Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Boys & Girls Club problems emerge, this time with a whistleblower

The dam has finally broke on the treatment of minority, underprivileged children with an important breaking story by Amanda Staub on Hoboken, Patch.  The story produces a first hand witness, a basketball coach who comes out to discuss the unequal treatment of the children in the Boys & Girls Club in a building Hoboken taxpayers rent out for $2 a year.

The facility has seen the takeover of space by a Hoboken charter school, HoLa two years ago.  Additional construction has added on to the original building by a construction firm by Hola trustee Frank Raia, a violation of New Jersey law.  While Raia may not have saw any profit from the effort, the law explicitly states such practices are not permitted.

Questions on how a taxpayer building subsidized on behalf of the underserved residents of the fourth ward and handed over to a charter school with many politically connected parents remains an open issue.

The separate but equal doctrine is the question on the turnabout at the Hoboken Boys and Girls Club since the facility saw space taken over by the HoLa charter school.

Talking Ed Note: Councilman Tim Occhipinti "represents" the fourth ward but has been silent on this issue other than a misleading comment about the STY dance group exiled earlier.  One of his key backers in his elevation to the 4th ward council seat was developer and Hola Board Trustee Frank Raia.

At an earlier council meeting months back, he said the group was not moved out but ended its community activity at the Boys & Girls Club due to lack of funding.

For the record, the 4th ward dance group was banished before the funding ended.

Hoboken resident Scott Delea is a listed VP of the Boys and Girls Club.  He hasn't said a word on this either and there's no record he's filed any complaint unlike in the past when he called a press conference to make spurious charges during last May's council races.

Horse Sense: A tale of two cities, separate and unequal

August 5th, 2011

Back in January, Da Horsey noted concerns were coming in on the marriage of the HoLa charter school and the Boys & Girls Club.  It was suggested local media perform their role of oversight and look into those concerns coming in but no such luck.

As the months went by, the whispers grew larger with stories of the neighborhood dance group being bounced out and other programs being scaled back in favor of HoLa's creeping influence on the facility.  Second hand reports quoted the HHA Director Carmelo Garcia saying the dance group had outgrown the facility.  He himself has personal interests in HoLa and the Boys & Girls Club as a sitting BoE member, HoLa parent and as Executive Director of the HHA, a true feat even by Hoboken standards - a triple conflict.

This time it's not a division under the decree of the State,
but just as bad and possibly equally wrong.

The Boys & Girls Club Boards are partly represented by Councilman Tim Occhipinti and frequent office seeker Scott Delea who has collected tens of thousands of dollars on behalf of the charity.  Both hold seats of influence in the organization but each are silent to the questions posed on the matter past and present.  Compromises for political expediency have been made and future ambitions are tied to the wallet of HoLa trustee Frank Raia who is believed undertaking the current construction expanding the Boys & Girls Club on behalf of HoLa.

No longer can the Boys and Girls Club ignore the voices rising from the community, the whispers from employees too afraid to speak on what has been transpiring and how a taxpayer subsidized facility was handed over to a third party like a Christmas gift in the first place.

While MSV supports charter schools, the odd happenstance of how one newly established one was handed the keys to an established taxpayer supported facility serving Hoboken's most needy children is a riveting question that must be exposed.

The City is reviewing the situation.  It probably should have been reviewed with more circumspection sooner.  With the taxpayers on the hook to some possibly very distasteful behavior, accountability is required.

Talking Ed Note:  Grafix Avenger spoke to one woman who recounted in tears the separate and unequal handling of meals in the facility.  If accurate, it's beyond disturbing.

More illegal Picardo type construction on lower Park?

Questions are being raised on whether or not some carbon monoxide emitting construction should be razed by Grafix Avenger concerning gaseous expulsions from the home of the Bajardi's on lower Park in Hoboken.

Similar to earlier questionable approvals by the former Hoboken construction official Al Arezzo, residents are wondering how a pipe emitting noxious gases and not of the repellant toxic kind on behalf of Councilwoman Beth Mason was approved a mere four feet from the window of another resident.

See below for the threat this presents in the exclusive photo provided by Grafix Avenger:

Last summer a protracted court battle led to another illegal addition on Castle Point by Louis Picardo being ordered razed by a judge.  That story broke on MSV last August.

Will we be seeing another questionable and dangerous construction being ordered removed?  See the original story "Code Problem" from Grafix Avenger yesterday:


Original photo courtesy of Grafix Avenger, octuplets not included.  

Talking Ed Note: MSV is not able to confirm the status of the other two octuplets.  Are they the latest victims of their notorious and noxious neighbors?  Does this explain the odd singular public defense of the foul mouthed former Hoboken construction office official on Hoboken Patch?

Tune in to a Hoboken Construction Office complaint near you as there's more to come.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Hoboken BoE prepares for election battle - in November!


Hoboken's Board of Education is preparing for a critical battle at its next meeting likely seeing approval moving its annual spring election to November.  The change became possible with a law signed earlier this month by Governor Chris Christie.

The new law gives New Jersey education boards the option of moving their spring elections to November, saving local taxpayers money and offering a potential for more voters the opportunity to weigh in when larger numbers typically go to the polls.

