1990  On July 9, the voters of Hoboken scored a stunning referendum victory, defeating a massive 3.2 million square foot development scheme for Hoboken’s South Waterfront, including a 33-story office tower on Pier A, proposed by the City of Hoboken and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. Subsequently, the leaders of that campaign, wanting to promote a positive vision for Hoboken’s riverfront, formed the Fund for a Better Waterfront (FBW). FBW’s first task was to create a plan for Hoboken’s waterfront. FBW received a grant from the Fund for New Jersey and then hired architect and urban planner Craig Whitaker. Mr. Whitaker worked with a team of volunteer professionals to execute the plan.

1992-1995  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 FBW and other civic leaders. 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 now comprise the southern portion of Hoboken’s continuous, public riverfront park.

1995-2020  For the past thirty years, FBW has continued to advocate for a 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. FBW wrote another book 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.

2001  FBW negotiated a unique land conservation deal with the original developers of the Maxwell House Coffee plant that dedicated one-third of the 14-acre site on the river-side of Sinatra Drive North for a public, city-owned waterfront park. As part of the agreement, an annual revenue stream from the upland residential development funds the maintenance of the five-acre park. Named Maxwell Place Park, it includes the only natural sand beach on the Hudson River south of the George Washington Bridge and is thus a prime spot for kayakers to access the Hudson River.

2011-2020  For the past nine years, FBW along with the City of Hoboken and neighborhood residents have sought to preserve a pier at northeast waterfront for open space. This was the original agreement between the City and Shipyard Associates when the 1160-unit Shipyard project gained planning board approval in 1995. Various lawsuits have followed a tortuous path through the court system resulting in a series of rulings adverse to the City and FBW. A tentative settlement was reached this past year, with the City and Shipyard agreeing to swap development rights at the pier for the municipal garage site on Observer Highway. This deal would ensure that this parcel be preserved as public open space in perpetuity. 

2017-2020  For the past four years, FBW has pressed the City of Hoboken to secure the Union Dry Dock property as a critical link in Hoboken’s waterfront park. When NY Waterway acquired the site in November of 2017 for use as a ferry refueling and repair facility, a battle royale ensued. FBW then began organizing opposition and working with the City of Hoboken to pressure Governor Murphy and New Jersey Transit to locate the ferry facility elsewhere and preserve this prime three-acre site to connect Maxwell Place Park to Castle Point Park. The matter is expected to be resolved favorably in the months ahead. 

Porth Authority-City waterfront scheme

City of Hoboken/Port Authority 1989 scheme for Hoboken’s south waterfront.

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, Philadelphia and New York City. In Hoboken, FBW’s successful battles over the past thirty years have helped to build a waterfront park that is nearing completion. The opportunity to finish the missing links in Hoboken’s waterfront park is now tantalizingly close and would result in a prototype for waterfront planning.

FBW has received a number of awards over the years. In 2014, the Waterfront Alliance honored FBW as “Heroes of the Harbor” at its annual Waterfront Conference in New York City.

Related articles

FBW’s 30-year history
FBW Plan for the Hoboken Waterfront
FBW waterfront plan featured in Designing New Jersey
Maxwell Place Park/Plan
The good news and the bad concerning Maxwell Place Park
Hoboken waterfront featured in Philadelphia Inquirer article
Hoboken citizens invoked Initiative and Referendum to alter an entrenched political system
Hoboken’s FBW honored as “Heroes of the Harbor”