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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Mayor: Monarch litigation "uncertain"

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Wednesday November 2, 2016

City of Hoboken

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Community: Open Letter from Mayor Zimmer to Residents Regarding Proposed Monarch Settlement Agreement

Dear Concerned Residents,

Thank you to all residents who have provided feedback on the proposed settlement of litigation relating to Monarch and the Monroe development. I write to try and respond to some of the concerns I have heard and to clear up some misunderstandings.

First, I want to make sure that everyone is aware that there will not be a vote on the settlement agreement at tonight's Council meeting. It was moved to November 14th to provide more time for community input.

I understand residents’ concerns about density. However it is important for the community to understand that there is already a preexisting redevelopment plan (the Northwest Redevelopment Plan) for 186 units and up to 14 floors of development at 800 Monroe. This redevelopment plan, which was approved by Mayor Russo in 1998, is the plan under which Metro Stop and several other buildings were constructed, and it is not possible to simply disregard the remaining elements of that plan.

Through the redevelopment process, which would begin if the settlement is approved, it will be possible to work with the community to reduce the impact on the existing neighborhood. (For example, to preserve as much of the rooftop views as possible through a well-designed layout of the buildings on the site).

Unfortunately, however, due to the preexisting redevelopment plan, it is not possible to say that there will be no development at 800 Monroe. Also given the existing redevelopment plan, the acquisition cost to purchase this and build a park would be astronomical. Residents should understand that whether we fight on with this litigation or not, a development on the scale of 186 units will be built at that site based on the existing approved plan.

Investments and 8-acre park expansion in western Hoboken:
I've received some feedback stating that I am not prioritizing western Hoboken. As a resident of western Hoboken, I actually have been very committed to expanding park space and making our west side neighborhoods more livable and flood resilient. My Administration is the first to build a flood pump to alleviate flooding in western Hoboken, create three new major parks west of Jefferson Street, and plan our first municipal parking garage in western Hoboken. We have focused tens of millions of dollars in investment and almost all of our major projects towards improving western Hoboken. We have begun construction on a one-acre Southwest Park and we are investing $30 million to buy 6 acres of land so we can build the largest park possible in our City along with western Hoboken’s first municipal parking garage. We also prioritized a new gym and 2-acre park at 7th and Jackson that will soon be under construction which will include 250,000 gallons of storm water storage to help alleviate localized flooding. The new BASF resiliency park is proposed to be built with a 1 million gallon detention system to help reduce the impact of flooding. The $11.2 million H-5 flood pump was just completed that is entirely for alleviating the flooding in western Hoboken when we experience heavy rain.

The Waterfront Belongs to All of Us:
Hoboken has the only nearly completed waterfront in New Jersey that offers the chance to stroll from one end of our City to the other without being cut off by development. Even though I live on the western side of the City, I often walk my dog, run, or bike on our waterfront. I entered into this agreement because I consider our waterfront to be a shared resource for all of us. It is something special that belongs to all of us, and I am trying to preserve it for generations to come.

For me this is not about anyone's view, but this is about the quality of life for our community and preserving our shared waterfront treasure.

The Risk is Real:
The outcome of this litigation if we continue to pursue it is uncertain. If we lose we block our community’s waterfront. We still have 186 units and up to 14 floors of development at 800 Monroe and we will have spent about $2 million in litigation costs with nothing but development to show for it.

Understanding the process:
A litigation settlement negotiation cannot be conducted as a public process. However, because of the importance of this settlement to Hoboken residents, we took the highly unusual step of publicly releasing the proposed agreement so the public will be fully informed and have an opportunity to have your views fully considered as the City Council makes its decision. It is also important for residents to know that the settlement is the first step. If this settlement is approved, a redevelopment agreement with more details about the design and layout of the buildings would have to be introduced to the City Council, reviewed by the Planning Board, and then return to the City Council for a public hearing. The public will have a chance to ask questions and provide input through every step of this process.

If the settlement is not approved, then the City will proceed with the litigation in court in December. However, given the significant risks we face, I believe the agreement is in the best interests of the City and therefore I am asking the City Council and our community to consider it. 

Thank you and best regards.

Mayor Dawn Zimmer