The area is a triangular plot bounded by Observer Highway to the south, the Hudson Bergen Light Rail tracks to the west, and Paterson Plank Road to the north.
According to city officials, the study, which was unanimously approved by resolution Wednesday, will include a value assessment and a preliminary environmental report. After the assessment is complete, the city could begin the process of acquiring the property through negotiations with the land's owners or through eminent domain. It's important to note that this study does not commit the city to buy any or all of the property in question. It is possible that the assessments could come back and be cost-prohibitive.
But Roberts has said that he is willing to bond for between $40 and $50 million solely for the acquisition of open space throughout the city. He also said that he is willing to use the city's powers of condemnation for the purpose of acquiring open space.
"We are determined to fulfill our pledge to create new open space," Roberts said Wednesday morning.
During his 2005 re-election campaign, Roberts said his administration would add between 17 and 20 acres of open space to the city. He added that this resolution proves that administration is serious about constructing new parks.
Park activists speak While the activist community is supportive of the mayor's goals to create new parks, they are insistent that today's sound bites turn into tomorrow's ribbon cuttings.
David Mello, a member of the Southwest Parks Coalition, an open space activist group, said that Wednesday's resolution is a positive step forward - but he added that his group will be vigilant to make sure the parks are actually open.
"This will not be something that you can take a couple steps toward and then walk away," Mello added. The Sourthwest Parks Coalition also persuaded the City Council to expand the study area by 3 acres. At the beginning of Wednesday's meeting, the original study plan was for only 4 acres, but after a well-reasoned plea from the Sourthwest Parks Coalition, the council voted to amend the resolution to include 7 acres.
Once again, this doesn't mean that the city will be able to afford all 7 acres; it just means that the city will determine to value of the land.
How to pay for this? Roberts has said that the city will use money from the sale of the municipal garage on Observer Highway as collateral to secure $40 to $50 million in bonds. That money can be used to secure parkland.
But last month, only two developers submitted bids for the 1-acre garage site, which is in a redevelopment area. The highest bid came in at $22.1 million and calls for 178 units of housing. Those bids were found to be defective and were rejected.
In the next couple of weeks, the city will again send the project out to bid. Roberts hopes that this time around the city will receive $30 million for the sale.
Roberts said that the plan for the garage site allows for up to 240 units, and if the current envelope isn't big enough, the City Council might have to consider increasing the height of the proposed nine-story building.
Sara Stojkovic, also of the Sourthwest Parks Coalition, said that the mayor and City Council clearly recognize that spending money for parks is an investment, and spending $40 to $50 million will return economic and non-economic benefits to the city many times over.
Academy opposes move Much of the property in the study area is a parking storage facility owned by the Academy Bus Company, although there are several other smaller property owners.
Neil Zimmerman, a lawyer for Academy Bus, told the council that his client was against the resolution that was passed Wednesday.
He noted that the City Council, at its June 21 meeting, approved a resolution to name the area where the proposed park and Academy's property as part an area "in need of redevelopment."
He added that going forward with the redevelopment plan, would mean comprehensive planning for the entire area, and not just "piecemeal" planning for a small section of the redevelopment area.
"We would like to work with the city," Zimmerman said about the prospect aiding the city in the creation of a redevelopment plan. But to cover its bases, Academy bus has also filed a Use Variance application with the city's Zoning Board of Adjustment, said Zimmerman.
Another place for a park Roberts added that his park initiatives do not stop on the city's southwest side.
Another property that Roberts has been eyeing for years is the area just north of the 14th Street Viaduct, on the city's westernmost border, abutting the light rail tracks. The property is also currently owned by Academy Bus. That property is approximately 4.2 acres. It would be able to span multiple city blocks by closing Madison Street north of the Viaduct and 15th street west of Jefferson Street.
Another possible property for a park is the site of the former Henkel Chemical plant. That property, which is several acres large, is currently slated to become a new public high school and elementary school. If the Board of Education's plans are approved, the new facility will include new athletic fields. But given the recent, well publicized, problems at the state's School Construction Corporation, there is a possibility Hoboken's school projects my not be fully funded.
If the Hoboken Board of Education does not get money to build on the Henkel site, the city could consider buying the land for park space.
Roberts has also said that he would like to acquire land south of the "Maxwell on the Hudson" residential development on the waterfront. Currently, the only two pieces of property left on the waterfront that could be made into a park are Union Dry Dock and a surface parking lot used by Stevens Institute of Technology, adjacent to Sinatra Park.