Thursday, July 20, 2017

Mikie, Mikie where art thou?

Hoboken's nine member City Council is a maze of different political campaign directions with not one, not two but count'em, three bonafide mayoral candidates: City Council President Jen Giattino, Councilman Ravi Bhalla and shinny penny Councilman Mike DeFusco.

Then there are the council members who are contending for seats to remain on the job. Councilman Dave Mello is said to have had a treasurer in place who filed papers with ELEC and is planning a fundraising event on Tuesday while weighing further options and Councilman Jim Doyle took the path of least resistance staying on with the Bhalla campaign. Doyle ran with Bhalla and Mello back in 2013.

You got all that? That's fully five of the nine members of the Hoboken City Council engaged in political activities on the way to November and we're not done.

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, the newly minted Hoboken Democratic Chair is operationally working as defacto campaign manager for her colleague Jen Giattino. Councilman Peter Cunningham is an integral member of #JenGiattinoForMayor and Councilman Ruben Ramos who ran for mayor himself in 2013 is backing Councilman Mike DeFusco's mayoral bid.

All present and accounted for? Not quite.

And then there was one; Mikie, Mikie, where art thou?

Councilman Michael Russo is the last city council member to officially get behind another council colleague's mayoral bid. Until the petitions are submitted September 5th and the November ballot finalized 10 or so days later,
Mikie Squared is up for grabs or rather, he likes Mike as in Mike Russo.

Our esteemed colleague Sully who writes the political column in the weekend paper says Councilman Michael Russo may be retained by Mike DeFusco making him a strong candidate for Old Hoboken voters in November. But how does one retain what one does not have?

The word here is Councilman Michael Russo is playing a long hand of poker. He's going to keep negotiating with both the Freeholder Anthony "Stick" Romano and Councilman Mike DeFusco campaigns right up until the deadline until someone accedes to his changing laundry list of desires. Or is it ransom demands? Or whatever his godmother former first ward councilwoman Terry Castellano says?

Councilman Michael Russo holds the option of waiting for the petition deadline on September 5th and may decide to get behind the best candidate available, himself.

The question in everyone's minds come September, will Michael Russo decide he's ready to launch? Russo may await to see who shows up at the City Clerk's Office on petition filing day. He could have hundreds of petitions ready to present at 3:55 pm right before closing time. Or not. There's no question he'll have all the intel he needs to make a decision either way right up to the 4:00 deadline.

See, he's just that good, or bad. Brutto cattivo!

Slate mates

We're heading to the end of July with 110 days to November's Election Day but most residents are more interested in the weather as real summer temperatures appear. The four major mayoral campaigns are jockeying to get up to speed naming council at-large slates.

Councilman Ravi Bhalla who hit the pavement hours after Mayor Zimmer's sudden withdrawal filled out his slate mate list last week. He has two new faces and is seeing lots of questions about who they are and what if anything they've done on local issues. Campaigns and candidates will make those answers known in due course.

Councilman Mike DeFusco has two of his three at-large council picks selected. His third is ready to launch and being it's a boys club currently, who will be shocked when the last pick is a woman? No one which tells you much about the identity requirements in the minds of politicos in town. If that clue isn't strong enough for you, yes, yes, it'll be a woman.

City Council President Jen Giattino is working to select her council picks after her recent entry into the mayoral sweepstakes. There will likely be news coming out of her campaign before month's end. So much to do and approaching 100 days before curtain time. Limber up tinker bell.

Freeholder Anthony "Stick" Romano who dove into the mayoral race like a fighter pilot on a kamikaze mission the moment Mayor Zimmer withdrew is sorting out his magical list of three. While there's rumors he is looking to get some fresh faces in the mix to appeal to the professional population of Hoboken voters, no one is saying who will make the grade. Some people question whether eight year councilman Dave Mello would be a possible option. If the other two at-large council choices are palatable and the agenda is deemed good by the two term council member, the answer here is yes.

Dreams of Horsey

I have a dream where boxer puppies and kittens, farm animals and humans can all join together in a spirit of unity and see this Hoboken non-partisan municipal election decided in a clean, fair and free election. I did say I had a dream, didn't I?