The state and county government bear all the costs of November elections, unlike in the spring.

Last year, a back and forth chess match in the City Council on moving its elections from spring to November led to a referendum threatening to move them back to the spring.  The City Council later rescinded the move with the majority not sure how it would stave off a referendum in a low turnout election.  Unlike last year, 2012 is a presidential election year, and the polls will see many times the voters in a spring election.

The move to a November BoE election is available by approval of either the BoE board or a municipal governing body, in Hoboken the City Council.

Sources close to Hoboken's BoE anticipate the State law will see action at its next meeting February 14th.  One BoE commissioner anticipating the law's passage at the previous BoE meeting, Francis Rhodes-Kearns, spoke strongly against a November election saying any change should only come through a referendum.

Kids First holds a 5-4 majority on the BoE, enough votes to push through any change.

Theresa Minutillo of Kids First and a BoE commissioner stated via email, "It's big news all around the state and so far I've heard that over 100 boards have already changed their elections to November and I'm sure more to come before the February 17th deadline."

Frank Raia hugs BoE commissioner Peter Biancamano on Washington Street after Christmas.  He's looking forward to the next election to take on the Kids First majority no matter if it's in April or November.

Frank Raia and his "Independents for Education," slate swept the BoE election last April and tensions have risen since with Old Guard fixtures such as Michele Russo and political operatives going to meetings and openly stating they are looking forward to overturning Kids First and replacing the newly hired superintendent Dr. Mark Toback.

Commenting on a potential move to a November election, Raia spoke matter of fact against the move saying, "I think it will be totally chaos if they move it.  The county's picking up the cost, but I hear there may be two different machines... so they'll be spending the same money."

Speaking on the potential for a November election, something Raia opposed earlier for the City Council financing that referendum against the move, he added, "They (Kids First) have to live with what they do.  Are we better off now then we were three years ago (pre-KF majority)?  It's not and no one believes it."

The State has notified BoE's across New Jersey they should approve a move by February 17th to ensure a smooth transition to a November election and suggested boards take advantage of the savings and increased voter participation with a November election.

The BoE election is designated non-partisan and will be located on a different section of the November ballot for this presidential year.  Existing terms would be extended to January of 2013.

While a November election is anticipated to pose a bigger challenge of voters to any Raia backed slate, the perennial candidate and former BoE commissioner added he was not concerned, "We're going to win.  Not because we're good, but because they're bad."

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Councilman David Mello urges participation at Thursday Southwest Redevelopment Report review

From the desk of Councilman David Mello:

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Beginning this Thursday, February 2, 2012, the future of our Southwest neighborhood will be a major point of discussion within the City of Hoboken.  OnThursday, February 2nd, at 7:00 PM, our City Planning Board will be holding the first of four hearings and presentations of a Southwest Redevelopment Study Report.  This study report could usher in major changes to our Southwest neighborhood.  It's vital that all people in Hoboken, particularly those of us living in the Southwest, share our thoughts at these hearings.

Why This Is Important
Redevelopment is a confusing and daunting NJ land-use concept.  A state statute created legal procedure, redevelopment designations and plans can serve as positive and effective tools used by municipalities like Hoboken to more effectively control the development process and successfully implement smart growth plans in designated areas.  Redevelopment can also have negative consequences, if not handled properly.  Your participation in these hearings specifically, and in this long legal process in general, is vital to ensuring that any consideration of a redevelopment designation and plan in Hoboken's Southwest has only positive ramifications on our community at-large, and takes your views, thoughts, and dreams for this neighborhood fully into consideration along the way.

History of Redevelopment Efforts in this Neighborhood
Many years ago, the City Council voted in favor of directing Hoboken's Planning Board to conduct a preliminary investigation to determine if much of our Southwest neighborhood meets the legal criteria to be deemed "an area in need of redevelopment."  A legal designation as an area in need of redevelopment soon followed.  

As a member of the public at the time, I opposed a resulting redevelopment plan throughout much of 2006, due to my concerns over how much development this plan called for, and how few public amenities it planned for (i.e. I viewed it as lacking adequate park space, charter school space, large family-sized residential units, appealing senior housing, significant portions of commercial and retail development, vital flood remediation components, etc).  But, I was concerned with how this tool was being used in this particular case, not with the use of the redevelopment tool in-general.

In recent years, the City Council, as our City's redevelopment agency, has again taken up the redevelopment process in the Southwest. At our Council's request, Hoboken's Planning Board reinitiated a Southwest study process by hiring the planning firm Clarke Caton Hintz to help conduct a new investigation and provide a study report on the matter.  I was the Council designee to the Planning Board at that time, and participated heavily in this hiring process.  

