The rezoning would create a “University District” intended to support development of the campus that maintains the character of the area. But the immediate change will be that the university will be able to erect two buildings on the edge of campus, on the cliffs of Castle Point, that are higher than existing buildings.
Roughly 20 members of the public spoke about the matter at the council meeting on Wednesday, July 11, most in favor of the rezoning.
At the July 11 meeting, the council also discussed a time extension on the Washington Street Redesign project, which now may not be completed until 2019. (See sidebar.)
Speakers were a mix of Hoboken residents and people from the Stevens community. Most said the rezoning would be a way for the university – a prestigious engineering university on the city’s bluffs –to meet continued growth.
Resident John Capua said, “Moving the students back to campus is the right thing to do for the students and the town.”
According to the university’s website, as of fall of 2017, Stevens has 3,123 undergraduate students and 3,793 graduate students. According to U.S. News & World Report, roughly 68 percent of students live in university operated housing. Stevens has seven student housing buildings.
For students who live off campus, Stevens operates shuttle busses to take them to and from campus.
Capua said it would help with congestion on the streets if the shuttle buses don’t run.
Resident Nicholas Dinallo said he felt the two student housing towers would create construction jobs as well as permanent ones, and would be a “landmark project for our city.”
University President Nariman Farvardin noted Stevens’ involvement in the community over the years, including working with the school district on various programs and helping the community during Hurricane Sandy. He said Stevens students completed 41,000 hours of community service last year.
“This university is on a tear moving forward,” he said. “We have done a lot of good for the city and our country. Young men and women come to us; we educate them, and provide a terrific experience before they are unleashed on the rest of the world to help make it a better place. Help us achieve that goal.”
But a few took issue with proposed building heights, which could climb to 225 feet (a story is generally 10 feet high).
Resident Cheryl Fallick said she opposed the change primarily because the tall buildings will eventually serve as a barometer for future development.
She also said the off-campus housing the students have been utilizing needs to be monitored to ensure that the units are returned to rent control rates when they leave.
Dan Tumpson said he feels the campus is a “beautiful breath of fresh air” but that if the zoning is changed there will be less scrutiny involved in future projects on their property.
Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher said she felt the majority of the public was unaware of the potential change. She said that after sending an e-mail blast, 75 percent of respondents were concerned with the height.
The council may take a final vote on the zoning changes during the July 25 special council meeting. Residents can voice concern or support.
The change would allow two proposed dormitories on the cliffs to grow to up to 225 feet.
The proposed University District will include three subareas. The Transition Sub-Area extends from Hudson Street to about Castle Point Terrace from Fifth Street to Eighth Street. The purpose of the Transition Sub-Area is to create a buffer between the residential areas of Hudson Street and Castle Point Terrace and the campus. Development would be reduced in scale and respectful of character of the adjacent historic neighborhoods. The maximum building height would be 40 feet.
The Core Sub-Area takes up the majority of campus and extends roughly from Fifth Street almost to Tenth Street. Here the building height can be no more than 120 feet.
The final subarea, the Edge Sub-area, is located on the southeastern portion of campus abutting the cliffs bound by Sinatra Drive. There, building height could not exceed 225 feet.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.