Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mayor issues memo on several issues to Council

In a memo to the City Council, Mayor Dawn Zimmer provides an update on various issues. The full text of the memo is included below.
August 23, 2011
Dear City Council Members:
I am writing to provide an update and additional information on a variety of issues.
Parks and Pedestrian Safety
My Administration has been trying to meet the Council’s deadline for 1600 Park set by a 9-0 vote on May 4th. In order to meet this deadline, everything had to go perfectly. I made the decision that for public safety reasons and in order to ensure that we have the best possible park design for the long term, we will delay the opening of the park rather than meet this artificial deadline.
Originally, my Administration had proposed a series of short-term pedestrian safety measures including a striped crosswalk, other traffic calming measures, and police presence at 16th and Park while a traffic signal was installed. The County was not comfortable that these measures were sufficient, and we have agreed that the signal should be installed before opening the park. Although we coordinated with the County in the first months of 2010 for a signal at this location; unfortunately, the programming for such work prevents the installation of a traffic and pedestrian signal at 16th and Park until next year. I am asking for your help to expedite the process for installation of this signal.
The City’s Transportation and Parking Department collected traffic data for that area to assess the best pedestrian safety measures to be installed for 1600 Park. Per our analysis, more than 95% of the cars in this area along Park Avenue speed (posted speed limit of 25 mph). The speed data for this traffic study is as follows:
pedsafetyPark Avenue Viaduct Speed Data
Average Speed: 34 mph
85th Percentile Speed: 39 mph
Percentage traveling over 25 mph 95.6%
Percentage traveling over 30 mph 78.0%
Percentage traveling over 35 mph 37.4%
Percentage traveling over 40 mph 8.4%
At the speeds this traffic is traveling, the chance of a pedestrian accident resulting in a fatality is significantly higher than it would be at or below the posted speed limit.
Although the need to install the signal will delay the opening of the field, I still want to expedite this process so the field can be opened for use in the late spring/summer of 2012. Unfortunately, the County’s signalization funding program would not allow us to have the signal constructed until late in 2012. My Administration has been working with the County to finalize an inter-local agreement that allows for the County’s funding intended for this signal to be used in kind for roadway improvements next year along Observer Highway that would otherwise be borne by the city. In exchange, the City would bond immediately for the traffic signal at the 16th & Park location. We expect the agreement to be finalized and on the next agenda, but in order to move forward with the funding of the signal, a bond ordinance for that signal is on for introduction at this week’s Council meeting.
Because I have decided to delay opening up the park until 2012, this has given us the opportunity to contemporaneously revise the height of the field. As a result of concerns raised by some residents of the elevation of the field, my staff, the design professionals and I met with a representative of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). At that meeting the DEP expressed new flexibility in environmental remediation measures, and we believe that we can lower the height of the retaining wall and field significantly while still maintaining the necessary environmental remediation controls. Although the field will still be elevated somewhat, these revisions to the design will allow us to make the field more visually connected to our waterfront.
Previously we were moving forward with the field being built with the approved environmental controls previously allowed and approved by the DEP. In order to get the field completed by this fall, the City would have had to utilize those existing remediation measures that were already completed. To move forward and re-design the field, we will need to utilize the expertise of a Licensed Site Remediation Professional (LSRP), as the DEP no longer does direct oversight of environmental remediation. This has created the flexibility and timeliness in remediation measures that were previously not available to us.
We will be moving forward with redesigning the artificial turf field as is acceptable to the DEP standards and will make sure to work with the stakeholders on the various conceptual designs for their feedback before we go out to bid. In order to redesign and rebid, however, we have to rescind the contract with Applied Landscape Technologies. This firm was the lowest bidder and the bid was awarded to them at the July 1st City Council meeting. Subsequently we learned from the DEP about the flexibility in environmental controls possible for the site. Unfortunately, the change in design will change the scope of work significantly, necessitating the need to reject all bids and rebid the project upon completion of the new design drawings. This item is on this week’s agenda to rescind the bid.
We will also need to revise the contract with Remington & Vernick to address the redesign and the use of the LSRP for oversight of the environmental work. We are awaiting their proposal for this additional work change order and expect to have that on the agenda for a revision to the contract at the September 7th Council meeting.
Helping Community Organizations
The agenda contains a resolution to approve approximately $48,000 in funding for the YMCA. This funding would come from our affordable housing fund which has a balance of $72,663.19 and which is not designated for any other use. These funds may only be used for affordable housing projects such as this one. The YMCA is seeking this bridge funding in order to close on the financing for the project which will create 96 single-room occupancy units of low and moderate income housing. Please review the attached memo from our redevelopment counsel for additional information.
A resolution would also approve an application to COAH to request that the balance of our affordable housing funds be reallocated towards supporting the Hoboken Shelter. The shelter plays a critical role in our community, providing hundreds of meals every day, shelter for dozens every night, and valuable counseling and job training. Due to the economy, more families than ever are turning to them for help.
We are also entering into a shared service agreement with Hoboken Charter and Elysian Charter to allow them to use the gym in the Multi-Service Center, and we are providing funding for the Jubilee Center, United Cerebral Palsy, HOPES, Nuestros Ninos, Miles Square Funding, Day Care 100, Hoboken Family Planning, and the Boys & Girls Club of Hudson County.
Green Initiatives
Green Team
As part of our effort to attain Sustainable Jersey certification for Hoboken, we are required to establish a Green Team. I will be appointing members of the public as well as my Administration to the team, which will be tasked with leading and coordinating sustainability initiatives in our community. I welcome recommendations from the Council and the community. Residents interested in being considered for the Green Team should email Daniel Bryan (dbryan@hobokennj.org) with a resume and expression of interest.
Bike Lanes
An ordinance up for second reading would establish 10 miles of new striped bicycle lanes throughout Hoboken. The designated streets are all wide enough to accommodate a bike lane without eliminating any parking or travel lanes. Bike lanes have been demonstrated to be an effective, low-cost traffic calming measure. Hoboken streets with bike lanes have speeds approximately 4mph lower than similar streets without bike lanes. Hoboken is a flat, compact City that is ideal for bicycling. I urge you to support this effort to make our City greener, safer, and healthier.
City Charter
Recently, while doing research as part of the codification process to bring our code up to date, Business Administrator Liston discovered there was no charter in our code book. The City Clerk office was asked to research the issue as well, but also could not find the charter. While the City’s charter was established in 1952, it was apparently never codified previously. When our legal counsel drafted the charter, it was based on the Council’s recent passage of legislation moving elections to November. However we have since revised the dates in the charter to reflect the fact that the signatures to hold a referendum on changing the election date were recently approved by the Clerk’s office.
New Jersey Symphony Orchestra Concert
Last week hundreds of residents came out to enjoy the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra play a free evening open air concert on Pier A. The City sponsored this event from the Cultural Affairs trust fund and helped offset the $50,000 cost with more than $35,000 in donations from sponsors. Based on the unanimously positive response from the community, we hope to make this an annual tradition.
Mayor Dawn Zimmer

