New design for Hoboken 9/11 memorial

Carlo Davis Hudson Reporter

A long-awaited permanent memorial to the Hoboken residents who died in the attacks of September 11, 2001 appears closer than ever to fruition, though not without one final facelift.

Held up for years over concerns about cost and design, the concept now considered by the administration of Mayor Dawn Zimmer would deploy glass panels (already purchased by her predecessor) in a linear structure pointing toward Ground Zero in Pier A Park, according to Health and Human Services director Leo Pellegrini.

A rendering of the proposed Hoboken 9/11 Memorial Hudson Reporter

A rendering of the proposed Hoboken 9/11 Memorial Hudson Reporter

The preliminary concept, which must still be fleshed out and approved by the City Council, would replace an earlier design for two raised semicircular platforms on Pier A using the same panels.

One of the primary stumbling blocks preventing a plan from moving forward has been eliminated. According to Pellegrini, a city engineer believes that the glass panels can withstand the elements present on the Hoboken waterfront, even hurricane-force winds, if laminated to increase their strength.

A temporary 9/11 memorial made with teardrop-shaped glass panels had to be removed from Pier A in 2011 after it was determined that it could not withstand harsh weather.

At the March 18 City Council meeting, Pellegrini said the city was in the process of cutting panels to show what new design would look like. It remains unclear if there is enough time to finalize a design, secure funding, and complete construction by the fourteenth anniversary of 9/11, now less than six months away.

Hoboken lost 57 residents on 9/11, the most of any zip code in the United States.

Memorial not in budget

The biggest outstanding question surrounding the memorial is how it will be paid for. According to city Business Administrator Quentin Wiest, the cost of building the structure was not included in the proposed 2015-16 municipal budget, and would have to be covered by a bond.

In March 2013, a bond ordinance to fund the circular memorial concept failed before the City Council. However, on the eve of the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11 last fall, at least six council members indicated that they would be willing to bond for the construction of a memorial, suggesting that a new ordinance would likely succeed.

At the time, Mayor Dawn Zimmer said she would prepare a new ordinance. Over six months later, no requests for funding have come before the City Council.

The exact cost of implementing the new linear design is not known, although city officials said last year that building the old circular memorial would cost an estimated $650,000.

Not all of the memorial money will have to come from bonds. Donations of at least $75,000 remain in a trust fund for the memorial, and as of last September, $150,000 of a $250,000 state grant for the memorial remained unspent, although the city could lose the money if does not produce a structure fast enough.

Grousing over the grove

Until an official monument is completed, the only city-sanctioned memorial to the victims of 9/11 are the 40 gingko biloba trees planted in alignment with the former World Trade Center footprint in Pier A Park. If you have never noticed or read the small plaque that accompanies them, you would likely never know that they stand in commemoration of the Hoboken residents who died in the 9/11 attacks.

One resident is working to see that this living memorial gets its full due. At this past Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Raymond Smith complained that the city was using the gingko grove as a storage area for gravel and bricks, and asked that they be removed. He said the detritus gave the grove the appearance of a “hillbilly’s front yard.”

“There is an unfortunate and disgraceful symbolism to having two piles of gravel and bricks dumped in a memorial that is supposed to honor the victims of the Twin Tower attacks,” said Smith.

Councilwoman Theresa Castellano said she will place an ordinance on the agenda of the next City Council meeting requiring that the Division of Parks and Public Property maintain all city monuments in pristine condition.

After the meeting, Pellegrini explained that the piles were in place because the city was currently resetting the pavers along the Pier A waterfront walkway, and said they should be gone within two to three weeks if the weather cooperates.

Green, but not without city water

This past Tuesday, the City Council got a rundown of the green improvements in store for the planned Southwest Park, while passing on the inclusion of an additional system that could recycle rainwater to irrigate the park itself.

According to Wendy Andringa, a landscape architect at city-contracted design firm Starr Whitehouse, the entire park is graded so that surface water flows into permeable pavers and rain gardens. In the event of a heavy or multi-day rain event, the park will be able to contain the excess water in a 200,000-gallon underwater retention chamber.

An aboveground structure will elevate the park’s utilities above the expected elevation of a 100-year flood, and will contain another stormwater cistern.

“The concept behind the design of the park was to make it as green as possible and also to make it as sponge-like as possible so it would hold stormwater and mitigate flooding,” said Andringa.

However, Andringa advised that creating an additional rainwater recycling system that would filter and reuse rainwater to irrigate the park’s plant life would not produce enough water to sustain the greenery on its own and was not worth the added expense.

Instead, the plants will be irrigated with municipal water just like every other park in the city.

Meanwhile, the city of Hoboken continued to lay the groundwork for its upcoming trial to set the final value of the Southwest Park property. The near-acre of blacktop bordered by Paterson Avenue, Harrison Street, and Observer Highway was condemned by the city through its power of eminent domain three years ago, but the final price it will pay for the land has yet to be determined.

On Wednesday, the City Council approved a $25,000 contract with Banisch Associates to generate an expert report on the property based on existing city laws and master plans, Zoning Board reports, and adjacent properties. The report will likely be used as evidence in the trial.

The title to the land in question has been in the city’s hands since 2013, but both the city and the land’s former owner remain unable to agree on an appraised value, even after a panel of three ostensibly independent Hudson County condemnation commissioners gave their valuation earlier this year.

In March, the City Council voted to boost the cap on its contract with Edward Buzak, its attorney in the Southwest Park eminent domain trial, by $30,000.

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