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Open Letter from Mayor Zimmer Regarding Hoboken’s Waterfront




Hoboken, NJ - Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

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Dear Hoboken Residents,

I have always been upfront with you, whether it was to share good news, such as the potential sale of Hoboken University Medical Center, or to be straightforward with the challenges our City faces.

Today I write to tell you we�ve got one more unexpected hill to climb. Last Friday I received a report detailing that Boswell divers found quite a few issues that we will need to resolve to ensure that our incredible waterfront is fully repaired for all of us to enjoy for years to come. The price tag for repairing our entire public waterfront, including newly discovered problems with Pier A, and the previously known problems with Sinatra Field and Castle Point are estimated by Boswell Engineering at almost $20 million. This is almost $8 million in addition to the $12 million we have already bonded for Frank Sinatra Field and Castle Point repairs.

This figure does not include the Sinatra North roadway which is being repaired and largely funded by the County with cooperation from Applied. It also does not include the privately owned waterfront areas with public access that are still under review by Boswell Engineering.

The most surprising part of Boswell�s findings is that we have an estimated $3.6 million in damages that need to be addressed with Pier A that was built approximately 10 years ago. As the attached report from Boswell Engineering explains, the damage resulted not from shipworms, but from the fact that the mud line of the Hudson River under Pier A has receded by as much as 8 � feet in some areas, leaving the steel I-beam piles exposed to deterioration from the tides. Boswell Engineering has advised me that delaying the repairs will increase the expense since the deterioration will continue if not addressed.

I want to assure the public that Pier A is fully safe at this time, but in order to ensure that it remains safe going forward and to prevent costs from rising significantly, we will need to move quickly to rehabilitate Pier A. For this reason, I have asked Boswell to create bid specifications for the repairs of Pier A so this project can be put out to bid as soon as possible.

Explanation of Funding:
Over the last year, my Administration has developed several million dollars in potential funding for Sinatra Field and Castle Point Walkway through various sources. With this new report, my Administration will redouble our efforts in asking for assistance to try and reduce the costs to Hoboken taxpayers.

I will continue to try my hardest to seek funding, but I must be upfront with you: A significant portion of the costs for repairing our waterfront will have to come from our bonding capacity and/or from our surplus.

Implementing preventative measures going forward:
Now that we have a better understanding of the extent of our waterfront problems, I have asked Boswell engineering to develop their recommendations for maintenance going forward. Not only do we need to repair the waterfront, but I also want to make certain that we establish a clear preventative maintenance schedule and standards that will be a written blueprint and guide for the long term sustainability of our waterfront. My Administration will be working with Boswell to develop legislation that ensures proper maintenance of both our publicly and privately held waterfront.

I received the report on Friday afternoon, and wanted to share it as soon as possible because I know everyone is concerned about the future of our waterfront. This is not the news you were hoping to hear, but we must face our problems now, rather than letting them grow exponentially larger if left unchecked. While I wish the report were different, we will roll up our sleeves and confront this challenge head on.

The attached report provides a complete overview of the repairs that need to be completed in addition to Pier A. Unfortunately the projected cost for repairing Sinatra Field has also increased significantly. As Boswell completed its own due diligence, they determined that the previous quote was underestimated, and have now raised the total price of repairing Sinatra Field and Castle Point to $15 million up from $12 million, which the City previously bonded for.

The challenges we now face with maintaining Pier A demonstrate that maintaining parks built on piers over the water will continue to be very expensive for the City of Hoboken. While we are moving ahead with rebuilding Sinatra Field with the original design of a pier out over the water, this news about Pier A gives me pause. I told the Hoboken Reporter just last week that I thought it would be too complicated to try to change the design. However given the new cost projections, we as a community should seriously consider the alternative of rebuilding Sinatra Park on land, instead of building on piles over the water. As stated previously, it will cost $3.6 million to make repairs to Pier A, a park that was recently built, and it will also cost $3 million more than anticipated to rebuild Frank Sinatra Field and Castle Point. The concept of building on land was preliminarily evaluated by Boswell and discussed at the Open Space community meeting in December.

A decision to move Sinatra Park inland will require having the City Council fund a planner so that a design can be developed that fully integrates the City�s Sinatra Field, Stevens garage, and Sinatra Drive. All of this is feasible, but it will require consensus and cooperation between the City Council and the Administration. When I return from holiday with my family this week, I will be reaching out to each Council member directly to try to understand their perspective on this important issue. In addition, I have asked Boswell to provide the City with cost projections for maintaining our waterfront for the long term with and without Sinatra Field built on piers versus built on land.

Frank Sinatra North and privately held property:
I have asked Boswell to provide a written update on the Frank Sinatra North roadway as well. Until that report is distributed, I can tell you that I have been advised verbally that the Frank Sinatra road repair is moving ahead as planned.

Before my Administration can release Boswell�s review of the privately held property that may need repair, we intend to review our findings with the property owners directly, as they are ultimately responsible for the cost of all repairs. Since the walkways that may need repairs are accessible to the public, my Administration will be working closely with the private property owners to ensure that any necessary repairs are completed as expeditiously as possible.

Community meeting:
Once Boswell completes its full evaluation of the waterfront including privately held property that is accessible to the public, then we will hold another community meeting to provide everyone with the opportunity to discuss the challenges we face with our waterfront directly with our City engineer. Email waterfront@hobokennj.org to sign up for our email list if you want to receive notices directly.

State of the City Address:
I also want to let you know that I am planning to give a State of the City address in February to give everyone my views on where Hoboken stands and my vision for our City going forward. The date and location will be announced soon.

Again, I know this is disturbing news. I share your frustration. The decisions that led to our predicament today were made years ago by past Administrations, and must be evaluated based on the information that was available at that time. The City Council and I must take full responsibility for ensuring that we address these repairs as safely, cost-effectively, and expeditiously as possible going forward.

While this is a setback, I have no doubt that together, we will face this challenge and ensure that our waterfront is repaired and protected as the treasure of our City.

Thanks for listening.

Best regards,

Mayor Dawn Zimmer

Click here to view the Boswell waterfront inspection report.

Click here to view the waterfront properties map created by Boswell.

Click here to view the memo from Mayor Zimmer to the City Council.


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