On July 9, 1990, the voters of Hoboken scored a stunning referendum victory, defeating a massive 3.2 million square foot development scheme for Hoboken’s south waterfront, proposed by the City of Hoboken and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. Subsequently, the leaders of that referendum campaign, wanting to promote a positive vision for Hoboken’s waterfront, formed the Fund for a Better Waterfront (FBW). FBW’s first task was to create a plan for Hoboken’s waterfront. The Fund for New Jersey provided a grant to FBW to hire architect and urban planner Craig Whitaker. Mr. Whitaker worked with a team of volunteer professionals to execute the plan.
The plan took a number of different forms: a two-dimensional drawing, then a 4′ by 12′ architectural scale model and finally, a book entitled, A Plan for the Hoboken Waterfront. After a second referendum victory in 1992, the City of Hoboken agreed to work with representatives of community groups, including FBW, to create a plan for the Hoboken waterfront. In February of 1995, the City of Hoboken adopted an amended redevelopment plan for the south waterfront that embraced nearly all of the principles advocated by FBW. Nearly half of the site is devoted to public open space. The piers, that formerly were to be platforms for the development of 1.6 million square feet of residential and commercial development in the Hudson River under the 1990 City of Hoboken/Port Authority proposal, now comprise the southern portion of Hoboken’s continuous, public waterfront park.
For the past twenty years, FBW has continued to advocate for a waterfront park along the Hudson River, designed in a fashion that it is unquestionably public. FBW has sponsored exhibits at the Urban Center in New York City and at Liberty State Park in Jersey City. Another book was published in 1995 entitled, Reclaiming the Waterfront, A Planning Guide for Waterfront Municipalities. FBW has engaged in numerous legal battles challenging planning board approvals, defending against a developer-sponsored lawsuit to void the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway requirements, contesting waterfront permits granted by the State Department of Environmental Protection and disputing amendments to local zoning ordinances.
FBW has also worked to spread its success in Hoboken to other communities. For three years, FBW worked with a community group in Weehawken to develop a “community plan” for 142 prime acres of waterfront in that township. FBW has also assisted waterfront communities in Jersey City, Edgewater and Bayonne, and has provided Hoboken waterfront tours to countless people, including groups from Brooklyn, NY, Philadelphia, PA and New York City.
In Hoboken, FBW’s successful battles over the past twenty years have helped to build a waterfront park that is now 80% complete. The opportunity to finish the few missing links in Hoboken’s waterfront park is now tantalizingly close and would result in a prototype for waterfront planning.