Friends of the Weehawken Waterfront
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The following is a statement read into the record at the Weehawken Planning Board hearing in which the Weehawken Planning Board memorialized Roseland Propertys development application for Phase One. Roseland received approval from the planning board to build 58 townhouses on the waterfront just north of the Banana Building.
January 5th, 1998 9:00 PM Weehawken Town Hall, 400 Park Ave., Weehawken, NJ
The decision to accept the design of Roseland Property will go down as one of the greatest blunders in the history of Weehawken municipal affairs and serve as a text book example of bad municipal government at its worst. The planning board has shown absolutely no leadership whatsoever in helping to shape the design of Phase One and to integrate it with a comprehensive design plan for the entire Weehawken waterfront. Except for some minor alterations, the planning board has passively accepted and rubber-stamped Roselands flawed design and segmented approach.
Phase 1 is fundamentally flawed because it has embedded a natural conflict in its design. The backyards of the townhouses will be buttressed against the public waterfront walkway. A conflict between public and private domains will arise. Eventually the owners of the condominiums will not want to see visitors of the walkway because it violates the privacy of their backyards. When this happens, the walkway will get fenced off and closed to the public, which is precisely what happened at Shelter Bay Condominiums in Edgewater, NJ.
It is not good enough for the law to say the waterfront is public. It is not good enough to enforce the law. Only a thoughtful and prudent design will insure a truly public walkway in spirit and practice. A good design will look and feel open to the public so a passerby feels they are welcome to take a walk. After Mayor Turner is gone what guarantees do we have that the walkway in front of the Roseland townhouse will not be fenced off?
This design flaw can be remedied by placing a road between the public and private space which would guarantee permanent public access. The planning board could plot a street to separate public from private. This is within their municipal rights and Roseland would have to accept it. Mayor Turner is on record at the last hearing, on Nov. 5th, 1998, stating he preferred a design in which a road separates public space from private space. If the Mayor believes this is the best design, why has he voted for the opposite? Well hell say we have to compromise. He didnt just comprise, he completely capitulated. He let this developer roll right over him. he practically lobbied for this design flaw. The question is why did he do this?
Roseland does development as a profession, full time. They have full time lawyers, architects and consultants. But they understandably have no inherent reason to defend the interests of the Weehawken residents. Roseland Property has understandably made no attempt to design Phase One as a truly public waterfront. In the long run, a truly public waterfront would add value to the private property. But what does Roseland care about the long term value of the property? Once they sell the condos, their interest is gone. Theyre out of here. Who is going to defend the long term value of the private property?
The citizens of Weehawken are going to defend the value. However, we are not experts, we have full time jobs and do not have the resources to defend our own interests. We are handicapped. So we look to our Mayor for help and leadership in shaping this design for the benefit of Weehawken. Mayor Turner has shown no leadership but rather he has shown a thinly veiled contempt for his constituents; making offhand, snide, belittling remarks about how little we know about municipal land use law, how little we know about the development process and how little we can do. He has effectively told us how helpless we are.
We have since learned to the contrary. The town can do considerably more than the mayor is willing to admit. The town ultimately has the sovereign right and power over the right of a corporation. The town can plot the street grid on the waterfront thereby controlling the height and density and public access. The town council can indeed change the zoning code. Its just a matter of political will. The mayor wants us to believe he cant do anything. When we looked to him for leadership, he failed us. He practically lobbied on Roselands behalf.
We have learned how Hudson County politics works.
Why have so many of the officers of Roseland Property given the maximum legal donations to Congressman Menendez? They dont live in his district. Laura Staines, architect for Martin Architectural, lives in Pennsylvania, why did she donate money?. Which begs the question who is Congressman Menendez beholden to? Why am I bringing this up? Because it begs the next question: Why did Mayor Turner endorse Congressman Menendez?. Who is Mayor Turner beholden to?
Now that the planning board has memorialized Phase One, I move that when construction is completed, we place a plaque, on the walkway commemorating the action of the planning board tonight.
So that in the year 2050 a jogger passing by, can read the plaque and know the reason this part of the walkway is fenced off.
And the plaque will read:
"This walkway is fenced off because on January 5th, 1999 Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner and the planning board did not have the civic mindedness, the sense of civic duty and the civic willingness to take the time to design a truly spectacular public waterfront. Nor did they have the political courage to stand up to Roseland Property and exercise their sovereign municipal rights over the rights of any private individual or corporation."
Thank you very much.
Robert KotchFriends of the Weehawken Waterfront