The Weehawken Environment Committee has always tried to promote the concept of sensible development. For the past three years, we have been integrally involved in the planning process to effect a reasonable outcome for the development of the Weehawken waterfront. The issue of development on our waterfront is a hot button and, as often happens with issues of such importance, not everyone is happy with the result. Indeed certain deficiencies still remain which we will continue to address. But progress has assuredly been made.
The Brownstone section is one example of this progress, where the townhomes have been reduced in number and reconfigured to create a more hospitable atmosphere for the general public. The breakthrough came when New Jersey Transit presented the town with an opportunity to obtain additional footage from its right of way at the western end of the waterfront. This created a wider area to work with and would permit Roseland to push back the town homes further to the west thereby creating a substantially wider area of land directly adjacent to the water's edge. This would allow enough space for the addition of a road, a central concept endorsed by Friends of the Weehawken Waterfront (FWW) as a device to create a better separation between the public and the private realm of the townhome owners. Seemingly it was a win-win for all concerned. An amended plan was subsequently filed and approved by the Township Planning Board on January 16th of this year.
Last week's Weehawken Reporter reported that FWW is filing another lawsuit, this time to oppose the amended plan. In the article, FWW cites two main objections, lack of on-street parking and a resultant lack of public access. They further articulated a fear that the road would eventually be closed in an effort to privatize the waterfront.
We would also like to have on-street parking but Roseland takes the position that there is not enough room for it. However, it should be noted that the plan does call for parking within a relatively short distance, to the north and south of the Brownstone section.
The FWW assumes that the developer does not want parking on the waterfront road because the added access it would afford would diminish the exclusive nature of the Brownstone section. Yes, the developer is marketing this small section of the development as an "exclusive enclave," which certainly is in keeping with the contemplated $1,000,000 price tag of each home. Roseland owns the land and has a right to market the development as it sees fit. But the New Jersey DEP and the Township of Weehawken have rules about public access with regard to the waterfront walkway, and it will never be privatized. And to suggest that Roseland will eventually close the road is an absurd notion based on scare tactics and a misrepresentation of the facts. "Over our dead body" would be the reaction of most in town.
And let's remember one very important point. If Roseland didn't accept the notion of the road, it didn't have to agree to build it. The fact is that approval had already been given by the Planning Board well over a year ago to build without a road. It was only after considerable lobbying by both FWW and the WEC, that Roseland "saw the light" and agreed to it.
FWW is unhappy because it has not gotten all that it wants. But instead of embracing compromise, its leaders prefer to sue, thereby jeopardizing more space for the public benefit along the waterfront. Now we are faced with the very real possibility that Roseland, to avoid a legal quagmire, will revert to the original and inferior plan without the benefit of the additional footage offered by New Jersey Transit. If FWW thinks that public access with the road will be limited, imagine how much more limited it will be with no road at all.
It seems almost bizarre that FWW will be content with this scenario after fighting so hard and so long for the road. It is crystal clear that if the road is not built, the town and its citizens will be the worse off for it.
The Executive Council
of the Weehawken Environment Committee