A sizable addition could be coming to one of the Mile Square City’s newest parks if a legal settlement and legislation to approve and fund the deal move forward later today.
Hoboken has been exploring different ways to expand the Southwest Park since at least 2019 and nearby landowner Academy Bus initially proposed some new greenery as part of a large mixed-use project across the street. Local officials quickly shot down that plan and instead filed litigation looking to eminent domain land at 111 Paterson Avenue.
Owned by Academy Bus subsidiary Jefferson Street Partners II LLC, the parcel runs about an acre in size. Hoboken made an initial offer of $5.3 million for the land in their lawsuit, but Academy Bus had publicly argued the parcel’s value was closer to $13 million.
The parties have put aside their differences and negotiated a settlement agreement that dictates the city dismiss their litigation in favor of “consensually acquiring” the property for $11 million. The purchase price will be funded by a $900,000 grant from Hudson County’s Open Space Trust Fund and a $1 million grant from Green Acres, with the balance coming from the Municipal Open Space Trust fund.
“After many months of negotiating with Academy, I’m pleased we have come to an agreement that will finally double the size of our Southwest Resiliency Park,” said Mayor Bhalla. “This agreement not only paves the way to create more open space in our neighborhood, but also does so without trading massive residential density rights.”
In exchange, Hoboken will amend the Southwest Hoboken Redevelopment Plan to allow Academy Bus to construct 25 additional residential units, including five affordable ones, on other properties they own in the neighborhood. Those changes would be subject to negotiations of any future redevelopment agreement.
The settlement allows Hoboken to access the land prior to the sale’s finalization for the purpose of constructing a temporary public park. The mayor’s office says the city will be utilizing equipment from the previous Northwest pop-up park on the project while a community process to design the permanent resiliency park moves forward.
“It has been a long road but the park will serve as the centerpiece for the continuing revitalization of Southwest Hoboken,” said City Council President Ruben Ramos. “We will be working to have the space available for use as a pop-up park for the summer.”
The city council will be voting tonight on a resolution to execute the settlement with Academy Bus and another that would award a $17,500 professional services contract to Kimley-Horn and Associates to engineer the design of the pop-up park. A pair of separate ordinances will also be considered; the first would authorize the land purchase, while the second would set aside $8.1 million in bonds towards funding the land’s acquisition slated to be financed over 30 years.
Both the land purchase authorization and bonding ordinances would need to be passed on a second reading by the council during a subsequent meeting, which could possibly happen later this month. Pending approval, the city says officials will host a community meeting to discuss the future of the park in the coming weeks.
The settlement comes at a scandal-plagued time for Academy Bus. The company was sued last year by New Jersey’s attorney general amid claims they defrauded taxpayers out of more than $15 million by underreporting missed trips and charging for lines that never ran. Several of their contracts with the state have since been terminated.
The city council’s April 7 meeting will be held virtually on Zoom. It begins at 7:00 p.m. and can be joined at this link.