can and can’t do to their facades.
Hoboken is considered one of the most historic towns on the Eastern Seaboard, said Somerville. He recommended expanding the historic district.
“With the passage of [an] expanded ordinance, you have to fund the Historic Preservation Commission,” said Somerville. “They are an important leg in the three-leg stool; preservation, planning, and building. Without one of those three legs you are not functioning as a city. “
Councilman Michael DeFusco said that he would like to preserve one of Hoboken’s most historic streets, Court Street, as many of the cobblestones need to be fixed. He said that he is hoping this can be done when the city refurbishes the water mains in the area.

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