It is time to take a hard look at the Hoboken Zoning Board of Adjustments.
In the past this city department has allowed developers to build with very few exceptions whatever they proposed with little or no input from the public. The result is a wall of high-rise buildings encircling Hoboken. Recently, the Zoning Board has approved a string of 10- and 13-story buildings on Hoboken's west side culminating with Sanford Weiss' 101 Marshall Street (Gateway) Project with two 17-story buildings and 100 percent lot coverage.
One wonders if the long delayed Master Plan will mean anything after the developers have already gotten huge variances to build these massive buildings?
The rules that the Zoning Board follows now so favors the developers that it is almost impossible for the citizens of Hoboken to even know what plan is before the Zoning Board. We need the sunlight to shine in on the process. When the public is informed and involved the system seems to respond differently.
An example: In February of 2000 then Mayor Russo in response to the public outcry over Sanford Weiss' attempt to build an 18-story building on 1600 Park Avenue wrote in a letter to the Hoboken Reporter "...the proposal falls far short in one regard, namely it would exceed the allowable height restrictions of Hoboken's Zoning Code. The height restrictions and maximum densities of the Zoning code are in place to ensure the residents are protected from projects that would negatively impact surrounding neighborhoods with regard to the generation of additional traffic, air quality noise and quality of life." The buildings were stopped.
However, during that same time period I can find no public comments from Mayor Russo or any public official when the Zoning Board quietly gave developers approvals to build two 17-story Gateway buildings or as the Hoboken Reporter headline later called them on 2/17/02 "The towers no one's talking about," across town where the height restrictions are lower but the public was not kept informed.
We need Mayor Roberts and The Hoboken Zoning Board of Adjustments to rewrite rules to keep the public informed, involved and to provide a system of checks and balances that will give the taxpayers a fair chance to review plans and hold elected officials responsible for what is being built in Hoboken.