FBW also wants the park to have a clear definition of public and private areas, separating homes from the parks by a road. "That delineation between public and private is one of the key principals of our plan," said Ron Hine, founder of FBW, at a celebratory open house last Saturday, Feb. 23. "In Hoboken we are lucky in that we do have Sinatra Drive to create that line of demarcation but it is imperative that we maintain that separation."
History of FBW
The FBW was formed as a state- and privately-funded non-profit organization in 1990, as a reaction to a massive 33-story development that was to be built where Pier A Park now is found. Its first task was to create a plan for Hoboken's waterfront. The community was successful in defeating the southern waterfront plan through a public referendum.
Soon after, the FBW created the centerpiece of its waterfront proposal, a 4- by 12-foot architectural scale model of their plan for a continuous waterfront park. The model is kept at FBW's office at 300 Observer Highway in the Neumann Leather Building on the fifth floor.
In September, 1995, FBW planned and produced a conference in Hoboken it co-sponsored with the Hudson River Waterfront Conservancy titled "Building a Public Waterfront: Step by Step," which was attended by over 120 public officials, planners, and civil leaders.
At the end of 1996, FBW published a booklet entitled Reclaiming the Waterfront: A Planning Guide for Waterfront Municipalities.
On the south waterfront, FBW was successful in getting most of what they wanted. At that site between First and Fourth streets, 17.4 acres - over 60 percent of the site - is devoted to public open space. Instead of 1.6 million square feet of residential and commercial development on the city's southernmost pier, that space is now almost entirely taken up by Pier A Park.
To this day, Hine calls Pier A park the greatest achievement of FBW.
FBW also successfully lobbied against the construction of the Millennium Towers, dual 43-story high rises in Jersey City near Hoboken's southern border, and in a less successful effort, lobbied against the Shipyard project on Hoboken's northern waterfront. The project eventually went forward, but without a large supermarket. A FBW legal challenge also forced the project to return to the Planning Board after a judge decided that the city had given the project too many variances.
All of FBW projects over the past 12 years have been supported through contributions of individuals, primarily in the Hoboken area and through grants provided by the Fund for New Jersey, the Schumann Fund for New Jersey, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Environmental Endowment for New Jersey, and the Hudson River Improvement Fund.
Hine said he believes FBW is different for other area civic groups in the amount of funds they are able to raise and the level of organization of the group. "We tend to be a little more sophisticated than most other civic groups," said Hine. "Instead of just showing up for publicly advertised meetings, we actively seek out and meet decision makers. We schedule one-on-one meetings and present them real plans that we have paid to create. That level of organization makes FBW unique in Hoboken."
One only needs to walk down to the waterfront to see that it is not yet a continuous waterfront park; there are still several gaps. The FBW is still busy lobbying politicians, developers, and the community to make its vision come to fruition.
The FBW is also involved in seeing to fruition a four-acre public park planned for the proposed Maxwell House residential development on the waterfront.
Hine, others try to fill walkway gaps
Wednesday, the county's Office of Strategic Revitalization held the second meeting of the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway Partnership Committee.
The Partnership Committee acts as the advisory body to Hudson County and its consultants with regard to the formation and adoption of the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway. The partnership is made up of representatives from various state agencies, local governments, and non-profit organizations including: the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the New Jersey Department of Transportation, the Hudson River Waterfront Conservancy, Hudson County, and each municipality that touches the waterfront. Hine attended the meeting representing FBW, but the group is not an official partner of the committee.
At the meeting, which was held at Stevens Institute of Technology, the partnership committee discussed all of the gaps that remain in the Hoboken waterfront.
On the far southern end, there are the Hoboken Terminal and the land directly south of the terminal. Frank Smolar of NJ Transit presented plans for that stretch of land. According to Smolar, the much-anticipated Hudson-Bergen Light Rail will open just south of the Hoboken Terminal in the fall of this year. Between the light rail and the terminal, NJ Transit has plans for a walkway and two small parks. The timeline for the opening of those parks is tentatively set for mid-2003.
The walkway will connect on the southern end to the Hoboken city limits and the Lefrak development organization's Newport property. To the north, the path will run from the light rail to into the terminal.
Because the terminal is still active in maritime use, according to Smolar, it will be impossible to have a walkway go along the waterfront during that stretch. Instead, NJ Transit plans to create a path through the terminal that connects to Pier A on the north side of the terminal.
Smolar added that NJ Transit is also beginning to renovate the Hoboken Ferry Terminal to the same quality of the terminal's recently renovated waiting room. The massive project will cost about $100 million to complete. NJ Transit hopes to have final design for the project sometime in 2002, and wants to begin construction by 2005.
"We understand that the terminal is used as a maritime use and we support having the waterfront walkway go through the terminal for that stretch," said Hine at the meeting. "It will be a nice experience to walk through such a historic station and does not distract from the concept of a waterfront walkway."
Then next gap in the waterfront walkway is the land between Sinatra Park and Castle Point Park. The Stevens Institute of Technology plans to build a $20 million Center for Maritime Systems at that site (see story, p. x).
North of Castle Point Park on the central waterfront is Union Dry Docks, Hoboken's last waterfront business. "We are currently in negotiations with Union Dry Dock to acquire their property," Stevens President Dr. Hal Raveche said last year, "not for commercial industry but for public use and for use by the school."
Raveche said if they could obtain that property, the school would like to build a NCAA-sized track with regulation soccer/lacrosse field. Between the field and the Hudson River there would be a waterfront walkway.
Just north of Union Dry Dock is the Maxwell House property, a piece of property that is in the middle of a community debate. The developers of the property currently have an application before the Planning Board for 982 residential units including townhouses, duplexes and apartments, 1,647 parking spaces, and a four-acre waterfront park.
The Hoboken Brownstone Company, the development firm, has agreed in principle to donate the property along the waterfront to a land trust open space conservancy for the purpose of creating and maintaining a permanent public park at no cost to the Hoboken taxpayer.
According to the developers, with the tax break their company will receive because of the donation of the land, they will be able to afford to pay for the renovation of the land into a public park. The Maxwell House condo owners and tenants will pay for 100 percent of the future maintenance and upkeep of the park; the initial construction cost will run approximately $9 million.
Wednesday Hine reiterated his continued support of the plan before the Planning Board. "The public park will be extraordinary," he said. "There won't be anything like it in our community. It will be the crown jewel of the Hoboken Waterfront."
What makes that situation complicated is that Stevens and Mayor David Roberts have come out in support to use the Maxwell House site for an entirely different purpose. Stevens has publicly said it would like to develop a public technology school on the land.
While Hine supports the current developers, Roberts expressed Wednesday his intrigue with Stevens' conceptual plan. "I want to do what is right and noble for Hoboken as a whole," said Roberts at the meeting. "From my standpoint [the Stevens' plan] is about job creation and less residential development, both of which I support."
The final gap in the waterfront is Weehawken Cove, the piece of land that connects the North end of Hoboken to Weehawken. According to Hoboken officials, the city is communicating with Weehawken to create a new park at that site, but as of yet there are no plans or a timeline established for that project.