Thursday, July 21, 2011

Councilman Dave Mello: a Southwest park a step closer

From the desk of Councilman Dave Mello:

Dear Hoboken Friends and Neighbors,

I am very pleased to announce that the City officially requested that $3,000,000 of open space acquisition money, which Hoboken had previously received from Hudson County's Open Space Trust Fund, be reprogrammed to our southwest neighborhood this afternoon. This means that, if approved by the County, our City will have $3,000,000 in additional funding available to make a southwest park a reality.

Last night, our City Council had a healthy debate over how best to show the Council's resolve to purchase parkland in the southwest. I'm proud to say that we affirmatively voted to show that determination, by passing a resolution demonstrating this Council's commitment to provide the administration with all the tools necessary to hold productive, good-faith negotiations with southwest property owners. I'd like to thank my council colleagues who joined me in voting to support this resolution, and additionally thank all of my colleagues for engaging in a healthy, thoughtful debate on the issue.

In addition to a $20,000,000 bonding commitment, which the Council made months ago for park space acquisition, this $3,000,000 will further provide the administration with a significant funding source as they negotiate with property owners in the southwest for land acquisition. Please be assured, I will always advocate that the administration only make offers on property that are fiscally responsible offers for our taxpayers. I have full faith that our administration will continue to demonstrate such responsibility as they go on with negotiations. Park space acquisition is a must for our community, particularly in the southwest. However, we will not unjustly enrich property owners, at the expense of our taxpayers, as we pursue this highly needed public benefit.

The fight for the creation of a southwest park has been a long, ongoing effort. Hoboken took a big step toward winning this fight by passing the resolution that the Council did last night, and by the administration's request that these acquisition funds be reprogrammed to the southwest today. The creation of a southwest park is a massive goal for Hoboken, but one that we will successfully achieve by working together.

- Posted at full gallop

Mayor goes all in: throws down in bid for Southwest park


Mayor Dawn Zimmer is requesting that $3 million Hudson County Open Space grant funding originally awarded for purchasing land for a park on the Henkel site be repurposed for land acquisition for a Southwest Park. Hudson County provided municipalities with a one-time opportunity to repurpose previously awarded grants where the projects had not yet been completed towards other projects where the funds could be used within the next 12 months. Three years ago, Hoboken received a $3 million grant to purchase land on the Henkel site. The process for land acquisition stalled due to a number of complexities.

Since the City Council approved $20 million in bonds for the acquisition of land for new parks, the Administration has been engaging land owners in Southwest Hoboken, but they have not been willing to sell their properties.

“I thank the City Council for providing my Administration with the tools we need to re-engage property owners and negotiate from a position of strength so we can acquire land at a price that is fair to both property owners and taxpayers,” said Mayor Zimmer. “We are on our way to making the Southwest Park a reality. Although the Henkel site is not something that could be acquired within the next 12 months, it remains a goal for acquisition for a new park.”

The request for repurposing the funds requires approval of the Hudson County Board of Freeholders.

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Talking Ed Note:  MSV will be back on this breaking development.

Hoboken Revolt: The call to arms on the Hospital tonight

The Hoboken Tax Reform Coalition

A message to all members of Hoboken Revolt

Taxes will Skyrocket, You MUST Speak Up!

Members of Hoboken Revolt-
Our City is faced with a brutal reality.... The Hospital continues to lose money and taxpayers are on the hook for a $55M bond if the hosptial is not sold.   IT MUST BE SOLD TO AVERT DISASTER.  Taxes will skyrocket.  $55M is equal to the entire tax levy of one fiscal year!  Selling the hospital will guarantee residents with local quality healthcare for the next seven years (the terms of the negotiated agreement for sale currently on the table) while ridding taxpayers of a potential financial disaster.

ATTEND THE MEETING TONIGHT 6pm- 8pm and tell the board you support the sale!
State Health Board Meeting-
TONIGHT Thursday, July 21st 6p-8p
Our Lady of Grace Parish Hall, 422 Willow Ave

This is AS IMPORTANT as demostrating against the 47% tax hike a few years ago.  Let's demonstrate NOW so we don't have to later!

If you have not signed the petition please do so and share this with your friends:

Love Your Town, Stay Involved!

County: City has option yet on park extension application

Adding another wrinkle to a politically charged arena of a $3 million county grant to Hoboken for a park, additional details surrounding its appropriation remain open for an extension with a meeting of the County's Open Space Advisory Board next week, leaving the door ajar for the Southwest.

Based on the existing master plan and other documents on file for a Southwest park, the County will permit the city to present a specific plan to utilize funds not spent in an original three year grant.

Originally three grants were appropriated by the County for Hoboken but the three year expiration is approaching and a progress report from the city is due to the County today.

Steven Marks, a planner for Hudson County stated Hoboken will submit their progress report and present their plan in person to the County's Open Space Advisory Board on July 27th in Jersey City

"As long as the project fits the criteria," Steven Marks noted, the County does not involve itself in local aspects where eminent domain may be applied.  "The problem is if an applicant has it for 36 months, and does nothing and wants a year extension, they need to show where it's going."

