Below is an update Mayor Bhalla provided to the City Council regarding various City initiatives
July 10, 2019
I write to inform you of some important updates pertaining to City projects being presented to the City Council at tonight’s meeting. Thank you for your consideration in supporting these agenda items.
Protected Bike Lane
Hoboken Transportation Director Ryan Sharp, City Engineer Kim Craft, and staff have been working diligently to introduce a plan for protected bike lanes in Hoboken. Protected bike lanes, which are being introduced in neighboring Jersey City and are found in New York and many other cities across the country, provide important design upgrades to make our streets safer for all modes of transportation – cyclists, pedestrians, and vehicles. Data from other cities with protected bike lanes has shown that crashes and injuries are reduced and sidewalk riding is reduced as riders feel safe and comfortable riding bicycles (or scooters) in the street.
The configuration of a protected bike lane on Clinton Street between Newark St and 8th St is under design by our City engineers, and will likely recommend placing the bike lane on the west side of the street next to the curb, followed by a “floating” parking lane that is separated from the bike lane by a striped buffer zone lined with flexible bollards. Parked cars will also help provide physical separation between the bike lane and vehicular traffic. Since cars would be parked in a “floating” parking lane at least seven feet from the curb with a protected bike lane, we are reviewing the possibility of whether or not cars will need to move for street cleaning when parked adjacent to a protected bike lane.
As Clinton Street is a bus route, the bus stops will continue to be located on the east side of the street, preventing conflicts with the bike lane. Bus stops will also be improved as a part of the project by our engineers and design team. It is my hope that if the pilot protected bike lane on Clinton Street is successful, we can extend protected bike lanes to other City streets that have the necessary width in order to have a connected network of low-stress protected bikeways.
As you may recall, in 2016, the City Council was not in favor of protected bike lanes on Washington Street. This is the one vote I regret as a Councilmember, as it is clear that we must do more to provide the road infrastructure to accommodate alternative transportation options and safe streets. We have a perfect opportunity to do so with this protected bike lane pilot and I hope to have your support.
Special Improvement District
Our small businesses are what make Hoboken a special place for both residents and visitors, and I am 100% supportive of a new Special Improvement District (SID) that will help revitalize our business community. SIDs have proven to be successful in over 90 cities across the State of New Jersey, including seven SIDs in neighboring Jersey City. The concept of the SID is to fund improvements to businesses through an assessment, which is reinvested back into the neighborhood.
SIDs could help fund various initiatives including street fairs, marketing opportunities, streetscaping, seasonal plantings, and more, while helping attract more people to patronize our local businesses. I strongly believe this will be a game changer and way to help revitalize our commercial corridors and demonstrate that Hoboken is committed to providing the tools necessary for our small businesses to thrive.
As you may know, Hoboken’s Special Improvement District proposes an assessment that is based on the subdistrict a business is located. For example, businesses on Washington Street will be given a different assessment than a business on the western side of the City, with businesses on main commercial corridors like Washington Street, 1st Street and near Hoboken Terminal given a higher assessment.
I thank all the members of the steering committee for advancing this proposal, which includes the establishment of a SID board and draft budget. I am hopeful for a unanimous vote in support of establishing Hoboken’s first ever Special Improvement District. Please see the attached SID feasibility study/executive summary for more information.
Open Space Referendum and E-Scooter public question
On the council agenda are several proposals to place on the ballot in November. I thank the City Councilmembers for voting to advance the proposal to place on the ballot a referendum to increase the Open Space Trust Fund by .01 cents per $100 of assessed value, and an ordinance allocating a portion of the Open Space Trust Fund for the development of parks, and hope these will be approved for second reading. In order for the City to build out Union Dry Dock into a public park, among other open space projects, an increase in the Open Space Trust Fund will be necessary so not to burden the taxpayers through the traditional budgeting process. I ask the Council to please support placing these referendums to voters, as required by law, to increase funding for the Open Space Trust Fund on the ballot, among other purposes.
Also on the agenda, for a second time is a proposal to place a non-binding public question on the ballot for residents to weigh in on the future of electric scooters in Hoboken. I respectfully ask that the five City Councilmembers reconsider the rejection of this proposal. As elected officials, it is my opinion that we owe it to our constituents to listen to more voices through a democratic process where everyone can fairly express their opinions. At the same time, we will continue to educate and improve the rules and regulations with the e-scooter companies – the two are not mutually exclusive. The non-binding question would be one of several measures that we would take into account in evaluating the future of the system. Thank you for your reconsideration of this proposal.
Supporting Affordable Housing
Hoboken is committed to providing dedicated funding for the creation of affordable housing, and I am fully supportive of Councilwoman Vanessa Falco’s ordinance to increase the amount of money paid by developers of both residential and non-residential development to Hoboken’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund. This new ordinance mandates a 1.5% residential fee for new buildings that are 10 residential units or less (those that are above 10 units already have a mandated 10% affordable housing requirement), and a 2.5% non-residential fee to be spent towards the creation of new affordable housing and affordability assistance programs. Developers are already required to pay the 2.5% non-residential fee towards the State of New Jersey and enacting the development fee ordinance only transfers revenue from eligible projects back to the City of Hoboken. Please see the attached memo on the proposed ordinance.
Closing Sinatra Drive on Sundays
A request that has been made to my office and the City Council is to close Sinatra Drive to traffic, potentially during certain time periods, on Sundays during July and August. I think this is a great idea and one that could help facilitate a good use of public space for a street market, local vendors, restaurants, and more. And I could think of no better place than our waterfront. I hope you can support this resolution to be introduced during new business that will make Sinatra Drive and our waterfront an even better destination for residents and visitors.
Thank you for your consideration, and please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions or concerns.
Ravi S. Bhalla