Did you know that Frank Sinatra was born at 415 Monroe Street in Hoboken? Of course you did; you live in Hoboken. Even the people who come to Hoboken just for the crowded bars on the weekends know at least two things about our town—Sinatra and baseball. And if you’re a long-time resident you probably greet the news that there’s a proposal to tear down the uninspiring building currently residing at Sinatra’s birthplace and replace it with uninspiring condominiums with mixed emotions.
On the one hand, this isn’t the actual building that Sinatra was born in—that burned down decades ago, replaced by the monstrosity currently standing there (the Walk-of-Fame-style star was added in 1996). And Sinatra’s connection to Hoboken is feeble; the man left Hoboken more or less as quickly as he could (hey, Hoboken was kind of a dump when Sinatra lived here) and returned precisely three times in his lifetime—once at the behest of Ronald Reagan and once to get an honorary degree from Stevens.
On the other hand, the Sinatra stuff is part of Hoboken’s history and identity, albeit in increasingly background ways. There’s nothing wrong with tearing down the building that squats at 415 Monroe and replacing it with something much better—but if you look at the plans proposed by the Chairman of Board Corporation, which bought the property in 2015, it’s just so … uninspiring.
The Blanding of Hoboken
There’s something symbolic about Sinatra’s birthplace becoming not just condominiums but cookie-cutter condominiums. If you look at the plans submitted to the City Council, there’s absolutely nothing special about them. It’s a bog-standard condo plan that looks like every single other condo building put up in this town over the last decade. There’s some mumbling about keeping the star in the sidewalk, and that’s about it.
It’s just a missed opportunity, really. Why not design something that at least shrugs in the direction of Old Blue Eyes and Hoboken history? There’s a chance to do something interesting here, and it’s being squandered. You can build a vanilla condo building anywhere. Why not put some effort into things at 415 Monroe? Of course, the money still spends the same, so in practical terms it doesn’t matter.
Of course, the way things are going in another few decades people may not even remember who Sinatra was, much less care about where he lived. What do you think? What should go up on the site—or is a bland condo project with an afterthought star in the sidewalk (moved to make way for the parking entrance) actually the perfect memorial for modern-day Hoboken?