The Final Southwest Redevelopment Study & Hearings
Since being hired, Clarke Caton Hintz has worked diligently to produce the Final Southwest Redevelopment Study Report, available online at this link.  The following public hearings by our Planning Board are the next, crucial step in this process:
  • Hearing #1 - Thursday, February 2, 2012, 7:00 PM - City Hall Conference Room (Basement - Newark St. Entrance)
  • Hearing #2 - Thursday, February 23, 2012, 7:00 PM - Location TBD
  • Hearing #3 - Wednesday, February 29, 2012, 7:00 PM - Location TBD
  • Hearing #4 - Thursday March 1, 2012, 7:00 PM - Location TBD

Please attend each of these hearings, particularly the first, this coming Thursday.  I want every member of our Planning Board to know that the people of Hoboken care deeply about the issue of properly planning our Southwest neighborhood's future, and that the needs of current and future residents should be clearly at the forefront of every decision makers' mind each step of the way.  More precisely, I want our Planning Board to understand exactly what we in the Southwest, and across all of Hoboken, visualize as a smart growth future for our beloved Southwest neighborhood.

Please join me on Thursday night at 7:00 PM at the first hearing, and thank you for taking the time to read this.



twitter: djmello

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Monday Madness: April or November - the BoE elections are war!

Monday MSV will have an exclusive look at the Hoboken BoE elections in 2012 with views from both sides of the divide.  The State of NJ just passed a law where local school boards can decide to continue elections in April or move them to November.

Hoboken's next Board of Education meeting is scheduled for 7:00 pm on Valentine's Day.  There won't be a lot of love in the room that night.  On Monday MSV will detail why.

Currently the Kids First coalition holds a slim one vote 5-4 majority.  Last year the Frank Raia backed "Independents" ticket swept the three seat election and will be looking to reverse that majority whether the election is in April or in November.

The State of NJ has provided a sample resolution to consider using, pictured above, in moving to a November election.  Hoboken's BoE may be on that NJ election ballot this November.

Weekend events at the Hoboken Historical and Fire Department Museum

Opening Reception & Volunteer Party, Sun. Jan. 29
Holland (left), Lincoln (right) Tunnels
Holland (left), Lincoln (right) Tunnels
Driving Under the Hudson: A History of the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels
This year the Holland Tunnel turns 85, and the Lincoln 75. The Museum invites you to explore the tunnels’ back story and cultural significance in Driving Under the Hudson, The History of the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, opening Sunday, Jan. 29 with a free reception from 2 - 5 pm. It will be on view through July 1.
Before WWI, ferries and barges were the only way to transport goods and commuters to New York, and the Hudson & Manhattan Tubes (PATH) provided relief only for commuters--not freight--in 1908. A hard freeze in the winter of 1917-1918, followed by a Marine Workers' strike the next winter, galvanized support for a vehicular tunnel by 1919.
Completed in 1927, the Holland Tunnel, named for its chief engineer Clifford Holland, was called the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” Planned, funded and constructed against daunting physical and financial obstacles, their existence is a testament to the “sandhogs” who risked their lives working under extreme pressure, and to the engineers who innovated new construction techniques. The first tube of the Lincoln Tunnel opened in 1937, but the second and third were delayed due to WWII and rising real estate costs.
"Mostly Rosemary" Series by Laura Alexander
Laura Alexander's latest series
Laura Alexander's latest series
Local artist Laura Alexander's Monroe Center studio is a fixture on Hoboken's annual Artists Studio Tour. She paints striking portraits on large canvases, and the Museum invites you to see her latest series,“Mostly Rosemary,” in an exhibit in the Museum’s Upper Gallery that opens on January 29 with a free reception from 2 – 5 p.m.

The title of the show is inspired by the model who posed for the photographs that Alexander worked from in creating these 50-inch-square portraits. “They’re ‘mostly’ her,” Alexander explains, “but we changed her cosmetically for each portrait. The concept was to portray different ethnic varieties.” She adds,
“These paintings speak about the many differences we perceive in one another while we still recognize our shared humanity. Real tolerance of these differences seems to be the challenge of this century.”
Volunteers keep our events going strong!
Volunteers keep our events going strong!
Volunteer Celebration at Opening Reception
Please join us at the opening reception on Sunday, Jan. 29, from 2 - 5 pm, if you've volunteered for the Museum in 2011, or are interested in volunteering in 2012. We rely on a small army of volunteers to staff our booths at festivals, work in the Museum and help out with our fund-raising events, like the House Tour and Tomato-Tasting Festivals.
We'll take a few moments to recognize the contributions of our volunteers, and share information about our upcoming calendar of events. Invite friends -- we always welcome new volunteers.
Member Exclusive: Summer Enrichment Programs
Ready to explore the Mile Square city
Ready to explore the Mile Square city
Looking for summer fun? The Hoboken Historical Museum announces the dates for the 2012 Summer Enrichment Program sessions, which booked up quickly last year. This year, we're offering a priority enrollment period for Museum members, now through February 3rd.
Each week-long session runs Monday - Friday from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm, at the Museum--with field trips around town. Every day includes a little history, exploring, outdoor activities, crafts and a chance to make new friends and have lots of fun. The week costs $225 per child enrolled, Museum Members pay $190.
City Stories, June 25 – 29
For ages 5 to 7 years old
Join us at the Museum for a week of literary fun and neighborhood adventure as we jump into some of our favorite stories about city life. We’ll have arts and crafts, neighborhood walks and plenty of time outside for summer fun and games. As we explore the Museum and the neighborhood, come see what you can find in Hoboken.

