Unable to come to an agreement with the City of Hoboken that would provide space for Hoboken’s share bikes near Exchange Place, the City Council has unanimously introduced an ordinance that would impose fines on Hoboken’s Hudson Bike Share or any other bicycle program that fills up public bike racks. The ordinance is scheduled for a public hearing at the April 13 council meeting.
The Jersey City Reporter broke this story last November, when residents complained about their inability to park personal bikes in public racks.
Council member Candice Osborne said bicycles from the Hoboken program have been filling up public bike racks in Jersey City despite complaints from Jersey City officials.
“They told us it’s not illegal,” Osborne said. “We said we would give them bicycle racks that are not public racks if they will provide space for our bicycles in Hoboken. They’ve refused.”
The ordinance suggests fines that range from $100 to $1,000.
Jersey City, Weehawken and Hoboken were originally supposed to develop a joint bike-share program. Jersey City opted instead to go into a Citi Bike program that allowed it to integrate with Citi Bike in New York City. Weehawken opted out of the bike-share program entirely. Hoboken started its own program. Last fall, Jersey City officials found that Hoboken riders were filling public bicycle racks near Exchange Place in Jersey City without permission, and asked Hoboken to cease or provide equal space in Hoboken for Jersey City bicycles.
“We said we would give them bicycle racks that are not public racks if they will provide space for our bicycles in Hoboken. They’ve refused.” – Candice Osborne
She said she has offered on multiple occasions for Hoboken to pay for additional bike racks at locations commonly used by Hudson Bike Share riders. However, she said, Jersey City has refused and as a result the “no fee zones” (including Liberty State Park, the Grove Street PATH station, and Lincoln Harbor) that were offered as a sign of good faith late last year were terminated last week.
Zimmer has called Osborne’s allegations that the Hoboken bike share company was filling up Jersey City bike racks “false.”
The ordinance escalates the issue and will likely result in the matter being taken to court, once Jersey City begins issuing summonses.
City officials said bicycle riding in Jersey City has increased and that public rack space is at a premium. The ordinance is designed to discourage groups like Hudson Bike Share from taking spaces away from Jersey City residents who might need those spaces.
The ordinance would target “users of commercial bicycles,” meaning those bicycles owned and/or operated by a business for the purpose of facilitating deliveries or bicycles used as part of a bike share program. It would prohibit these from monopolizing public bicycle racks.
“It is disappointing to see such a regressive transportation proposal from our usually progressive neighbor in Jersey City,” said Zimmer. “Targeting bike share bikes in this manner has no legitimate governmental purpose and would be an unfortunate step back for urban transportation. What’s next? Will ZipCar drivers be barred from using public parking in Jersey City?”
Osborne later responded to Zimmer’s comment by clarifying that the legislation would punish the bicycle provider, not the individual bike riders.
She said while Hoboken's plan may be more flexible about where people can park bikes, it does not provide riders with the same full services in New York.
“She (Zimmer) went with her own plan, now she has to live with it,” Osborne said.
Hoboken did ask for three racks to be installed in Jersey City, she said. But Jersey City has an exclusive contract with Citi Bike and cannot give Hoboken these racks.
This is different than with ZipCar since Jersey has no exclusive deal with another car company.
Jersey City offered to negotiate with Citi Bike, saying a deal might be possible if Hoboken would provide three racks in Hoboken for Citi Bikes – but Hoboken refused.
Council member Richard Boggiano said he was concerned about the ill feelings the ordinance might have between Hoboken and Jersey City.
“This is like declaring war on Hoboken,” he said.
Council member Michael Yun was concerned about the impact this ordinance might have on food and other delivery people, who often have long layoffs between shifts.
Osborne said the ordinance is designed to prevent public racks from being totally taken up by commercial bicycles, and has been the case with Hudson Bike Share bicycles. She said that bicycles of any kind will be permitted up to three hours during the day.
But Yun argued that deliveries often take place at noon and then at five, and the delivery vehicles are parking sometimes more than three hours at a time.
Council rejects other Osborne parking ordinances
Earlier in March, the council voted down two other Osborne ordinances involving parking.
Osborne had tried to expand the hours to allow resident parking with permits for the downtown area in order to force residents of high rise buildings without permits to park in spaces provided by their buildings rather than parking on the street.
Unlike other towns such as Hoboken, parking permits are not required 24 hours a day, but only from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Osborne said the increased hours would discourage residents of high rise buildings from parking on the street which would force other residents to pay for spaces in parking lots.
But some residents at the March meeting complained that the limitations would keep people from other parts of Jersey City from parking downtown even though the change of hours would also allow non-permit holders to park for three hours rather than the current two hour window.
The majority of the council, however, opposed the change, agreeing with members of the public who said it would limit their ability to access public and other services located in the downtown section of the city.
The council also voted down an Osborne proposal that would have given zoning inspectors the ability to ticket property owners whose cars block the sidewalk.
The inspectors would be able to impose fines significantly higher than is currently allowed if police issue tickets.
A majority of the council voted against the measure, saying that the fines proposed were too high and that parking issues should be left in the purview of the police and parking officers.
City’s only Superfund site nearly cleaned up
A site near Sip Avenue and Route 1 & 9 is close to being cleaned up, provided the city can show that a smaller portion that currently houses auto operations does not contain any of the contamination.
The majority of the site was previously used for chemical and industrial operations, but later became a landfill site – one of the places rumored to contain the remains of legendary labor leader Jimmy Hoffa.
The site is better known for perpetual fires due to methane gases from trash dumped there over the years, fires that were eventually extinguished, setting the stage for cleanup.
The property is the only one in Jersey City listed as a federal Superfund site, meaning that it is in desperate need of cleanup.
The property was rezoned in 2006 for eventual development as a public park. The main part has been cleaned up. But the federal Environmental Protection Agency has also included a small parcel that includes a tire repair, gas station and former check cashing store property. The city is seeking to show that contamination on the site is tied to auto operations and not the landfill. This contamination must be cleaned up in order to move ahead with plans for the park, officials said.
Those businesses currently located on this site will have to be relocated.
Council member Khemraj ‘Chico’ Ramchal said he was concerned about the loss of jobs if the businesses are forced to close.
Council President Rolando Lavaro, however, said that the city will work with the businesses to find a new location.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.