Grants are good for 36 months and Hoboken originally had three grants earmarked toward the Cognos site.  As this was not in the immediate future, the door was open to another project to reprogram the funds.

"We gave the opportunity to reprogram to a different project that met the criteria of the referendum (Open Space)... There's plenty of planning documents calling for the creation of a new project in the Southwest.  Each are eligible and compelling," Marks detailed.

But if Hoboken presents its case for the Southwest at the July 27th meeting can it answer the questions to meet the guidelines for a one year extension?

"The county wants to see the money can be reasonably spent in 12 months, then fine," Marks stated. He indicated the questions and answers arising in the reprogrammed application will be specifically addressed at Wednesday's hearing to be held at the Lincoln Park Administration Building sometime between 10:00 and 3:00.

The City will be submitting its report to the County later today.

Councilman Dave Mello voted for eminent domain and may see it in play.
It's an open question if the County's extension of the original three year grant will be directed to
an eligible Southwest plan.  A County Advisory Board meeting is set for July 27th on the matter.

Talking Ed Note: The mayor was clearly serious about the linkage toward the grant and eminent domain.  While the progress report will be sent today, the fallback position of Sinatra Park is not on the table with last night's 5-4 vote for eminent domain in the Southwest.

How that plays out with the County's advisory board next week is the open question.

More falsehoods from whoever spins for the HSPC

It's funny when people quote other people on an issue but insert a lie right at the top of the page.  Must be a severe Hoboken411 disorder or blind fealty to the errors demonstrated by their political allegiance to Tim Occhipinti.

Occhipinti is wrong.  You can not reprogram the County grant of $3 million to the Southwest not because of the mayor, not because it's her decision, but BECAUSE OF THE COUNTY STIPULATIONS ON APPLYING THE GRANT MONEY.

Either way, this is a coverup.  Whoever is a member of this group should make a point of challenging such behavior by the person writing on the issue.  They can't do it in the comments section of this group's webpage.

The administrator of the HSPC page, like Hoboken411 censors comments.

As for the facts:

The comments here attributed to Tim Occhipinti's statement on what Freeholder Anthony Romano agreed to are false.  Anyone contacting the Freeholder will quickly see he clearly states where and how the $3 million can be applied.  It isn't in the Southwest.  There's no property the city owns to apply it to and the reason is because no potential seller to this point has emerged.  No city ownership of a property to dedicate, no grant money.

It's that simple.

Regarding Councilwoman Beth Mason's request to split the funds with the Southwest.  Director Forbes was not sure on the answer, but MSV is clear.  You can't do it.  A simple call to the County would confirm it, and it's spelled out in the previous story.

MSV highlighted Mason's application of her usage of the word transparency.  Where is the documentation on her $52,000 in street money?  Where's your transparency Beth Mason?

As for this shadowy HSPC group, for all we know the author below lives about as far from the Southwest as you can get.

How's that for transparent?

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Hoboken Shourthwest Parks Coalition Logo
City Council Approves Using Eminent Domain To Acquire SW Park Land
The $3 Mil County Grant Was Not Approved For The SW Park
The council said the re-programming of the $3 M in county grant funding for the SW park (as requested by Councilman Occhipinti) is the Mayor's decision and they did not vote on it.
The actual resolution on last night's council agenda: Resolution of support for the use of Eminent Domain in the Southwest portion of Hoboken (submitted by Administration)

The City Council approved the resolution 5-4:
Bhalla: Yes
Castellano: No
Cunningham: Yes
Giattino: No
Marsh: Yes
Mason: No
Mello: Yes
Occhipinti: Yes
Russo: No
Comments from council members (in no particular order):

