The Pros of Hoboken’s Cons

While the crowds have declined in recent years, days like this are needed for the struggling economy of local businesses


I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again; You may hate these various ‘cons’ (Leprecon, Santacon), but they are a necessary evil needed to fuel the local economy. I wrote about it back in 2015 (when the day was still called Hoboken St. Paddy’s Day).

Other than hospitality, there is no industry in Hoboken that can sustain the entire community. And while it is a city that claims to want tourism, it goes to great lengths to quash tourism to appease the wishes of a select few new residents.

A vibrant nightlife (restaurants, bars, clubs, etc) fuels the local economy and the benefits spill over to peripheral industries like fast food, breakfast spots, bodegas, shops and so on. High-ticket real estate doesn’t do that. Neither does the tech or corporate sector. Despite Hoboken’s pandering to those investments.

Yes, adding to the populous will bring new business to local establishments, but it’s the ebb and flow of out-of-towners that has the greatest impact. When you begin to restrict what visitors can do in town, they are less likely to spend their time or money here. The results are all too obvious when you see the many shuttered storefronts on Washington Street as well as the struggling mom-and-pop shops around town.

It goes beyond the “cons” for sure. Parking (which I’ll rant about another time) has certainly deterred visitation. High rent that seems to go unchecked by the city (also a future rant). But there can be no denying the negative impact that the city’s heavy-handed treatment of the 2019 LepreCon had on the local economy thru the knee-jerk reaction to shut down a half dozen of the busiest bars in town. I’m not debating whether or not they deserved punishment of some sort, but this move punished far more than those bars.

Business at my cafe was down nearly 40% from previous LepreCons. And we don’t even serve booze. Instead, what we do is provide comfort food both the day of and (perhaps more importantly) the morning after. I heard the same from pizza places and other businesses who depend heavily on these tourist-heavy events.

When you essentially tell people to stay out of Hoboken, they will likely listen. Hence the dismal LepreCon turnout this year. The same thing happened on The 4th of July last year. A huge sign at the entrance of town on 14th street blazed the message “Fireworks Not Visible From Here” (or words to that effect). What the hell was the logic behind that? Why is Hoboken so bent on scaring people away?

A Message To New Residents
Like it or not, you have moved into a small city at the feet of a very large city. This is not a quiet suburb. There is (or should be) an energy here that is fast, loud and colorful. If you wanted to live somewhere quite and comfy, there are plenty of places like that throughout New Jersey and New York. Feel free to move there. Stop trying to tame our city.

Solutions
If the idea for all the restrictions on LepreCon is meant to bring a sense of purity to the town (ugh!) there is a better way to do it.

First; Let’s bring back the parade. Have it march down Sinatra Drive from Maxwell Place to Pier A Park. Keep it away from the bars and let Washington Street have their LepreCon. Once the parade reaches Pier A Park, it could be met by local food establishments, rides and games for the kids, and more. Hoboken can take back the original spirit of Parade Day.

The same can be done on The 4th of July. Instead of telling folks to stay away, invite them in. Throw a big community cookout on Pier A Park. Again, with local food establishments, vendors and activities for the kids.

I have no problem with Hoboken becoming more family friendly. Let’s just be smart in how we do it and don’t alienate the very industry that attracted the prosperity that exists today.


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