NJDEP Chooses Flood Protection Plan for Hoboken

By Briana Vannozzi

It was the calmest and most amiable of the dozens of community meetings over how to protect Hoboken and its neighboring cities from storm surges like Sandy.

“We really appreciate the input that we have received from the community throughout the process, and that is how we’ve reached this milestone,” said Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer.

The solution is known as “Alternative 3”. Zimmer and the Department of Environmental Protection announced the choice during a public hearing at Stevens Institute of Technology.

“Alternative 3 strikes the right balance addressing the need for flood protection with urban design, by activating public spaces and enhancing the quality of life, while minimizing private property impacts,” said NJDEP Assistant Commissioner for Engineering and Construction David Rosenblatt.

What it means is a flood resistant structure — policy speak for a wall — will be constructed from 19th Street in Weehawken extending south into Hoboken, slightly inland. Another structure will be built along the southern end of Hoboken. And will pump out rain and floodwater allowing for a slow release to the city’s sewer system.

“This plan protects a majority of our residents and our businesses, our critical infrastructure, our sewer authority, our substations, the Housing Authority. It’s extremely important that we help and protect the Housing Authority. It would be fully protected. Our fire stations, three of our fire stations, our hospitals. So critical assets along with the residents and businesses,” Zimmer said.

“The idea of putting some massive structure on Washington Street I thought was a non-starter. So that’s off the table so it just feels like it’s in an area that’s not super impactful for everyday life but can still be deployed to get maximum benefit,” said Hoboken resident Jeremy Vuolo.

Unlike the other proposals, this design comes much further inland to protect about 85 percent of the city. And as renderings show, blends in using carefully designed landscaping while also creating public recreation areas.

“It seems to benefit the most people for the least amount of money and effort,” said Hoboken resident Ilise Benun.

“Hoboken is a bathtub and what you have to do is you have to prevent access into the bathtub and all of the plans would have done that at varying expense,” said Dave Hunt of Hoboken.

Ultimately only about 52 buildings will be left unprotected from that so-called bathtub effect. Most chose to opt out for aesthetic or personal reasons.

The project is part of a $230 million federal grant.

“This is, I think, a very good compromise that addresses the concerns, I will say extensive concerns, the community had about waterfront access and I’m going to keep advocating to help residents understand what are your options to potentially individually protect your buildings,” Zimmer said.

Reaction was largely positive. Residents said it was the best case scenario out of an ultimately undesirable situation. Construction is slated to begin in 2019 and will take three years to complete.