Hoboken Residents Lash Out Against Plans to Build Anti-Flooding Walls

Residents in Hoboken are lashing out against the state's proposals to build a seawall that could obstruct the prized waterfront view of Manhattan. 

At the first of three public meetings being held on the proposal, hundreds of people showed up at the Hoboken Historical Museum to oppose the building of the walls, which are meant to prevent the kind of flooding that devastated the New Jersey city during Sandy. 

After being awarded a $230 million federal grant to mitigate storm-related flooding, the state worked with the city of Hoboken and hired engineers to draw up plans for the project, dubbed Rebuild by Design Hudson River: Resist, Delay, Store, Discharge. [See the plans here.]

Each of the five plans that were created included some sort of wall, either around parts of the waterfront or into the neighborhoods -- like onto Garden Street. 

Neighbor Debbie Olita, who lives on the street, is strongly opposed to that particular plan. 

"Our street is the most desirable street in Hoboken, a tree-lined street with historical buildings on it," said Olita. "It's the most desirable in town." 

Mayor Dawn Zimmer tried responding to concerns from the heated crowd, but the prevailing thought was clear. No one wanted to face the unpleasant aesthetic of having a protective wall in their city. 

"Some people that said, 'No one is gonna want it in their backyard but someone needs to take it for the team,' I don't agree it should be our street that takes it for the team," said Alex Black. "Find another solution." 

"I come from the Middle East so I know how it is to live next to a wall. This is completely not pleasant," added Amihai Zelzer. "I can't see that happening in America. We need to find another solution." 

A woman named Debbie said she was also concerned about accessibility.

"If we had ambulances that had to come into the town to get to these homes, they'd have to face a wall," she said. 

Another meeting will be held Tuesday at St. Lawrence Church in Weehawken and a third meeting will be held Thursday at the Hoboken Housing Authority.

Based on the screening criteria and feedback from the community, officials will narrow down the five concepts to three, then hold another meeting in January to go over the final plans. Residents can also email to weigh in. 

A decision is expected in January 2017, with construction slated for 2022. The state is expected to make the ultimate decision. 

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