Then I woke up. This is Hoboken. Lock and load my friends and strap in because this is going to be one helluva ride.

Councilman Michael Russo was not available early this am for comment. If he responds to the inquiry on who is his horse this November; this horse will let you know. We're not expecting an answer any time soon. Check back after September 5th.

Sometimes your favorite horse is your own.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

NHSA reports action on limited pipe leak

Hoboken NHSA Commissioner Kurt Gardiner submitted the following official statement from Executive Director Richard Wolf of the North Hudson Sewerage Authority on today's spill that has been remediated.

"At approximately 6:30 AM this morning, employees at the North Hudson Sewage Authority discovered a leaking pipe inside a building on the Authority's premises at 1600 Adams St. The pipe valve was immediately shut off, and a small amount, approximately one gallon, of parasitic acid (a commercial form of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide) leaked onto the building floor."

"The Hoboken Fire Department was immediately summoned to the site, and in turn requested the presence of the Jersey City Hazmat division of its Fire Department. The fire departments established a safety perimeter that included NHSA's building complex, a small portion of the light rail and the PSE&G substation.  No hazardous materials escaped the building either in liquid or vapor form. The fire departments determined that at no time were residents of either Hoboken or Weehawken in any danger from the small contained spill. "

"Using an abundance of caution and to ensure unfettered access to the site, the fire departments briefly requested an interruption in NJT Light Rail service. The fire departments safely disposed of material on the North Hudson site within the normal treatment process of the plant.  The fire departments have informed us that there was no threat to public health.  The spill was effectively and safely contained, managed and disposed, thanks to the rapid response of the Hoboken and Jersey City fire fighters."

Dana Wefer: 'Saying goodbye is such sweet sorrow'

The following is public comment by former Hoboken Housing Authority Chair Dana Wefer. She was instrumental in uncovering massive malfeasance in the HHA, seeking a national solution in a replacement and helping to turn around the agency after the hole left by an autocratic political despot with political ambition and power the focus.

Last Thursday was my final Hoboken Housing Authority meeting. For those of you who follow Hoboken politics, you're probably familiar with the very public battle I had with my former assemblyman and former Executive Director of the housing authority.

But that public battle was just three months of the three years I was chair. In August 2014, I was able to walk into the housing authority for the first time with actual authority. I got my first glimpse of the financial and physical state the Hoboken Housing Authority was in, and it was awful. The rebuilding that we have been working on for the past three years is the more interesting and more important aspect of my tenure there.

David Dening, who is now chair, and LaTrenda Ross, who is vice chair are the leadership team on the board, and I am 100% confident that they are the best the HHA could get. Marc Recko, the executive director, is kind, principled, transparent, dedicated to the preservation of public housing, experienced and capable.

Serving with my fellow board members, Councilman At-Large David Mello, Judith Lee Burrell, James Sanford, Jean Rodriguez, and Hovie Forman, has been an incredible experience. They have all demonstrated that they have the courage and principles to stand up and do the right thing, even when the easiest thing to do is to walk away. They encapsulate the word "public servant," and it's been a privilege to work alongside them. Jeannie and I started off on rough footing, but she was an essential part of the rebuilding and ensuring that the HHA got a permanent executive director who is experienced.

The HHA staff. There are people who I know prefer not to be in the spotlight, so I will not name them, but let me just say, they are the reason we have Mark. They were a support system to the board, and they have gone above and beyond at every turn. Thank you.

Finally, the residents, the reason the HHA exists. It has been so wonderful getting to know all of you. Your dedication to the HHA exemplifies what the word "community" means. The biggest healing that needed to be done was between the residents and the authority. The chasm that needed to be bridged was wide, but I think we did it. Knowing that the residents, hha board, and hha itself are all working towards the same goals of making the HHA safe, clean, and a decent place to live, allows cooperation to thrive.

In particular, Barbara Reyes, Sandra Smith, Michele Lessane, and Arlette Braxton, you come to every meeting, rain or shine, with ideas and a willingness to put in the work to bring them to fruition. I admire you and have been inspired by your dedication.

