Railyard plan is a radical departure from Hoboken’s scale and character

By Ron Hine | Hoboken Reporter | November 30, 2014

Dear Editor:

The Rail Yard Redevelopment Plan at the southern gateway to Hoboken will have a profound impact on our community. With over 10 acres of new development, it will be one of Hoboken’s largest building projects ever. To make the project a great addition to our community, it is incumbent on our elected officials to get this plan right.

Unfortunately, the Redevelopment Plan in its current state is a radical departure from our town’s scale and character. Hoboken does not need a high-rise office park with towers rising up to 24 stories high. The residential portion of the plan also contradicts Hoboken’s urban character. For the past 200 years, Hoboken has grown by extending its uniform public street grid to its boundaries, including the waterfront. This has had a powerful influence on maintaining Hoboken’s neighborhood ambience. The Rail Yard plan would be the first development that fails to honor this street pattern that Col. John Stevens, the founder of this city, first established in 1804.

In past years, citizens have united in opposition to similar proposals for high-rise towers. A long list of these out-of-scale projects were defeated: a 33-story office tower on Pier A, the Presidential Towers, two 32-story residential towers, a series of 17-story towers on Observer Highway, two 24-story towers at 1600 Park Ave. and the 42-story Millennium Towers in Jersey City on the Hoboken border. The high-rises that have been built in Hoboken stick out like sore thumbs, detracting from the urban village character throughout the rest of town.

In addition, the Rail Yard Redevelopment Plan fails to pass muster with the Hoboken Master Plan. The following are relevant quotes from this document:

• Promote and enhance Hoboken’s historic character and design image.
• Promote compatibility in scale, density, design, and orientation between new and existing development.
• Require buildings to be oriented to the street.
• Avoid overdevelopment . . . Urban renewal-style ideas – such as massive buildings or rail yard development – are not supported.
• RR Railroad: Limited redevelopment should be permitted in this area. Any new buildings should be oriented to Observer Highway, and should be limited in size. Large-scale buildings are discouraged in this area.

This is a prototypical Hoboken block with buildings three to five stories high, built in rows at the front property line around the perimeter of the block. This densely built but human scale development gives this town a scale and character that have endeared it to those who live there.

This is a prototypical Hoboken block with buildings three to five stories high, built in rows at the front property line around the perimeter of the block. This densely built but human scale development gives this town a scale and character that have endeared it to those who live there.

This is a legacy issue. Clearly, the City of Hoboken must go back to the drawing boards. The solution is straightforward: redo the plan so that it conforms to the highest standards of planning and urban design. Let’s adopt a plan and build a project that will make us all proud.

Fund for a Better Waterfront

Related links

City’s Rail Yard Redevelopment Plan
Rail yard redevelopment plan fundamentally flawed
Rockefeller office tower is latest in series of controversial high-rise projects in Hoboken
Defining the key to Hoboken’s success as a thriving urban community
Mapping and Platting