Thursday, May 23, 2019

Team Bhalla appeals to virtue signaling, cult of personality and "stuff"

A good turnout Tuesday at 10th and Willow begins the long march to November and Mayor Ravi Bhalla's political options out of Hoboken.

Call it the backup plan if he's trapped in the Mile Square City forcing a run for re-election in 2021.

The current City Council will never back Ravi Bhalla's broken promises like his second job with a
politically connected Republican law firm. It's one real reason he wants compliant replacements.

Officially, the campaign is for a November council slate for six ward seats. On this ticket with the exception of Phil Cohen, nary a single individual is known to the wider community. There's nothing in the way of ever backing The Reform Movement, fighting on any important Hoboken issue let alone any issue in this decade on behalf of the Mile Square City.

They are being hailed as "new energy" with blank resumes. It resembles what you'd typically see back in the bad old days of an Old Guard BoE slate. Faces appear and mouth proclamations about their commitment to education and the children. After election and defeat, they go back to what they did before their announced candidacy. They'd never even show up at a BoE meeting.

Despite that similarity, Ravi Bhalla put up his best face, the one accustomed to feeding the public whoppers, big, fat and indistinguishable from his ugly mayoral campaign in 2017.

Referring to Peter Cunningham, Jen Giattino and Tiffanie Fisher, Ravi Bhalla issued this limp fabrication: "I don't know what happened. I'll be honest with you, I don't know what happened but something happened where we came to a point where I realized that new leadership is needed."

It was in that very same space only little more than two months into his term as mayor in 2017 where Ravi Bhalla announced he would seek to eliminate any vestiges of Reform and the good government leadership trio and turn out the incumbents (with the exception of ally Michael Russo in the third ward. A deal is a deal.)

And the mob cheered as history was vanquished, Year One begins. Pol Pot couldn't do it any better.

The political messaging against reality continued with Ravi Bhalla congratulating himself and his Administration for Mayor Dawn Zimmer's accomplishments. First for her double A financial rating but claiming "we stabilized our finances" even as he's repeatedly been pushing a three percent tax increase after a landslide 8-1 council vote reducing it to a mere one percent.

In over eight years as mayor, Dawn Zimmer kept taxes flat. It was one of her greatest accomplishments. Ravi Bhalla continues fighting for his fatter tax increase. He's lobbying Trenton hard to overturn domestic sovereignty and local rule to make it happen.

On the pending Hoboken budget, Ravi Bhalla even brought out George DeStefano, the official town CFO who hasn't been heard from on a budget in about forever. Uncle George (of the Russo Clan) did make this election day appearance in what a County Board of Elections official declared a major election violation.

Even with 95% of an agenda passed by the City Council with success on the Suez water contract being a major accomplishment because of the existing council, the mayor is seeking compliant legislative replacement parts.

Eyeing November, those accomplishments will pose a major obstacle. The Hudson County View inquired if the Team Bhalla slate is swept, what does it mean for him? He talked about "family" and his office welcoming the council members.

Well, that's an improvement over throwing councilwomen out of City Hall.

One can only hope any municipal council family isn't treated as poorly as in this exclusive story.

How to treat your City Council "family," a primer by Mayor Ravi Bhalla.  

Talking Ed Note: Councilwoman Emily Jabbour was featured with some mic time and said the replacements were needed so they could get "stuff." One imagines it must be "good" stuff.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher: 'The scoop on the Hoboken e-Scooters pilot'

Official release:

