Emerging Hoboken neighborhood awaits election

TRD New York /
Oct.October 04, 2007 01:56 PM

The future of the last large undeveloped swath of Hoboken hinges on a November special City Council election, as pro- and anti-development candidates face off.

Former Councilman Christopher Campos has cheered the city’s building boom, while former Councilwoman Dawn Zimmer wants to scale back development proposals for southwest Hoboken. Campos served six years before Zimmer won the seat.

While there have been some loft conversions in the neighborhood in recent years, the industrial southwest sector is lined with factories and parking lots and hasn’t seen the kind of residential boom that has swept through the rest of New Jersey’s Gold Coast.

With the city preparing a redevelopment plan for 13 acres in the old industrial southwestern neighborhood, the winner will play a key role in finalizing the plan. Up for debate are the size of a proposed park in the redeveloped zone’s center and limits on buildings’ density and height.

The plan calls for retail space to be included at the base of all new development.

Campos said he wants to develop a comprehensive zoning plan that would include parks and flood protection.

“We are the last section of Hoboken to prosper from development,” Campos said. “Development does not have to be a bad word.”

Zimmer has focused on flood issues and calls for limiting buildings to six stories, as opposed to the city’s 12-story norm and the 15 stories that the neighborhood has seen recently. She has called for a six-acre park.

Some new developments in southwest Hoboken include the Sky Club, the Toll Brothers 325-unit luxury complex near the Jersey City line that opened in 2004 and 2005, and One Halstead’s Harrison Court, a 52 unit condominium.

While the neighborhood’s industrial legacy and flooding problems have hindered development, a new light rail station that opened in 2005 on the neighborhood’s western edge has sparked interest.

John Tomai, a Liberty Real Estate sales executive, said the 13-acre southwestern plot, which includes a parking lot, bus parking and a bar, “is the only plot of land that is developable in the area,” and that it “is the political football in Hoboken right now.”

Lisa Macchi, Millennium Homes’ executive vice president, said Hoboken’s strong residential market will spread to the southwest. Milliennium, long a suburban developer, is studying Hudson County’s urban markets.

Councilman Peter Cammarano III, who also serves on the planning board, said a final vote by the council won’t come until after the November election.

Zimmer said that flooding has worsened since the April nor’easter, which left the southwest underwater, and that the city’s combined storm and sewer lines have spilled sewage onto streets during floods.

“If we don’t take action and solve this flood problem, the real estate market in southwest Hoboken will collapse,” Zimmer said.

The race has been contentious, even by New Jersey standards. Zimmer beat Campos by eight votes in a June election, a result Campos challenged in court, alleging election fraud. A state judge ordered a rerun of the election and Zimmer surrendered the seat after serving over two months on the Council.

Campos has charged that Zimmer attempted to buy votes by attaching lottery tickets to campaign literature. Zimmer compared the lottery tickets to hot dogs that Campos has given away.

Zimmer has accused Campos of intimidating voters and accepting campaign contributions from developers.

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