At the April 19th City Council meeting, Commander John P. Carey of Hoboken American Legion Post 107 expressed his frustration over the hold-up of approvals for the Western Edge Redevelopment Area.
The Post and its commitment to building housing for homeless veterans has been a shared initiative of mine and Commander Carey’s for many years, and its relationship to the Western Edge is quite simple: as soon as our Western Edge project commences, we will utilize our construction budget to help create 18 units of housing for veterans as part of the development agreement that we entered with the City of Hoboken. The City, through its Planning Board, is using the most specious excuses to deny us site plan approval that it is legally obligated to issue, saying that we measured the height of our buildings incorrectly – which, by the way, it the City Council could correct if it wished with a virtual wave of its hand.
The Commander correctly attributes the hold-up on Western Edge approvals to the influence of Mayor Stack of Union City, who threatened to file suit over the height of the buildings on the Western Edge to protect a few Union City residents from having their views of New York City partially interrupted while they walk their dogs. That is real – that is actually his justification.
We have filed a lawsuit to force the City to live to its agreement with us, which Mayor Bhalla abandoned, because he did not want to lose favor with Mayor, and State Senator, Stack, a powerful politician who is intent on control beyond rational bounds.
Our permitted height, which is part of a contract with the City of Hoboken, of 220 feet did marginally exceed the height of the Palisades. Recognizing that lawsuits are divisive, expensive, and take years to wend through the courts, we entered into a dialogue with the City of Hoboken, offering to reduce the height of the buildings. Negotiations have dragged on to the point where Commander Carey finally had enough and joined our lawsuit. Frankly, he did what we should have done a long time ago: he called out the City in no uncertain terms as compromising the interests of Hoboken’s constituents for what are truly the nonsense concerns of someone from another community.
In addition to the supportive statements from the Commander, a diverse set of leaders has expressed outrage over the City’s handling of this matter: Rent Control Advocate Cheryl Fallick, Hoboken Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, the affordable housing agency Fair Share Housing Council and others such as US Representative Mikie Sherrill all have joined the dialogue in one way or another. The reason is clear and straightforward; we all are falling into the trap of politics. This delay costs all of us, and it has to stop, because otherwise we all lose – and perhaps the cohort that has the most to lose is not even remotely aware of what is going on and how its interests are being marginalized: the resident taxpayer of Hoboken.
Our development will add a hotel and about 1,000 apartments to the northwest section of Hoboken, which has been under an edict to evolve from its current industrial focus to one of greater residential value. In doing so, we will provide affordable housing relieving the pressure that is being felt throughout the City by families who cannot afford Hoboken. Most importantly these include folks who want to live and work in Hoboken, but whose incomes force them to commute from elsewhere. We need these people to have a walkable, efficient lifestyle, and our development would accomplish that and so much more. It would provide entertainment, retail and public spaces that are equally desired and needed. This is why the City selected us to redevelop the area in the first place.
So, in closing, I am committed not only on behalf of Pegasus and the family of companies who have been working to redevelop this property for more than 10 years, but to my lifelong neighbors in Hoboken, where I have resided for over 48 years, that we are going to join the Commander in insisting that the interests of Hoboken residents, especially our esteemed veterans, are the primary consideration of the City as it untangles the mess it has caused by capitulating to the interests of another municipality. Imagine Hoboken losing hundreds of jobs, hundreds of apartments, tens of millions of dollars of economic activity, and, not unimportantly, its self-respect, because we worry about the view of people walking their dogs outside of our boundaries.
Mark Luis Villamar