Dear friends and neighbors:
It has been both a short and long 48 hours (as of this writing).  By now I am sure all of you have had at least one direct experience with our new E-Scooters – whether witnessing a safety breach or riding one or both.  Here is just one example of the many that I witnessed myself over the last two days of people running straight through stop signs (click to watch the short video):
The volume of emails, calls and messages I have received has been exceptional given the short duration.  Hoboken PD has indicted they received over 1,000 emails to in the first day.  Like those I received, the majority, but not all, are from people who are concerned, against, opposed, and/or want to see the E-Scooters thrown in the river.  And I would say that I personally fell into that camp as well.  A few have told me they are fun or cool.  Truth be told, I have not yet ridden one mainly because I lack confidence in my own abilities to stay upright on one, but I will give it the ole college try soon.
I am not writing to tell you what you already know.  That the rollout was terrible, lacking the education and enforcement plans and a commitment to safety that had been promised to the City Council when we voted 8-1 on the PILOT (for clarity – I voted ‘Yes’ only after I introduced and we discussed the topics of education and enforcement and we received the promises from the administration and HPD). Or that it seems like everyone in town lost their manners, marbles and respect for their neighbors in the last two days with these EScooters – whether ignoring stop signs and traffic lights, riding on sidewalks (illegal) and the wrong way on one way streets (always illegal), letting their teens have their sign-in and riding through Church Square Park (minimum age is 18, riding in parks is illegal), or letting their six year old join them on the scooter without a helmet (or even with one! Illegal!) and then just leaving scooters in the middle of sidewalks and directly in front of entrances to buildings.  Seriously… WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED?!?!?!?!?
Day one was ridiculous but behaviors seemed to improve some on day two – I saw plenty of people riding safely, still a minority though.   And we learned more.  We learned that there were 2,500 rides on day one by 1,700 people that traveled over 2,700 miles.  That is a lot given these were only on 250 scooters (these stats just for the Lime E-Scooters).  That means people seem to like riding them.  
We also learned that most people still don’t know what the rules are because their only way of knowing was if they happened to pass by the Lime table near Pier A, read the signs on the Lime scooter itself, or read the city's informative nixle alert/email (that didn’t go out until the end of the first day of the pilot).  So we confirmed what we already knew which was that we need education and enforcement for this to have any chance at success.  
But I actually learned the most in my 40 minute conversation with Shari Shapiro of Lime yesterday afternoon and also reading the state legislation for the first time.  She called to ask me if she could address any questions or concerns and she got an earful from me.  But to her credit, she was patient, listened and provided a lot of information that I wasn’t previously aware of that I think is helpful.  
The conversation started with me asking about how Lime can make sure our youth cannot access the scooters.  We ended with a long list of suggestions and recommendations on what Lime can and should do as quickly as possible to meet the needs of Hoboken, which may be different than other communities they serve.  Here is a summary of some of what we discussed:
  • Kids/teens access to scooters: First and foremost, no one under 18, according to NJ STATE LAW, can ride E-Scooters.  Lime’s own website is inconsistent with this and says those under 16 can ride with the permission of parents.  I suggested they update their website.  Ms. Shapiro indicated that the only way kids can access scooters is if a parent/adult gives them access as they need a credit card and a valid ID to register.  I told her that many teens have credit cards and asked whether anyone on their end was actually verifying the ID at Lime.  She needed to confirm the second part.  We also discussed ways they can ultimately revoke user's privileges if found they have allowed those under 18 to use the EScooter on the adult's account.  This is still a working discussion.
  • Continuous Education.  Lime did have a table near the PATH and will be there this week to help inform people about the safe usage of their E-Scooters.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t helpful for all of those who found Lime scooters across the city with no guidance or instructions.  Lime indicted they will have tables across the city this weekend and for the few upcoming weekends.
  • Rules of the Road.  This is a big one to me.  Everyone who registers to use a Lime E-Scooter is required to give an email.  And Lime will be sending regular (currently daily) emails to these users reminding them the rules of the road.  Below is their "Day Two" email, and I provided guidance for their future ones which I hope will include reference to no riding in parks, and no one allowed under 18 on the bikes, or privileges can be revoked:
“As you know, the Hoboken program is a pilot. To make scooters a permanent option here, we need you to ride respectfully, following all the rules of the road, and paying special attention to these priorities:
  • Never ride on the sidewalk
  • Always yield to pedestrians
  • Obey all stop signs, traffic signals, and other rules of the road (like a bike or car)
  • Only travel in the direction of traffic (not the wrong way down one-way streets)
  • Never block sidewalks or crosswalks when parking a Lime scooter (park next to the curb)
Our staff is here to answer any questions:
Tuesday-Friday, May 28 @ 14th Ferry Terminal, Saturday, June 1 @ Pier A
For any questions, comments or concerns, please reach out to our team directly by emailing, calling 1-888-LIME-345 or texting 1-888-546-3345"
  • Ability to “catch” riders in parks and revoke privileges.  Another big one.  Lime can see where people are going.  I have already received from friends screenshots of the paths they took riding the E-Scooter.  Ms. Shapiro indicated they have made parks “red” on their App to show where their E-Scooters are not allowed.  She also indicated that they can use rider information to send individual riders notes about going through areas where they are not allowed and if the actions continue their privileges can be revoked.  BIG BROTHER LIME is definitely watching.  But this is a great feature to help ensure people are using the E-Scooters safely.
  • Working on the ability to “catch” riders riding the wrong direction down our network of one-way streets. Ms. Shapiro was not sure if Lime's system is set up to match paths traveled with street direction but she is looking into it.  Given the technology of mapping and GPS, I believe it can happen and could function similarly as mentioned above – where the system could catch people riding in the wrong direction.  
  • Sidewalk riding.  The state legislation says that E-Scooters and E-Bikes are NOT ALLOWED ON SIDEWALKS!  Ms. Shapiro confirmed this and are actively repeating this in their education.  So not only are the new E-Scooters in this, but so are the E-Bikes that you often see delivery people using on our sidewalks.  The state legislation specifically says where E-Scooters and E-Bikes can go:  “A low-speed electric bicycle or low-speed electric scooter, as defined in R.S.39:1-1, may be operated on the streets, highways, roadways, and bicycle paths of this State.”
  • Parking the E-Scooters.  Here the state legislation is also clear on where you can park them: “may be parked on a sidewalk provided that the low-speed electric bicycle or low-speed electric scooter does not impede the normal movement of pedestrian or other traffic upon the sidewalk”.  If you are reading this and riding the scooters, please just follow the simple rule of RESPECTING OTHERS.  If you are going to park it on a sidewalk, park it away from where people walk.  The city provided a great illustration on its website showing examples:  

