Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Update on Parks from Mayor Dawn Zimmer....


I am writing to update the community on the progress we are making towards acquiring land for new parks in Western Hoboken, including a large Southwest Park, the Pino site at 7thSt. and Jackson St., and the BASF site at 11th St. and Madison St. With Hoboken’s growing number of young families, our senior community, and active recreational community, the neighborhoods in Western Hoboken need more active and passive park space. The City is focused on acquiring land to provide large active space for residents at a fair market price in the interest of Hoboken taxpayers.

A Park in Southwest Hoboken
The first phase for the Southwest Park, envisioned in our Master Plan and Open Space Plan, would include an almost one-acre portion of Block 12 on Jackson Street. The property will be purchased this year, built into a park in 2014, and then expanded into a larger park through the redevelopment planning process. The plan for the first phase would include adding traffic lights, pedestrian signals, and crosswalks to ensure residents can safely walk to the park.

Block 12, the surface parking lot across the street from the new restaurant being built on Jackson Street, was chosen as the first building block of the Southwest Park for several reasons:

1. It has been and currently is still zoned for non-residential industrial use, which is typically appraised at a value less than similar property zoned for residential use. Based on the appraisal done by the City as part of the acquisition process, the fair market value is approximately equal to the $3 million Hudson County open space grant that is available to fund the purchase.

2. At one acre, it is large enough to be a significant park for active use, similar to 1500 Park near the Hudson Tea Building that has a field and playground space. The park will be expanded significantly by adding industrially zoned properties to the west of it through the Southwest Redevelopment process. Ultimately, the goal is to create a park in the Southwest approximately the size of Church Square Park -- an enormous asset to residents in my neighborhood and throughout Hoboken.

The owner of Block 12 is interested in selling, but believes that the property should be valued as if it were zoned for large-scale residential development even though such a use is not permitted under its current zoning. As a result, it was necessary to use the eminent domain process to determine the fair market value for which the City can acquire the property. That process is ongoing.

Contrary to popular belief, the process of acquiring land by eminent domain does not take years.  The City can obtain title to the property and start planning and building the park as soon as an order authorizing the use of eminent domain is entered by a judge. It can take a long time for a final value to be established, but the City would become the owner of the property early on in the process. The City is moving ahead with acquiring the property this year, and if all goes well, the one-acre foundation for a SW park could be completed in 2014 with the larger park to be developed through the redevelopment process.

Making Prudent Choices
Councilman Occhipinti has put forward a petition requesting that the City acquire the three Zaklama properties at 1st St. and Jackson St. While I agree with the sentiment that the Southwest needs new park space urgently, fiscally prudent choices must be made, and we do not have the resources to acquire every lot where it might be desirable to have a park.

The three Zaklama properties, which total only about 0.35 acres (one third the size of Block 12), are zoned for residential use, and would be extremely costly to acquire. The largest lot, which is less than 0.25 acres, has an asking price of $4.3 million, or over $17 million per acre, compared to the approximately $3 million per acre reflected in the City's appraisal for Block 12.

These price differences explain why, in order to acquire as much open space as possible, the City has focused its acquisition efforts on property with industrial rather than residential zoning. We are also concerned about creating larger parks that can be used for active use by the entire neighborhood. We need to make economically prudent choices so that we get the best and largest Southwest Park possible.

Park at 7th St. & Jackson St.
The City is entering into negotiations to create a one-acre park at 7th St. and Jackson St. (known as the Pino site). The City Council will be asked to approve an interim cost agreement that would provide for an evaluation of Larry Bijou’s proposal to develop an adjacent property and donate the Pino site to the City for park land (for details visit:www.hobokennj.org/pinosite).

Large Northwest Park
The City is currently negotiating to purchase a large property now owned by BASF (formerly also known as the Henkel/Cognis site) at 11th St. and Madison St.  As part of the evaluation process, the City hired a firm to analyze the environmental issues on the six-acre site. Negotiations are ongoing, with a firm commitment to create a large park in the northwest area of Hoboken.

Together, these three parks will ensure that residents of Western Hoboken can easily access outdoor recreational opportunities with their family and friends.

Save the Dates for Park Community Meetings
Two community meetings are scheduled to discuss parks in Western Hoboken:

  • Southwest Park: Tuesday, April 2nd (Location TBA)
  • 7th & Jackson & Northwest Parks: Monday, April 8th (Location TBA)

I hope to see you at one of these meetings where we will be providing updates and answering any questions about the parks acquisition process.


Mayor Dawn Zimmer

Information Provided by Donna Antonucci
Prudential Castle Point Realty