Hoboken Explorers, August 6 – 10
For ages 6 to 8 years old
The Museum is full of amazing objects to explore and Hoboken has lots of history and stories to tell. We’ll work on projects, take walking trips to local fun spots, and have plenty of outdoor time for neighborhood walks and summer games. Let’s go out and explore Hoboken!

History Detectives, August 20 - 24
For ages 6 to 8 years old
From stories about immigration, to the city’s architecture and cultural festivals, Hoboken has a rich history just waiting to be discovered. Through stories, creative projects, trips to nearby points of interest, and lots of outdoor time, we will explore Hoboken history through artifacts, architecture and art.

To Enroll: Call the Museum at 201-656-2240 or email Robin Westervelt, Education Curator, ateducation@hobokenmuseum.org
Fire Department Museum Open Weekends, 12-5 pm
Family fun at the Fire Dept. Museum!
Family fun at the Fire Dept. Museum!
Hoboken's other best-kept secret is the Hoboken Fire Department Museum, at 213 Bloomfield Street. Come see how generations of fire fighters have battled fires in this dense urban environment. Memorabilia, including photos, hats and equipment, are arrayed floor-to-ceiling, and the fire fighters welcome visitors to climb up on the vintage fire truck.
Admission is free for children, $2 for adults. The Hoboken Historical Museum is happy to help the department staff the Museum on weekends from noon to 5 pm.
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Friday, January 27, 2012

Irish Anti-Defamation Federation: Hoboken is right to cancel "distasteful" and "crime ridden" parade day

Update Duo: Now Ray Smith at the Hoboken Reporter says the Hoboken St. Patrick's Day Committee has reversed and is not moving the parade to another venue this year.  Has the spokesman for the Parade Committee hit the bottle too early?

According to one Hoboken born resident who spoke at the last City Council meeting, the Hoboken Parade Committee was responsible for making it an alcohol fueled event - an example they set themselves.  Previous there was a parade and no committee running it in Hoboken according to that resident.

BREAKING UPDATE: The Hoboken St. Patrick's Day Committee has announced it's going elsewhere saying a decision is being made to take the parade to another location.

The story was announced on the Jersey Journal.  Earlier a Philadelphia based Irish group announced its opposition to the faux St. Patrick's Day in Hoboken and its agreement that the parade would not take place the first Saturday of March.

The Hoboken based parade group has now demonstrated its intent to take their ball and not go home after all.

Talking Ed Note: How much do you wanna bet it will be on a Saturday?  Congratulations to all the bar owners in the new unannounced location.


A Philadelphia based organization, the Irish Anti-Defamation Federation is weighing in on the recent cancellation of the St. Patrick's Day Parade and Irish eyes are smiling on their decision, unlike their counterparts who run the parade committee in Hoboken.

Countering the veiled "intolerance" charge against Mayor Dawn Zimmer by one committee member, John R. Howe a former Grand Marshall, the Philadelphia based group issued a statement countering that charge saying,

"The Officers and Members of the Irish Anti-Defamation Federation... would like to support Hoboken's Mayor Dawn Zimmer in her decision to cancel the St. Patrick's Day Parade in her town" and went on to describe the event as "distasteful, dangerous and crime ridden..."

The committee actually erred in stating the cancellation came from the mayor. The Hoboken parade committee cancelled the annual event after declining to see it return to a weekday.

Mary Beth Phillips, a recording officer for the year old group told the Jersey Journal, "It's not against the parade committee of Hoboken, not against any parades but against the attendant 'celebrations' and this who take advantage of events like this for their money-making interests."

The group's website calls for its members to present a united front on behalf of Irish interests and encourages members to spread the word on the truth of St. Patrick and Irish history.

The rest of the group's statement reads:

"Although we are saddened by the loss of this tradition (what should be an all-generations, family-friendly celebration of Ireland's patron saint, and display of our Irish heritage and culture for those claiming Irish roots), we think Mayor Zimmer was wise to put a stop to the distasteful, dangerous, and crime-ridden activities that have accompanied the parade, especially since last year's parade-associated crimes included three reports of rape."

"Mayor Zimmer is sending a strong signal to all, whether Irish-American supporters of the Hoboken parade, revelers in the bars, and even spectators, that things are out of control. Her necessary cancellation of the parade is just one step towards fixing a dreadful batch of problems."

"We applaud her decision to try to make St. Patrick's Day the pride-filled celebration and holiday it should be. Mayor Zimmer does not want, and cannot afford, for Hoboken to be New Orleans at Mardi Gras, even if it means drastic changes are needed this particular year."

"For all those who disagree with her, we at the IADF recommend ways to create a family-friendly celebration once more, one that will not tax the police and other services required of the citizens of Hoboken."