Update on e-Scooters and how to remove sidewalk threats

The e-Scooters are a boomlet of transport within Hoboken but there's a learning curve for users. Some will have to learn the hard way.

Some riders do not want to use the roadways as intended and obligated under ordinance. They are riding on the sidewalk and creating a nuisance and danger to pedestrians and themselves.

Hoboken Police Chief Ken Ferrante offered this report:

If you see someone riding on the sidewalk you can take a photo and then send it with the time and location to the Hoboken Police Department and to the e-Scooter company. A video is not needed but may be useful.

The resident offender can then be fined and see their account suspended or revoked. Since the e-scooters are equipped with GPS, a photo alone with the time and location of the occurrence will see identified the alleged criminal in question. HPD is collecting all responses and video when submitted.

This is the Soprano State. Help criminals find their destiny. Send the HPD and e-scooter company the photo with time and location and watch the bulk of problems with e-scooters on sidewalks disappear.

For the Hoboken Police Dept:
For Lime (stand up green e-Scooter) For OJO (seated blue e-Scooter)

Councilman Ruben Ramos: "PSEG Work Paused After Trees Removed on Jackson St."

Official release:

Dear friends,

Just like many residents in the neighborhood, I'm very disturbed and alarmed that PSE&G has cut down approximately a dozen seemingly healthy, mature trees located primarily along the 100 block of Jackson Street.  Although initially approved by the city, I am grateful that after being alerted to this, the administration has changed course and has paused all work on Madison and Jackson until a new plan is agreed that will minimize destruction to the trees. 

In a city like Hoboken trees and green space are essential for our quality of life. I’m appreciative of the efforts of everyone committed to making sure this situation is made right and that these trees are replaced with new ones that are of a similar quality to the trees cut down. Accordingly, PSEG will be replacing trees they remove on a 3:1 ratio. 

As part of this project, work had been underway by PSE&G to pull wires on Jackson Street between First and Seventh and set up new poles.  This work has been paused as well and when it returns, be aware each block will be closed to traffic, one at a time, as the crews move along the road.

You can find out more about this project here including the city’s recent action to pause the work until a better solution can be identified.  I will be working with my Council colleagues to address the policies that led to this unfortunate situation and make sure something like this will not happen again.

Thank you for your advocacy and patience during this projects.  Please share this with everyone you think might be interested in or affected by this information.  And don’t hesitate to reach out to me at any time to discuss this or any matter that is important to you. 