Serving as chair of the HHA for three years, leading it from extremely troubled and putting it on a path to success has been my greatest accomplishment in life, so far. The lessons I have learned are invaluable, and I intend to share them through video.

Thank you all for allowing me to be a part of something bigger than myself.

Talking Ed Note: A few words on Dana Wefer who made a major impact on this community in recent years. First, she has an essential positive spirit seeking cooperation with others to do good. She became active in Hoboken's Reform Movement before she passed the baton to her fellow board members to take their next steps together as she and her family are looking to a new home outside Hoboken tending to the needs of her growing family.

This Horse saw the woman in action, in crisis and she was battle tested in taking on a political fiefdom with the scourges of Hoboken aligned in support. She was always resolute in her objectives but it wasn't about her; she was trying to do what she felt was right for the residents. 

Dana would seek elected office in 2015 for Hoboken City Council but she stayed honorable in how she conducted the business of the people in the Hoboken Housing Authority. In the end, even there, she won over her most skeptical critics. 

Dana feels the biggest impact on the HHA in her tenure was having Marc Recko, identified in a nationwide search step in to become Executive Director and the removal of the HHA itself as a political pawn in Hoboken elections.This election season however will see the HHA targeted perhaps like never before. 

Today however, I wish to say how much I respect Dana's community service and my admiration in how she performed under such trying conditions. Her smile and lighthearted nature lights up any room. I wish her and her family the best and will miss her terribly. She's been one of the great people I've met in the almost eight years of reporting here at MSV. 

Carmelo Garcia bounced out of Irvington Housing Authority job


Hoboken's Carmelo Garcia who left in a huff as Executive Director at the Hoboken Housing Authority back in 2014 when his contract was terminated is out again. 

This time it's connected to a short-lived one year contract quickly rescinded at the Irvington Housing Authority. Last April, the Irvington Housing Authority approved a contract to see Carmelo Garcia assume the role he had performed in Hoboken. Not a month later, another vote by that board's body terminated the agreement.

According to a May report by the Essex News Daily:

Apparently, a tenant uprising didn't find comforting the curious past of the former Hoboken Housing Authority ED. 

A May story by the Essex News Daily mentions a vetting problem, an issue others would find troubling before any contract was offered. However, the Garcia problem befell another Housing Authority:
In late April, Garcia apparently slipped in by a narrow 3-2 vote. Another report quotes him saying
“I’m excited and hopeful that we will bring about the change that you’re looking for and that the residents clearly are asking for,” said Garcia on Wednesday, April 19. “The No. 1 thing is building that trust, respecting and listening to the residents, knowing that what you say you’re going to do you carry out. So I’m looking forward implementing the plans that will improve your quality of life, because that’s very fruitful, when the residents can actually communicate with the board of commissioners and its executive director.”

In early May, rumblings began pointing to Garcia's "sketchy" past in Hoboken:

Carmelo Garcia (l) with friends; Chris Campos is on the far right and faces
federal sentencing for bank and wire fraud in September.

Talking Ed Note: Mister Carmelo is out but he has a third iteration of a civil lawsuit against the HHA and City of Hoboken still alive, originally filed back in 2013. The HHA however filed a civil lawsuit of their own against Garcia. The litigation is pending.

Related: Believe it or not, published a story where Carmelo Garcia talks about running for a Hoboken City Council seat again this year.

In 2015, Councilwoman Jen Giattino defeated Garcia's bid to replace her.
Hoboken, you just can't make this stuff up.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

HCV report: Jen Giattino "didn't vote for Donald Trump"

The following report comes courtesy of the Hudson County View:

For the complete story, please see the Hudson County View:

Hoboken campaigns go full metal jacket

Last night the last of the four major mayoral campaigns reached liftoff and now all the campaigns are competing for the hearts and minds of Hoboken voters.

