Water main breaks, low water pressure, and brown water are now commonplace in Hoboken, NJ. We had three water main breaks during one week in uptown Hoboken. Police driving down streets shouting through bullhorns, “The water is unsafe to drink!” does not seem so unusual now. Over the past fifteen years I have lived in this city, heat waves have produced brownouts or full-fledged blackouts of electricity service. Residents can go days without water. Yet, we have one of the highest real estate taxes in the state. The strain on Hoboken’s infrastructure is obvious. I am not an engineer, but I still see the signs. More sinkholes pop up every day. Countless steel plates are hastily put in place around the city. The sound of cars driving over these plates can be heard from blocks away.
How does the local government solve this problem? I have a suggestion – any developer building a housing complex with more than ten units should be required to put money into a ‘Hoboken infrastructure fund.’ Funds collected would be invested in the utilities that are essential to support Hoboken’s burgeoning population. Will this type of fund work? I must sound naive, because over the past twenty years of development in Hoboken, every local government has failed to procure legally binding requirements from developers on promised ‘open space’ and athletic fields. With the constant allure of money flooding into Hoboken, most city politicians have been willing to hold developers to their word. Hoboken residents have seen the results. We have a massive shortage of open space because these developers never made good on their promises. However, I am hopeful that the city’s current infrastructure predicament will give the mayor and the city council more backbone with developers going forward. If we don’t have sufficient tax dollars to maintain and expand a reliable infrastructure, than developers should contribute. After all, over-development is the problem here. Those that profit from it should aid the city in its struggle to support the ever-increasing population.