Ruben Ramos
Hoboken City Council, 4th Ward
*Please follow me on Facebook and Twitter to see more updates on Hoboken.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Scooter rules - it's the law

Yesterday, the explosively charming weather took many out of their global cooling wet funk timed with the launch of Lime e-Scooters.

First encounter, two people, a man and a woman midday on Washington St. uptown. He was trying to get the device going south - with the woman on board!


A 15 minute Horsey ride on Sinatra Drive saw a lot of people zipping around. It was like an infestation of locusts. Rather harmless all in all with many grins coasting by.

Later in the day, however, more and more people took to the street or rather, the sidewalks. That's illegal! None seen wearing a helmet other than the sighting of one Horse on Sinatra Drive gloved over front hooves.

There were zero education efforts other than the City website by the Ravi Bhalla Administration. By day's end, the Hoboken Police Department received almost 1,000 complaints with illegal actions by Lime riders across town: riding the opposite way on one-way streets, doubling up on the one person devices and ignoring traffic signals.

This is the Soprano State after all. Yesterday, Hoboken singlehandedly lived up to the billing.

Here's the sane advice offered courtesy of the Hoboken Police Department.

Councilman Peter Cunningham: "Less than a day and already issues with scooters"

Official release:

I'm sure many of you are aware of the release below about the "scooter" madness that hit our streets today.  I was in favor of bringing the scooters to Hoboken on the condition that we could ensure they were operated safely on our street.  In fact, I negotiated with members of the council more closely aligned with the mayor to reduce the number of scooters to rent to make it more manageable for Hoboken Police to enforce the rules, as well to ensure we collected data on their "illegal" use.  I support more than 90% of the Mayor's agenda.  To gain my support, the scooter rental resolution had to be negotiated to get it passed.

There will be an important meeting tomorrow morning (so I am told) to discuss ways to ensure that there is no day two of reckless riding of scooters the wrong way, on sidewalks, through the parks, and on the grass - all without a helmet.  Representatives from the scooter companies will be present along with the Admin and HPD.  It is unclear if any City Council members will be present.  It is astonishing that nobody was hurt today, but the potential as many of you know was extremely high.  These scooter companies have the ability to provide important data on illegal use to support HPD.

I look forward to reporting the results of this meeting, among other issues of interest.  



Monday, May 20, 2019

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher: "2nd Ward Pedestrian Safety Improvements Coming to You!"

Official release:

Dear friends and neighbors:
With a new Suez water contract now in place and the redesign of Washington St. just about completed, PEDESTRIAN SAFETY sits alone atop the list of the issues that I hear the most from you – mainly relating to our intersections.  I can tell you the entire City Council and the administration are focused on this.  And although we have seen many improvements citywide, there is still a lot to do.  Like many of you, I am eager to see the Vision Zero plan the city will be rolling out shortly.  
But for today, I want to update you on some intersections in the 2nd ward that have been my main focus.  For those who receive this who do not live in the 2nd ward, I am 100% certain that you will still walk, ride or drive through these intersections at some point so these will also impact you.
14th / Shipyard
This is an intersection that has pretended to not be an intersection.  With only two cross walks, no clear direction for pedestrians, being in the path towards a main transportation hub, and located in a neighborhood that has had the highest growth in density in the city… it is an understatement to say this intersection needed an upgrade.  
At the 5/1 Council meeting, a resolution was introduced to re-do this intersection, but I asked to carry the proposal one meeting because I was concerned the plan was incomplete as it was from 2014, before many of the large buildings in the area were built.  I was particularly concerned the plan called for only three crosswalks instead of four which turned out to be the case:  
Parking and Transportation Director Ryan Sharp and City Engineer Kimbrly Craft agreed with me that it needed a refreshed view so we met me last week to review the intersection and working together, we revised the plan that has now since been approved at the 5/15 City Council meeting.  This new plan now completes the intersection, adds a few street parking spaces on the north side of 14th between Hudson and Shipyard (replacing a travel lane) which also provides the added benefit of narrowing the street.  Additionally, Director Sharp and Ms. Craft recommended adding a striped median (not raised) in the middle of the street to further give the impression of a narrow travel lane that helps to slow traffic in the area.  Oh, and this, along with others intersection improvements across town are funded by a grant from the state!  A win-win-win outcome!

