Eminent Domain: An open letter to the Hoboken City Council: Eminent Domain Grand Street Hoboken

An open letter to the Hoboken City Council:
03/13/2006  Hoboken Reporter

Dear Editor:
Having just listened to a taped recording of the closed session of the Hoboken City Council meeting held back on March 1, 2006, I feel compelled to correct some misimpressions seemingly held by several council members.

I've lived on Grand Street between 10th and 11th since 1989. From their comments, it seems that certain council members believe that the Northwest Redevelopment Plan (NWRP) has somehow created the unique, quiet, historic enclave we residents of Grand Street are now looking to preserve. Nothing could be further from the truth!

The facts are this: in 1987, 10 years before the 'Blight Study' was conducted, Grand St. between 10th and 11th was already an established, residential/mixed-use community. The properties at 1015 Grand and 1021 Grand were converted from abandoned factories to condominiums by a private developer. The current residential building at the southeast corner of Grand and 11th was, until the mid 90s, a seasonally operated sweatshop, also since converted by private developers. The NWRP had yet to be even conceived when these three buildings along with the Applied Housing building on 10th and Grand, had established this neighborhood as a viable, mixed-use community, unique in all of Hoboken.

The NWRP seeks to seize the two operating businesses on the west side of Grand between 10th and 11th, through eminent domain, to then turn them over to a private developer, who plans to build 150 condos. This project will irrevocably alter and diminish the unique qualities that many long-term residents have come to love about our neighborhood; its quiet, cobble-stoned, tree-lined ambience.

It should be further noted that all the conversions done in the 80s and 90s on this street used existing structures, with only minor modifications and add ons. The current plan will inevitably lead to the demolition of these two buildings. Even Mark Settembre, speaking on behalf of the developer Ursa/Tarragon, said in an interview with The Jersey Journal, "...but the buildings have to come down."

Further, this is not a "NIMBY" issue; we residents have witnessed over the past eight years numerous developments 'in our back yard', at least eight major construction projects within a five-block radius. No, the destruction of the Kwitman factory and the storage space will bring to our quiet neighborhood the following: a massive demolition project, weeks of pile driving, 2-3 years of heavy construction, with the attendant hassles therein, not in our backyard, but right on our front doorstep. If someone were trying to destroy the essential nature of this neighborhood, this would be the way to do it. Yes, the 'Plan' would have to be changed...it's been changed repeatedly since its inception. The mistake made originally was including these two properties in the redevelopment zone, slating them for removal, instead of recognizing them as part of an already developed, viable, mixed-use neighborhood. Now would be a good time to correct that mistake.

I urge the council to reconsider this ill-conceived proposal and work out a new arrangement with Ursa/Tarragon, thereby avoiding a lawsuit regarding the legally questionable use of Eminent Domain in the seizure of private property for private financial gain, and the destruction of this unique neighborhood. That would be "doing the right thing."

Thomas Pini

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