The memorial, which was conceived by Hoboken's American Legion Post 107 and designed by architectural firm Dean Marchetto & Associates of Hoboken, will feature 148 rifles and helmets, each placed bayonet down in a slab of granite representing the 148 Hoboken servicemen who lost their lives in World War II.
In between each slab will be actual sand representing the beaches that soldiers stormed on D-Day.
Marchetto said that his design was inspired in part by the World War II memorial in Normandy, France. He said he sought the help of his uncle, a veteran who had landed there.
A winding road
While most people generally support the concept of a WWII memorial, throughout the process there have been disagreements over its design and location.
Originally, the memorial was slated to go directly on the Waterfront Walkway at Third Street, but several activists and residents objected to the idea of it blocking the walkway.
The Hudson River Waterfront Conservancy, the Fund for a Better Waterfront, the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, and the Quality of Life Coalition filed a suit in Superior Court arguing that the placement would be a violation of the state walkway requirements.
The Land Use Regulation Program of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection requires a minimum 30-foot wide public walk be established along the Hudson River from the Bayonne Bridge to the George Washington Bridge. The activists argued that if the memorial was allowed to be built on the walkway, it would set a dangerous precedent.
Hoboken veteran John Carey, who sits on the WWII memorial committee, told the City Council that they had met with several concerned citizens to discuss alternate locations for the memorial. He said that they settled on a triangular piece of property just south of Sinatra Park.
The site is about well over 30 feet away from the water's edge, said Marchetto, and is currently only a small unused plot of land.
"The original design at its original location was intended to evoke the image of a company of soldiers marching out of the water onto the shore, not unlike the soldiers who gave their lives landing on the beaches of Normandy at the onset of the D-Day invasion," Marchetto said. "Thus, the visual relationship to the Hudson River is critical to the memorial design."
He added that once the final engineering reports are finished, they will be ready to break ground, which could be as early as Memorial Day, May, 29.
Ron Hine, the executive director of the Fund for a Better Waterfront, said that the new site is certainly better than the old one, but that there are still "a lot of planning issues that need to be resolved," such as landscaping and ensuring that the bike path won't be removed.
Hine also said not everyone in the community is unanimous that this is the best possible design. He complained that this design is being pushed through largely without any public process.
"This design is not etched in stone," Hine said. "We should keep the process open [to the public] and explore some other alternatives."
More Hoboken servicemen died in World War II than World War I, the Korean War, and Vietnam combined. One of the more tragic Hoboken stories from World War II was that of the Wallace family, which lost three brothers in the war in two years. The Wallace School at the corner of 11th and Willow streets was named for the brothers Daniel, William and Myron Wallace, who were Navy pilots.
Tom Kennedy, the commander of the American Legion Post 107, said that he was just a young boy during World War II, but he still remembers the parades and celebrations after victory, and is also cognizant that not everyone came home.
"So many young men that went away were killed in action, wounded, or were POWs," Kennedy said. "We figured that it was time to honor what these soldiers sacrificed for our freedoms. They truly were the greatest generation."
Mayor and council support
Mayor David Roberts is the project's honorary chairman. The Hoboken City Council unanimously voiced its support for the design and new location at its last meeting, and appropriated $47,200 to Marchetto for engineering design work and $12,000 for construction administration services.
"It's a very nice looking and a fitting memorial," said Councilman A. Nino Giacchi.
Council President Christopher Campos added that this is the least that the city can do to honor its veterans and those Hoboken soldiers that died in World War II.
"I want to thank all of the veterans for all of the work that they have put into this memorial," Campos said. "Their efforts are greatly appreciated."
Sen. Bernard Kenny (D-Hoboken) in 2003 helped secure a $250,000 grant for the project. According to Marchetto, the original estimate was $600K in the old location. Now with the work for the raised platform, the ramp, foundation, and railings could reach $1M.
The veterans have also started a fundraising campaign to raise additional money to build the memorial.