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When Hoboken Reform started, we all we united under the idea of a "better" Hoboken. We didn't want Hoboken to become like Newport in Jersey City (and still don't), with high rise buildings dominating the Hoboken skyline. We didn't want corruption and back room deals by people who had connections in the city. We didn't want special rules for those who had a hand in someone's pocket.

When Dawn Zimmer, Rhavi Bhalli, Dave Mello, Peter Cunningham and Carol Marsh were swept into office, it was a signal that times are changing for the better. Many of their actions over the last two terms have been worthy of applause and there have been other actions which I have raised an eyebrow at the poor decisions that were made.

Many residents might have heard about a proposed development at 1300 Jefferson Street. Currently the site is an abandoned factory, and surrounding the lot isn't any residental space. Its almost as far to the border of Hoboken and we can get.

The proposal was to turn the site into mixed use development by the same developers who created Pilsener Haus and Biergarten. The majority of the story you can read here.

No one in reform wants high rises, but we do have high rise buildings of 12-14 stories in Hoboken. That's not unusual - and I think consideration needs to be looked into where we build larger buildings. There's currently a lot of pushback on the propose NJ Transit plan to build high rises along Observer Highway & the PATH station. There's also some pushback for a proposed 14 story tower at the Monroe Center.

That I understand, I can understand the resistance.

There's NOTHING in the part of town for the proposed mixed use development. Adding a 14 story tower, along with a rock climbing gym and bowling alley would be great for Hoboken. Imagine a Brooklyn Bowl style bowling alley - which has also a music stage too? Everyone wins here.

Last night the Zoning Board voted down the proposal 5-2 against even when faced with a large crowd of community activists who have been adamant about their fear of overdevelopment - and they were FOR the proposal.

We can all sit here and shrug our shoulders or do something about it. Post about it on your Facebook wall. Write your local councilperson. Ask Dawn Zimmer. Why is progress stalling in Hoboken? The community came together to bring reform to Hoboken and it worked. Change can happen, but it takes your voice to change that.

In 2008, the owner of the Neumann Leather Building, at 300 Observer Highway, had a proposal to knock the building(s) down and build new condos. The artists and tenants at the building, along with the residents united in a common front to staunchly protest this plan and have the Hoboken City Council deny them variances & zoning changes to move forward with their plan. I, myself, spoke at the City Council meeting to protest changing the site, and wrote about it here.

Last night the City of Hoboken sponsored a community meeting to gather input from residents and tenants called "NEUMANN LEATHERS REDEVELOPMENT PLAN COMMUNITY WORKSHOP". As per the city's email:

"The plan will address possibilities of adaptive reuse of buildings, needs for improving utilities, traffic around the site, and potential uses and density for development of the area.

The public is invited to participate in this process. This first community workshop will include exercises to recognize the existing conditions of the site and surrounding area, as well as identify constraints and opportunities for the future development of the area. This will inform the planning and design process for the project team of planners, engineers, economists, architects and landscape architects. The consultant will gather the community feedback from this meeting to help develop a vision for the area and determine appropriate alternatives for a comprehensive plan for the area."

In laymen's terms : They want to see where the public stands on the site & any kind of changes to it - from minor facade repairs to drastic changes. Most (not all) of the people I talked to had this to say:


  1. We like the building, but would also like to see the exterior windows and facade cleaned up & restored.
  2. We like the artists and tenants, and don't want to see them forced out - and definitely do not want more condos.
  3. The city needs industrial lofts. We have enough nail salons, frozen yogurt and sushi restaurants.
  4. The open blacktop parking lot is an eyesore & a waste of good space.

With that said, if I had a magic wand, this is what I would change at the Neumann Leather site, and I think it would be a win/win for everyone from the tenants, the neighborhood and the owners.

#1 - Allow the owner to develop the parking lot into condos.

Condos? NO! NO! We don't need more condos you said it yourself!

Just hear me out.

I'm in the camp that i'd like to see the Neumann Leather building remain where it is and not to displace the tenants. I'm also in the camp that the building looks like shit. I don't think anyone can disagree with me there. The Neumann Leather building is ugly. They have some windows with cement cinder blocks and other windows with broken, chipped windows. It's ugly. The sidewalks are cracked around the entire building. There is one single, lonely, tree planted outside by the bus stop.

Six years ago the public was fairly united that we would love to see the building restored, and the area around it cleaned up. The problem is that the owners have no real incentive to do this. Why would he? Out of the goodness of his heart? The owner doesn't even live in Hoboken - from what I understand he lives in North Carolina and could give a shit about the site aside from collecting money from tenants. The sidewalks are never plowed after snowstorms.

