FBW | October 18, 2019
On election day, voters will have an opportunity to approve amendments to the Municipal Open Space Trust Fund (OSTF) that would ensure completion of Hoboken’s waterfront park, as well as other park sites throughout the city.
Currently, the OSTF ordinance allots 2 cents per $100 of assessed property value to the fund each year, generating more than $2 million annually. For an individual homeowner with a property assessed at $500,000, the 2 cent rate means that $100 of their taxes annually goes to the OSTF.
If ballot question #2 is approved, the rate would increase to 3 cents per $100 assessed value (or $150 annually for a property valued at $500,000). This is not a tax increase but instead a change in how taxes are allocated. If the “yes” votes prevail, the OSTF annual revenue stream will increase by 50 percent and will allow for funds to be spent for construction of parks as well as acquisition. Overall, the OSTF represents about 2 percent of Hoboken’s $117 million municipal budget. As long as the City holds the line on total spending and keeps other revenue sources constant, there would be no increase in municipal taxes.
The current OSTF ordinance requires that 75 percent of the funds be dedicated to acquisition. Ballot question #1 allows this 75 percent to be used for park construction or acquisition, and would also allow up to 25 percent of the funds to be used for historic preservation purposes.
The OSTF started in November 2007, when Hoboken voters overwhelming approved the ordinance by a 10 to 1 margin. For the past 12 years, the city has used the OSTF to help acquire and build 11 acres of new public parkland, almost exclusively on the west side of town (SW Park and the BASF site, also known as NW Park). Yet Hoboken continues to suffer from a deficit of open space. The current ratio of 1 acre per 1,000 residents is well below New York City’s standard of 2.5 acres and the national standard of 6.25 to 10.5 acres per 1,000 residents.
As the residential development of Hoboken continues at a rapid clip, the opportunities to secure and develop parcels for public open space will soon disappear.
Since the 1990s, few municipal tax dollars were used to build Hoboken’s waterfront parks. The parks were paid for primarily through Port Authority funds, a series of state and federal grants, and private developers. Additional potential funding sources included the Hudson County Open Space Trust Fund and low-interest loans through the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust Fund.
On October 3, the City of Hoboken made an offer to acquire the Union Dry Dock site for fair market value, determined to be $13.1 million. If NY Waterway, the owner, declines the offer, the City can proceed to take the site through eminent domain.
For nearly 30 years, the people of Hoboken and FBW have sought to realize the vision of a contiguous, public waterfront park along the Hudson River in Hoboken. The potential is now close at hand to complete several of the last missing links including Union Dry Dock and the Monarch pier. This is a rare opportunity that cannot be squandered. A park at Union Dry Dock would add over three acres of land as public open space along the waterfront connecting Castle Point Park to Maxwell Place Park.
This is what you will find on the November 5 ballot:
HOBOKEN MUNICIPAL QUESTION #1 The City of Hoboken established the Municipal Open Space, Recreation and Conservation Trust Fund (“Trust Fund”) by ordinance on January 1, 2008 following a referendum. A minimum of 75% of the annual amount raised by the Trust Fund is utilized for the acquisition of lands for recreation and conservation purposes, or the payment of debt service on indebtedness issued or incurred by the City of Hoboken for the acquisition of said lands. Shall the Trust Fund be amended so that a minimum of 75% of the amount raised by the Trust Fund be utilized for the acquisition or development of lands for recreation and conservation purposes, and for the payment of debt service on indebtedness issued or incurred by the City of Hoboken for these purposes?
HOBOKEN MUNICIPAL QUESTION #2 The City of Hoboken established the Municipal Open Space, Recreation and Conservation Trust Fund (“Trust Fund”) by ordinance on January 1, 2008 following a referendum on November 6, 2007, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:12-15.7, to be funded at a rate not to exceed $0.02 per $100.00 of the assessed value of real property. Shall the Trust Fund rate be increased from $0.02 to $0.03 per $100.00 of the assessed value of real property, and add historic preservation as an eligible purpose? Historic preservation is defined as preservation of historic properties, structures, facilities, sites, areas, or objects, and the acquisition of such properties, facilities, sites, areas, or objects for historic preservation purposes.
Trust Fund will ensure public open space to be enjoyed for generations to come
Making up Hoboken’s open space deficit at the waterfront & how to fund it
Public parks provide essential benefits
Col. Stevens vision for Hoboken still valid 200 years later
Editorial: A Once-in-a-century Opportunity
Plan for the Hoboken Waterfont
Hoboken’s first parks established in 1804