Do you ever have those moments when you look around you and you just feel lucky to be part of something special that’s bigger than you? That was last night. I heard that DeBaun Auditorium seats 450. I can tell you that the lower level alone has ~320 seats (I counted). And we filled the house!
Approximately 50 speakers walked up to the stage last night and spoke for 3 minutes each. They ranged from experts and professionals, elected officials, and private citizens. And the Army Corps was gracious to let all the speakers be heard by extending the hearing until about 930.
For those of us who have been closer to the specifics on this, we felt that all topics were covered. From the very specific legal aspects of the application, to the marine life concerns, to the concerns about contaminants and the effect of having diesel fuel on our waterfront, to the concerns about losing Hoboken Cove altogether as a recreational area. And interestingly, I would argue that there was very little duplication from the speakers. Like a giant puzzle where all the pieces fit perfectly.
Highlights for me personally:
- Seeing 400+ people in the audience at 6pm. Then almost the same number at 8pm. At 9:08pm I tweeted that there were still over a 100 people there.
- The crowd was very respectful of all speakers – clapping and cheering for those against the application. And being quiet for those in support – mainly union workers concerned about their jobs and some Hoboken residents concerned about the loss of ferry service or supportive of having a working waterfront.
- So many new faces that I have never seen speak before. I believe everyone has that issue that gets them off the couch, and I think this was one of those issues for some.
- So many people who said “I have lived in Hoboken for X years” and the X was greater than 15. (Nothing against those who haven’t lived here that long… yet!). I just started my 25th year btw...
- My favorite messages were the history lessons – some spoke of the long history of Hoboken’s waterfront and its role in World War I. But I mostly appreciated the messages from people who grew up in Hoboken and are around my age (39yetagain) or older and talked about their own history - how the waterfront has evolved in their lifetime. From not being able to access it as a kid, to seeing it the amazing public park that it is today. And recognizing the effort of community advocates and elected officials in the process. One elected official captured it best by saying having a public waterfront has been a community goal for decades.
- Sam Pesin, president of Friends of Liberty State Park and who’s father Morris Pesin founded Liberty State Park, spoke about the courage needed to make history. (if you at all enjoy LSP, I encourage you to click on the link...)
- Many people describing why this is not a NIMBY issue. Many people even cited that we would support NYWW going to Lackawana – so still in our backyard. Just not in the middle of a residential and recreational area.
- Finally, one of our long standing neighbors – Rose Orozco – was asked to step in and read into the record a written message from a group of Hispanic fisherman who fish off the pier adjacent to the UDD site. To me that was a personal highlight as I love Rose and all she does for our community, but it just seemed to capture all that Hoboken is.
So a herculean thank you to all who got off the couch and came out last night. To those who spoke against the permit and those who spoke for it. Because all voices matter. And I would encourage all of you to send a note/post on social media and thank Fund for a Better Waterfront, Hoboken Residents for a Better Waterfront, Hoboken Cove Boathouse, our amazing local ecologist Noelle Thurlow and Resilience Paddleboard, residents of Maxwell Place, Mayor Bhalla, and the entire City Council who are all working to try to save our waterfront. It is their collaboration and leadership on this issue for our community that makes a difference.
So what’s next you ask?
The City of Hoboken and NJ Transit are each doing a location analysis to assess optimal locations for ferry operations. Hopefully these will be completed soon. IMHO, I also think we also send a letter to Governor Murphy and to Kevin Corbett, the Executive Director of NJ Transit and tell them about our meeting last night and ask them to seriously consider having NYWW at Lackawanna as part of the Hudson Railyards Project and/or the filling in of the long slip. This is potentially a triple win for them and for us and even for NYWW.
Have a great rest of the week! And I hope you all feel as great about our special community as I do this morning. As always, feel free to reach out if you want to discuss further by email or by phone 201/208-1674.