The recent Hoboken City Council meeting was marked by a thorough discussion of the ambitious Maritime Park design, concerns over its financial implications, and a divisive settlement agreement with the Fund for a Better Waterfront. Elected officials, including Emily Jabbour, Michael Russo, James Doyle, Tiffanie Fisher, Ruben Ramos Jr., Phil Cohen, Jennifer Giattino, and Mayor Ravi Bhalla, were present to deliberate these and other important matters.
The meeting opened with a presentation on the Maritime Park’s concept design. The park, intended to connect and enhance access to the waterfront, features an integrated skate park, expanded beach, tidal marsh, a learning pier, and a maritime pier. The design also includes a resilient park, diverse programming, biodiversity enhancement, and a celebration of the waterfront’s history. The architects highlighted public engagement and feedback, stressing the importance of the skate park, flexible green space, and a community building dedicated to maritime history.
However, the project’s preliminary cost, estimated in tens of millions of dollars, sparked concerns. Council members, while admiring the design and appreciating the public input, emphasized the need for accountability in terms of cost. A council member also questioned the necessity of an expensive flood mitigation system, expressing skepticism over the cost-effectiveness of capturing and reusing stormwater.
Mayor Ravi Bhalla expressed pride in the park’s development, stating, “We are in an extraordinarily better place today looking as we head towards 2024 than we could have imagined in 2018.” However, concerns were raised about the timeline and integration of the project with New York Waterway. Councilman Michael Russo and Councilman Phil Cohen sought clarity on these aspects, with the latter expressing a desire for cost estimates before approving the final design.
The council also discussed a redevelopment agreement for a building’s ground floor space, to be used as a library or flex space for the city. The agreement included a lease for 99 years, with the landlord responsible for trash removal and recycling, while the city would handle repairs and maintenance.
The meeting was not without controversy, evidenced by the debate over a settlement agreement with the Fund for a Better Waterfront. The agreement, not included in the agenda packet but available on the city’s website, was a bone of contention among council members. Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher and Councilman Michael DeFusco motioned to table the vote on the agreement due to insufficient time for review. However, this motion did not garner enough support, leading to the council eventually voting on the settlement agreement, with Michael Russo being the only member voting against it.
The meeting also saw discussions on term limits for city council members, the introduction of tree maintenance regulations, and proposed changes to the zoning map. A member of the public raised concerns about zoning policies that could negatively impact renters in rent-controlled apartments. Councilman DeFusco advocated for the importance of acquiring necessary easements for the rebuild by Design project and stressed the state’s ability to exercise eminent domain over the properties involved.