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Sinatra Park Update and More From Mayor Zimmer

In a memo to the City Council dated June 25th, Mayor Dawn Zimmer provided an update on a variety of important topics including Sinatra Park, Pier A Park, the 9/11 Memorial, and more. Click here to download the full memo. The text of the memo is also included below. Basically it boils down to the fact that Sinatra Park repairs will be more than initially expected. Last night a special meeting was held and the City Council was briefed on the impact to the south wall of Sinatra Park. Boswell, the current engineering firm on the project was contracted to scope the additional damages in a 7-0 unanimous vote. Council members Michael Russo and Beth Mason were not present.

When Boswell completes its assessment of addti0nal scope, The City Hoboken will have a better idea of the adjusted schedule. The bad news for Hoboken residents is that the field at Sinatra Park will take longer to re-mediate than initially expected.

“June 25, 2012-

Dear City Council Members,

I’m writing to provide an update on several very important issues.

Sinatra Park
When we began the process of developing plans to repair Sinatra Field, Boswell Engineering originally wanted to conduct repairs through an “encapsulation.” This would have turned all of the area under the field into solid land, whereas currently the river flows beneath portions of the field. The Department of Environmental Protection indicated they would not permit this because it would involve the loss of habitat under approximately 1/3 of the field.

Boswell’s inspections at the time indicated that the wooden piles holding up the field had 30% to 50% section loss. Based on this information and the DEP’s limitations, it was determined that the most cost-effective and responsible construction method was to rehabilitate the piles by encasing them in reinforced concrete. Through this approach, there would be no need to remove the existing low-level relieving platform and the soil above it. After nearly a year and a half of negotiations, the DEP and Army Corps of Engineers granted us permission to proceed with construction.

When construction work began, divers noticed a dramatic increase in the deterioration of the piles. What took nearly 100 years to deteriorate by 30% to 50% had in just two years doubled to 50% to 100%. The structure was considered unsafe and we had to remove the divers and halt construction work. Rehabilitating the piles is no longer an option, and we must instead do a complete reconstruction with a new high level platform.

As a result, Boswell has discussed modified plans with the DEP and the Army Corps of Engineers and they plan to submit new plans this week to request a modification to the DEP permit. The revised plan calls for installing temporary sheeting all around the pier and drying it out so that the work becomes a land job, for cost and safety reasons. Whereas originally Boswell had proposed a permanent encapsulation, in this case the habitat under the pier would be restored following the reconstruction. For this reason, we are hopeful the DEP will approve of our request. Because the work will require a complete reconstruction, the existing under deck and 12,000 tons of fill would need to be removed and disposed of and a new deck and piers built. This would result in a structure similar to Pier C or the walkway north of the park, including the Stevens walkway.

Some Council members have suggested that the firms that designed and built the park should be held accountable and pay for the costs of repairs. The park was built in the late 1990s under Mayor Russo’s Administration. If the Council chose to go in this direction, it would require a very challenging costly investigation and legal battle.

Based on discussions with legal and engineering professionals, I believe this would be a fruitless effort that would only waste taxpayer money. If however, the Council wants to pursue this avenue, the first step would involve hiring outside counsel for this investigation. Since there is no funding for this in the budget, the Council would need to approve an emergency appropriation. In addition, the Council would need to agree to use its subpoena powers to subpoena Mayor Russo and members of his Administration to determine the facts of why the field was designed and built on top of the 100-year old pilings as a start to the investigation.

Should the Council choose to go in this direction, the Council should consult with the Office of Corporation Counsel about drafting a resolution to commence an investigation to be prepared for the next regularly scheduled Council meeting. Even if the Council chooses to proceed with an investigation, the items on the agenda for tonight’s meeting must be considered at this time in order to properly protect the City’s interests.

Again, I disagree with conducting an investigation because I think it will be a waste of money and time, but I want the Council to understand your option. I firmly believe we should focus on getting the park completed for Hoboken residents.

Some Council members have suggested that we now move the entire field on to land to avoid some of the increased costs for repairing the field. My Administration proposed this concept nearly one year ago and did not receive public or Council support for it.

While moving the field back on land could save some costs, it has the following major disadvantages:

1. It would require taking away 40-45 parking spaces on Sinatra Drive and would result in the loss of at least $80,000 in annual revenue as well.

2. In addition, Sinatra Café would need to be demolished to make space for the field. This would require approval from Green Acres since they funded the structure, and also result in the loss of an estimated revenue of $60,000 annually (This is our projected revenue once the café is rebid).

3. Additionally, we would be taking on the costs of rebuilding Sinatra Café which would most likely be required by Green Acres.

4. Bringing the field back on to land would also most likely require a new DEP permit.  This new waterfront development permit could take another year to receive.

For all these reasons, my Administration proposes rebuilding the field at its current site and size. I look forward to seeing some of you for the onsite tour prior to the Council meeting.”

……

Click here to download the full memo.

[This includes updates on Pier A Park, Emnet and the 9/11 memorial.]

Sincerely,

Mayor Zimmer

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