Based on the statement it appears the Irish group is familiar with the letter that appeared in the Hudson Reporter by John R. Howe.  That letter caused a controversy, eliciting strong reactions to its claim the parade was moved from Saturday due to "intolerance."  It reads:
My family first came to America from Ireland in 1850, fleeing hunger and an oppressive regime. They have resided in Hoboken for over 125 years. I was a policeman here and I have been a participant in the Hoboken St. Patrick’s Day Parade since its inception in 1986. In 1997 I was honored to be selected at the Parade’s 10th Grand Marshal. On the first Saturday in March 1997 I, along with my late father, my son and grand-nephew proudly led the parade down Washington St. It was a chilly, rainy dismal day but, hundreds of people still lined Washington St. to see the parade. Whenever I look at pictures from that day I can see the pride in my father’s eyes as he marched with four generations of his family.

I always thought that this tradition would continue and that other descendants of Irish Immigrants would be able to share my experience. But, apparently intolerance has once again reared its ugly head. The Irish, the first big group of refugees ever to come to the United States, have born the brunt of American resentment before and prevailed. They paved the way for the waves of immigrants that followed in their footsteps. In the words of George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

John R. Howe
Grand Marshall 1997
Hoboken St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

According to the Jersey Journal story, the Hoboken St. Patrick's Day Committee did not comment on the Irish Anti-Defamation Federation's statement.  A marketing effort is underway to bring visitors to Hoboken the first Saturday of March in part by "Eat, Drink Hoboken" owner David Liebler along with Hoboken bar owners.

Facebook pages claim to have commitments from thousands to attend the day and the City of Hoboken is preparing additional measures including arrests for criminal activity that will see offenders taken to Kearny the location of the Hudson County jail.

St. Patrick's Day tradition?  An Irish group has come out decrying the denigration of St. Patrick calling Hoboken's faux St. Patrick's Day "distasteful" and "crime ridden." A midday muffin top casualty outside a Hoboken bar lives up to the "standard" of the day the group opposes.

Talking Ed Note: The St. Patrick's Parade Committee has not seen any support from MORTe other than a Tim Occhipinti pretending not to know how the mayor was able to move the parade from a Saturday.  Occhipinti is the only member of MORTe to come out and say anything in any detail on the parade.  Occhipinti has received campaign contributions from one bar owner in town the Elysian who has been a strong supporter of Old Guard interests in opposition to Mayor Dawn Zimmer.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Horse Sense: Flash Notes on State of the City

The biggest takeaway from Mayor Zimmer's State of the City was a clear comfort level and confidence coming from a hugely successful 2011. The mayor's ease and confidence was evident and not solely to a mostly supportive audience in attendance.

The quick takeaways: Of close to two dozen interruptions of applause, the loudest was one unexpected to the announcement that on the first Saturday of March, the mardi gras party being pushed by bar promoters will not be overlooked.  Offending lawbreakers "when appropriate will be arrested and detained immediately."

Jon Tooke, Public Safety Director stated after the speech a process was well underway with the NJ Attorney General's Office along with Hudson County to put a new step in place for serious lawbreaking.  He expressed confidence the review would be completed in time for March.  Handcuffing and a visit to Kearny, location of the county jail await.

Parks are a prime focus for 2012.  The mayor appeared to promise Councilman Dave Mello substantial progress on the long desired effort to have a park in southwest Hoboken.  It was that Councilman's loudest applause of the evening.

Crime is down 16% since the mayor took office in 2009.  There's a lot of publicity recently on burglaries and last year, pronouncements about a crime wave.  The Hoboken Police Department received positive support for their effort.  The question is who is releasing information to the larger public day to day and week to week?  Sgt. Williams is heading communications to the media and public there.

Pedestrian accidents with vehicles down substantially: 2009 - 60 collisions, 2010 56 and 2011 37 incidents with motorized vehicles and pedestrians.

Bike accidents: 2009 - 21 collisions, 2010 - 10 and in 2011 - 8.

In addition to 1600 Park, a number of parks, all dog runs will see an overhaul including the heavily used Church Square Park.  The mayor thanked Project Play for their fundraising contribution there.  The crown jewel of Hoboken, Sinatra Park has obtained necessary approvals and is slated for completion this year.  It will be important for that milestone to be achieved and a RFP is out for bidding for to see the repairs completed pending City Council approval.

Another unexpected surprise was the reaction to development or rather overdevelopment, failed promises on commitments by same and the organized effort to stop the Monarch Project.  The audience expressed a stronger reaction on this last 2012 objective, appearing to catch the mayor by surprise towards the end of her speech.

The Hertz Connect Corner Cars program: it's off the hook now reaching 2000 users in town and just shy of 100 residents turning in their car permits specifically for the program.  That's more than twice the number of cars taken off the street for vehicles made available.

Mayor Dawn Zimmer coming off a year of huge accomplishments in 2011 with a 10% tax reduction and saving the hospital showed an ease and confidence that only comes with experience.

Talking Ed Note: Councilwoman Beth Mason was present, sitting alone and taking notes during most of the presentation. What she saw and heard could not have given her, Assemblyman Ruben Ramos or others coveting the mayor's chair much hope to unseat her. The accomplishments are clearly long, substantial and growing.

No other members of MORTe were present: Terry Castellano, Michael Russo and Tim Occhipinti.  Of the three, only Occhipinti attended last year. Perhaps Occhipinti was out working in Jersey City looking to identify graffiti he'd like co-worker Steve Fulop, a Jersey City councilman to remove.

