Sure, there have been members of the public attending all of the public meetings and Planning Board hearings regarding the approval of the project who have voiced their opinions. But the majority of those who have voiced either their approval or displeasure have been extremely partisan. They are either aligned in support of the project with Mayor Richard Turner, and in some cases, they're township employees or related to town workers. Or they are backers of the activist group, the Friends of the Weehawken Waterfront, which has filed at least three lawsuits in an attempt to block the proposed project.
However, the voice of the general public had yet to be heard. Until now.
Last week, outside the Tower Plaza Shopping Mall on Park Avenue in Weehawken, The Weehawken Reporter took a random sampling of 30 Weehawken residents, who were asked their opinions of the proposed Roseland Project.
The proposed $500 project will be built in two phases. The first phase, which calls for 42 brownstone homes, has received all of the necessary approvals. The developer, Carl Goldberg, is ready to begin construction on the site along Port Imperial Boulevard.
The second phase, which is more extensive and calls for 1,314 residential units, a hotel and conference facility, an assisted living facility and extensive retail and office space, received approval from the town's Planning Board last year, but has yet to receive approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The first phase was just recently scaled down to 42 brownstones and will include a waterfront roadway, but the FWW recently filed a lawsuit that alleges that the amended plan was not legal. Goldberg had addressed 21 different compromises that his group had made in making alterations and changes to the original site plan. Thus, he feels the group's suit to strike down the amended plan is counter-productive.
The overall size of the project has been downsized considerably, from the original 2,220 residential units to the current number of 1,314. The heights of the proposed buildings have been reduced from 12 stories to eight.
Of the 30 residents asked in the informal poll last week, 17 - more than half - had little or no knowledge of the full details of the project. Some had no idea at all that development was about to take place and requested more information from the reporter.
Others had no idea where the exact location of the development.
"Is it going to be next to the Houilhan's?" one woman asked, referring to the Lincoln Harbor complex on the waterfront near the Hoboken border. "If they build it there, what will they do with the cars?"
Some knew of the proposed homes, because a sign advertising the sale of the brownstones currently sits on Port Imperial Boulevard. But they had no idea about the proposed hotel and office facility, as well as the other residential housing.
"I only thought they were going to be homes down there," said Ralph Colantino. "I didn't know about a hotel and such. That seems like it's going to be pretty big."
The majority of the people polled knew one thing - any development in the township seemed like a good idea. Of the 30 people asked, 25 were in favor of the development.
Five people wanted to see something else done with the land, like an open park.
"I remember when there was absolutely nothing down there," said Bernice Englese, a life-long resident of Weehawken, last week. "I believe in advancement, and I think that anything that is built down there would be a step in the right direction. I think it's a good idea and I encourage anything that's good for the town."
"I don't mind anything going up, as long as it doesn't interfere with the [Manhattan] skyline," said Mary Haugh, another life-long resident. "As long as the building is within reason, I can't see anything wrong with it. I love what's going on down there now. It was better than it was before and I don't want to see it go back to the way it was."
Ed Randle is all for it.
"There's nothing there now and these people are going to turn the area into something beautiful," Randle said. "That means we'll have more people living in Weehawken. I love the town and I'm for anything that is good for the town. I don't understand why people are against it. It makes too much sense not to have it built there." Bernice Diskin is one of those who would rather see the area turned into public parkland.
"The whole area should be parkland," Diskin said. "By law, Weehawken doesn't have enough parkland now. I think having parklands is something that is very important for the children. The adults are not thinking about the children. When there's open land like this, it always has to turn into something. I think that's a rotten system." If there was one universal concern among the people asked, it was traffic. Nearly 75 percent of the people asked (22 of the 30) mentioned traffic as the no. 1 concern they would have with the development. Most wondered what the development would mean for the traffic in the area.
"I have to be concerned what it will mean for traffic," Haugh said. "No one seems to have any answers about that."
"I have to worry about the traffic more than anything else," Jorge Xiques said. "People are worried about the view of the [Manhattan] skyline. I don't worry about that. The buildings are not going to go all the way up the cliffs. But I do worry about the traffic. That's the main problem."
"The traffic is a nightmare in this town as it is now," Sandy Contreras said. "I can't imagine what it will be like with 2,000 more cars coming into town every day. I don't even want to think about it."
Jason Donlin believes that the development will be perfect for New York commuters.
"If that's what they're hoping for, to get people from New York to move to New Jersey for the commute, then it's ideal," Donlin said. "Weehawken is a great place to live, but it's also a gold mine because of its location. I don't think I could dream of living anyplace else. It could be good, but then again, it could be bad. I might have a different opinion by the end of the day, if I had more coffee."
Sophia Escalante also loves living in Weehawken because of its location.
"If I love it here, because it's so close to New York, then other people are going to want to live here, too," Escalante said. "I think having this project built makes all the sense in the world and will be so good for everyone who lives here."
The finished product is still 10 years in the making, perhaps more, with all the lawsuits that have delayed the project from moving forward in the first place. However, it appears as if many residents would like to see it happen, provided the developer takes their concerns into account.