Monday, July 26, 2010

Weehawken joins in shared solution in Hoboken!

City of Hoboken announces:


Agreement will avoid closure of Clinton Street

Since assuming office, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer has been in discussions with neighboring municipalities to explore sharing services for municipal vehicle storage. Throughout the process, Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner expressed strong interest in working with Hoboken if a suitable site could be obtained.

The day after Hoboken’s City Council voted to approve the closure of Clinton Street between 15th and 16th Streets for the storage of municipal vehicles, an opportunity arose that appeared to meet the needs of both municipalities. In the past, the same location had been discussed as a potential joint use location by the administrations of Weehawken and Hoboken. Mayor Zimmer and Mayor Turner immediately began negotiations to move forward together to share services between the two municipalities. The agreement is for joint use and equitable sharing of storage space at 1714-16 Willow Avenue. Freeholder Anthony L. Romano assisted in helping to identify the site as a potential location.

On Friday, July 23, the City of Hoboken entered into an agreement with Willow Avenue Enterprises, LLC for vehicle and parts storage services at the proposed joint services site, 1714-16 Willow Avenue -- a property located within Hoboken city limits on the North end of the Willow Avenue bridge. As a result of this agreement, Clinton Street will not be closed to vehicular traffic at this time.

The initial period of the agreement is for 60 days but can be extended by both municipalities for two additional 180 day periods. The cost is $15,000 per month. Hoboken and Weehawken will use this period to determine whether extending this arrangement for a longer term is in the interests of both municipalities.

If this temporary arrangement is determined to continue, the municipalities will work towards a long-term solution which may involve other neighboring municipalities and agencies.

The location includes both an interior garage and parts storage space and an exterior parking area for both municipality’s vehicles and salt storage. No garbage will be stored at the facility.

Vehicular traffic will be routed in such a way as to avoid residential neighborhoods.


Talking Ed Note: Hoboken411 is already spewing the typical derangement Da Horsey hears, saying Weehawken is bailing out Hoboken.

One problem: the location is in Hoboken.

Sorry Perry.

Photo: courtesy City of Hoboken

Councilman Ravi Bhalla - concern on bias crimes

The following is a press release from Councilman Ravi Bhalla regarding two bias crimes recently in Hoboken:

Ravi Bhalla Press Release 7 26 10

Councilman can you spare a vote?

Logrolling: n.
The exchanging of political favors, especially the trading of influence or votes among legislators to achieve passage of projects that are of interest to one another.

The practice of logrolling is not illegal in New Jersey.  In Hoboken, the City Council representative who annually demonstrates the best logrolling execution is presented with an an award and a taxpayer paid free dinner for two at Arthur’s Steakhouse.

HHA and NHSA: a sweet arrangement?

Which leads us to the point of our story here, an arrangement that placed two candidates into their respective appointments: Mary Camporeale, a senior citizen residing in Fox Hills, a fifth ward housing complex and well known stomping ground for senior votes and Tony Soares, the President of the Hoboken Zoning Board.  Camporeale rumored to be closely aligned and godmother of HHA Executive Director Carmelo Garcia earned a unanimous 9-0 vote while Tony Soares squeaked through on a 5-4 vote earning required votes from both Russo to get his second board appointment. How can those two votes so vastly different be connected?
In or out of the picture?  Councilmen Mike Russo (l) and Michael Lenz, a most unlikely pairing of logrolling interests.

Initial concern among the reform activist community centered on Russo backed candidate Irene Smith obtaining council approval for fourth alternate on the zoning board after Tony Soares’ nod on the North Hudson Sewerage Authority (NHSA) but that notion is misplaced. The actual  arrangement based on multiple sources who wish to remain anonymous is the two sides pushing Soares and Compeareale merged and brokered majority support leading into the Wednesday meeting. That arrangement those sources independently verified was finalized between Councilman Mike Lenz and Councilman Mike Russo.

On the record denials

In an interview Thursday with MSV, Councilman Lenz denied any such arrangement. Initially Lenz refused to speak about appointments whatsoever saying he was open to discussing other issues although in his comment about the appointments in a statement last week he wrote, “…I recognize that this is a genuine issue deserving of an open and honest debate.”

“I deny the deal completely. That’s false,” Lenz replied to the idea there was an arrangement with Councilman Mike Russo.  "I didn’t seek a vote from Mike Russo. When I walked into the (Council) meeting, I had strong indications where four people were voting (on the NHSA appointment). Beyond that I was unsure of the vote.”

In an interview the same day with Councilman Mike Russo, the idea of any arrangement was rejected as well. “There’s always discussion what we’d like to see.  I expressed those concerns to (City Council President) Carol Marsh, (Councilman) Peter Cunningham and Lenz… I had those conversations.  We did discuss other appointments. We don’t do that (quid pro quo). At least I don’t do that."

Contradictions surface

But their interviews differed on the substance leading in to the Tony Soares’ vote on the NHSA. “I was lobbied and lobbied hard,” Mike Russo said specifically referencing calls on Tony’s behalf from Carol Marsh and Mike Lenz.  He advised they should instead have Tony contact him directly.  Later, Tony Soares did call Michael Russo describing that action as “reaching across the aisle.”

As late as the day of the Council meeting itself, Councilman Lenz was still working the phones to find the votes to ensure Tony Soares’ appointment to his second board position. This even as Mayor Zimmer backed Brian Assadourian, a supporter who may have even toured the NHSA earlier that week.

The deal to seal the votes of the Russo faction is described as coming very late possibly leading right into the Council meeting.  When the fifth vote was solidified for Maryanne Camporeale, the Russo votes were on board for Tony Soares.  But it wasn’t even clear if they would be necessary until Councilman Ravi Bhalla joined Council members Nino Giacchi, Beth Mason and Dave Mello in voting no. Councilman Mello just back from an overseas trip described his "No" vote against Soares saying, “It was the right thing to do” agreeing with the mayor’s position of one person per board position.

Councilman Peter Cunningham described his support for Mary Camporeale as a good one acknowledging some would see it as a pitch for Fox Hills votes in next spring’s council races. “I thought Mary was a great candidate.  She’s a senior. Why would I not support a constituent from the fifth ward who knows the issues?” He added his expectations on voter support in Fox Hills is positive whether Mary got the votes for the HHA appointment or not.

Regarding the Sewerage Authority vote, Cunningham distanced himself from any arrangement saying, “I just assumed Mike and Terry were going to support Tony.  Is it possible those guys (Russo and Lenz) worked out a deal to support Tony then giving Russo support for Mary?  I don’t know.”

According to Lenz, there was four votes leading into the meeting for Soares but it’s unclear where he thought the fourth vote was coming from as he also stated, “I didn’t think the votes were there for Tony” adding he had not spoken to Cunningham. The appointment requires five votes and the mayor’s coalition saw two of its normal five uncommitted and then decline to support Soares.  He could therefore only have three for Soares (Lenz, Marsh, Cunningham) or five for the appointment: Lenz, Marsh, Cunningham, Mike Russo and Terry Castellano.

To reach the magic number and get Tony Soares his second board position, the buzz said getting behind Mary Camporeale would secure the two Russo votes. One source suggested the vote for Soares was only locked up very late as Lenz felt pinned down by expectations for another candidate.