The owner, however, knows that he is sitting on a gold mine. The location is fantastic, and building there would mean a lot of new revenue. The compromise would be to allow for the parking lot to be replaced by a new residential building. Preferably a building that has three bedroom condos, something that we sorely lack in Hoboken. I also would hope that however the new building is designed that it has a new parking garage built into the building, so that tenants of the building can park there for free, or a modest cost like $5 a day (or $100 a month). Also the building should be in line with other buildings that surround it, so no more than 12 stories (Observer Plaza is next to Neumann Leathers at 12 stories tall).

Red: Allow for development
White: Do not develop
Green: Create a pocket park or cobblestone courtyard for community events like farmers market
Yellow: These aren't part of Neumann Leather, but they are already under construction or slated for new construction.
Blue: Pedestrian/Bike Pathway between the building connecting Newark St and Observer Highway.

neumann1.JPG

Allowing for this development then needs to be tied into my next point:

2. Restore the Neumann Leather building. Clean the facade. Restore the old graphics. Replace the windows. Fix the sidewalks. Add trees.

Something like this, keeping the original architecture, but replacing and restoring the windows to a modern, clean look:
factory.jpg

Again, the incentive to do this would be the trade off of allowing for new construction.

3. Attract Whole Foods or Sprouts Farmers Market.

I think a big win for Hoboken would be attracting a Whole Foods or Sprouts Farmers Market. A perfect location would be here. I think a creative campaign by the city and the owner here could absolutely land a premium super market for this location. Parking wouldn't be an issue, since a new parking garage would be built on site for those who want to park there. I know, for example that the sitemap I drew with yellow stripes also planned to put in a public parking garage, too, along with condos.


How does everyone win?

The owner wins because they can develop (some of) their site, which allows them to generate revenue.
The neighborhood wins because they get a restored, beautiful building, open space (or a cobblestone open courtyard), and a Whole Foods.
The tenants win because we keep the industrial lofts for them.

I think this is a compromise that allows everyone to get what they want, if we allow for some minor changes.

The other day I wrote about how people are going around the barricade at Newark & Madison.

Yesterday I was walking to Crossfit Hoboken, and what did I see? I cruiser parked on Newark between Madison & Monroe, waiting. I walk up to the police officer and ask him to roll down his window. I said, "Too bad you are in a marked car - if you had an undercover car you would be catching a lot of people!"

He replied, "Already caught two people going around the barricade."

Good. Its the first time in THREE years that I ever saw a police car parked there nabbing people. We have some fanatics who cry about everything in this town, but that's where I want my tax dollars spent - safety. News just came out today that the police caught a suspect who has been plaguing our town stealing packages.

Hats off to the Hoboken Police. Great job! I like seeing more proactive police work rather than just reacting to a 911 phone call. Keep up the good work. Now, if someone is reading this at City Hall, can I talk to you about re-painting the crosswalks along Newark Street? Also would love to see a stop sign at Newark and Clinton, on the Eastbound side, while we are at it.

Repost from last year, but it needs to be said every year.

Often in my blog, I laud Mayor Zimmer. I think she's fantastic, and most everything she has done I have agreed with.

parade13.jpg
Most everything.

One of the hot topics where I disagree is the St. Patrick's Day parade. This isn't a simple issue. It's complex. There's certainly a lot of people affected by it, and the most obvious issue that critics point to is "quality of life".

Things that can't be disputed that on our parade day there are lots of people who come to Hoboken who could care less about a parade, and are simply looking for an excuse to drink. Considering that most of our fund raisers (Restore Our Shore at City Bistro or The Gala to Rebuild Hoboken) revolve around serving alcohol. You disagree? Try to have either of those events in a "family friendly" setting. Take away the bars from those fundraisers or any serving of alcohol & move those events to a Wednesday night. Think they would have the same turnout? You and I both know they wouldn't.

As for the issue of crime. Recently the city council discussed that last year crime was down compared to years past, and are using that as a reason why moving the parade to a Wednesday was a success. First off, there were far less people in town last year for the "LepreCon", even if 10,000 people online said they RSVP'd - a simple walk around town proved that there were far fewer people versus years past. Hence...less crime. Don't piss on my head and tell me it's raining. Of course if you have less people in town you will have less crime. That shouldn't be a reason to cancel this parade.

Here's the easy solutions that can bring the parade back to the weekends and make everyone happy:

1. Schedule it for a Sunday, not a Saturday. The argument from The Hoboken St. Patrick's Day Committee was that participants could not do a weekday parade because many of them are working. Saturday was the reason, but i'm sure most people will be able to make a Sunday parade. Plus, most younger adults can drink with wild abandon on a Saturday afternoon, whereas most younger adults may have a good time - but many of them have jobs on Monday and that will temper HOW drunk they get.

