A Prophetic Vision for Succcessful and Failed Waterfronts
The first evening that Craig Whitaker came to Hoboken, we took a walking tour of the waterfront joined by several architects who lived in town. This was in 1990 before any development had taken place along Hoboken’s riverfront. We climbed over giant hunks of concrete and viewed the dilapidated piers and crumbling structures of Hoboken’s maritime past.
The Maxwell House Coffee Plant and Union Dry Dock were still in operation. But the Port Authority piers, Bethlehem Shipyards and Todd Shipyards were all deteriorating relics of Hoboken’s once thriving industrial and maritime waterfront. It was difficult for me to envision what this waterfront could become. Mr. Whitaker, however, had spent his entire professional career as an architect and planner understanding urban design and what made cities work. Read full story.
In its brief to the Court filed on May 15, the City argues, “This case is a classic example of bait and switch, in which a developer tells the public what it wants to hear in order to obtain governmental approvals — until the time comes to actually make good on those promises.” The City of Hoboken joined by the Fund for a Better Waterfront (FBW) and the Hudson Tea Building Condo Association filed a motion seeking summary judgment against the defendant developer Shipyard Associates.
Beginning in 1997 and throughout the approval process, the developer assured the City of Hoboken that it would provide public recreational and waterfront access improvements at the “North Pier” at the northern end of the site as part of its 1160-unit Shipyard project. Now that all of the residential and commercial units have been built, the developers argue that they were never bound by the agreement they signed with the City in 1997 and were always free to change their mind at any time. In its brief, the City responds: “Shipyard’s disdainful view of 1997 Agreement is not supported by the law.” Full story.
With the proper block size, the grid is inherently walkable. Proper block size is the key term here. Blocks with sides less than about 600 feet and perimeters less than 1,800 feet agglomerate together to form a connected network that behooves everyone whether traveling by foot, car, segway, or stroller. By its very geometry, the grid provides the connectivity necessary for good urbanism.
Brad Miller of Apt3media and Heather Gibbons of Paddy Films filming architect/planner Craig Whitaker for the video that will be launched this Sunday, May 19th at the Fund for a Better Waterfront Open House. In the video, Mr. Whitaker discusses the essential elements of urban design and planning that laid the foundation for the success of Hoboken’s south waterfront. More info.
Nearly 200 years ago, the NJ Supreme Court made a landmark decision preserving the right of public access to waters that are protected by the Public Trust Doctrine. The issue resurfaced as the Hoboken Planning Board considered an application by the Shipyard Associates to operate Pier 13 as a beer garden. The applicant repeatedly asserted that the pier is his private property, a claim the Board appeared to accept. However, the pier extends over the Hudson River, a body of water that is held in trust by the state for the benefit of the public. Will Hoboken’s Pier 13 Bring Bad Luck to Public Access?
In 1804, Col. John Stevens hired surveyor Charles Loss to create a plan for the new City of Hoboken. Col. Stevens owned 564 acres that would become much of the city as it is known today. This plan was referred to as the Loss Map of 1804. The Loss Map delineated Hoboken’s streets and the blocks and lots for private development. It also designated the town’s first two public parks, twin parks bounded by Fourth and Fifth Streets. Hudson Square, now known as Stevens Park or Fifth Street Park, was east of Hudson Street and came down to the Hudson River.
Woven across Manhattan Island is a vast tapestry of street and block that has been so successful in organizing the forces of urban development, it’s often hard to see the simple pattern that exists below the city’s skyscraper forest. Manhattan’s street grid is potentially the most powerful city building tool ever created. It has forced all new growth to integrate itself into the rest of the city, linking new into the old through interlocking blocks that have formed a geometrically simple yet complex urban structure. A structure that has fueled the island’s dense, mixed use, walkable, and transit friendly form that so many other cities try yet fail to achieve today.