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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Mayor: 'Support final vote tonight on eminent domain' for a park with no tax increase

Office of the Mayor announces:

Community: Letter from Mayor Zimmer to Residents Regarding the Southwest Park

 Dear Hoboken Residents,

Tonight the City Council will consider an important vote to authorize the use of eminent domain to acquire the 2ndacre of property for expansion of the Southwest Park and for the application to Green Acres for a grant to buy the land.

Since all of Hoboken is concerned about traffic, open space, overdevelopment, and taxes, I am writing to provide some information on this important project because unfortunately, Academy Bus has chosen to completely misrepresent the facts surrounding this issue. Here’s some information for you to consider:

Park funding is available with no tax increase: The City has an Open Space Trust Fund, approved by the voters by a 3-1 margin in a public referendum in 2007, that is set aside exclusively  for park land acquisition and park construction. This fund currently has a balance of $7 million, and approximately $2 million is added to the fund each year. This fund, by itself, provides a bonding capacity of $69 million. This is enough to fund the debt for the purchase of the NW resiliency park as well as the two acres in the Southwest, without ANY increase in taxes.

“Free park” is code word for OVERDEVELOPMENT: If Academy wants $13 million for one acre when we purchased the other acre for $4.5 million, then how much development will they want for all the acreage they own in the Southwest? By how much will the development profits received in exchange for our “free” park exceed the fair market value of the property? Nothing is free, and what they are really proposing is to overdevelop our neighborhood so they can receive a financial windfall in exchange for a supposedly “free park.”

Please don’t be fooled, and please help to send a strong message to the Council and Academy that our community wants this acre of expanded park with NO connection to a development project (See the attached letter to property owners that gives an overview of the rehab process to date).

Some have tried to compare this to the project at 7th and Jackson, but there is no comparison. In the case of 7th and Jackson, there was a preexisting redevelopment plan dating back to 1998 with an already approved level of residential density. The agreement that provided for 2 acres of open space did not provide for any additional residential density – all it did was consolidate the permitted density onto one parcel to allow for 2 acres of open space. A long-term tax abatement was used to make givebacks possible, including buildout of a gymnasium and the inclusion affordable housing units. In the case of Academy, on the other hand, they are asking for additional density that does not have any approvals. In addition, their property is within a Rehabilitation Area rather than Redevelopment Area, which does not allow for the use of long-term tax abatements.

Eminent domain: This is a legal tool that ensures the City can purchase the property for a fair price. If the City Council authorizes acquisition by eminent domain tomorrow night, we will keep working in good faith, as we have been for the past year, to negotiate a purchase price for the property based on land appraisals. If an agreement cannot be reached, then we will ask for assistance from the courts. The claim made by Academy that it could take years of litigation to acquire the property through eminent domain is a blatant misrepresentation of the facts. In fact, if good faith negotiations fail, the City could immediately take title of a property after filing condemnation documentswith the court. The park could then be built immediately, or we could use the property as a pop-up park while the permanent design is completed, without waiting for the courts to finalize the purchase price. Determining the final price could take the courts months or years, but that would not slow down the process of acquiring the property and building a park.

I look forward to seeing you at the City Council meeting tonight. It is crucial that your voices be heard so everyone understands clearly that this is something that the community strongly supports for our City.

Thanks very much for working to create an expanded Southwest park and prevent overdevelopment.

Dawn Zimmer