GET DEVELOPMENT RIGHT
In the next decade Hoboken could see new development that remakes one-third or more of our city. We need to get that development right or face overcrowding and the overwhelming of our infrastructure, not to mention the massive tax hike it will take to fix it. We need to go forward with a strategic plan, not the fragmented, disorganized approach we’ve suffered from for years. We must:
Hoboken’s heated residential growth, driven by maximum developer profit, must be balanced by commercial opportunities. Such commercial building would attract a daytime population to support local restaurants and shops and even create jobs for residents. We’ve proven we can attract major employers such as Pearson Education, Newell Brands, NICE Systems, Jet.com and Del Frisco’s Grille at the Waterfront Center. The bulk of their new employees are residents or commute by public transportation. That keeps cars off our streets and puts daytime consumers in our shops and restaurants. It’s a winning model worth repeating.
Commercial development also reduces the strain that high-density apartment blocks place on an overburdened infrastructure. The supposed benefits of residential tax ratables are quickly siphoned off by the investments such building requires in road repairs and traffic solutions, parking, utilities, schools and municipal services. Focusing on commercial development minimizes congestion and over-crowding while providing a far greater economic benefit, especially when all costs are considered.
Encourage the Commercial Development We Need
Implement the Master Plan–By Writing the Zoning Laws Needed to Make it Work
We can no longer tolerate a piecemeal approach to growth driven by zoning variances for individual projects. Neither can we retain or adopt poorly conceived zoning ordinances that encourage tear downs and further threaten Hoboken’s historic appeal. Prior failure to update our laws has led to certain instances of "zoning by variance” and forced business owners and residents to spend tens of thousands of dollars to obtain permissions that might have been avoided by a modernized zone plan and ordinance.
A transparent and fair approach to land use serves us all. We must confirm that our master plan serves the needs of the city that Hoboken is today. Then we must update our zoning code to provide a clear roadmap for all concerned, from the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Adjustment to construction officials, contractors and homeowners. This is the responsible way to prepare for our future while ensuring that we protect the character of the city.
Use City Land Powers for the Good of Hoboken
The City Council’s influence on Hoboken’s undeveloped areas—New Jersey Transit's rail yard, the Western Edge, the Northwest, Southwest, and North End—is significant. Together the council and mayor will have a unique opportunity to ensure that we make decisions to positively shape our city for generations.
Bottom line, we must level the playing field in land use. The people need strong, fair laws and a stronger team on its side negotiating with developers. We must never use eminent domain to take property from one owner just to give it to another with favored status. And we must root out conflicts of interest in all areas of land use. Together we can challenge outdated assumptions, incorporate input from every citizen, and work to create a Hoboken that we are happy and proud to call home.
Enhance Quality of Life
IMPROVE QUALITY OF LIFE
“We’re from city hall, and we’re here to help,” shouldn’t be a bad joke. It should be a real expectation. City Hall must provide for its residents through a commitment to better services and through support for civic associations and our institutions, from park programs to schools.
Culture change starts at the top. Jen Giattino walks the streets of Hoboken and listens to residents and acts on their concerns. As Mayor, she’ll choose directors with that same commitment to customer-service, so doing business with City Hall is professional and painless for all. To help them, we will harness technology that is so present elsewhere in our lives. A City Hall with a communications system that gives residents an easy to understand path to resolve issues from clean sidewalks, to programs in the parks to questions about affordable housing, for one simple example, is a City Hall that works. That is the City Hall we pledge to you.
We must minimize the inconvenience of infrastructure projects. The current construction work on Washington Street is a cautionary tale. It is necessary and long overdue, but must proceed efficiently, without the delays that leave traffic disruption and lost parking without forward progress. Likewise, we must make sure daily interactions—from obtaining parking permits and passes, to registering requests and complaints to understanding sanitation regulations—are designed to be irritation free. Perhaps these are small things, but, when well considered, they reduce stress and elevate the advantages of city living.
Make it Easy for Residents to Solve Issues and Get Answers
Hoboken has recently added open spaces at the Southwest Park, the BASF site, and the fields at 1600 Park. At the same time, we’ve seen upgrades to our existing playgrounds, which is a good thing. But those additions and upgrades can’t come at the expense of the upkeep our public areas need. Sinatra Park, though recently reopened, is a prime example of that. We must balance our design ambition with costs and our ability to maintain them. Across the city we need creative solutions to improve our recreation options—sensibly. We may move forward with plans to acquire the Union Dry Dock site to complete the waterfront and construct the long-discussed community pool, but we cannot forget to make neighborhood parks safe and welcoming gathering places for all generations, from toddler to teen to senior to everybody else.
Hoboken has valuable real estate assets, a unique position of authority to exercise redevelopment and the ability to bond at historically low rates. Together these give us options to address such significant community needs as affordable housing, the pool or the years long-failure to create indoor and year-round facilities. With careful planning, budgeting and the securing of grant funding sources—as well as valuable input from every resident—we can create accommodations that will provide recreational and community space without the tax burden many fear.
