Since Pier A Park opened in 1999, the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway that spans the perimeter of the pier has been open and accessible to the public 24 hours a day as required by the State of New Jersey. Located at the far end of Pier A Park with stunning views of the Hudson River and Manhattan skyline is an iconic pavilion. People enjoy this spot as a safe retreat from the noise and hubbub of city life. The diagonal walk and bicycle pathway bordering the tree grove leads directly to the pavilion. The fishermen who frequent the northeast corner of the pier escape from the sun underneath the pavilion along with parents and children who traverse this portion of the waterfront walkway.
Beginning on April 13, the City of Hoboken permitted a cycling studio, Prime Cycle, to close off the pavilion for its outdoor classes promoted on its website as “Spinning with a view.” For 24 hours a day, the site is now completely blocked off to the public, with high chain link fencing and tarps surrounding the structure. The Fund for a Better Waterfront (FBW) Executive Director Ron Hine stated, “ We understand the City’s commitment to assist local businesses that have been negatively impacted by the current pandemic. This location, however, is unacceptable and disregards state regulations.”
Two weeks ago, FBW asked city officials how long permission had been granted to close off the pavilion to the public. As of this date, the City has not responded. In response to FBW’s OPRA request, the City could not produce a copy of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) waterfront permit or the waterfront walkway easement agreement the City was required to grant to the state.
FBW filed a complaint with the NJDEP that is responsible for enforcing the state’s Coastal Zone Management Regulations. Section 7:7-9.46 of the regulations states, “Public access to and along the main route of the Hudson Waterfront Walkway and on the adjacent piers shall be on a 24-hour [basis].” This is also a condition of the NJDEP waterfront permit that the state granted to the City in 1996.
In 1995, the City of Hoboken awarded a contract to landscape architects Henry Arnold and Cassandra Wilday to design the park at Hoboken’s South Waterfront. Architect Demetri Sarantitis was part of the team and designed the copper-roofed pavilion in Pier A Park, as well as several smaller kiosks with space for commercial vendors. After it opened, Pier A Park and the waterfront promenade received awards from the American Society of Landscape Architects and the Waterfront Center. Today, the London Plane tree grove on Pier A and the rows of trees along the waterfront promenade provide a lush canopy for people to enjoy.
In 1989, the City of Hoboken and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey proposed a 33-story commercial tower for Pier A. The voters of Hoboken defeated this proposal in two hard-fought referenda, one in 1990 and a second one in 1992. In 1990, FBW was formed and developed a plan for the Hoboken waterfront that called for the river-side of Sinatra Drive, including Pier A, to be a public park. Today, much of this park has been built and FBW is seeking to connect its missing links.