Rail yard scrap: 5 problems NJ Transit has with Hoboken’s redevelopment plan

December 24, 2014 Posted by admin

HOBOKEN — The city council green-lighted plans to redevelop the Hoboken rail yards, but NJ Transit isn’t completely on board.

The agency sent a letter to the city earlier this month outlining its concerns over the October 2014 plan, which calls for a 2.2 million square foot mixed-use project. Some residents have also objected to the latest iteration of the redevelopment plan, citing that the proposed maximum height of office buildings on the site—22 stories, 24 with LEED Gold certification—is out of step with the current character of downtown Hoboken. 

The latest plan focuses on redeveloping 36 acres owned by NJ Transit. It scales down previous visions for the site, including the agency’s 2008 plan that called for a 9 million-square-foot project featuring a 70-story tower and a 3 million-square-foot mixed-use project proposed in 2012.

The city council’s approval of the plan is just a step in what remains a lengthy process. The city will need to reach redevelopment agreements over each parcel of land involved in the site. 

“I think it’s an opportunity, and I think it’s a good plan,” Mayor Dawn Zimmer told NJ Advance Media. “This just sets the framework and then there are a lot more details to work out.”

NJ Transit refused to discuss the project but provided a letter it sent to the city on Dec. 2. 

Here are some of NJ Transit’s concerns about the redevelopment plan, as listed in its letter to the city:

1. Redeveloper selection 

NJ Transit selected LCOR to work on this project, but the redevelopment plan states that the city will designate the redeveloper. In its letter, the agency asserts that it has the authority to hire LCOR under the Public Transportation Act.

Authority has been a point of contention between the city and the agency over the last decade or so. In 2008, NJ Transit asserted that it didn’t need approval from Hoboken to move forward with plans for its property. Until recently, the agency and city clashed over dueling plans for the site.

Leading up to the council’s approval of the city’s latest redevelopment plan, the mayor and some council members expressed fear that if they didn’t put forward an economical plan, the city could lose its voice in the process. As to NJ Transit’s concerns over who selects the project’s redeveloper, Zimmer said the city has been “very sensitive” to the agency’s role in the process.  

“We have required that any redeveloper must have a contract with NJ Transit to deal with demolition and relocation of transit facilities before such a party could be designated as the redeveloper,” she said in a statement.

2. Resiliency plans

In June, Hoboken received $230 million as part of the federally funded Rebuild by Design resiliency competition. NJ Transit says it’s not yet clear how the winning design, which includes adding green infrastructure in the city as a flood defense, will impact Hoboken Terminal. NJ Transit also plans to create a flood barrier by filling in the Long Slip Canal—which runs just south of the station. The agency says the redevelopment plan doesn’t adequately address how these projects will impact its properties.

NJ Transit says it will need to conduct engineering estimates of these resiliency recommendations. 

“NJ Transit is a vital partner in protecting the southern end of Hoboken from coastal flooding, and the city will work with NJ Transit to ensure the southern waterfront is more resilient,” Zimmer said in a statement. “This includes, but is not limited to, both the Terminal and the Long Slip Canal.”

3. Operation and circulation issues

NJ Transit cites several circulation issues potentially posed by the redevelopment plan, including conflicts with the location of the proposed bikeway and insufficient space for buses to turn around. The agency also said plans to turn the Warrington Plaza area into a pedestrian mall—which would eliminate vehicle access—would have a “major adverse impact” on maintenance activities and emergency response access to the terminal.   

4. Bus terminal location 

The agency also objects to the plan’s various visions for the bus terminal. NJ Transit doesn’t want to move the terminal further away from the train station or cut the number of bus bays in order to keep the terminal closer to the station. The agency also says the scale of the bus terminal in the plan “isn’t adequate for service expansion in the future.”

“Ultimately, they have authority over what happens with their buses, but I would hope that they are open to hearing the city’s perspective, and they have been,” Zimmer said. 

5. Port Authority’s voice 

NJ Transit is also concerned that Port Authority hasn’t weighed in on the redevelopment plan, given the “critical role of PATH facilities” at the terminal.

Zimmer said the city will not interfere with the legal rights of Port Authority. Agency representatives didn’t immediately return calls for comment. 

“We hope to coordinate with the Port Authority as the redevelopment process moves forward,” Zimmer said in a statement.

Kathryn Brenzel may be reached at kbrenzel@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @katiebrenzel. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

Article source: http://www.nj.com/hudson/index.ssf/2014/12/nj_transits_10_problems_with_hobokens_rail_yard_vision.html

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