The conversion off Hoboken's former industrial waterfront to viable new uses and public amenities is dependent on responsible, sustainable development which provides the necessary funds for the construction and, as important, maintenance of parks, esplanades, walkways and other recreational attractions.Yet, the Shipyard project, a sensible reclamation of 20 acres of derelict waterfront property, was delayed for years by a small band of irresponsible, never satisfied anti-development people. The arguments are always the same.
1. Density: The average Hoboken five story residential block is a little less than two acres and contains approximately 250 residential units and assorted retail. This equates to a density of about 130 units per acre, without any parking or public spaces.
The average Hoboken "brownstone" neighborhood contains four residential units on one-sixteenth of an acre (a 25' X 100' lot). That is a density of about 65 units per acre, without any parking or public spaces.
The Shipyard development encompasses 44 acres stretching along Hoboken's northern riverfront. Approximately 20 of the 44 acres are land, platform or pier. The ultimate build-out of the development, including the proposed North Pier, will total 1,285 residential units. That is an average density of less than 65 units per acre counting land and platform only. The proposed North Pier project, by itself, will contain 120 residential units on a pier that occupies over 100,000 square feet of area, a density of 52 units per acre, with significant park and open space, as well as off street parking.
Thus, the Shipyard project is less dense than a typical Hoboken block, and contains much more public open space and amenities. What is wrong with that? The development is consistent with Hoboken's Master Plan, and, as important, it is consistent with the State's Master Plan which intends development in places like Hoboken with mass transit links and utility and transportation infrastructure, instead of paving over more of the State's virgin farmland and forests.
2. The Original Plan: At the time of the original planning board application for the entire Shipyard development, the Applied Companies showed a structure similar to the one currently proposed on the 16th Street pier but noted to the planning board that it was uncertain whether the pier could be feasibly restored. Because of the uncertainty, no application was made for the particular element of the Shipyard project at that time.
Five years later, studies show that 120 condominium units will support the restoration of the pier. This will permit not only the building itself but also the construction of 28,000 square feet of additional public waterfront space, including a walkway and public park as well as a major open area between 15th and 16th Street in the upland and platform areas. So, as a result of Applied's pier condominium proposal, the public would gain more riverfront access, as well as a major ratable, all paid for by the proposed development.
3. Building on Pier: Structures on piers, whether commercial, office or residential, are permitted by the Hoboken ordinances and by State law, including DEP regulations. Indeed structures on piers can be found all throughout New Jersey and the greater metropolitan area. Ron Hine's and others blanket objection to building on piers is an ideology. It is unsupported by law or responsible planning principles. Moreover, the Shipyard is privately purchased land and is not subject to the same negotiations and considerations that might be applicable to public places such as the Hoboken Southern Waterfront. Applied Development Company purchased the Shipyard land in a private transaction, cleaned up its former contamination and has the right, under the applicable laws, to build on its pier.
4. Traffic and Quality of Life: The traffic patterns which are frustrating residents of Hoboken result from Hoboken as (I) a commuter hub, (II) a nightlife hub, and (III) a bypass for commuting traffic seeking to get from southern Hudson County to the Lincoln Tunnel and vice versa.
The Shipyard itself, with over 500 residential units already completed and occupied, has had a di minimus impact on Hoboken traffic, even in the immediate vicinity of the Shipyard. This is the uncontroverted scientific conclusion of traffic engineers. Car count shows that at 14th and Hudson, during rush hours, about 50 cars per hour exit in the morning and enter in the evening. Count them yourself. Why so low? Because the vast majority of Shipyard residents take mass transportation to work. Rush hour traffic from commuters at the same point numbers over 500 per hour. Thus, the Shipyard Development traffic effect is minuscule and, even with commuter traffic, the streets still move. And, there is a major solution for alleviating commuter traffic; a bypass road that parallels the light rail at the western side of town (a subject for another discussion). Instead of attacking development, why not lobby to solve the problem? But then, the anti-development crowd is unable to promote responsible solutions.
5. Views: Some oppose the proposed pier construction because northern views will be affected. This is perhaps the most specious of the opposition reasons. Views are affected every time a building is constructed along the riverfront and there is no guarantee of views for anyone other than the view corridors created by the grid pattern of streets going to the river. We have preserved these view corridors, as well as enhanced them, by the construction of promenades, parks, walkway and the restoration of the 14th Street pier. It is nonsensical to argue that because development of the Shipyard created views along the river as part of the project, that the developer can no longer alter those views by completing the build-out of the project. (Before the development of the Shipyard, nobody had concern about these views as there was no access to the riverfront).
6. Public Access to the Waterfront: The Shipyard development, when completed will contain 230,000 square feet of parkland, promenade, strolling pier and recreational area open to the public. The 5.3 acres of open space, developed at the expense of over 7.5 million dollars, will cost the taxpayers of Hoboken nothing. The cleaning, landscape and maintenance of the parks, piers and walkway, an annual expense of hundreds of thousands of dollars, will cost the taxpayers of Hoboken nothing. The creation and maintenance of acres of open space at the Shipyard are made possible by one factor and one factor only, residential development.
In contrast to the Shipyard, the average Hoboken residential block contains zero square feet of open space available to the public. Sure, there is private open space located in the center of each residential block, but that's little comfort to the average Hoboken resident. The Quality of Life Committee complains that the Shipyard's 5.3 acres of publicly available open space are not sufficient and that more of the private land of Applied Development Company should be opened up to the public. The Quality of Life Committee should look a little closer to home, i.e., city lands, including Pier C at 4th Street for more public greenspace.
The most interesting point of the open space debate is that the proposed North Pier development will create over 28,000 square feet of additional, unimpeded, waterfront walkway open to the public at no cost to the taxpayers of Hoboken, and the Quality of Life Committee is against the plan. Go figure.
President, the Applied Companies