Councilman Tim Occhipinti:
"The 4th Ward residents have waited longer than 3rd ward residents for a park. Sinatra already has $12 M in bonding and there has been no movement on the SW park. Our Freeholder, Romano, will support the money [$3M] being re-programmed for the SW. Bring us the evidence that you need to use eminent domain. Councilman Mello, if I support this, which Corporation Counsel says has no bearing, will we put forward the re-programming of funds to the SW?"
Councilman Dave Mello:
"Previous councils showed no willingness to use eminent domain. This kills the Administration's leverage to go into negotiations. Nobody wants to use their bombs, but it helps in peace negotiations. We need to get the property prices close to appraised values."
Councilman Michael Russo:
"This eminent domain pigeonholes us. You don't need a resolution to use eminent domain. We always have the ability to use eminent domain." Regarding the $3M grant, Russo felt the money would be better spent on the 6th & Jackson property which he described as more shovel-ready. "It might not be appropriate to put the $3M into the SW and rush this process. The Administration and Directors should find another place to put the funds which will then remove this resolution [eminent domain] from the table."
Councilwoman Carol Marsh:
"I don't take eminent domain lightly. I do support this." Regarding the $3M grant, Marsh felt that if the funds are used on Sinatra Field, then "we are eating $3M in land acquisition funding."
Councilwoman Beth Mason:
"This is unnecessary and not the way to do it. We need to do it with transparency with the property owners. We only heard about this three hours before tonight's meeting." Regarding the $3 M in grant funding, Mason inquired with Director Forbes if the money could be split between the SW park and another project in need. Director Forbes did not have the answer for that.
Councilwoman Theresa Castellano:
"This is a very sneaky underhanded tactic [eminent domain] to take property. There's been no proper notice to the public or the property owners. This is a tactic by the Administration to say we voted against parks."
Councilman Peter Cunningham:
"I was against eminent domain five years ago on the 11th & Grand property. It was a bad project. This project [SW] has a benefit to all residents of the city by providing parks and flood mitigation. I'm in support of seeing this done. And flood mitigation is what I support."
Council President Ravi Bhalla:
"i can think of at least two members who support putting the funds towards the SW park, but they haven't offered the tools necessary to move that forward."
Councilwoman Jen Giattino:
(We had no audible quote from her regarding eminent domain but she did inquire if the $3M grant would need to be spent in a one year period. She did say she wants the $3M to go towards Sinatra Field.)

Council shifts elections to November, moves on Eminent Domain, Corner Cars, and more

A jam packed agenda led to a long but maybe the most productive meeting in memory with a number of initiatives passed such as moving municipal elections from May to November, establishing Corner Cars by ordinance, finalizing the budget amendment and overall budget to name several.

Dr. Jonathan Wharton, a political science professor from Stevens made
a rare appearance speaking in favor of November elections. He described
his study of the issue as near and dear to him. Many on the council and public agreed
with his primary goal of the move to increase voter turnout.

A complete discussion on campaign finance reform was halted when an error by the clerk's office was brought to light but those ordinances were demonstrated to be legal based on a number of other NJ municipalities successfully implementing them over the last several years. The legality of the ordinances was raised over and over again but there was no tangible argument to suggest they were unconstitutional and would be challenged successfully in court. It hasn't been voided as unconstitutional elsewhere in NJ: Atlantic County, Dumont and several others all have similar legislation on the books.

The controversy over moving on a Southwest Park began with a grandstanding press release by an Assemblyman's aide Alex Habib via Tim Occhipinti leading 48 hours into the county deadline today. The retort from the Administration to the park politricks was to up the ante placing eminent domain on the table while stating the funds should be used where possible on behalf of Sinatra Park.

From a policy and controversy standpoint, the park item became a political football and unexpectedly led to legislation allowing the city a tool or more appropriately a hammer to identify a property for sale - putting eminent domain on the table in the Southwest.

The issue in the Southwest however has been and is one of availability. Earlier Wednesday in an interview with Freeholder Anthony Romano, the terms of the county's $3 million grant were outlined. The Freeholder explained the county was happy to work with the mayor and council as long as the allocation terms were met. The funds must be dedicated to a specific project right down to a specific location by lot number.

A box of his own creation. Councilman Tim Occhipinti called out the Administration and colleague Councilman Dave Mello to earmark $3 million in County funds to a Southwest Park. The funds can only be applied to a property the city controls. Occhipinti never mentioned that fact and the Administration raised the stakes by invoking an eminent domain resolution. It passed in a most unusual 5-4 vote.

"Both Council members Tim Occhipinti and Dave Mello have asked to reprogram the open space fund to a park in the 4th ward," the Freeholder said. "We're glad to support it but you have to show a designated area to do it."

During the City Council meeting, that point was missed although it was clearly connected to the reason for the Administration to present an eminent domain initiative. Overall most of the minority members stated it was unreasonable to be placed "in a box," by forcing a vote on the issue.

In the end, the vote on eminent domain passed in one of the most unlikely votes of the year. Council President Ravi Bhalla challenged Councilman Tim Occhipinti to stand up and be consistent on a park for the Southwest by supporting a needed tool to make it a reality. With no seller agreeing to terms with the city, Councilman Occhipinti became the fifth critical vote breaking with the minority in an important vote for the very first time.

Councilwoman Jennifer Giattino voted no on eminent domain having inquired earlier on the standards for earmarking the $3 million in county grants. She clearly joined with the Administration in looking to have those funds allocated to Sinatra Park where they can be used now, while declining to move on the more controversial aspects of eminent domain in the 4th ward.

The meeting again displayed characteristics not seen in many months in its reasonable discussion and lack of circular arguments being repeated as has been the case at times in the past year. Council President Ravi Bhalla has shown strong leadership and a deft touch in moving the agenda forward. Although the meeting ended after midnight, it was perhaps the most productive meeting in recent memory.

The body as a whole can take credit for that as well. Was there other reasons involved?
MSV believes there is but for the moment we'll defer from those suppositions.

Talking Ed Note: One option the City has is applying for an extension on the County grant.
A willing seller is required for the county grant regardless.