Former Mayor Dave Roberts and former State Senator Bernard Kenny were both in attendance.  Their presence was significant in ways that MORTe's absence wasn't.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mayor Dawn Zimmer's 2nd Annual State of the City

The following is the complete, unedited video of the proceedings held at Stevens:

Mayor Dawn Zimmer State of the City Speech - it's a real humdinger

Remarks of Mayor Dawn Zimmer
As Prepared for Delivery
Wednesday, January 25th, 2012
DeBaun Auditorium, Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, NJ

Welcome everyone. Thank you all for joining us tonight. I want to thank Stevens and President Farvardin so much for hosting tonight’s 2nd annual State of the City.

I am extremely pleased to announce that under Dr. Farvardin’s leadership, the partnership between Hoboken and Stevens continues to grow stronger than ever.

Most recently, we are partnering on a very exciting project that could make Hoboken the nation’s first truly “smart city.” Through this innovative program, residents would be able to have immediate access and input on the array of services that impact their daily lives.

Thank you to Dr. Ali Mostashari and all of the Stevens staff and students who are working with us on this project, along with the many other essential infrastructure projects by Stevens students.

Thank you again to all of the Stevens students whose volunteerism during Hurricane Irene helped to protect our community, students who volunteered to help beautify our City, and also those who volunteered to help with our many cultural events. Hoboken is so lucky to have the Stevens community as a part of our City.

I also want to say a huge thank you to the City Council, all those who have served and continue to serve on our many boards, and volunteers for our Community Emergency Response Team.  We don’t always agree on everything but all of these individuals devote an enormous amount of time and energy to serving our City, and their contributions deserve to be recognized. 

A special thank you to my directors, chiefs, and employees for your dedication to our City.

Now I must say, 2011 was one heck of a year! Together we overcame tremendous challenges. At times I feared we could be destroyed financially if the sale of the hospital failed - let alone the challenges we faced from the hurricanes, the blizzards, the shipworms that ate away at our piers, and the unexpected earthquake. I want to give a huge thank you to all of our public safety members who saw us through quite a tumultuous year.

Despite the fact that the challenges have never stopped, we not only survived, but we thrived on many fronts in 2011.

First, we were able to achieve a 10 percent municipal tax reduction, the 6th largest in the State.

Secondly, together we saved our City from financial destruction with the successful sale of Hoboken University Medical Center to the principal owners of Bayonne Medical Center. The sale was crucial for our City both because of the incredibly important role the hospital plays, and also because we had a $52 million bond backing the hospital. The hospital was bankrupt, and had the sale not been completed, we would have lost our hospital and faced a fiscal crisis on a frightening scale.

Saving our hospital consumed more of my time than I could have ever imagined, but the results demonstrate that what seems impossible can be achieved. Thank you so much to everyone who worked tirelessly to save our hospital. In particular, I’d like to thank and recognize Toni Tomarazzo, the Chair of the Hoboken Municipal Hospital Authority board and all of the Authority members. They are the heroes of Hoboken.  Without your unwavering support and perseverance we could never have succeeded.

Thank you to the Hoboken Women’s Auxiliary for their tremendous support of the hospital. Over the years they raised more than $1 million dollars for the hospital.

I also want to thank Senator Kenny and Mayor Roberts who are here with us tonight – I called both of them on that exciting Friday afternoon when the sale finally went through. As I told each of them on the phone, while many, including me, questioned the wisdom of the City’s bailout of the hospital in 2007, without that bailout we would not have had a hospital to save in 2011.

Under the strong leadership of Phil Schaengold, the new CEO of HUMC, the hospital’s future is very bright. Just last week, HUMC hired a highly regarded neurosurgeon from New York University. We welcome Dr. Ramesh Babu and look forward to the highest level of care that he and all of the doctors and dedicated staff at HUMC offer to our community.

Another essential achievement of 2011: My Administration worked closely with North Hudson Sewerage Authority to finally get the Observer Highway flood pump online. This essential infrastructure is already helping to alleviate our City’s 100-year old flooding problem. Congratulations to Chairman Richard Wolff, Executive Director Fred Pocci, and the entire board of North Hudson Sewerage Authority. Thank you to John Nastasi, a Stevens professor, architect, and Hoboken resident, for working with the City and North Hudson to design the exterior of the pump.

As a Councilperson, I advocated strongly to make certain that this was the first pump to be built.  The original 4-pump plan scheduled this most important pump last, meaning the Southwest, the area with the worst flooding would have had to wait in line to receive the relief it needed. This pump is important, but we are going to keep going to solve our City’s flooding problem completely.  That’s why I brought in EmNet to install sensors, and now we have data before and after the pump was installed. The data the sensors have provided will save our City millions as we create affordable and effective flooding solutions.

A third important achievement this year was the transition to single stream recycling. Under the leadership of our Recycling Coordinator, David Calamoneri, we have increased our City’s recycling by more than fifty percent! Thank you to David and thank you to everyone that is actively working to recycle! Not only does this save the City money, but it is plain and simply the right thing to do and our community’s responsibility.

