April 8, 2009
Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will not themselves be realized. So said famous architect and urban planner Daniel H. Burnham. His words aptly pertain to the latest waterfront scheme proposed by Stevens Institute of Technology.
On April 21, Stevens Institute of Technology is scheduled to appear before the Hoboken Zoning Board with its revised plans for the site along Sinatra Drive between 5th and 6th Streets. This is one of the most valuable undeveloped sites remaining at Hoboken’s waterfront. Combined with the Stevens waterfront property across the street, it represents a golden opportunity to create a plan that could match the high standards set at Hoboken’s south waterfront. It is an opportunity greatly benefiting all parties involved — Stevens, the City and the community as a whole.
Unfortunately, Stevens’ latest thinking represents not just a lack of vision but an absence of good planning and urban design. It also represents the abdication by our City government of its duty to plan on the public’s behalf.
Between 4th and 11th Streets, Sinatra Drive continues to be a thoroughfare instead of a pedestrian-friendly street. Stevens’ proposal adds turning lanes to the already wide roadway that encourages traffic to speed along the waterfront. Instead of bringing 5th Street straight down to the river, like most other east-west streets in town, the proposed alignment zigzags through the site robbing Stevens of valuable land it could otherwise use for future development and steals from the public the grand opportunity to be drawn directly down to the waterfront.
Stevens is also moving forward with a government funded project to cantilever the waterfront walkway over the Hudson River. Building over the water adds considerably to the cost and also poses long-term maintenance problems. Rather than building the minimum 30-foot walkway, Stevens and the City should be thinking about the over-all plan and the opportunity that exists for connecting a critical missing link in the public waterfront park. This concept for continuous parkland at the river’s edge is nearly 20 years old. Even with Hoboken’s waterfront park now 80% complete, Stevens and our current City government still fail to recognize the extraordinary opportunity presented here, which also has the potential of attracting substantial state and federal funding.
Unfortunately, Stevens’ latest thinking represents not just a lack of vision but an absence of good planning and urban design.
For the past year and a half, the Fund for a Better Waterfront (FBW) has discussed these issues with Stevens in considerable detail. FBW brought top-flight professional expertise to the table — a planner, engineer and landscape architect — yet Stevens has clung to its own mediocre proposal. The design of the parking garage has improved but the overall plan falls woefully short. The Zoning Board should hold judgment until after the election May 12. With new political leadership emerging in our City, the time has come for everyone to realize the potential for what can be done.