15th / Garden
All I can say here is finally.   After advocating for safety improvements at this intersection till I was blue in the face, I was told that a solution is imminent.  Director Sharp and Ms. Craft informed two weeks ago that they have ordered RRFB’s – Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon Crosswalk System - for the cross walks at this intersection.  This would be a solar powered rapid flashing light combined with school crossing signage - something like the picture below.  The lights would be triggered as pedestrians approach the intersection.  I don’t yet have an ETA for these, just that they are ordered and on their way.
This intersection is where a main thoroughfare (15th Street) meets a main pedestrian route (Elysian Charter, Harborside Park and the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway) without any signal devices or effective signage.  And is the intersection that I get the single most calls about.  Why not speed bumps you ask?  Not supported for high traffic volumes and are noisy.  Why not a stop sign?  Too close to the traffic light/left arrows at 15th and Park.  Why not a traffic table (elevated intersection)?  This is actually coming in the future as part of Rebuild By Design.
14th / Garden
A traffic signal is underway, with the hopes of it being installed before the end of summer / beginning of new school year.  
This has been slow moving since it was approved in 2015. It is a County intersection and project and the bidding for the project is currently underway.  Director Sharp and Ms. Craft estimated timing to be approximately 5 months from right now, highly depending on PSEG when they ultimate activate the light.  We agreed that we will all be asking the various parties (County and PSEG) to target having this light installed and up and running before Labor Day and the start of the new school year.  I would encourage you to email Freeholder Anthony Romano at and tell him how badly we want this done before school starts (cc: me).
14th / Willow
Hoboken Police Chief Ferrante stated at the Council meeting on April 17th, that this intersection is by far the most dangerous in the City.  
After speaking with Freeholder Romano earlier that week who indicated the County (it is their intersection) was prepared to review the intersection once they received direction from the City, I co-sponsored with Councilman Cunningham a resolution formally recommending that the County make the following changes and do further review of the intersection.  
  • Remove all parking spaces in front of Trader Joe’s up through the traffic light at 13th / Rite Aid and convert to a second travel lane; 
  • Insert bollards / delineator posts along the center double line directly in front of the entrance into the Harlow / Trader Joe’s parking garage – approximately 200 feet from the intersection of Willow Avenue and 14th Street to create a physical barrier to prohibit left turns into and out of the Harlow / Trader Joe’s parking garag; and 
  • Review with Hoboken Police Department the accidents at and near the intersection of Willow Avenue and 14th Street and the configuration of the eastbound turning lanes on the Viaduct / 14th Street to recommend further changes to improve safety.
Freeholder Romano let me know last week that the County has received this request and is undertaking the review of this intersection.
14th / Hudson 
Have you ever just stood at this intersection waiting for the crosswalk sign to change to “walk” and it just never does?  Well, the issue here is that you have to actually press the button to make that happen.  One would think that it happens automatically as well, but apparently it does not.  I have asked the County to address this and change to automatic which I am told they will take care of. 
15th / Willow and 15th / Park - Traffic Light Timing
Remember when the timing of these lights magically seemed to coordinate to make getting across 15th and out of town easier?  And then it suddenly and annoyingly stopped?  I have informed the County who believe the change may relate to a reset that occurred at Willow and 19th and are looking into it.
Pier 13 / Sinatra North
The next step at this intersection is to do a warrant analysis to determine if a stop sign is warranted.  When Director Sharp and Ms. Craft visited me last week, we reviewed this intersection as well and they committed to installing new temporary "stop for pedestrian signs" and to work with the County to perform the necessary analysis during the busiest pedestrian times (weekends).  I have also asked Lt. Petrosino to increase patrols around Pier 13 on the weekends as we get into the busy summer season.  
Up next... 
I have discussed other traffic intersections with Director Sharp, Ms. Craft and the County and will hope to have more updates on these soon.  These include 9th and Washington where buses have difficult navigating the left turn up to Stevens; 11th and Hudson, a tough and confusing intersection that makes it wrought with safety concerns; 12th and Shipyard which suffers similary to 14th and Shipyard, frustrated by the double parking on 12th between Shipyard and Hudson; and 14th and Park where people speed to try to make the light before it turns and where I have spoken with the city about adding a visor or louver to the traffic lights to limit the visibility of the light until the driver is closer to the approach.  
If I have missed an intersection, please let me know.  I think we all are aware that there seems to be a general lack of stopping for pedestrians at intersections in Hoboken and not enough enforcement.  A number of improvements were made on the residential streets north of 12th to help improve visibility at the crosswalks, but that hasnt stopped people from parking in the crosswalks and speeding through stop signs.  At 15th and Bloomfield, one of my neighbors was hit by a car in the middle of the day while he was crossing 15th.  The car was speeding up Bloomfield and did not stop at 15th.  Thankfully it wasn't more serious, but he did require a hospital visit and had a broken leg.  
Culture of Safety 
I believe strongly that we are lacking and need to create a "Culture of Safety" in Hoboken.  Where EVERYONE does their part - drivers, riders, and pedestrians.  Some of the simple things we can all do starting today to do our part:
(from Street Smart NJ)
Once the City's Vision Zero plan is launched, which is a very public process including input from many, I plan to take an active role with my focus being on what we will do to educate those in and who enter our community that "Hoboken Takes Safety Seriously" and that "We Are A Pedestrian Town Where Pedestrian Safety Comes First". 
Shifting gears a little... thank you to everyone who helped support providing six homes for homeless veterans in Hoboken.  The event Saturday night at the new American Legion Post 107 was a huge success - they raised almost $50,000!  They still have another $50,000 to go to finish the project so if you are interested in supporting them email me or Commander John Carey at  The biggest moment of the night though was when Hoboken's treasure Vinny Wassman, who at 94 is Hoboken's oldest veteran, led the crowd in a spirited rendition of Grand Old Flag.   If you don't know Vinny, you should.  Click the picture below of Vinny (and beloved Charlie who runs Bingo at the Senior Center) to see...
We really live in a special community.  heart
Pedestrian safety touches all of us.  So please forward this to everyone you think would want to know about these updates.  And as always, feel free to reach out via email, text or phone (201-208-1674) about this or anything else important to you.      
Best wishes,  

