Muni Garage plan is sound, serving the needs of all in the city

Muni Garage plan is sound, serving the needs of all in the city

06/25/2006 Hoboken Reporter

Dear Editor:

As Chairman of the Observer Highway Redevelopment Advisory Committee, I would like to respond to last week's inaccurate letter by Hank Forrest.

Work on a plan for the Municipal Garage was not done in a "short time frame" as Mr. Forrest states. It began in April 2005 when the City Council proposed the creation of the OHRA Committee, later appointed by Mayor Roberts. The Mayor identified PPSA as the planning firm he wanted for the project -- the same firm Mr. Forrest often compliments for their work on the Master Plan.

Fifteen residents from five wards worked together with PPSA, and city officials to craft a plan that maximizes the property value without further scarring a neighborhood with more out-of-scale high rise development. The City Council conducted a fair and open public process before unanimously approving the plan.

The Reporter's coverage clearly explained the reasons for the failure of the first effort to sell the property. The redevelopment plan is not at fault. The article notes it was extremely difficult for developers to present a response to the Request for Proposals in 17 business days. The short timeframe coupled with the lack of a "Phase Two" environmental study made it very difficult for developers to make offers. The fact that two local groups made the effort to bid under the circumstances is a credit to them.

I would invite Mr. Forrest to take a look at the renderings drawn up by architect Dean Marchetto on behalf of Metro-Ran. I think he would agree that it would be a "handsome" project.

The planning basis/rationale is outlined right in the redevelopment plan, Mr. Forrest. In part it states "The plan replaces the low-intensity, unattractive, municipal public works facility with a high-quality residential development that complements the neighborhood."

The 7-story portion of the project along Willow Avenue is designed to compliment all existing structures in the neighborhood, but none more so than the Neumann Leather buildings on Willow Avenue. This portion of the Neumann property is the oldest. In addition to complimenting this historic structure physically, the plan also allows for ground floor uses similar to those of the entrepreneurs and artists in the Neumann building today. It is false to say a "70 foot high blank wall" will be built at the north end of the block As the redevelopment agency of the City of Hoboken, members of the elected City Council -- and not the appointed Planning or Zoning Boards -- have all say over what is allowed in Redevelopment Zones.

The committee, planners, and council members took all aspects of the community into account when putting this plan together.

The City Council has set a standard of cooperation in this process that should be applauded. It would be a shame to throw it all away, especially on the eve of the creation of several other redevelopment plans for the Southwest and beyond.

Lane Bajardi

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