A special City Council meeting Tuesday night left Hoboken with three options for where to relocate its Department of Public Works garage on Observer Highway.
The city must move the garage because it intends to sell the land it’s on to a developer on Aug. 13, provided that remaining state approvals are acquired and both sides stick to the terms of the deal.
Four years ago, the city decided to sell the valuable property – which is near the train station – to a developer so it could put money in its budget. The idea was to move the garage to a less central property, but the city never settled on a new location.
“We have no right to go into any community with our guns blazing.” – Perry Belfiore
Hoboken resident Hany Ahmed voiced his concern that the plan might block access to the Burlington Coat Factory entrance and lead to problems with that store’s owners.
“I am afraid of litigation,” he said at the meeting. “I’m afraid of the cost of litigation. It’s something that the city has far too much experience with.”
The second option – 173 16th St. in Jersey City – met the most opposition from residents and council members. The site is a private garage in an industrial neighborhood. It would provide both indoor and outdoor space and cost Hoboken about $25,000 per month.
Hoboken Business Administrator Arch Liston said the site would be “more of a turnkey operation than other locations.”
However Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy had already expressed his disapproval of Hoboken’s use of that area. His spokesperson said last week that while the area was once industrial, it now has new housing.
‘Mayor Healy doesn’t want us’
“I think it’s really obvious that Jersey City Mayor Healy doesn’t want us,” said Councilwoman Theresa Castellano. She added that Hoboken should no longer consider locations in Jersey City. “I’m a fighter,” said Castellano, “but I know when the government says no, it says no.”
Councilman Michael Lenz disagreed and said the owner of the site on 16th Street should have his say. “He’s in a very strong position, I would think, to take action to defend his right to make a profit on his property,” he said at the meeting. “So, I think that that should be fully explored.”
Hoboken resident Perry Belfiore said, “We have no right to go into any community with our guns blazing.”
On Wednesday, Healy confirmed his stance with an official statement. “We met with Mayor Zimmer earlier this week,” it read, “and explained to her that we do not want to utilize an area of the city we think is going to be very valuable and productive in the near future for a public DPW garage. However, we have extended an offer to Mayor Zimmer to use unoccupied space at our DPW complex on Route 440 pursuant to a shared services agreement in which the city would collect a fee.”
Due to the distance between the location Healy proposed and Hoboken itself, Liston said last week that the administration is not considering this offer.
Jersey City Councilman Steven Fulop also opposed Hoboken moving its garage to Jersey City. “We don’t need Hoboken Public Works trucks, junk, garbage, noise, and pollution in Jersey City,” he said in a statement. He added, “Hoboken backed itself into a corner for short-term gain and now expects us to solve its problem. Fortunately, we have something else that Hoboken lacks – time, and we will use it, as I am sure the Jersey City council will explore all avenues to make sure we don’t become Hoboken’s dumping ground.”
A member of the public, Ronnie Miller, the owner of Mile Square Towing, presented a third option for the temporary relocation. He offered a portion of his garage at 16th and Jefferson in Hoboken to the city for about $2,292 per month, not including utilities.
Miller said he had not submitted a proposal to the council before the meeting because he was afraid it would interfere with the towing contract he already has with the city. He currently uses his garage for his own trucks.