It's clear this Hoboken race will be competitive and the four major campaigns, funded. Any thought of intimidating, pushing or shoving a competitor to the sidelines is off the table. That is unless the Feds show up and do some pushing and shoving of their own. Which raises sidebar questions, who is former mayor and convicted felon Peter Cammarano supporting? Or who does he see as most like himself?

The event last night saw a big crowd, good spirits and much laughter among over 100 upstart reform resistance happy warriors. Optimism is burgeoning in all the campaigns and everyone sees a path to victory come November.

City Council President Jen Giattino's speech highlighted a number of issues she clearly values: a new Master Plan to manage Hoboken development, unity, a focus on serving Hoboken not political career ambitions for the future, displacement among other issues. Highlighted in her speech is the will do, can do spirit Giattino quietly shows when she's not doing the work of and on the council. Some at the event described this as her magical sauce and secret ingredient. It's the reason behind the strong, diverse undercurrent of her support.

An issue sure to see more discussion will be the major vote on the behemoth Bijou project last summer on upper Jackson Street. Jen Giattino voted with Tiffanie Fisher against it; while Council members Ravi Bhalla voted with Jim Doyle in passing the legislation.

Independent council candidate Kurt Gardiner has made this a fixture of his early campaign pointing to the financial numbers and developer concessions being a bad deal for Hoboken and its residents. He said it should never be repeated. His voice won't be the only one on the matter.

City Council President Jen Giattino and Hoboken Democratic Chair & Councilwoman, Tiffanie Fisher

The rest of this story is MSV Premium and went out to members earlier.
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Scenes from a Reform restaurant

Eric, Jen and the munchkins

Hoboken's former HHA Chair Dana Wefer, Jen Giattino and Hoboken's no. 1 George Best fan and Moran's owner, Lenny

Das Giant kickoff: NHSA commissioner & Hoboken Democratic Committee Sargent at Arms Kurt Gardiner
and eight year Hoboken City Councilman Dave Mello

Hoboken's authentic "save the hospital" heroine Toni Tomarazzo, Sue Pregibon and Kurt Gardiner pose for a shot

The crowd outside Moran's to hear City Council President Jen Giattino

Monday, July 17, 2017

City Council President Jen Giattino's remarks

Remarks by City Council President Jen Giattino as prepared for delivery.

City Council President Jen Giattino with Reform supporter Nial at her mayoral kickoff event at Moran's.

Thank you all for being here tonight. My name is Jen Giattino and I am honored to be running for mayor of Hoboken.

I am running for mayor because I love Hoboken. I am all about Hoboken and the people of Hoboken – newcomers, oldcomers and people who’ve been here for generations. I will be mayor for everyone. People of all colors and ages. People of every faith or no faith, people of ample means or limited means, people of all sexual preferences, all political parties, and everybody else. Mostly I just see people as people and our amazing diversity is one of the reasons that I love Hoboken.

I am running for mayor of Hoboken to address the needs of the people in our community, to better manage our growth and to enhance our urban village that we all call home. I do not think of being mayor of Hoboken as a stepping stone to anything else. Hoboken needs a mayor who will spend every day focused on making Hoboken the best place it can be.

When it comes to “quality of life,” I walk Hoboken daily and I will not stop when I am mayor. I understand and relate with the problems and concerns of our residents. When I see water seeping through a sidewalk, a light out, a pothole, or an unsafe intersection, I report and follow up to ensure it is addressed. These may seem like small things, but they are important. When I am mayor, my city directors will be leaders in establishing a culture of constituent service throughout the city and will make sure that reported problems are taken seriously if they cannot be anticipated in the first place.

When it comes to managing growth, everyone feels the impact of crowding around us. The 126 bus, the ferries, roads and bike racks are all overcrowded. It really does feel like we are bursting at the seams. I feel it too. When we begin to discuss growth we should be asking, what is the impact of development in our community and how do we manage it? I know most of the peopleare concerned with over development. 

Development needs to be done in a way that works and benefits us. We need to urgently complete a new Master Plan and change the zoning ordinance in a manner that provides the community, property owners and developers with clear standards for future development.