In addition to going green, we’ve been working to restore your faith in our City’s government. This year we passed anti-wheeling campaign finance reform, which banned the practice of circumventing our pay-to-play laws and other contribution limits by funneling contributions through third parties. Given Hoboken’s recent history, this reform is a vital step to ensure that the politics of the future do not emulate our unfortunate politics of the past.

Very soon we will be announcing that a world-class company will be coming to Hoboken, creating hundreds of jobs and spurring economic development. Last week was the grand opening of Office Depot.  I went over to congratulate, welcome and ask the President of Office Depot why they decided to locate in Hoboken.  He confirmed my intuition: major companies such as his recognize that Hoboken is a fantastic place to locate their business with our high quality of life and direct access to New York City.

Last year was also a tough year of evaluation and change for our Police, Fire and other departments. I know it was difficult for everyone, but through it all we were able to reach fair agreements with our Police and Fire Departments. These contracts provide our public safety personnel with the security of agreements going into the future for the first time in many, many years. Thank you to our Police and Fire Departments for protecting our community each and every day.

After years of delay, we were able to complete and open Pier C Park for our community. Thank you to everyone who was involved in developing and bringing this beautiful waterfront park to our City.  It is great to see so many residents and visitors enjoying this spectacular addition to our City’s network of parks.

Last year we also added a desperately needed air conditioning and heating system to our Multi-Service center that serves our seniors. This was a long overlooked project, and I am proud that we were able to work together to get this crucial infrastructure upgrade completed.

Parking is always a difficult issue in Hoboken. No matter what we do we won’t have enough supply to meet the demand. However, we need to continue to do everything we can to alleviate the problem. We must make it easier to get around Hoboken with and without a car.

Some headway we have made includes new multi-meters that have added an estimated 150 additional parking spaces and made parking easier now that you do not need to search your pockets for quarters. It has also made our parking meters impossible to steal from, something that we now know was occurring not so long ago.

Corner Cars has been an unambiguous, unbelievable success. Over 2,000 Hoboken residents have taken advantage of this program, and 99 people have surrendered their permits. This program has made it far easier to live in Hoboken without a car. It has without question, made more parking available. Is it a solution by itself? Of course not, but has it helped? Absolutely, without question, and that is why five major cities are looking to Hoboken as a model for car-sharing and part of the reason we received a Sustainable Jersey award this year.

We worked with the business community to provide new discounted parking in our municipal garages. Over 300 businesses have partnered with us, leaving more space for valued customers to park on the street.

An additional 200 cars are off the street thanks to the new “Monthly Limited” parking option – a discounted rate for resident commuters who don’t need to park in the garage during the day.

Last year we also implemented a three-route Hop transportation system, which has had 120,000 passengers since its launch, and is filled to capacity during peak commuter periods. We are looking to update the fleet with modern buses and working on partnering with the business community to expand Hop service on the weekends and evenings this year. After all, we’ve got great shopping here in Hoboken, and we want to make it as easy as possible for you to shop local and enjoy everything that our City has to offer.

Most recently we worked with Councilman Cunningham and our public safety officials to pass legislation that will allow parking close to some curbs, bringing 850 new parking spaces to the City without compromising on pedestrian safety.

Hoboken is also becoming more bike-friendly every year. We doubled the number of bike racks near the PATH, installed our first bike repair station, and passed a plan for ten miles of new bike lanes, which we’ll be striping in the year ahead.

As a result of our many pedestrian safety measures, pedestrian-car collisions are down nearly 30 percent since I took office. Bicycle-car collisions are down by more than 60 percent.

This year we want to work with the community to create a parking master plan, and we look forward to hearing all your ideas on this very important issue. 

In addition to all that we have achieved in 2011, we’ve also got a tremendous number of important projects that we will complete this year.

This week our Chinese community is celebrating the New Year – the Year of the Dragon. I believe in Hoboken, 2012 will be known as the Year of Parks. We will be opening a new park in North Hoboken, currently known as 1600 Park and Hoboken Cove. The plans are being finalized now, and this long awaited park will be a fantastic addition to our community.

We finally have the approvals we need, and Frank Sinatra Park and Castle Point will be reopened in 2012. We will be bidding out Frank Sinatra Cafe to transform it and make it a go-to destination for our residents and visitors.

We have a contractor in place to upgrade the playgrounds at Jackson Street Park, Jefferson Park, and Legion Park on Willow Avenue. At Stevens Park, we’re looking to resurface the little league field, upgrade the playground, and install an indoor batting cage. Church Square Park, Mamma Johnson Field, and all our dog runs will all be upgraded this year.

Will Hoboken411 make a rare public appearance at State of the City address?

Perry Klaussen the reported proprietor of Hoboken411, although some suggest that may not in fact be completely true, is an uncertain attendee to the State of the City tonight.