2. Create a Beer Garden for people to drink & charge them. We have similar tents for The St. Ann's Festival. Plus the St. Ann's Festival has live music. The Nerds played there last time. Why not do the same thing for the St. Patrick's Day event? We had Mumford & Sons play on Pier A last summer. I would do the same event, with live Irish Bands. This would do two things: 1. Less house parties and 2. Keep the drinkers in a place where they can be easily controlled.
It won't stop the house parties. It won't stop bars from having people drink. What it will do is diffuse those events by taking the 17,000 people who would normally be at a house party or a bar - and put them in front of the police. It will allow us to hire Class 2 police or, perhaps, a professional security company (like ones you see at other outdoor concerts) to patrol the "St. Patrick's Day Beer Garden", while "regular" police can patrol the city and respond to calls of disturbances. Visibly intoxicated people at the Beer Garden will be removed with zero tolerance.
Also, the money raised from this event can offset the clean up costs. Mumford & Sons attracted 17,000 people - and they sold beer at that event. Lets imagine to attend the Beer Garden you need a wristband to enter, each wristband is $5. Beer is $4 each, much like you would find at any bar in Hoboken. The wristbands alone would generate $85,000 (17,000 times $5). That's not including what the beer would generate, which I would hazard to say if everyone had 1 drink, that would be $51,000 (this includes beer costs, which would probably be $1 per drink, so expect $3 profile per beer). Also, I would hire for this event licensed Hoboken bartenders at $200 each - and there will be plenty of them available that aren't working the bar that day (trust me, as someone who bartended for 10+ years you can find free bartenders who want to make easy money pouring beer.

3. Move the Parade to Sinatra Drive. This is for multiple reasons. One, the argument from store owners is that they didn't like so many people blocking their store fronts. Two, this blocks major traffic on Washington Street. Three, people live along Washington Street & are affected by the quality of life. Let's move it to Sinatra Drive, where people can easily line up and watch the parade, with NYC as the backdrop. Have the parade begin at 11th Street and "end" at the Beer Garden, with Erie-Lackawanna Park and Hudson Place cars & taxis removed. People who want to watch the parade without having to listen to loud music & revelers along Washington Street can enjoy it without people bumping into them or making noise.

4. Create a "Family Friendly" area at the Hoboken Little League field. Its a large open space which is close to the parade & allows for kids and adults to watch the parade pass by on Sinatra Drive - with a fenced in area so its easy to watch your kids!

5. Work with the bar community. I know more than this than the average citizen. I happen to be friends with many bar owners. You know what they all say - they didn't like the parade. Yes, it increases revenue. But the headache of dealing with drunks on that day - by hiring more security and dealing with drunks really doesn't make it "worth it". An interesting idea would be the following: Bar owners agree that patrons need to buy wristbands to enter their bars - just like the beer garden. The wristbands are a $5 charge, and proceeds will go towards the city. Bars need to "buy" them from the city before the parade.
So, for example, Bar XYZ buys 1,000 wrist bands for that day or $5,000 which they resell. Now, no one is stopping Bar XYZ from selling those at a fair market value. They could sell them at $5....or $20. We all know that bars have a cover on parade days - plus people can then go to the bar or the Beer Garden. Say someone wants to do a few hours at the Beer Garden, and then join their friends at a bar - they can flash their wristband and don't have to pay a cover. People will say "Why should I pay for a $20 wristband at Bar XYZ, when its only $5 at the Beer Garden". Simple, supply and demand and the bars choice on what they price.
Also if someone leaves the bar for a smoke or whatever and they return with a wristband - then they aren't charged a cover again. The bar is "asked" to buy the number of wristbands equal to their occupancy. So, if Bar XYZ has 300 capacity, they buy $1500 worth of wristbands (if not more), which they make their money back by selling to people at $5 each - or maybe even giving those wristbands for free to their "regulars" (the bar eats the cost of $5, like a buyback). This is the easy way to create a Parade Tax, and if you figure we have 80 bars in town and even 40 of those bars get on board and buy on average 200 wristbands, that is $40,000 that the bars just generated for the city - if not more. Its more money than the ill-planned "fund" that Mayor Zimmer tried in 2009. Plus, my idea is $5 for a wristband. You could make them $10 each.

Use the parade to our advantage. My ideas would absolutely work, generate revenue for clean up costs and security costs - I hazard to say the city could generate $175,000+ on parade day (and that's a conservative estimate). It would satisfy the parade committee and if not keep all the curmudgeon homeowners happy, it would satisfy most of them except for the vocal NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) types who will never be happy.


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