Debate swells over future of Neumann Leather in Hoboken after area declared in need of rehabilitation

Debate swells over future of Neumann Leather in Hoboken after area declared in need of rehabilitation

Tuesday, November 08, 2011 - Jersey Journal

HOBOKEN -- The debate over the future of the 17-building Neumann Leather complex located at 300 Observer Hwy. is heating up again after the Hoboken City Council declared an area including the property in need of rehabilitation.

On Oct. 19, the council unanimously agreed with the Planning Board's recommendation that the area's deteriorated sewer and water systems merited rehabilitation.

The city will form a committee to create a recommended plan for the area. It cannot, however, take its propertes or force owners like Neumann Leather's William Bernheim to follow their recommendation, said Planning Board attorney Clifford Gibbons.

Neumann Leather building manager Vic Zarish believes the Neumann Leather Tenants Association (NLTA) is pressuring the city once again to preserve the three-acre complex.
In 2005, Bernheim, a descendant of founder Rafael Neumann, hoped his property could benefit from a plan to change the area's zoning from industrial to business so Hoboken could sell the nearby municipal garage.

This would've allowed developers to demolish the Neumann Leather buildings and create what Controller Joe Zarish, Vic's brother, said would be the"crown jewel of Hoboken."
They envision two mixed-use buildings with ground-floor retail, two stories of office space and nine stories of high-end condominiums. Each would have its own rooftop restaurant, one for the public and one for residents.

The NLTA pressured the council, however, to change only the garage's zoning, Vic Zarish said.

The tenants continue fighting for what they call a "historic" building and ideal workspace for artisans, artists and small business owners.

Former councilman, NLTA Chairman and custom furniture builder Tom Newman said nearly 200 work in the building.

"Artists need to have this kind of building with freight elevators, loading docks, windows and so on," he said.

Vic Zarish said most tenants have short-term leases and were told that the building's situation is temporary.

He added that the cheap rent, often below market prices, would go up if the buildings were maintained but renovated - a project that redeveloper Hany Ahmed estimated in July 2010 would cost $40 million.

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