City Council President Jen Giattino: "Help Continue to Improve Pedestrian Safety in Our Neighborhood"

Official release:

Hello Friends and Neighbors,

I am looking for your input to continue to make our neighborhood more safe for everyone, especially pedestrians. 

Last year, after a warrant study, I had a stop sign installed on 6th and Clinton Sts. This intersection has a bus stop and school which lends itself to vehicle/pedestrian conflict.

A warrant study is underway on 2nd and Bloomfield Sts. I am waiting for the results.

After advocating for pedestrian safety improvements on 7th and Clinton Sts. which has the parking lot for ACME, I am pleased that a resolution was passed at last week’s council meeting for a major overhaul of this intersection.  This will include corner bump-outs, a rain garden to help with drainage, and long-lasting thermoplastic for all markings (crosswalks and on-street signage).
Planned improvements for 7th and Clinton Sts:
Also, did you know that May is National Historic Preservation month?  Our Hoboken Historic Preservation Commission has started a campaign called This Place Matters, identifying places across Hoboken that have been around for a long time and matter most to our community.  If you have any suggestions, please email me.  I personally think that all of Hoboken matters.
Please email me any intersection that you have concerns with so we can continue to make safety improvements to our neighborhood.

Councilman DeFusco’s Small Business Expansion District Plan Approved by City Council

Official release:

