Thursday, May 17, 2012

4th Ward Park Eminent Domain Ordinance Passes 7-1 on First Reading - Mayor Zimmer remarks

Last night, May 16th at Hoboken's City Council meeting the ordinance to acquire Block 12 through eminent domain if necessary was introduced and passed on first reading 7-1. The lone dissenting vote was Mike Russo. Councilwoman Terry Castellano was not present at the meeting. The passing on first reading simply allows the ordinance to a second reading at the next City Council meeting. At the next meeting scheduled for Wednesday June 6th,  the City Council can discuss the merits of such an ordinance and the public can comment. Any 4th Ward resident interested in seeing a park come to their ward is can help that cause by  attending the next Hoboken City Council meeting and have your voice heard Wednesday June 6th at 7pm.

Mayor Dawn Zimmer a 4th Ward resident herself is on record as committing to a a park for the 4th ward and part of block 12 is sought to at least create a 1 acre park in the South West area of Hoboken. Part of this block is  currently used as a surface parking lot. Negotiations with the developer have not been conclusive and this ordinance gives the Mayor the authority to acquire the land through the Constitutionally protected process of eminent domain. The Mayor's prepared remarks advocating for this ordinance are printed below for whoever did not get a chance to hear about the meeting or has not yet heard the mayor's stance on the issue...

 Mayor Zimmer’s remarks on a Southwest Park 

City Council Meeting, May 16, 2012

 "It has been a long road in our fight for a Southwest Park. 

Back in 2006 I was one of several community members for the original Southwest Parks Coalition Steering Committee.

I remember being petrified to speak at my first Council meeting.

My commitment to a Southwest park ultimately led me to run for 4th Ward Council. 

Since that time, the City Council has repeatedly expressed its unanimous support for the creation of a Southwest Park.

Now it is time for all of us to put our money where our mouth is. 

It is time for us to show we mean what we say by finally delivering on the first part of what ultimately could become a large park in Southwest Hoboken.

This could finally be the start of a park that benefits all Hoboken residents and especially the underserved 4th Ward residents.

Expressing support in an election time mailer is easy, but when we make those promises we have an obligation to deliver more than just words---

We have an obligation to deliver the park that we promised. 

I’ve heard several justifications from Council members planning to vote no against tonight’s ordinance. I would like to directly respond to those concerns:

First some Council members may feel that the redevelopment or rehab process is somehow the less expensive way of creating park space because instead of writing a check we can get the park land for free.

Let’s be clear:  Nothing is for free.  A giveback for park land will come with larger densities much generally much more valuable than the direct cost of acquisition. 

Some Council members have said that this land is too small for a park, so why bother acquiring it. 

First, if the City Council designates the area in need of rehab or redevelopment, then you will be in a position to expand the size of the park.

I will work to create a larger park space, but ask you to recognize that even a 1-acre park would benefit the community. Just as the one-acre parks of 1500 Park and Maxwell Place serve Northwest residents, so too would a one-acre park in Southwest Hoboken. 

Finally, 4th Ward residents are just as entitled to adequate park space as residents in other neighborhoods.  The closest dog run is a full 15-20 minute walk away in Church Square Park. 

For those who think Church Square Park is too crowded, enabling Hoboken residents to use a park in their neighborhood would be a huge benefit, and help alleviate the overcrowding.

Finally, some of you have expressed concern with regard to eminent domain.  While I strongly oppose the use of so-called Kelo eminent domain which involves taking property from one owner to another for development purposes, I believe eminent domain for park space truly represents an important public purpose.  

As elected officials we must use the City’s resources as wisely as possible while working to improve the quality of life for all Hoboken residents. If we are truly committed to providing more parks in Hoboken, then the only way to responsibly do this is to use all the tools legally available to the City including eminent domain for park space.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, this Council needs to fully understand that a no vote means risking $3 million in county grant money.

For the last year my Administration has worked with you, and been guided by your votes. Most recently the Council voted 9-0 on March 7th for the City to send offer letters to Block 12 property owners. 

Turning around and asking us to consider completely different properties at the last minute is a mirage the public will see right through. You may want to look like you support a park in the Southwest, but in reality you will be failing to support the first real concrete steps taken to acquire land for a Southwest park.
If you are committed to a Southwest park, if you want to make certain that the City does not lose $3 million in grant money, then I urge you to vote yes.

Thank you."