We are the earthquake generation: tremors felt in Hoboken originating from near Richmond, VA

City of Hoboken announces:


According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck in Northern Virginia at 1:53pm. Tremors were felt in Hoboken. Residents should be mindful that aftershocks may occur over the next few hours. Residents with concerns or reports of damage can call the Police Department at 201-420-2100.

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August City Council: Politics and Boys and Girls Club funding

Tomorrow is the City Council meeting for the month of August, the slowest month of the year in the legislative calendar.  If you think that would make for a sleepy summer meeting you'd be wrong as Councilwoman Beth Mason is pushing a new resolution to eliminate health and subsidiary benefits to City Council members.

The Councilwoman leading into a mayoral run in 2008 did forego both pay and benefits herself later changing her mind on the matter in 2009 after she was defeated.  That public rejection followed with Mason not only asking her council salary be reinstated, but the monies foregone be paid back to her too.

There's numerous funding items on the agenda, mostly regular business but among them, the Boys & Girls Club.  The organization providing support to Hoboken's neediest children has not provided a required annual report on services to the City in over a decade going back to the original agreement in 1994.    

Can you approve funding when the contractual agreement providing a building to the organization for a paltry $2 a year remains unsatisfied?  The City is reviewing the terms but it's on the agenda so MSV will look to follow up.

B&G Club VP Scott Delea
Two Hoboken residents who have Boys & Girls Club board positions have not stepped up to offer any accountability to the community either.  Scott Delea who is listed as Vice President on the group's board and Tim Occhipinti who is on its Advisory Board haven't raised a whisper as to why children are being shown the door making room for HoLa, a charter school on taxpayer paid property.

MSV has been told of several such instances among them Save the Youth's dance group. The group of children and young teens was quietly pushed out and Grafix Avenger has documented additional first hand accounts of a mother in tears over the treatment of children who are the most vulnerable.

One point the B&G website notes:
Most children have their first drug, alcohol or sexual experience between the hours of 3 and 8 pm. The doors to Boys & Girls Clubs are open during these times, on Saturdays and during school breaks—when kids need us most.

Note it doesn't say during the school year.  Why?  A new tenant obviously has a big role in the use of the facilities during the majority of the year - and it's been given added rights during after school hours.  Where do Hoboken's underprivileged go then - during those hours when first drug, alcohol and sexual experiences are likely to occur?

Tim Occhipinti is backing Beth Mason's political plan to eliminate health benefits for City Council members.  Since Occhipinti obtains benefits through work, he's sure to rubber-stamp the effort.  Beth Mason put up over $30,000 for Occhipinti to occupy the 4th ward Council seat.  Oddly Occhipinti accuses  others of taking "marching orders" and being a rubber stamp.  Can you say projection?

Talking Ed Note: For this August politics du jour Councilwoman Mason brings along Tim Occhipinti.  He's the boy in her $30,000 plus toy.  She spent at least that if not more exceeding legal limits to obtain that seat's vote and install her to Council President.  That term became the shortest in living memory after her prompt removal at the July 1st City Council meeting. 

Health benefits are a significant part of a Council member's salary.  Should they be eliminated or should there be a reduction also in the City Council salary?  Although Tim Occhipinti joined Beth Mason in attempts to again reduce the salaries of city directors and the mayor, they didn't once offer to reduce their own.

If Hoboken eliminates health benefits and/or reduces council salaries, do we ensure only the wealthiest voices in Hoboken seek elected office?  Should the voices in our government be limited to only those in the community with access to wealth - holding not just one seat but additional ones through other less ethical means as in the example of Tim Occhipinti?

Wednesday the City Council will decide.