The way to minimize overcrowding is to build less residential and more commercial. Fewer people going in and out, more people working close to home. In any zoning change or redevelopment plan we need to make sure Hoboken gets the maximum community investment that matches the priorities of our residents. I voted against the large development on 7th and Jackson not because it did not have community benefits, but because it did not have enough. Three out of the four corners of our town have significant development ahead and we need to make sure it does not negatively impact our quality of life and that Hoboken gets the most benefits from these developments.

Commercial development is also a key way to broaden and diversify our tax base. I have been an integral part of keeping taxes flat since I was elected in 2011, having served on the Revenue and Finance Committee for my entire tenure on the Council. With much of the necessary investments in our infrastructure ahead of us, now is the time to find ways to offset these future costs which will by my focus. Another way to lessen the tax burden on residents is to work with the County and insist that Hoboken get County investment in our community proportionate to our tax contribution to the County. I have always worked effectively with the County and State officials and anticipate continuing my good working relationships with them to achieve this.

I have been fortunate to call Hoboken my home for 18 years. Raising three children here, I understand the challenges families have. Families are staying in town and the school age population is exploding. A big part of that is the positive changes that have happened throughout Hoboken schools and especially at the Hoboken Board of Education where the Board majority and Superintendent Dr. Christine Johnson are doing an amazing job. Some of my proudest moments have been working with the many schools within Hoboken. I have actively supported and campaigned for those Board of Education candidates, been honored to work with All Saints Episcopal Day School on environmental awareness, and helped Hoboken Charter School find a new home and navigate the system after their fire, just to name a few. While the City of Hoboken is not directly responsible for district schools, charter schools or private schools, the City should be an asset to the schools’ efforts to deal with their own issues. As mayor, I will see that that happens.

Being on the Council, I unfortunately have seen firsthand the displacement taking place in our town which threatens the very diversity that makes Hoboken so special. Our most vulnerable have nowhere to turn. This needs to be fixed and as a community we cannot turn a blind eye to these neighbors. In my capacity as Councilwoman for the last six years I have helped many in danger of being displaced throughout our City. As mayor, I will work to not only help in a moment of crisis, but to find solutions so that these residents no longer feel unsupported and insecure.

When we talk about our urban village, in addition to the efforts that are currently underway, we need to continue finding alternative fixes for our flooding issues such as separating storm water and sewer systems where we can and exploring a third pump with North Hudson Sewerage Authority. And in order to maintain the feel of our urban village we must also revisit legislation such as our flood ordinance. By reforming the flood ordinance, we can help to protect the historical character of our town. No better example of our historic character is the centerpiece of our town - Washington St. Fixing the water mains, roads and, what is most important to me, pedestrian safety, is only a start. We must work with residents, businesses, and property owners to make our Main St. inviting and more successful.

A big part of what makes Hoboken feel like a village is our open space. We have outdoor space that needs to be completed such as the BASF site which I have been fighting for since I was elected to the Council in 2011. I am also a proponent of completing what many of our neighbors started decades ago which is for Hoboken to have a contiguous waterfront public park. This includes the Union Dry Dock site and continuing the fight for the Monarch site. Mayor Zimmer has done an amazing job of increasing our open space. Now, we now need to add focus to other community facilities such as the YMCA, the Multi-Service Center, a pool, and also the maintenance and enhancement of open space and parks that we already have. Community members and stakeholders must be included in this process.

Those who know me best know I am an inclusive person and this approach is the most effective way to get things done and strengthen our community. As a three-time Council president, elected by my peers, I have made it a priority to work with all Council members and as mayor I will continue to prioritize working with stakeholders and other elected officials at all levels.

To quote a friend and Hoboken resident, “out of change comes the opportunity to see things differently, to keep the ideas that work and replace those that don’t.” With this, I ask for your support in creating an Administration that works, and works for all of us. 

Sign of the Times: BLOWOUT!

Tonight the kickoff event for City Council President Jen Giattino who is running for Hoboken mayor was held at Moran's and a blowout overflowing crowd beyond capacity forced 125 who blew through the event to the sidewalk outside causing much rubbernecking by the cars on midtown Garden Street.

