By Amanda Palasciano Hudson Reporter
A bond ordinance was introduced authorizing the construction of the city’s permanent 9/11 memorial, appropriating the sum of $500,000 and authorizing the city to sell $475,000 in bonds.
The anti-Zimmer faction on the council was displeased with the ordinance for a variety of reasons, and ultimately defeated the measure, with Councilwoman Theresa Castellano, Russo, Occhipinti and Councilwoman Beth Mason voting no.
Occhipinti asked for a history of the project. Director of Development Brandy Forbes said the original design concept, which was done before her time, was later changed. During the administration of Mayor David Roberts, the project was originally proposed to cost more than $4 million. It was later scaled down when the economy worsened.
Forbes said that in or around 2006, without benefit of an engineer’s advice, $115,000 in glass panels were purchased for the memorial, and another $250,000 was spent on the design, which depleted the grants given and the money raised for the project to a balance of $180,000. Once an engineer was brought on, the glass panels were found to be structurally unsuitable for the project because they could not withstand certain weather conditions.
The city is now returning to the original design, but intends to replace the glass panels with sturdier DuPont glass or a substance of comparable quality. Forbes said that an example of the glass is what is used at the “Top of the Rock” on Rockefeller Center in New York.
“Basically we took close to $400,000, and we burned it,” said Russo. “Now we’re coming back and asking for another half million dollars. This is 12 years later and close to a million dollars. This is a slap in the face to those who lost loved ones and to the city of Hoboken that we can’t get our act together.”
Castellano said that a local 9/11 citizens’ committee had not been included in the design process since 2010. Forbes said that she has been in communication with the committee and that they are on board.
Occhipinti said that he wanted to have the glass panels weather-tested at Stevens Institute.
“I know the game,” said Bhalla. “It’s stall tactics. ‘Let’s get an engineering report, let’s get Stevens testing.’” Bhalla accused the critical council members of politicizing the issue.
“I’m not going down this road until a final plan is in front of me with no more hiccups,” said Russo.
The Zimmer-allied members on the council said defeat of the ordinance further delayed an already delayed process.
Mayor Zimmer said Thursday, “I’m surprised and disappointed that they’d vote this down. There were briefings during the budget workshop and the 9/11 memorial came up. They were able to ask questions. Director Forbes has worked extremely hard and we could lose the grant money if this keeps getting delayed. They are trying to hurt me but they are really hurting the residents of Hoboken.”