Councilman DeFusco’s Small Business Expansion District Plan Approved by City Council
Plan is First Major Change to City’s Zoning Since 1980s, Will Attract Innovative New Businesses to Hoboken
HOBOKEN, N.J. -- Small businesses in Hoboken struggle with cripplingly high costs and bureaucratic barriers to entry, causing far too many vacancies on Washington Street and missed opportunities in other prime locations in the city. City officials have pledged to solve the problem for years, but now a new plan spearheaded by Councilman Mike DeFusco and passed by the City Council will finally make the revolutionary policy changes needed to support small businesses in Hoboken, the first major changes to the city’s zoning laws since the Reagan administration.
The City Council gave final approval to Councilman DeFusco’s Small Business Expansion District Plan on Wednesday night. The plan will re-establish Washington Street as the city’s primary commercial hub, lowering barriers to entry for small businesses like restaurants and shops to open on the main street by opening new sections to business uses previously prohibited. Secondly, the plan creates three new neighborhood business districts and defines and expands permitted uses in these areas, which will encourage innovative new businesses like restaurants, cafes, co-working spaces, tech incubators and more to open. It also encourages more neighborhood retail and corner stores, bringing vibrancy to neighborhoods in need. Taken together, these long overdue policy changes will remove many of the barriers to entry that have been stopping businesses from investing in the city while activating parts of the community where residents have long desired more local shopping, dining and entertainment options.     
“Small businesses play a vital role in our community, making it critical that we find ways to help mom and pop shops succeed in Hoboken,” said Councilman DeFusco. “The Small Business Expansion District Plan does exactly this by enacting a proactive policy that will encourage makers, creators and innovators to invest in our city. When small businesses thrive, our neighborhoods are more vibrant, new jobs are created and we lower the burden on residential taxpayers. I am proud to have worked with the City Council and Mayor to expand neighborhood business districts and look forward to bringing new and exciting business concepts into our community.”
The Small Business Expansion District Plan includes:

  • Expanding neighborhood retail the entire length of First Street, which will create a new business corridor between the Waterfront and Southwest Park
  • Expanding neighborhood retail along 14th Street from the Waterfront to Willow Avenue
  • Expanding the Central Business District from Fourth Street to Seventh Street along Washington Street
  • Expanding retail on Washington from Seventh Street to 14th Street, with the exception of certain blocks on the eastern side
  • Creating a neighborhood retail district on Jackson Street between First and Fourth Streets to serve the west side of Hoboken

Who is paying for the lawyer of Matt "Vote by Calicchio?"


Matt Calicchio's running voter fraud joke "Vote by Calicchio" may come back to haunt others

Matt Calicchio (l) in this exclusive July 1, 2011 photo with Frank "Pupie" Raia holding court.
copyright 2019
With the announcement this month of Matt Calicchio entering a guilty plea for promoting voter bribery in the 2013 and 2015 Hoboken elections, a ticking time bomb of significant magnitude lands square on the Mile Square City.

For the average Hoboken resident, the latest political operative player admitting to voter fraud schemes had become ho-hum but those familiar with the name Matt Calicchio who worked for former Councilwoman Beth Mason most of this decade know differently.

With the plea, the FBI in Newark laid an ace on the table aiming to put a nail into the coffin of Frank "Pupie" Raia.  Along with his sidekick, Dio Braxton, both are facing criminal charges connected to alleged voter fraud activities in their upcoming federal criminal trial for 2015.

The trial, set for June 11th anticipates testimony from Liz "Church Lady" Camis joining Matt Calicchio as witnesses for the prosecution against Raia, who is billed by the Feds as the director of the fraudulent voter operation.

As seen in this exclusive 2010 story, none of this comes as a shock to readers here. Others in Hoboken, however, are shocked any prosecution of voter fraud in Hoboken after generational voter fraud occurred is finally happening.

When did Matt Calicchio actually flip and become a witness for the prosecution? Reliable sources suggest it occurred "a while ago," back to at least last year.

This will have many people in Hoboken worried with the possible exception of the people paying for Matt Calicchio's lawyer who organized a plea deal on his their behalf.

Prior to 2011 when Matt Calicchio became an all-purpose political thug, he was known as a "Pupie guy." A falling out saw him depart that hot and cold love-hate relationship but not before he reportedly deleted a computer hard drive at the Raia Civic.

During the period of his admitted voter fraud activities in the Hoboken elections of 2013 and 2015, Matt Calicchio stated in live testimony before Judge Mongiello in Hoboken Municipal Court in 2012 that he worked for the "art gallery" and "the Mason family" of the Mason Civic League at 12th and Washington St.

That April 2012 criminal case was filed by Calicchio against this editor after a phone call to him inquiring on a trial date involving a BOE trustee and her young daughter.

The harassment charge would be thrown out of court when Calicchio stopped attending the court hearings in the latter part of 2013. One imagines he had other more pressing electoral duties at hand.

In attendance supporting Matt Calicchio at the onset of the 2012 court hearing in Hoboken Municipal Court, Ryan Yacco, the former 2011 campaign manager for then-councilwoman Beth Mason.  In addition, Frank "Pupie" Raia would show up in court to show his support and sit next to Calicchio.