Improve Our Community Facilities to Better Serve Us All
Provide Leadership to Support our Schools
Hoboken has a full range of school options: district, charter, parochial and private, with many experiencing significant demand unmatched by growth and all with their own governing bodies. But this does not mean that the mayor and city council are without important roles. Given the limited space remaining in Hoboken we must consider the needs of our schools in future development and redevelopment discussion. We must ensure our recreation and other city departments collaborate effectively with all of the schools to maximize the benefits to all our children. And we must stop making unwise PILOT agreements favorable to developers to the detriment of our tax coffers, which can put additional economic stress on public school budgets.
As elected political leaders we will advocate whenever possible for improvements to the unfair state funding formula that pits charter schools against district schools. Further, as civic leaders we fully support the remarkable strides being made in our district schools under Superintendent Dr. Christine Johnson and the current school board majority. Jen is the only mayoral candidate who supported Sharon Angley in her first run for school board. Each of us strongly supports Sharon’s reelection this November.
KEEP HOBOKEN SUSTAINABLE
For generations, people have come to Hoboken for its unique character. We must make sure that we maintain the essence of that character as the City moves forward, while ensuring that it remains a place that accommodates all its residents.
Enhance Resiliency By Fixing Our Infrastructure
Address Affordability And Displacement
Low lying areas are always at risk of flooding, but when summer showers turn streets into canals we must take action. We must ensure utilities under Hoboken can survive such a storm, and larger ones, or climate change will push Hoboken off the map. We must work to stormproof our utilities from natural disasters so the next Sandy doesn’t again swamp the sewers and electric grid and turn a one day event into a two-week nightmare. We must also ensure we properly scale utilities to handle circumstances of our own making. And a little forethought will minimize the daily disruptions we keenly feel today, like the constant water main breaks, the current Washington Street Redesign project and the PSE&G gas main replacements, to name just a few.
The last administration deserves credit for securing the funding for “Rebuild by Design.” But these efforts must continue with an expanded public voice and be supplemented with more traditional solutions like additional flood pumps and sewer reconstruction. And while we’re defending against the effects of climate change on a large scale, it will also help to tend to the small, such as minimizing the removal of existing trees and replacing those that are lost. More significantly, as we update the zoning ordinances we must support sustainable building practices, such as encouraging reflective roof materials, for example, or green roofs and swales or rain gardens.
Hoboken has become expensive beyond the means of many long-time residents. The number of affordable units is declining and the number of below-market rent stabilized units is declining faster. Displacement is damaging the character of our town. Adding a handful of affordable units each year while losing many more is not enough. We need to expand our current mix of predominantly large new units with affordable one-bedrooms, studios, micro-apartments, and co-living spaces. We must review the 10% low-income inclusionary ordinance and explore alternative developer contributions that might work better. And it’s time to seriously consider the creation of a community land trust that could help reduce displacement and protect Hoboken’s historic character. Recognizing everyone has right to a safe and secure home, we will continue to support improvements made for residents living in the Housing Authority buildings.
Amending the current flood ordinance so it does not apply outside of flood zones and exploring ways to protect rental units in flood zones are both priorities. Flood ordinance driven tear-downs displace long-time tenants and damage the city’s character. We need more coordination within city hall so that existing tenants are considered when reconstruction and demolition permits are issued. To help with this and other issues of residential concern, we will reinstate the Office of Housing & Tenant Advocacy.
Minimize Taxes While We Meet Our Needs
Taxes can be reduced by spending less and finding non-tax revenues. We need to do both. To spend less, we must improve efficiency in City Hall by empowering effective people. We must reduce costs by identifying and rooting out the unnecessary. For example, we can cut the exploding expense of recent law suits with proper training for all City directors. Likewise, paying legal counsel for results, not hours will improve service and reduce costs. We can reduce operating expenses by ensuring that Hudson County does its part, especially in parks management, roads and snow removal. Hoboken residents pay a greater share to the county budget than any other municipality. We need an equitable return on that share.
And finally, we return to the ratables problem, and our burdensome reliance on residential property taxes to run our government. City Hall should never resort—as it has in the past—to budget gimmicks that give the illusion officials are providing tax relief when they are not. The single most important thing we can do to ease your tax burden is to attract business through results-oriented economic development. We need to cut red-tape, soften our anti-business attitude and welcome new commercial tenants in the ways that have worked for residents in other cities. With the creation of a new light rail stop we would encourage growth of a 21st Century commercial hub, rich in innovative businesses like those found on the Waterfront and in the Monroe Center and all of the vibrant benefits they bring.
These are the elements that build a great city. A mix of residents, a mix of enterprise, a well-planned and affordable community. Together we can provide for them and give Hoboken the opportunity to be that great city not just for today but for tomorrow and for generations to come.