Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hoboken Rail Yards Task Force Applauds Approval of Planning Firm for NJT Rail Yards Project

The Hoboken Rail Yards Task Force formed in late 2008 after it was clear that the developers and planners selected by New Jersey Transit to work on plans for the City-designated redevelopment zone had not been listening to public input at their community meetings.

Since that time, the group has been urging City Council and the Mayor's administration to bring in a new planner to restart the planning process for the site. A Task Force member volunteered for the advisory board working with City Council planning subcommittee and the City's planning department to select a firm to direct a new planning process. The firm chosen, Wallace Roberts ad Todd, has the right skills and experience for the job.

The rest of the details are in the press release below....

Hoboken Rail Yards Task Force Applauds City’s Approval of a
Planning Firm for Phase 1 of Rail Yards Redevelopment Zone

Hoboken, NJ – Feb. 23, 2011 – The Hoboken Rail Yards Task Force, a group of concerned residents working together to help ensure an open and community-based approach to developing the rail yards redevelopment zone, applauds Hoboken City Council for its unanimous approval of a planning firm, Wallace Roberts & Todd, LLC, to create a redevelopment plan for Phase One, a two-acre portion of the 52-acre New Jersey Transit property.

The firm was selected through a competitive bid process by a review team composed of the City Council’s Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Subcommittee; the city’s Community Development Director, Brandy Forbes; a member of the Quality of Life Coalition; and a member of the Hoboken Rail Yards Task Force.

WRT has been tasked with the first phase of the project, developing a detailed plan for a two-acre parcel covering the site of the current bus depot and a former maintenance building. The second phase will address the rest of the 52-acre redevelopment zone. WRT’s scope of work includes building consensus among the multiple stakeholders in the site through one-on-one interviews and conducting public outreach to keep local residents informed.

The Hoboken Rail Yards Task Force will monitor the planning process and encourage local residents to provide input whenever possible.

“The Rail Yards represent 8% of the city’s territory and serve as a key entrance point to the city from the east, south and west,” says task force member Diana Davis. “They will set a tone for Hoboken’s quality of life. The Rail Yards could be Hoboken’s next great neighborhood, but only if the planning incorporates community input and complies with the appropriate redevelopment process.”

Feedback on NJTransit’s Latest Proposal

A two-phased approach was necessitated by a proposal made late last year by New Jersey Transit and a major developer to accommodate a commercial tenant in a new 500,000-square-foot building that would house the unnamed commercial client, as well as a new bus depot. [A photo of NJT’s proposed design is attached. More photos from the Dec. 14 event are available online at:]

Proposed BusTerminal depicted to the right of office building.
The Hoboken Rail Yards Task Force reviewed NJ Transit’s proposal and provided feedback to the Mayor, City Council and the City’s Planning Director last month. The group’s chief concerns with NJ Transit’s plans are:

Piecemeal plan undermines holistic approach: NJT should wait until a city-appointed planner has a chance to complete a thorough, thoughtful plan for the entire 52-acre site, with public input. Also, by New Jersey land-use law, an official developer first needs to be approved by Hoboken’s City Council, the official redevelopment agency.

Height rivals the W Hotel, looms over Terminal clock tower: The height of the proposed building—260 feet—is 35 feet taller than the historic terminal’s iconic clock tower, and nearly as high as the tallest building on the waterfront, the W Hotel. In addition, it is much more massive than the W and threatens to obscure many street views of the historic terminal building.

Building mass is out of scale: At a half-million square feet, the building’s bulk is out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood. Public input should guide the allowable height and density of any development there. A 3-D computer-generated model would help citizens understand the real impact of various building sizes.

Infrastructure impacts ignored: NJT’s plan doesn’t address concerns about infrastructure improvements that have been raised by city officials and many residents at the previous meetings. Fully occupied, such a massive building might severely strain current sewer, power, roadway and parking resources. NJT didn’t address the complexity of building over existing PATH train platform and rails.

Transportation impacts: While the new plan addresses concerns raised by the previous proposal about rerouting bus traffic, NJT didn’t provide details about parking and car circulation on the site for the commercial tenants.

About the Hoboken Rail Yards Task Force

The Task Force was formed in the wake of a series of public meetings held by Hoboken’s Planning Department in 2008 to present the NJ Transit Rail Yards redevelopment plan. When it was clear by the third meeting that NJT’s designated planners, FXFOWLE, had incorporated none of the feedback expressed by members of the community at the first two meetings, the group convened to advocate development of the rail yards in a scale and manner that complements the larger community it will be joining.

The rail yards along the southern edge of Hoboken have served as a highly efficient transportation nexus for more than a century. The terminal itself is on the National Register of Historic Places. New development at this crucial gateway to Hoboken will impact the city for many generations. For more information, contact Diana Davis at 201-927-8395. ◦