Neighboring Hudson County cities like Jersey City, Hoboken and West New York are basking in the glory of economic rebirth. If a vocal minority of the 12,000 inhabitants of Weehawken have their way, the Gold Coast tag applied to the Hudson River waterfront will continue to pass them by.

At issue is a massive mixed-use development proposed by Romulus Development Corp. of West Bergen, NJ headed by trucking magnate Art Imperatore, and Roseland Property Co. The numbers are staggering, especially to opponents: over 1,600 residential units, 1.3 million sf of offices, 300,000 sf of retailing, a hotel, a retirement facility and over 6,000 parking spaces would comprise Port Imperial South. The developers would add a ferry terminal adjacent to a light rail station. Also planned are bike paths and a waterfront walkway (the latter required by the state for any waterfront project in Hudson County).

The project has plenty of support–and plenty of opposition. A formal vote hasn’t been scheduled yet, but the planning board has endured two dozen often acrimonious hearings in the last 10 months. At issue for the opposition, who call themselves Friends of the Weehawken Waterfront, are everything from the way it might change the community (traffic, noise, pollution, building heights), to whether it might obscure residents’ stunning Manhattan views.

If the latest hearing is any indication, more controversy lies ahead. One supporter, a lifelong resident Jerry Nicol, branded opponents as “carpetbaggers,” suggesting they are newer residents more interested in views than in putting Weehawken on the map. Jill Hartman, Weehawken’s planning consultant, pointed out that the project would ensure residents’ access to the waterfront.

The situation isn’t without precedent. It took Hartz Mountain Industries nearly a decade of litigation to receive the go-ahead for two office towers at its Lincoln Harbor project. Hartz recently gained approval only after it agreed to reconfigure its project so as not to block anyone’s view.

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