Right now, the easiest way to get to the Weehawken Sheraton and the restaurants and shops of Lincoln Harbor by foot is to cross the incredibly busy Park Avenue or hop over the railroad tracks.
But that will likely change in the near future with the coming of a large 4.5-acre park along the northern waterfront that will be part of a public/private development partnership called "Hoboken Cove." Within the next two years, Hoboken and Weehawken could be connected by a scenic, pedestrian-friendly waterfront walkway as part of a park. The walkway is a segment of an overall state plan to have a connected waterfront walkway along the Hudson River from Bayonne up to the George Washington Bridge.
To help make this a reality, Hoboken has applied for $1 million in state Green Acres funds to help offset the cost of building the portion of the park on city property.
BDLJ Associates owns the vast majority of the property north of 14th Street and between Park and Hudson streets, LLC, of New York City. The firm has re-opened the 525-unit Hudson Tea Building and plans to build 753 units of additional housing on their property. Most of BDLJ's remaining land is currently parking lots, abandoned industrial buildings or non-accessible grassy areas.
BDLJ owns approximately half of the land between Park Avenue and Garden Street north of 15th Street. The city of Hoboken owns the waterfront portion, which is commonly referred to as the Todd Shipyards after the shipbuilders that once operated at that site (see the map above to view which properties are owned by BDLJ or the city). The size of the city-owned waterfront property is approximately 1.8 acres.
BDLJ has agreed to use a significant portion of its property for public open space. The city has also announced its intentions to build a park on its portion of the property.
According to Fred Bado, the city's director of community development, to build the city's portion of the park, it has applied for or has already received several different grants, which he said will offset the cost to the city to build its portion.
Up to the state
At the last City Council meeting, the governing body submitted an application for $1 million in Green Acres funding. Hoboken has recently been very successful in its Green Acres applications, especially since Gov. James McGreevey has made the creation of urban parks one of his top priories.
In his most recent State of the State speech, McGreevey said he would create or improve 200 community parks. Extra consideration has recently been given to funding parks in urban neighborhoods. These are defined as areas with populations of at least 35,000 or with population densities greater than 5,000 people per square mile, as is Hoboken.
In Hoboken alone, the resurfacing of the Sinatra Park Soccer Field, the skateboard park at Castle Point and the construction of Jackson Square Park were funded by Green Acres funds. Also in Hoboken's favor is Sen. Bernard Kenny, who is one of the most influential members of the state Senate and has been lobbying for Hoboken's share of Green Acres funds.
Hudson County has received a $2 million federal DOT grant earmarked to fill the "gap" of the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway at the Hoboken Cove site, said Bado. The state's Hudson River Walkway plan envisions a contiguous 18.5-mile long public waterfront corridor traversing nine municipalities in two counties from the George Washington Bridge to the Bayonne Bridge. Historically, public access to the waterfront in this urban area was precluded by the industrial use of the land.
"The state and the county have made it a priority to fill the 'gaps' in the waterfront walkway," said Bado. He added that if Hoboken completes its section of the waterfront walkway up to the Weehawken border, then Weehawken will construct a walkway that will connect to Lincoln Harbor and the Weehawken Sheraton.
The third funding source the city is seeking, said Bado, is a grant from the state's Department of Environmental Protection for assistance in cleaning up the former shipyard. Bado said the final cost of the cleanup has not yet been determined, but after preliminary environmental surveys, he believes that the contamination is minimal. "There's not a great deal of contamination at the site," said Bado. He added that thus far, no hotspots or heavy metals have been found at the proposed site, and assuming the city receives the applied for grant, the cleanup could be "easily" completed by this summer.
He added that as soon as the remediation is complete, construction could begin as early as this summer with a completion date of sometime in 2005.
The BDLJ project got Planning Board approval in September of 1998 for an 868-unit, 1.18 million square-foot development on the site, with 5.9 acres of open space, of which 4.1 acres would be publicly accessible.
Since then, BDLJ expanded its local holdings by purchasing a parcel of land between Garden and Bloomfield streets north of 14th Street. The developers currently have permission to build 343 more units of housing on the surrounding lands, but are currently before the Planning Board to expand that to 753.
The amended plan also calls for 6.3 acres of open space, of which the 4.5 will be fully accessible to the public as a park, also there will be approximately 1,500 parking spaces and 67,291 square feet of retail space.