Residents talk about train crash, 500-foot rule

Council introduces ordinances to fund northwestern park on BASF property

Members of the public attended last week’s Hoboken City Council meeting and brought up two issues that have been on the community’s mind for the past two weeks: a recent deadly train crash in the Hoboken terminal, and a proposed change to city law that will make it easier to open a bar anywhere in town.
The council, at their regular Wednesday meeting, did not have a vote related to either of those issues, and voted on ordinances and resolutions related to park development.

500 feet

The city’s existing “500-foot rule” prohibits liquor licensed establishments from opening up within 500 feet of each other.
Last month, council members introduced an ordinance to repeal the rule. They said that the nature of town is changing and some restaurants find themselves unable to move because of the ordinance to locations with more affordable rent.
However, opponents of the change don’t want the town to be overrun with bars in one area. And some existing business owners don’t want new competition right next door.
The repeal of the rule has not yet come up for a final vote.

“I’m skeptical and dubious about pushing money toward a park that doesn’t exist yet.” –Michael DeFusco
Town residents Mary Ondrejka and Cheryl Fallick spoke at the meeting and voiced different opinions on the rule.
Ondrejka said she believes businesses with liquor licenses will head to Washington Street, the main drag, if the law is changed.
She said she disagreed with people who spoke at a public meeting on the rule two weeks ago and said that having a concentration of bars won’t be a problem because the young people using the bars can’t afford to stay here anyway, and thus won’t create a problem.
Hoboken has become known as a destination for people to come and patronize the bars.
“While they may not be able to live here, they still come and drink here,” said Ondrejka.
But Fallick said she doesn’t “have the least bit of a problem with the 500 foot rule.”
She said that as a Hoboken resident for over 30 years, she once had a bar on the corner where she lived, and she liked having it there.
“It was actually great because there was always activity when I was coming home late,” said Fallick. “I’m not taking away anything from people who are against it…I don’t care if people are rowdy. It’s a city.”
For prior stories on the issue, see

Train safety

Ondrejka also discussed the crash at the Hoboken terminal on Thursday, Sept. 29, which killed a Hoboken mother who was walking on the platform.
Ondrejka questioned why the governor and NJTransit haven’t taken care of the transit system, citing a non-working 1995 data recorder that was recovered from the train after the crash.
She said she believes NJTransit’s lack of maintenance on the rail system is “crippling a lot of situations where people are trying to get to work. “
Ondrejka said that New Jersey continues to squander funding on “trifles and amusements” such as a nearby megamall and proposed luxury condos. The agency has proposed a massive development near the city’s southern border, although over the years the city has gotten the agency to scale it down.
The council opened the meeting with a moment of silence for the victims in the accident.

Resolutions and ordinances

Also at the meeting, the council members discussed grant applications for money to fund the expansion of the Southwest Park. The original resolution was amended to separate out funding for a proposed Sept. 11 memorial and the “recobbling” of historic Court Street.
The city is seeking grants from the Hudson County Open Space, Recreation, and Historic Preservation Trust Fund.
The grant application for the park will request a million dollars while the other two are capped at $500,000 each.
Councilman Michael DeFusco said “folks are tripping on it, its one of the most historic parts of our entire city, and I’m wondering why Court Street wasn’t considered … but a potential future park was put forth for funding.”
Stephen Marks, the city’s new director of administration, said that he finds it unlikely that the county will fund the Court Street project.
He said, “I’m telling you because of the nature of the program I would be very skeptical and dubious about it actually being funded” as he believes the project needs plans and engineering estimates first.
But DeFusco said, “I’m skeptical and dubious about pushing money toward a park that doesn’t exist yet when there are portions of my district where seniors are tripping and businesses are suffering, and that is a blight. So I respectively disagree with your interpretation.”
Councilman David Mello wondered if the city could partner with the county and if the park could be considered to become a county park. He said that he believes with all the development in Jersey City, Jersey City residents would use the park. The park would be just over the border.
The council also voted to introduce three bond ordinances which would fund the proposed 6-acre northwestern park on the BASF property.
The first ordinance will allow the mayor to sign the acquisition agreement with BASF and authorize a $3 million down payment for the property. The two other bond ordinances for $19.5 million and $2.65 million will supplement a prior bond ordinance used to acquire the property for a park and garage.
The council also received an update on the Washington Street redesign that was supposed to begin this month.
According to Marks, the city is waiting for the state Department of Environmental Protection to authorize bids and plans before the city can award a contract.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at

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