Yacco is rumored to be on the witness list for the Raia-Braxton trial next month among other possible Hoboken political operative luminaries.

Back to the question at hand, who paid for Matt Calicchio's lawyer likely spanning back to his time as a cooperating witness last year?

Well, who do you think?

Former Councilwoman Beth Mason with her employee Matt Calicchio in this vintage 2014 reader-submitted photo.
Calicchio pled guilty earlier this month to his participation in a voter fraud bribery scheme in the 2013 and 2015
Hoboken elections. 

The rest of this story is premium content and will be sent to members Tuesday.

Friday, May 17, 2019

The Ravi-Russo Alliance Ticket!

Yesterday's prediction of an impending Team Bhalla council slate announcement came within an eyelash of dead on accuracy.

Thanks to everyone who participates and continues to support the RaviLeaks Good Government Transparency Program.

The ticket Mayor Ravi Bhalla announced is less than inspiring in many respects but closes the books on any lingering questions about the often reported Ravi-Russo Alliance here.

Mayor Ravi Bhalla and his special guest Councilman Michael Russo speaking at a Hoboken Democratic Committee meeting.
The Ravi-Russo Alliance is very much alive with Russo set to face no opposition from Team Bhalla.

Ron Bautista an imperfect but suitable cannon fodder candidate in the third ward would complete a citywide ticket for Team Bhalla.

Yesterday, Hmag highlighted the obvious dereliction and received a response from the Team Bhalla spokesman who described the situation as "fluid" implying there may be an addition at a later date.

There's only one problem with this spin. It flies in the face of the Ravi-Russo Alliance and the deal already cut.

In recent days, Councilman Michael Russo has openly bragged about the deal he cut with Ravi Bhalla.

The rest of this story is premium content and will go out later today to subscribers.

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher: 'Improving Hoboken's budget'

Official release:

Dear friends and neighbors:
The City Council held its Public Hearing for the Budget Amendment that was proposed by the Council at the last meeting on May 1st where it was approved 8-1 (“Council Amended Budget”). 
In this amendment to one originally introduced by the mayor, the Council found ways to reduce the tax rate from the 2.8% that had been proposed to 1.3%.  In this rising cost environment, we felt it important for the City of Hoboken’s administration to show to the taxpayers of Hoboken that it can and will “do more with less” while sustaining municipal services, supporting wage increases for our lowest-paid employees, cutting administrative costs and above average salary increases and supporting our seniors and public safety teams.  The amendments we passed include: 
  • $315,000 reduction in overhead, excess budgeted amounts and unfilled positions
  • $295,000 reduction in environmental services driven mainly by lower contract costs for trash removal and use of trust accounts to offset snowplowing.
  • $125,000 reduction in budgeted legal costs
  • $75,000 reduction by delaying new police motorcycles 
  • $28,000 reductions in other areas
  • $98,000 increase for fire salary and wages and supporting our seniors 
Also included in the Council Amended Budget are the following additions:
  • A new ADA accessible medical van for our Seniors.  The conditions of the existing vans, which are not ADA accessible, can only be described as deplorable and unsafe.  
  • A new HOP to support the much-needed expansion of the HOP service.  
You may not be aware, but a portion of the surplus generated by the Hoboken Parking Utility contributes to the general budget.  It had been reduced from $4.5M in 2018 to $3.2 M in the original version of the 2019 budget and in the Council Amended Budget we recommended increasing this back up slightly by $96K.  To help fund this increase, we asked the HPU to also tighten their belts by requesting approximately 1.2% in expense reduction across the board for the parking utility.
The process to adopt the Council Amended Budget includes approval from the Department of Community Affairs which we still await and as such the Council has not actually voted to adopt the budget.  If not before, we expect to vote on the adoption of the budget at the next council meeting on June 5th.  Please read here (and attached) for the letter that Council President Giattino and I sent to the DCA setting for the Council's rationale for the proposed changes.  It also includes a detailed schedule of the amendments that we proposed.  
As always please forward this to everyone you think may be interested and feel free to reach out via email, text or phone (201-208-1674) about this or anything else important to you.      
Best wishes,