“During this campaign, many residents have asked me what distinguishes Councilman Ravi Bhalla and our team from our opponents. One major difference is our approach toward development. The next Mayor will be under tremendous pressure to permit large, out-of-scale development in our City, both residential and commercial. What is at stake is the charm, character, and scale that makes Hoboken a special place to live.
A good example of how our team differs from the others is the planned hotel tower on our waterfront overlooking Pier A park. Ravi and I were the only Council Members who voted against this ill-advised, 290-foot high tower to be squeezed into the parking lot behind the downtown, main Post Office. The project would directly overshadow Pier A Park, our gem of a waterfront park. This hotel plan, shepherded by Councilpersons Giattino and Cunningham, and enthusiastically supported by Councilman DeFusco, would be the second tallest building in Hoboken – twenty-three feet shy of Hoboken’s nearby tallest building, the W Hotel. Put in context, the proposed hotel would be the height of a 29-story building.
Ravi and the rest of our team are all supportive of the concept of a hotel in this location because it would help support our local businesses, provide extra tax revenue, and provide good jobs to local residents, but we support the original concept to bring a 12-14 story “boutique” hotel to this location, in line with the building heights of the surrounding buildings on our waterfront. BUT that somehow morphed into a 290 foot high building, more than twice the height of the adjacent buildings, one which is totally out of scale with this and any area in Hoboken.
Worse still, in exchange for this huge concession to be given to a developer, the City will receive no true community benefits. Typically, when the City creates a plan allowing for increased bulk or height, the City would insist on receiving public benefits at the developer’s expense commensurate with the amount of “up-zoning” in a plan. Such givebacks might include the construction of a new park, provision of affordable housing (or a payment into the affordable housing trust), flood mitigation measures, etc.
Here, however, the plan, supported by Councilwoman Giattino and Councilman DeFusco, provides NO real community “give backs” at all. Instead, the plan has “public benefits” that are a for-profit, high-end, rooftop restaurant and a banquet hall. There is no contribution toward maintenance of the parks in front of the hotel (like the other buildings along the waterfront make), no contribution to the fund to create future affordable housing, and no donation to the open space trust fund for acquisition or build-out of additional parkland in our City (such as Union Dry Dock), to name a few. There is just a luxury, for-profit restaurant atop Hoboken’s second tallest building, with conference space for rent.
Our entire team, led by Ravi, is fully committed to navigating the redevelopment process in a manner that prioritizes the interests of residents over the interests of developers. While commercial as opposed to residential development is better for our City in many of our remaining, developable areas, scale does matter. Out-of-scale development should be unacceptable, whether a commercial or residential building, and we should never approve a project that, like the hotel, gives nothing back to our community. That’s why Ravi and I voted against the hotel, and our team will protect our community from similar, ill-advised projects going forward.”
–Councilman Jim Doyle