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Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Councilman Mike DeFusco: Year in Review
From the desk of Councilman Mike DeFusco:
Friends and Neighbors,
With the year wrapping up and the holidays finally upon us, I wanted to quickly update you on the progress we’ve made in downtown Hoboken and citywide. It’s been a busy year and I’ve been working hard to represent you on the City Council.
Here are some of this year’s highlights:
Led the Council on a complete overhaul of Washington Street, with work set to begin next month
Funded a brand new five-acre park in the Northwest
Begun work to alleviate traffic congestion in the Southwest, along Observer Highway
Advanced the conversation on a European-market concept at Lackawanna Terminal
Advocated for pedestrian safety along Newark Street
Supported funding for the long-overdue 9/11 Memorial on Pier A
Pushed for cleaner streets with the purchase of new sidewalk sweepers and curb bump-out beautification
Scroll down for more detail, but before you do, I just want to express how honored I’ve been to serve as your representative on the Hoboken City Council. All my best for a joyous holiday season, filled with love and happiness and for a happy, healthy and successful new year!
Councilman, First Ward
City of Hoboken
After nearly two decades, Washington Street is getting a significant makeover and construction will begin in early January. As chairman of the Council’s parking and transportation committee, I am proud to have taken an active role in leading a redesign that addressed many important community needs and concerns. The final plan repaves the entire stretch of Washington Street, from Observer Highway to 15th Street, and includes:
Installing 15 new traffic signals with pedestrian countdown timers, an emergency preemption system, and optimized signal timing
Adds concrete bump outs at corners with ADA handicap curb ramps and high-visibility crosswalks
Design of 15 rain gardens and drainage improvements to capture stormwater and help reduce flooding
Replaces the century-old water mains and service lines to new valve boxes at the curb
Wire an electrical microgrid and fiber optic cabling under the roadway
Refurbishes all existing streetlights with more efficient lighting fixtures
Stripe Class II unprotected bicycle lanes from Observer Highway to 8th Street
Creates dedicated commercial loading zones and more well-defined bus stops
Heading the Council’s traffic committee, I took action to deal with major rush-hour congestion at our Southwest gateway. Working in tandem with the Administration, the Council funded three new traffic signals to be installed at Harrison, Madison, and Jackson Streets where they intersect with Observer Highway, to be installed this summer.
The committee also expressed concern with a 2012 decision to narrow Jackson Street from two lanes to one, potentially backing up traffic during the morning and evening rush hour. Though the new traffic signals will slightly alleviate this congestion, in my opinion, the Jackson bottleneck, combined with the NJ Transit light rail crossing on Patterson Avenue, significantly limits traffic flow in and out of town. Further, I have urged the Administration to re-stripe the area under the NJT overpass (where our well-known “Welcome to Hoboken” sign is painted), to provide two lanes into the city and two lanes out. We need urgent attention in the southwest and I will continue to advocate to ensure residents and businesses alike can get in and out of town safely and efficiently.
FIXING WATER MAINS, HOLISTICALLY
The City Council approved funding to begin replacement of our century-old water main infrastructure. Hoboken has over 40 miles of water mains and we allocated $5.2 million dollars towards ten of the most pressing water mains. They include part of Park Avenue (6th to 8th Street), Garden Street (Observer Highway to 2nd Street), Madison Street (4th to 6th Street) River Street (1st to 4th Street), Clinton Street (6th to 7th Street), Jefferson Street (Newark Street to 1st Street), Grand Street (6th to 8th Street), and 7th Street (Adams to Grand Street).
PEDESTRIAN SAFETY ALONG NEWARK STREET
Collaborating with condo associations along the Newark Street corridor, the City was able to secure funding for a “complete street” engineering plan -- one that ensures that motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists can share the road safely. The current state of the roadway needed urgent attention, so we were able to produce the following short-term safety solutions:
Added vertical delineators to the northwest corner of Newark Street and Grand Street
Upgraded crosswalks on Newark Street at Grand Street, as well as added “stop” striping on Grand Street
Placed four solar-powered “stop for pedestrian” signs at the eastbound and westbound approaches of Newark Street
Installed new ADA compliant curb cut ramps at Newark Street and Grand Street crosswalks
And upcoming improvements include:
Installing metal bollards along the southern curb of Newark Street between Grand Street and Clinton Street, to prevent buses and other vehicles from parking on the sidewalk on the south side of Newark Street
Adding new bike lanes on the eastbound side of Newark Street, between Jefferson Street and Willow Avenue
BRINGING A EUROPEAN MARKET TO THE HOBOKEN TERMINAL
Our turn of the century train terminal sits underutilized, rusting away, as our city continues to demand fresh locally-sourced food and innovative places to shop and dine. I have long advocated for bringing a European-style market to the terminal area and we’re finally working towards that goal. This year, the Council issued a conditional designation of developer, which permitted the City to begin conversations with stakeholders on revitalizing the terminal area. The collaboration has been positive and a productive plan is underway.
