Back in mid-October, the Hoboken City Council narrowly voted to approve a proposal that would prohibit any bars or restaurants from adding parklets in an effort to curb the city’s rat issues. Parklets, along with sidewalk seating and strEATeries, are some of the creative ways bars and restaurants make use of outdoor space to serve more patrons. While these setups are a fun way to enjoy neighborhood spots, many say that they also attract rats and reduce street parking. But, just as soon as the proposal was approved, it was vetoed by Hoboken Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla. Now, the total ban of parklets has been rejected by the Hoboken City Council — and the City has enacted a temporary pause on new outdoor dining structures. Read on to learn more about what’s next for parklets in Hoboken.
About the Proposal
The proposal was introduced by Councilwoman Jen Giattino (6th Ward) and was approved upon first reading by a vote of 5-4 at the council’s meeting on October 18th. It is set to take effect on November 7th. In a statement, Councilwoman Giattino said, “Not allowing new parklets is one of many tools we need to reduce food sources to combat our rat crisis in Hoboken and is overwhelmingly supported by residents. We have all seen photos, showing rodents living in the parklets, and we have all seen photos of what was under the parklets that were removed.”
The proposal would prohibit applications for new parklets in Hoboken, but applications for new strEATeries and outdoor dining would still be allowed. Existing parklets would continue to be permitted under the current regulations. A parklet is defined in the city’s code as:
“A semi-permanent patio or deck, whether covered or uncovered, used for outdoor dining. A parklet may be constructed using curbside parking spaces adjacent to the business premises. A parklet may also be constructed in a parking lot owned or leased by the business and adjacent to the business establishment subject to the provisions herein.”
New applications for sidewalk dining and strEATeries would be permitted. The city has an existing permitting, fee, and approval structure for parklets, sidewalk dining, and strEATeries. Hoboken, like many cities, saw a rapid increase in these flexible spaces during the pandemic as a way for businesses to continue operating while giving customers more room.
The Hoboken Business Alliance (HBA), which represents Hoboken’s business community, released a press release in advance of the vote, said that “Parklets generate meaningful additional income and employment that was crucial to saving businesses during the pandemic and continue to do so now as significant economic turbulence and rising costs continue to necessitate creative solutions. The structures themselves provide stability for scheduling customers and employees that StrEATeries do not always offer, and many businesses do not have the capacity to store removable setups when not in use.”
The HBA called for more cooperation between the business community and the city to work on the rodent issues. “Our hope is that the City Council would work with us, and others like us, to make Hoboken an even more business-friendly place, not less. We ask the City Council to vote no on this proposed change and welcome the opportunity to work in close partnership to help the Hoboken community implement a world-class outdoor dining program with best-in-class rodent mitigation strategies that benefit everyone,” said Amanda Schmitt, co-owner of Schmitty’s and a member of the HBA.
When the proposal was first introduced, others who were critical of the outcome took up their positions.
Council Chairwoman Emily Jabbour shared the following statement: “Councilmember Giattino claims her ordinance to ban all future parklets will address the rodent issue — it does not. All existing parklets will remain and, as per that logic, so will the rodent issues associated with those locations. Further, this ordinance was crafted without the input of the City, the Hoboken Business Alliance (HBA), or local business owners. What will make a difference in fighting rodents is allowing the recently updated parklet sanitation guidelines to go into effect and continuing to support the efforts by the Health Department to implement those, as well as the garbage containerization requirements.”
She continued, “The HBA and several local business owners gave compelling statements of opposition to this change — it harms our restaurant community and diminishes a unique feature that attracts diners to Hoboken. Thank you to Councilmembers DeFusco and Cohen for cosponsoring a reasonable compromise to pause the addition of new parklets for the next five months to assess solutions. I remain committed to finding reasonable, valid solutions to address the rodent issue in Hoboken, but the proposed ordinance from last night is not that.”
Shortly after speaking with Chairwoman Jabbour on Thursday, October 19th, Hoboken Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla’s office issued a statement sharing that he had vetoed the proposal. “I am respectfully vetoing the ordinance adopted by the Council that bans all future parklets. In my opinion, the ordinance does not effectively address the issue it aims to resolve and simultaneously hurts the business community, to the detriment of our broader Hoboken community,” the statement read. Mayor Bhalla also endorsed several of the arguments that the HBA had made in its letter sent back in October and reiterated the city’s commitment to rat abatement.
The proposal would have to of been approved upon its second reading, which did not happen at the City Council’s November 1st meeting. Instead, the Hoboken City Council enacted a temporary pause on new outdoor dining structures. Per NJ.com, the council unanimously voted on the five-month pause.
Additionally, Councilman Michael Russo proposed an ordinance that would force all parklets in the city to be removed until April 1st, 2024, as well as another ordinance that would require the removal of the parklets’ flooring — both of which were voted down on the first reading by a 7-2 vote.