Among the luminaries: Councilman Dave Mello, Council candidate Kurt Gardiner, Parking Director John Morgan, Hoboken Zoning Board Chair Jim Aibel, Hoboken Housing Authority Chair David Dening, former HHA Chair Dana Wefer, former Hoboken Business Administrator Quentin Wiest, former council members Carol Marsh, Michael Lenz, former BoE trustee Theresa Minutillo, hospital authority board member and bonafide Hoboken heroine Toni Tomarazzo and council members Peter Cunningham and Tiffanie Fisher amid a buzzing throng.

Did a Horse miss anyone? No doubt. There were MSV Premium readers, some never met before and other readers among the throng who kept asking, "Are you the Horse?"

You bet.

 Councilman Dave Mello (l) among a group of the overflowing crowd at Moran's earlier this evening with City Council President Jen Giattino and friends. Former councilwoman Carol Marsh is seen (r) and NHSA commissioner and independent council candidate Kurt Gardiner (seated front).

More to come.

Grist for the Mill: Rebirth of Reform?

Tonight the last of the four major mayoral candidates, City Council President Jen Giattino is hosting a kick-off for her launch tonight at Moran's.

This won't be your typical reform movement kick-off. With four major campaigns in the mix, there's a sense anyone can emerge between now and November and win the chair to the mayor's office on the second floor at City Hall.

This of course is nothing like what anyone has seen since the fall of 2009 when Reform united under one banner behind Mayor Dawn Zimmer, the unlikely mayoral candidate who threw in her hat to claim that mantle. The quiet council member as many saw her, was viewed as the silent one among two reform oriented members coming on board in the 2007 election and the current senior reform statesman Peter Cunningham. When Dawn Zimmer got ahead of the competition declaring her intent for mayor, many Hoboken observers saw her dividing the nascent reform movement's effectiveness by splitting it with another now notorious name: Beth Mason.

Apologies to those having a late lunch. The horse just threw up a little with the afternoon Lasix. Early 2009, the sense of fear there was a reform split mirrors the concerns today. Both mayoral races then and now featured multiple mayoral candidacies and some bit players thought inconsequential. In the spring of 2009 however there wasn't four major mayoral candidates dividing two major camps as today.

Beth Mason's mayoral campaign polled as likely in shouting distance of winning the spring mayoral election outright on the first ballot but crashed and burned plunging harder than the Hindenburg. Former mayor and felon Peter Cammarano exploded out of the gate in the first round running neck and neck with then councilwoman Dawn Zimmer, both seeing well over 3,000 votes. Beth Mason came in a distant third with less than half of the votes of each of the top runoff candidates and would reportedly suffer a nervous breakdown. After her crushing defeat, Mason disappeared for almost four days and some say she had to be carried out of her bedroom by two assistants several days later. She would never forget or forgive the defeat emerging as a linchpin underwriting the Russo Clan and hating Hoboken residents' guts. On the way, she literally tried to destroy the Mile Square City, its hospital, publicly backed a frivolous lawsuit against residents and bloggers and lashed out against those she thought stood in the way of her believed entitlement.

Fast forward to 2017 with Mayor Zimmer who looked like no one wanted to get into the ring and compete this November. Her sudden withdrawal and the expected baton toss to her ally Councilman Ravi Bhalla didn't go off as planned and the botched power play created resistance clearly miscalculated among her inner circle. Enter City Council President Jen Giattino and the Hoboken reform resistance.

Tonight at Moran's, that resistance and with it a new energy for reform will take shape. Both City Council President Jen Giattino and Councilman Ravi Bhalla are seeking to breathe new ideas and a new energy in a post Mayor Zimmer political universe in the Mile Square City.

The idea of a sheer Reform split may however prove a misnomer, exactly as it did in 2009.

Grist for the Mill is MSV's rumor column. Got a tasty carrot for Da Horsey? Send it to All email is kept confidential and is protected by Da Horsey's proven Reporter Privilege upheld under the NJ Shield Law in Hudson County Superior Court. In farm animals we trust.