Hoboken is one step closer to having a waterfront walkway that spans the city's entire shore.
Mayor David Roberts and the Port Authority's acting executive director, Ronald Shiftan, cut the ribbon last week to officially open a quarter-mile stretch of the riverfront walkway that connects the Pier A Park with Sinatra Park.
"The section of the waterfront walkway that we are opening here is a bridge," Mayor Roberts said to the luminaries present. "It is a bridge not only from the southern end of the waterfront to the northern end; it is a bridge from an old era to a new one. It's a symbol of our community's commitment to open space and a publicly accessible waterfront, and is a monument to the countless hours of hard work and dedication that many residents contributed to so that we can stand here today."
During his speech, the mayor also made a commitment to a walkway that spans the entire length of Hoboken's waterfront.
"In the next three and a half years," Roberts said, "it is our desire and I am committed to having a complete waterfront walkway for all of our residents to use."
Joining Mayor Roberts at the ribbon cutting were city council members Theresa Castellano (1st Ward), Richard DelBoccio (2nd Ward), Carol Marsh (at-large) and Michael Cricco (5th Ward). Also on hand were Hudson County Freeholder Maurice Fitzgibbons and State Sen. Bernard Kenny (D-Hoboken).
"This is an absolute benefit for the city to have another waterfront walkway," said DelBoccio. "It's truly breathtaking."
Shiftan shared the councilman's praise over the opening of the new open space. "Over two and a half years ago I stood and presided over the opening of Pier A Park, and I am delighted to be here for this new connection," said the Port Authority's acting executive director. "The development of this portion of the waterfront has been a labor of love for those in Hoboken and for us in the Port Authority, and our commitment to the Hoboken Waterfront is long standing and will continue well into the future."
The new walkway covers the distance of three city blocks. Funding for the project came from a public private partnership between developers, the Port Authority and the city.
The waterfront properties abutting the walkway are being built by private developers who have to pay a fee to the city and to the Port Authority.
In October of 2000, SJP Properties began construction on the first of two office towers that will be the center piece of the Southern Waterfront Development, as well as the corporate headquarters for John Wiley and Sons, a global publishing company currently based out of New York City.
The city and the Port Authority joined forces with the SJP and the Applied Companies, the group which is building the residential building adjacent to the SJP property, to transform the 50 acres of unused waterfront into a commercial, residential and recreational area that includes public access to the waterfront.
The Port Authority committed more than $80 million to the project. If completed as currently planned, the south waterfront will have more than 1.5 million square feet of office space, a 300-room hotel, over 500 residential units, and 125,000 of retail space to go along with the public park and open space. The total cost to the developers is estimated at over $600 million.
"Throughout this entire process, there were a lot of citizen groups that made sure that their elected officials listened to what they wanted," said Councilman Cricco Wednesday morning. "This walkway is a resounding assurance that they were heard and every person that helped lobby for new open space and parks deserves to be commended because this is truly an impressive walkway."
Sen. Kenny was also appreciative of all the people that put years of work into making a publicly accessible waterfront a reality.
"A project like this one didn't start with a ribbon cutting," Kenny said. "It has been something that many people had put much of their effort into for the past 20 years."
The question of what to put on the city's waterfront has, indeed, been hotly debated here for decades. The currently development plan for the south end was agreed to by a panel of officials and activists in the mid-1990s.
Kenny said, "Today is a testament to the fortitude of the activists and government officials who have worked hard, and that hard work has culminated in a beautiful product. Something that will last long past my time in office and long after our lifetime."
And thusfar, residents seem to enjoy the new walkway.
"It's great," said Garden Street resident and Wednesday morning jogger Natalie Simpson. "Before, the two parks seemed separate, and to go from one to the other you had to walk through construction. But now that they are connected, it seems like we have a unified waterfront. I can't wait till the entire waterfront is like this."