Though there are additional details to consider, we’re working towards opening up a market at Warrington Plaza (the courtyard fenced off outside the terminal) potentially as early as this spring. More details will become available as the winter progresses, but please reach out and let me know what kind of vendors you think our community needs.
In this year’s municipal budget, I advocated for and received funding for the purchase of two industrial sidewalk sweepers to better maintain our public pathways. The First Ward is the busiest and most trafficked Ward in the entire city, and we’ve long needed this heavy-duty equipment to keep our neighborhood streets in tip-top shape.
FIGHTING AGAINST (MORE) BRO BARS
I opposed a unilateral repeal of the City’s “500-foot rule,” which would have brought more bars into our ward, without doing anything to advance restaurant culture and upscale bars citywide. I am an advocate of bringing world-class restaurants to parts of Hoboken that desperately need them, but to do this, we need to update our decades-old city wide zoning. I hope my Council colleagues and the administration will work with me in the new year to advance restaurant culture throughout Hoboken.
LARGEST PARK IN THE CITY
After years of negotiations and debate on what was the best course of action to acquire six acres of land in the City’s northwest, formerly known as the “BASF site,” the City Council appropriated $30 million dollars to secure the land for the City without any development component. The park, once completed, will be the City’s largest and will house active and passive recreation facilities for the entire community. Just as importantly, the plan accounts for a new municipal parking garage, which would ease the parking crunch in the northwest while providing ground floor retail to support the park.
I am thrilled to have supported this project and will continue to advocate for more parkland in Hoboken, especially in the developing Southwest. As we move forward with expanding parkland in Hoboken, we must ensure residents get the best return for their hard-earned tax dollars and that we have the means to maintain the properties acquired.
HOBOKEN 9/11 MEMORIAL
I proudly supported funding for the long overdue September 11th Memorial, remembering the 57 Hoboken residents we lost on that fateful day. The beautiful design repurposes glass panels purchased nearly a decade ago, each one inscribed with the name of a resident and reinforced to resist a major flood event.
TRADER JOE’S AND A SEASONAL ICE RINK
Harlow Hoboken is the newly constructed building on the corner of 14th and Willow Street and will soon house our very own Trader Joe’s. I’m happy to have approved this building while a commissioner on the Hoboken Zoning Board of Adjustment, and furthered it on the Council where I worked to develop a new traffic pattern required for efficient store operations. Now that cold weather is upon us, the building will be sponsoring a seasonal ice rink and winter village under the 14th Street Viaduct. The rink opens Thursday at 3:30PM, and will operate Monday to Friday from 2:30PM until 10PM, and weekends from 9AM to 10PM, subject to usage.
I passed an ordinance structuring the appointments of commissioners responsible for issuing handicapped parking permits. It’s important that we ensure those who need spots actually get them, and those that don’t give them back to the community.
NEW TREE GRATES - BLOOMFIELD AND FIRST
This fall, I enjoyed working with the City’s environmental services team to clean up the bump out at the intersection of Bloomfield and 1st, adding new grates to prevent folks from walking on the plantings. In the spring, I’ll be organizing a community planting and hope you’ll join.
IMPROVED THE SHUTTLE BUS PICKUP AREA
Though many of us in the First Ward are blessed with access to the NJT terminal, our uptown neighbors often need to take shuttle busses to get to and from Manhattan. When I took office, they were waiting on crumbling curbs and under broken lights. Working with the the parking director, we were able to repave the waiting area and get the lights working again, simple things, but they go a long way. In the new year, I will be advocating for the shuttles busses to drop off their passengers in the NJT bus area, clearing the public right of way for pedestrians and motorists, and alleviating congestion.
NEW BUSINESS IN THE NEW YEAR
A HILTON HOTEL IN DOWNTOWN HOBOKEN?
The City Council is discussing a potential new Hilton Hotel in the parking lot of the Post Office, located at 89 River Street. I want to hear your thoughts, so I’ll be holding a community at The Dubliner -- 96 River Street on January 17, at 7PM. SAVE THE DATE! Please come and hear more about the project and more importantly, express your ideas and concerns.
REENERGIZE THE PARK THAT NOBODY KNOWS IS A PUBLIC PARK
Did you know we have a city park, open to the public, on the corner of Newark Street and Garden Street? If you didn’t it’s okay, because it’s currently fenced off and doesn’t look all that inviting. I would like to see this corner park re-opened and energized with a small coffee kiosk, leased to a local Hoboken business who would take pride and authorship over making the park a multi-modal public amenity - think Bryant Park, but smaller.
FUNDING THE REHABILITATION OF COURT STREET
Hoboken’s historic, 19th-century lane parallels Washington Street and Hudson Street and is one of the oldest streets in our City, but it’s fallen into disrepair. The City Council recently approved a grant application asking Hudson County for $500,000 dollars, money that would be spent to begin engineering studies and a “complete street” plan. I hope Hudson County supports our request.