The city of Hoboken no longer boots cars that are parked illegally in a permit zone for the first time – at least, not without warning them beforehand. On Tuesday, Mayor Dawn Zimmer said the Hoboken Parking Utility now gives drivers of illegally-parked vehicles a ticket along with a written notice that they have 72 hours to move their car or face booting or towing.
The Hoboken Reporter and other newspapers wrote about the city’s increase in parking enforcement with boots, which some residents believed were too severe. Last month, the city announced plans to institute a summons and warning system for residents with expired permits, first revealed at a City Council meeting and confirmed by the mayor. When the changes were finally rolled out in July, vehicles with no permit or an expired business or visitor permit were included as well.
Some public officials have argued that Hoboken’s use of boots is in violation of state law. A 1985 New Jersey law authorizes municipalities to use boots on vehicles with outstanding warrants, though it does not explicitly forbid booting in other contexts.
“I’ve seen one or two people tweet about [the boots.]” – Juan Melli
Given the sometimes charged debate over Hoboken’s use of parking boots, the change has garnered surprisingly little reaction from the community so far. “I’ve seen one or two people tweet about it,” said Juan Melli, Zimmer’s spokesperson, on Tuesday.
On Friday, parking director John Morgan said the new system is an attempt to balance the concerns of booting victims against those of residents who say they can never find available parking in Hoboken.
Morgan said the 72-hour grace period was designed with people who leave their car in Hoboken over the weekend in mind. Ideally, he said, those drivers who are willing to move their car out of an offending position would have time to do so, while drivers who totally disregard parking laws will see their vehicle booted or towed.
Though he cautioned that current data is tentative, Morgan said he had already noticed a decrease in the use of parking boots. This past Monday, he said, the Hoboken Parking Utility deployed only one to two boots, compared to eight to 10 boots on a typical day before the policy change.
Master plan forthcoming
Zimmer said the new warning system came about “as part of an integrated mobility plan for Hoboken that is being developed in collaboration with the City Council transportation subcommittee.”
The mayor hopes to move forward with a master parking plan that could change much more than just booting rules in the near future. Potential solutions to the city’s parking woes were presented at a meeting on June 11, and a survey seeking public feedback was closed three weeks ago.
Zimmer expects the master plan to be finalized this year. She said summer vacation scheduling has prevented the city council’s transportation subcommittee from meeting with Arup, the planning firm hired by the city, to start the next stage.
Implementation of that plan could require new ordinances, changes to existing laws, and bonds for things like new parking garages.
Redevelopment plan moves forward
In other City Hall news, Hoboken will take the next step in its plans to redevelop a northern neighborhood where Mayor Dawn Zimmer alleged that Gov. Christopher Christie’s administration pressured her to expedite a development project. On Wednesday, Melli said Hoboken will publish an advertisement requesting bids for planners for the North End Rehabilitation Area, which occupies all of Hoboken north of 14th Street and west of Park Avenue.
Three blocks of the zone are owned by the Rockefeller Group, which has for many years sought to build a high-rise office complex on the land. In early 2013, a study commissioned by the city recommended only the three Rockefeller blocks for redevelopment. Last December, the Planning Board declined to designate any parcels as “in need of redevelopment,” instead labeling the entire area as “in need of rehabilitation.”
Under the city planning by-laws, this means smaller tax breaks for developers who eventually build in the area, but also that the city cannot use eminent domain to condemn or take over properties.
After the Planning Board designated the North End only for future “rehabilitation,” Zimmer said Christie officials, including Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, began to mention moving forward on the Rockefeller project in connection with the city getting Hurricane Sandy aid. At the time, the Rockefeller Group was represented by a Christie-linked law firm.
Planner sought out
Last week, Zimmer said the professional hired for the North End will work with the community to create a redevelopment plan, which could change the current industrial zoning of the area and allow for new developments to begin.
Zimmer said that the Rockefeller Group will be a part of the redesign process in its capacity as one of the landowners in the area. Though she has not met with them one-on-one recently, Zimmer said she believes Rockefeller Group representatives were present at the event introducing Hoboken’s Rebuild by Design project in March, and at a meeting Zimmer held with the development community.
A spokesman for the Rockefeller Group said the company has been actively following the redevelopment process.
“Now that the city’s planning-process is set to get underway,” the representative added, “our primary focus is on the opportunity to share our research and input with the city related to future investment in Hoboken on our property.”
Zimmer gave some hints that the new redevelopment plan will not be dictated by the whims of the Rockefeller Group. She noted that the city’s “master plan calls for the light rail station to be at 15th Street, as opposed to the secret agreement that was developed for 17th Street.” In 2013, the Rockefeller Group reached a non-binding memorandum of understanding with NJ Transit to build a Hudson-Bergen Light Rail stop near its property at 17th Street.
2014 has seen some movement towards redeveloping underutilized areas in the city. In May, the council approved a contract with Maser Consulting to create a new redevelopment plan for the Western Edge Redevelopment Area in the fallow industrial neighborhood south of the Fourteenth Street Viaduct.
However, critics say Zimmer and her allies are still moving too slowly on development in Hoboken. The city had not approved a new redevelopment plan since 1997.
With respect to the North End zone, Zimmer said she couldn’t previously request bids for planners until the city council had passed a budget for 2014, which happened in June.
Three chief candidates left
Mayor Zimmer has identified three finalists for the permanent chief position at the Hoboken Police Department. The current provisional police chief Edelmiro “Eddie” Garcia, Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Lt. Kenneth Ferrante and Captain Tory Pasculli will each be interviewed by Zimmer, who is responsible for making the final appointment.
The three men had the highest scores on the civil service exam all candidates for police chief are required to take. Pasculli scored highest with a 96 average, followed by Ferrante with a 90 average and Garcia with an 80 average. Two other lieutenants passed the test with lower scores.
The results of the exam were released on July 2 and obtained by the Hoboken Reporter through an Open Public Records Act request.
As last week’s brief announcing the results of the civil service exam noted, Garcia is only eligible to serve three more years before New Jersey law mandates that he retire from the force at the age of 65. The same statutory age limit was what forced the previous chief, Anthony Falco, out of office this year.