HOBOKEN -- Mayor Dawn Zimmer spoke at last night's council meeting to express her desire to move forward on plans to create a park in the Southwest section of Hoboken.
"My commitment to a southwest park ultimately led me to run for 4th Ward Council," said Zimmer. "Since that time, the City Council has repeatedly expressed its unanimous support for the creation of a Southwest Park. Now it is time for all of us to put our money where our mouth is."
The council voted 7-1 to introduce an ordinance last night that would give the city the power to acquire land through use of eminent domain. Councilman Michael Russo, a member of the council minority, was the only no vote. He could not be reached for comment.
The ordinance is expected to undergo a public hearing and a vote for adoption during the next meeting on June 6. It will require five votes for adoption, and Zimmer currently has five allies on the council.
The land is roughly one-acre in size and across from the site of the Downtown Pub at Observer Highway and Jackson Street.
Zimmer said in an exclusive interview with The Reporter that negotiations between the property owner and city have failed thus far.
"We're very far apart [from reaching an agreement]" said Zimmer. "We're going to continue trying to negotiate in good faith with the property owner."
Zimmer also said she is "excited" but "nervous" about the ordinance's potential adoption.
If the ordinance fails, the city could stand to lose $3 million in grant money, according to Zimmer, who wrote in a memo to the council that last year's acquisition of a $3 million county Open Space grant for park land would be lost if the city did not identify a purpose and use it within a year.
"[It is] absolutely essential that the City have available all appropriate legal tools to ensure both that the citizens of Hoboken receive the park land that we have promised," said Zimmer in the memo, "and that we do not forfeit the $3 million grant that the County has provided us."
Zimmer, who said she only supports eminent domain for land that would become public use, stressed the importance of the next council meeting.
"[This is] one of the biggest votes that we're going to have," said Zimmer. "This will be a very, very, important council meeting."
Zimmer also said that the city will eventually look to acquire more land for a larger park.
"I will work to create a larger park space, but ask you to recognize that even a 1-acre park would benefit the community," said Zimmer in the memo. "Just as the one-acre parks of 1500 Park and Maxwell Place serve northwest residents, so too would a one-acre park in southwest Hoboken."
"I do feel quite strongly that every Hoboken resident should be within walking distance of a park," added Zimmer.
In related news, the City Council voted to limit the city’s power to acquire land in the southwest ward. They will now not be able to use eminent domain to acquire property in the southwest portion of town, unless the property is for a public purpose, such as park land. -Stephen LaMarca