Last Wednesday, the city moved a step closer to securing one of the final missing pieces of Hoboken’s waterfront park with the City Council’s approval of a revised settlement agreement with Shipyard Associates. This accord would avert yet another attempt to privatize the water’s edge.
Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s administration has negotiated an agreement that transfers development rights off the Monarch pier at the northeast waterfront to the Municipal Garage site on Observer Highway, a trade that benefits both neighborhoods. Next, the parties must come to terms on a developers agreement for the Municipal Garage Redevelopment Area and the City must find a new home for the City’s garage.
For the past ten years, the Fund for a Better Waterfront (FBW) has joined with the City of Hoboken and neighborhood residents to oppose and litigate against the Monarch Towers. In 2011, after Shipyard Associates completed its 1160-unit luxury, residential development on ten acres of prime waterfront real estate between 12th and 15th Streets, it proposed to build an additional 78 units, the Monarch Towers, on its final parcel where it had formerly agreed to provide open space. A series of misguided court decisions allowed Shipyard to evade its obligation to provide the open space.
Securing this land for a public park is just the latest in a series of battles that FBW has fought to ensure that Hoboken has a truly public waterfront. In the early 1990s, FBW successfully defeated a proposal by the Port Authority and City to build a 33-story office complex on Pier A and 500,000 square feet of residential units on Pier C. Both piers are now remarkable additions to the waterfront park.
In 2001, FBW successfully negotiated an arrangement with the original developers of Maxwell Place to remove townhouses proposed for the piers and move all the residential units to four new blocks west of Sinatra Drive North. The developers agreed to dedicate the land on the river-side of Sinatra Drive North for the public, which is now Maxwell Place Park.
In 2000, FBW mounted a campaign to stop a Shipyard Associates’ proposal to build 120 luxury townhouses on the North Pier at the Shipyard Development. After FBW threatened legal action, the proposal was withdrawn. At the same time, FBW opposed a proposal by Stevens Institute to build a series of projects on the river-side of Sinatra Drive. Stevens hit FBW with a SLAPP suit (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) which dragged on in the courts for over five years. Stevens eventually withdrew the suit and its waterfront proposals never came to fruition.
FBW has also helped lead the battle to prevent Union Dry Dock from becoming a ferry refueling/repair depot. In the months ahead, it is expected that the City of Hoboken will acquire this three-acre site for a significant, vital addition to the waterfront park.