In the interest of history, I wish to respond to Augusta Pryzgoda's letter in the Hoboken Reporter of August 20 on the issue of building on piers.
Contrary to her assertion, the people of Hoboken have never voted on this question. The waterfront referendum elections she refers to, held in August 1990 and March 1992, were on a specific agreement between the city and the Port Authority (PA), regarding PA development of the southern waterfront property between First and Fourth Streets then owned by the city. Voters rejected the agreement for a number of reasons, chief among them PA control, the financial risks to the city, the project's proponents' lies and secrets in their dwellings with the public, and yes, the massive development plan, which included three block-long walls of high buildings on the upland property as well as another tower on Pier A. The specific issue of building on piers was never mentioned until well after the first referendum, when Coalition for a Better Waterfront (CBW) boss Ron Hine and his architect Craig Whitaker came out for a road along the entire waterfront to separate public space from private development. The piers, according to their printed statements at the time, could be either torn down or made into parks, but not built on. But even in the second referendum the question of building on piers was not a debated issue, and it certainly was never on the ballot.
After both referenda, though, it was convenient both for the PA and Hoboken officials behind the project and for Hine and his followers to pretend that the elections had simply been over building heights and placement, and that getting Hine's consent on this narrow point and, hence, his endorsement of the project, was the same as satisfying the diverse majority of voters. Hence Pier A was removed from the project area, Pier C was already collapsing, and the rest of the rejected development proceeded. The final deal gave the PA title to the valuable upland property where the planned high buildings are now rising but left Hoboken in possession of the piers, responsible for maintaining Pier A park and disposing of Pier C. Meanwhile, proponents get the state law changed to preclude any further referenda.
It's not hard to imagine that down the road, after the upland development is completed, some future city administration will try to solve its perpetual budget crisis by putting some giant revenue-producing project, far more obstructive than the food concession that was once on the agenda, on Pier A. Instead of making a fetish of a rigid ban on all development on piers, why not mobilize now, before that threat arises, for legislation that would ensure Pier A remains a park forever and that Pier C be either dismantled or developed as a park, perhaps with some low rise recreational facility to help support it?