At the City Council’s meeting on Wednesday, the council unanimously introduced an amendment to the zoning code making it harder to demolish buildings or change their facades in most of the town.
The council will hear public comment before taking a final vote on Oct. 5.
The ordinance will also aid in the protection of buildings adjacent to those being demolished and will “encourage the adaptation of historical buildings and to prevent the unnecessary demolition of historic resources.”
The ordinance pertains to buildings in residential zones and the central business district of the town, which largely includes all of the town except for parts of the industrial northwest corner, which is being redeveloped.
The ordinance would force applicants for demolition to undergo review by the Historic Preservation Commission if they plan to remove or substantially deconstruct the façade of their building.
“[It is] increasingly painful to see the demolition of the town’s historic character.” –Allen Kratz
The ordinance, sponsored by Councilmen Peter Cunningham and James Doyle, was met with thanks and a few concerns from the public.
Resident Allen Kratz thanked the board for the “long overdue” ordinance, saying it has become “increasingly painful to see the demolition of the town’s historic character.” However, Kratz did have a few issues with the ordinance, saying the vague definition of a historic structure needed to be more defined.
Paul Somerville agreed with Kratz, saying he believes the city needs to fund the Historic Preservation Commission, since the agency’s workload will increase.
Making it easier for police to gain entry to public housing
The council approved a resolution authorizing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Hoboken Housing Authority – the site of the town’s low-income projects — and the Hoboken Police Department, allowing the police easier access to Housing Authority buildings and to share their information with the HHA administration.
The MOU provides the police with access cards to all of its buildings and allows the police department access to common areas like halls, stairwells, lobbies, and vacant and unoccupied residences, and to perform sweeps of these areas when they see fit.
This will allow the Police Department to more easily enforce trespassing laws, according to the agreement and Police Chief Ken Ferrante, as they will no longer need to call Director Mark Recko to gain access to the buildings.
The HHA will provide the police with updated tenant lists and access to video from HHA surveillance cameras, and in return the police will provide the HHA “with all information or documentation that the HPD compiles with respect to criminal activity related to Authority property.”
Councilman David Mello, who also serves on the HHA board, said “Our police can more easily enforce those laws… and make it safer for the overwhelming majority of Housing Authority residents who are trying to live their lives in peace and tranquility.”
The board passed the resolution with a unanimous vote.
The council also passed a resolution to approve a procedures manual for affordable housing units.
The manual’s purpose is to describe the policies and procedures used to create affordable housing units in Hoboken for income-eligible families, and provides instructions for working with developers, owners, and landlords as new affordable units become available.
The operating manual details the tasks involved in administration of existing affordable housing units and describes how new units are created and priced and how units will be marketed to prospective applicants. The manual also outlines procedures for waiting list and random selection, as well as procedures for determining income eligibility and resale.
The council passed the resolution with a unanimous vote.
To be discussed next council meeting
The council carried over several ordinances to the Oct. 5 meeting, including an adjustment to the zoning code to allow feathered flag signs for businesses (see our August 28 cover story), and another which could potentially repeal the 500 foot rule. The city will hold a public hearing on this rule this coming Monday, to hear opinions from the public. No vote will be taken on Monday.
The 500-foot rule currently states that no establishment with a liquor license may open within 500 feet of another establishment with a liquor license. The proposed ordinance would amend the zoning code to delete the rule. The proposal has already generated much discussion on both sides of the issue. Watch hudsonreporter.com next week for coverage of the Monday meeting.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at email@example.com.
Major in U.S. Army honored
At last week’s council meeting Mayor Dawn Zimmer honored Major Kalmaljeet Sigh Kalsi, recipient of a Bronze Star for service in the U.S. Army and graduate of Stevens Institute of Technology.
Kalsi is of the Sikh faith and had over a yearlong “arduous” fight with the U.S. Army to be able to serve while still donning symbols of his faith, including unshorn knee length hair, a beard, and turban.
“It took a better part of a year and half to get through the paper work for the accommodation,” said Kalsi, who had to get letters from Congress with the help of the Sikh Coalition, which promotes the Sikh identity.
Kalsi explained that before 198, Sikhs could serve in the Army without need for an accommodation but with a policy change he believes Sikhs were perhaps unintentionally pushed out.
Kalsi who is currently stationed at Fort Dix, has served in the army almost 16 years. During his time in Afghanistan as an emergency room doctor, Kalsi said not one time did a soldier ask Kalsi not to treat him.
“When I deployed in 2011, we saw some of the bloodiest injuries of the war, a lot of gunshot and IED blasts and soldiers who were on the front lines,” said Kalsi. “Not once did a soldier care that I’m a Sikh, just wanted to know I would do a good job.”
Kalsi believes that if the “DOD can deny me entry into the military based on religion it sets a dangerous precedent for others to do the same.”
He stated that he believes this to not be a “Sikh struggle” but a larger American struggle as Americans come from diverse backgrounds and that the military’s arguments for uniformity are the same they had used to not allow African Americans and women into their ranks.
He said he has had to prove that he can wear a helmet and a gas mask and he has “said all along that if you can do the job that’s what matters.”
Kalsi, who is fourth generation military, said he never thought twice about enlisting and was “ecstatic” when he finally received his accommodation.
“It was a dream come true to be able to serve in the military and serve my nation but I also thought of it as an opportunity to give myself to service in some small way and push back again the divisiveness that we’ve seen post 9/11 world.”
He said many of his friends and Sikh Americans have seen backlash in the wake of 9/11 and today.
“I never had an issue with soldiers in the military but in the mall people would stare at you and folks yelled ‘Osama’ or ‘terrorist’ at me and this occasionally still happens today and it’s horribly frustrating.”
Councilman Ravinder Bhalla, who has known Kalsi from a young age, introduced a resolution which expresses the council’s support of the national campaign to allow Sikhs to serve in the army and urge the DOD to “lift the ban on articles of faith and abandon its case by case accommodation process so that Sikhs and other religious minorities are able to freely enlist without compromising their faith.”
The council passed the resolution unanimously.