Construction is scheduled to resume this Monday on Washington Street.
On Wednesday, Oct. 18 the City Council and public discussed the Washington Street Redesign Project and the possibility of extending construction hours. The council approved the installation of a temporary boathouse despite questions from the public about its cost, and also approved a professional service contract for a microgrid feasibility study.
Construction on Washington Street is scheduled to restart work Monday, according to Business Administrator Stephen Marks. The project was temporarily put on hold at the end of September when a woman was hit by a fallen pole in a construction zone. She reportedly suffered no major injuries.
As a result the city and the project manager requested information on the contractor’s safety protocols and an updated health and safety plan. He added that the city received the updates, including updated traffic and pedestrian safety plans, and the contractor was installing signage and temporary striping to direct vehicles and pedestrians.
Patrick Wherry, assistant business administrator, said construction will resume on already open sections, including the intersections of Second, Third, and Fourth Streets.
Council President Jen Giattino asked if the council should consider allowing extended working hours in the evenings to ensure paving can occur before mid December. Marks said that any paving needs to occur before mid December due to the temperature drop.
Police Chief Ken Ferrante said he is in favor of expanded hours as long as it wasn’t after 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights due to the city’s bar scene.
Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher said she has heard business is down “dramatically” and she feels the city needs to be thinking of ways to expedite the construction.
“What can we do for completion?” she said. “If it needs extra hours or expanding construction to three blocks at a time why isn’t that a solution put in front of us? I know it will probably cost extra, but I think we need to know what those costs are and make a decision as to if we need to incur it. We are going into the holiday season. We need to do more.”
Councilman Michael Russo said that he heard the contractor offered to pave the street up to Third Street to make the road smoother. Marks said that before construction ceased the contractor verbally indicated they would pave the road from Observer to Third Street before the end of October but due to the shut down there is a delay in schedule.
Councilman Peter Cunningham wanted to know when paving from Observer Highway to Seventh Street would be completed.
Marks said he believes Observer to Third Street could be “doable” by the end of November.
Cunningham wanted to know if the council was able to modify the plan from Seventh Street north to perhaps reduce the number of bumpouts.
Corporation counsel Brian Aloia said it could be possible but first the council would need to determine what they want changed and get a new estimate from the engineer.
Councilman Ruben Ramos asked why work wasn’t being done two blocks at a time as originally designed by the plan.
Marks said every time the ground was opened there were unforeseen circumstances such as unmapped utilities and unknown oil tanks that need to be removed. The contractor was permitted to move to the next site while the utility conflict was being addressed.
“This led to the proliferation of a lot of work sites,” said Marks.
A resolution drafted by corporation counsel at the meeting was unanimously approved by the council which would allow for the city to explore extended construction hours.
“This whole [boathouse] thing is an exercise in ridiculousness.” – Elizabeth Adams
Financial concerns over temporary boathouse
The council approved of a $46,040 contract with T.R. Weniger Inc, for the installation of a temporary boathouse in the Hoboken/Weehawken cove in uptown Hoboken with a 7-2 vote after members of the public spoke out against its cost.
The temporary boathouse is a shipping container fitted with racks to hold 12 kayaks, paddles and life vests. A tilted metal roof will harvest rainwater from into a 500 gallon cistern used to rinse the kayaks. The facade of the boathouse will be fitted with a board to detail the planned permanent boathouse that was approved unanimously in Sept. 2015 by the council for $4.4 million.
Resident Cheryl Fallick said, “I’m not sure we need a permanent new boathouse so I ask you to vote no. It’s a waste of money.” Resident Mary Ondrejka said, “I feel the city isn’t prioritizing things very well. We have a serious situation with Washington Street. If anything that $46,000 could help fill up some of those dangerous potholes.”
Resident Elizabeth Adams said, “In early August,(2015) that time of the year when a lot of folks are away on vacation, you very sleekly decided, without batting an eyelash, to award a contract for $4 million boathouse. Now you’re voting on $46,000 for a temporary boathouse? This whole thing is an exercise in ridiculousness.”
She added that she believes the boathouse will serve a small portion of the population and only be usable a few months out of the year.
“It just amazing to me that this kind of stuff goes on and is just swept under the rug and you people hope no one will notice,” she added.
Resident Hany Ahmed said that the “agendas are very light to say the least,” in respect to this being the biggest issue on the agenda and noted that it is because the municipal election is only a few weeks away in which several members of the council are running.
Councilmen Ruben Ramos and Michael Russo voted against the contract approval.
The city council unanimously approved a resolution for $157,000 for a microgrid feasibility study.
The funding is provided by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.
The study will determine the feasibility of a town center-distributed, energy resource microgird, powered by onsite distributed generation that will provide electric, heat, and cooling to critical facilities.
These smaller grids, operating on their own from the main power grid, can separate and protect themselves from any problems with the main grid and keep vital services in place.
The microgrid would connect multiple critical facilities to power in case of emergencies or disasters.
These critical facilities would include Hoboken Fire Company 3, Police Headquarters, City Hall, the Hoboken Homeless Shelter, St. Matthews Church, as well as St. Peter and Paul Church, Kings Grocery, municipal garages B, D & G, multiple senior housing facilities, the YMCA, two local pharmacies, three Hoboken Housing Authority Properties, Andrew Jackson Gardens, Harrison Gardens, Adams and Monroe Gardens), and pump stations.
Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher wanted to ensure that the project wouldn’t require the city to have to dig up Washington street, currently under construction, if the microgrid is possible.
Business Administrator Stephen Marks said that Washington Street will not need to be dug up as the redesign plan has already included an underground conduit which will run the length of Washington Street from Observer Highway to Fifteenth Street with branches at cross streets to the city’s critical facilities.
He added that the project is complimentary and the Washington Street redesign project was already designed with the conduit below ground.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at email@example.com.