5 Sunday Reading - eScooters, Big Development, and a sad passing...

Updates on two (of many) important, current issues in our community…
There is an important information session on Monday (tomorrow) evening at the Hoboken Terminal where NJ Transit and LCOR, the developer of the Railyards Project, will available to have conversations in small group settings with residents regarding the proposed changes to the 1.4M square foot Hoboken Yard Redevelopment Plan.  Please try to attend.  The open house/information session will be held in the waiting room at Hoboken Terminal from 6:00 until 8:00 pm.  I plan to attend at 7pm (I have an earlier conflict).
Overall the plan has been amended again and will be up for first reading on Dec. 4th.  Councilmembers DeFusco and Falco have indicated the further revised plan will now call for the European Market at Warrington Plaza to be built first and the 312’, 28-story residential tower to now require 20% affordable housing, up from 10%.  IMHO, both fine amendments but they still don’t address the main areas of concern:  that we are adding a massive 28 story residential tower to an area that was targeted to be commercial, that this massive residential tower will now become a bad precedent for Hoboken, that we are also increasing another tower to 300’ or by 50%, that we are not addressing NYWW / UDD at all, and that we do not have language that suggests this project will help fund Rebuild By Design if / when necessary. 
LCOR has said that they “need” to build a residential tower at that location because that is all that can fit on what is now a smaller footprint due to the RBD resist structure.  But maybe if they just waited until the structure is built just two years from now, they can build over it. Worse timing for them, but better outcome for Hoboken.
Of note, when I was at the NJ Senate Hearing last week at Hoboken Terminal regarding NJ Transit one of the issues discussed was proper planning and addressing capacity issues on NJ Transit.  This residential tower will add probably about 500-700 people into our morning public transportation commutes.  It’s as if NJ Transit is just feeding their own problems.  If the building was built as commercial, it would be people coming into Hoboken and not competing for our precious public transportation capacity.  We only have a few locations where commercial is most feasible, and this location is the best.
There is so much more that could be done here if only there was a willingness of our local government to fight more for Hoboken's interests.  Is a European market an interesting amenity and improvement for that area?  Sure.. although I know some local businesses are actually concerned about it taking business away from them.  It would be great to have this discussion.  Is more affordable housing a good thing?  I believe so.  But what is the long term cost to Hoboken by trading away a fundamental tenet of the original plan of not having residential next to our transit hub – one that would have transformed Hoboken and bring much needed tax revenues into our community (and brought a European Market as well)? 
There is no need to rush this through before the end of the year without the proper discussion and defense for what works for Hoboken – other than to meet the timing interests of the developer.  They indicate their contract with NJ Transit ends soon.  What they don’t say is that it has been amended multiple times over the years.  And I personally am not sure why this is a decisive issue for Hoboken – there are probably $250-350M of profit that is up for grabs at this reduced size project.  Someone is definitely going to build there…  
This has been a tumultuous week for eScooters in our area.  After six months operating, our pilot program ended on November 20th the same day a 16 year old was killed riding a Lime scooter in Elizabeth after only 20 days into their program.  My heart breaks for the family of and those closest to Mr. Gomez.  I have reached out to Elizabeth’s Mayor and Council members offering to meet to share information about our respective programs. 
As I mentioned in my email last week, last Monday the ad-hoc subcommittee formed to address eScooters (and all sharing programs – Bike and Car) met.  Councilmembers Cunningham and DeFusco couldn’t join so Councilwoman Jabbour joined me, Councilman Russo, Director Sharp and his team.  The takeaways were that we decided to work towards April 1st to re-launch a new pilot (may need to rethink this date because I was told AFD probably isn’t the best day to re-launch…).
How we get there:  we meet with all the big, we capitalized e-Scooter companies before the holidays to share the concerns and specific issues about Hoboken and collect information about what the “art of possible” is.  With this we prepare a detailed RFP to be sent by end of January that will incorporate very specific demands to address safety in particular.  These may include things like geo-fencing certain areas and one-way streets, having corrals instead of just leaving anywhere, a system that would put more financial burden on eScooter companies to enforce given our own lack of enforcement resources, and addressing insurance and liability concerns.  And then after we get responses, assuming they are acceptable, the idea is we would choose probably two companies (Jabbour raised valid operational concerns about having more than one) to relaunch with.  The bar will be very high and will have to be met before this comes back to the Council for a vote. 
To those of you who want to see e-Scooters come back, we welcome all input.  But please know that the subcommittee is absolutely aware of the demand and support for e-Scooters.  The best input you could provide is not just telling us how much you like them, but giving us ideas for improving the program so we can incorporate these thoughts into our discussions.
To those of you who do not want to see e-Scooters come back, please know that the subcommittee is keenly aware of your concerns.  The best input you could provide is no different than above – not just saying you hate them, but ideas you may have that could help address your biggest concerns. 
We may or may not get there but I can tell you we are going to try. And ALL of your input is crucial.  #MOREVOICES
SAD NEWS… For those of you who may not be aware, Hoboken is home to former State Senator and Assemblyman Bernie Kenny and his wife Roberta.  A few days ago, they awoke to the untimely passing of their oldest son Bernard Jr. who at just 36 passed in his sleep.  Bernie has a long history in New Jersey politics and has been a sage for me over the past few years.  I am so sad for his and his family’s loss.  Bernard leaves a sister Allie, a brother Francis and four amazing nieces and nephews.  And as I overheard someone recently say to Roberta, “Bernard had the best parents.” If you knew Bernard, or anyone in the Kenny family, please come to the service for him at Our Lady of Grace tomorrow morning at 11am. 
In Bernie’s own words “I am so proud to treasure him as my forever son and to be his forever father.  He was one of those special people we call a ‘good soul’… Please remember Bernard by heartfully accepting those you love.”
As always, please forward to anyone you think may be interested in receiving this.  And feel free to email me at [email protected] or call me at 201/208-1674 to discuss what you have read or anything else that is important to you.  Have the best Sunday and hug your kids.  I hope to see you tomorrow night at the Hoboken Terminal.
Hoboken City Council, 2nd Ward
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  • Tiffanie Fisher
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