Rarely seen at any Hoboken event is never a problem for Hoboken411 to write about said events.  He doesn't do much of the political writing and was largely dormant the past six months quaking in fear when best bud Patrick Ricciardi was nabbed by the Feds last May.  That was his best conduit to information illicit and otherwise including pictures other than his Masonite ghostwriter, who pens the angry screeds packed with the usual assortment of lies, half-lies, distortions and the always present self-perpetuating rumors.

Last year, Das Klaussen made a rare public appearance at the State of the City but ever the recluse went upstairs to an empty balcony taking photos of his hated Zimmertinis below.

He pointed his camera repeatedly toward the Horsey and fired away but was met in kind by our trusty camera that captured the essence of his character as seen below where he's raising his middle finger.

Perry Klaussen of Hoboken411 made a rare public appearance at last year's SOTC address.  And by appearance, he showed up, took photos of people to smear on his site later and left before the event started.  Typical Klaussen.

Beth Mason, a longtime backer of the website that smears and censors everyone except her was recently known to have sat down with her lackey at the Elysian.  Some wonder about the nature of the business relationship.  To be in favor at Hoboken411, all that is required is to be on the right side with Beth Mason or is it passing an envelope?   Michael Russo was a bad guy years ago, but now a Mason ally, he's "a good guy" on Hoboken411.

A lot has happened since last year's SOTC.  Hoboken411 has degenerated into self-parody with his ranting hatreds of Mason's and his nemesis - Mayor Zimmer, to the point it's difficult to know if he hates Hoboken and everyone in it or just anyone who doesn't pay him.  Last May, he illegally voted in the 5th ward council election even though he lives around the corner in the 2nd ward from Beth Mason, thus proving that hatred drives him more than allegiance to his paymaster.

Here's a video of Councilwoman Beth Mason who failed to get him on the City dole, but it is oppossed with no support from anyone but her.  Maybe that's why Perry Klaussen chose to vote illegally in another election rather than for Beth Mason.

Perhaps tonight Hoboken's smearmeister king will sit with his benefactor Beth Mason.  Now that would be novel.

Fighting off savage attacks and saving the hospital and Hoboken with it, what does Mayor Zimmer do for an encore?

Mayor Zimmer will be giving a State of the City speech tonight at 7:00 and observers will be interested in not only her reflections of the past year but the roadmap she sees ahead.  After beating back a savage battle for the life of the City and its hospital, she knows her opponents will stop at nothing to undermine her, even if it means bankrupting Hoboken.

Aware of that political reality, Mayor Zimmer knows there is no compromising with the forces of darkness led by the Beth Russo hydra.  In her first two years she attempted to work with a nine member City Council; she found out their intentions to undermine her at all costs and see her ejected from office in failure.  The experience added more steel to her spine, but her opponents from all quarters refuse to acknowledge it.  That's not likely to change with the scrambling for her chair already underway.

In the practical space of budgeting, the mayor is sitting on a $4 million hole from the end of last year, courtesy of MORTe who lept at the opportunity to cynically hurt Hoboken (again) denying a simple refinance of the midtown garage with great savings to the City.  Those costs along with other financial challenges will force Hoboken to make choices in 2012.  MORTe can explain further layoffs to their people as they whine about it the whole way.  After the hospital, they've become accustomed to lying to their face.

This mayor has shown enormous restraint, curbing spending at every turn while attempting to maintain and increase services serving the wider community and reducing taxes more than 8%.  It's unclear how she can continue to do so, so tonight we'll have a better glimpse of where her budget priorities stand.  The irony, she looks to do what she feels is best for all of Hoboken and any reduction in services hurts MORTe's base more than hers.  None of this matters to MORTe.  Their craven face is clear to anyone who watched the hospital sale war and it was nothing short of a war.  It was the ugliest action in Hoboken since the arsons decades back.

The mayor has undergone a rough two years working to keep Hoboken above water and she scores an A for those efforts, especially for the miracle of saving the hospital and with it, the Hoboken taxpayer.  She's remained true to her principles and worked honorably throughout which only emboldened her opponents who live for nothing but their unquenchable ambition for power and the taxpayer's dime.  Now the mayor must look ahead in a practical manner with a working coalition on the council to push Hoboken ahead.  It's her vision the audience will be most curious to see this evening.

Tonight's speech will not only be a State of the City but a roadmap to the politics of Hoboken leading into the spring 2013 mayoral election.  The mayor has walked an independent line on behalf of all of Hoboken against the forces of corruption, the status quo, and the Hudson County Machine.  Her citizen led lawsuit on behalf of Hoboken voter rights places her once again in their sights.  But that's hardly news anymore.

Tonight the mayor must pivot off the enormous challenges overcome in the past two years and show everyone where she wishes to take the City.  Construction can finally commence on Sinatra Park (after an RFP process) and open space is one of her main priorities both short and long term.  Beyond that, it's anyone's guess what choices she'll make.   We're as curious as everyone else.

Mayor Dawn Zimmer will be giving a State of the City tonight.  After a two year period of fighting off disasters, it's her vision for Hoboken people will be most interested in hearing.

From the City release: The event will take place on Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 7:00 pm at the DeBaun Auditorium in Edwin A. Stevens Hall on the campus of Stevens Institute of Technology.
The main entrance is on 5th Street directly across from the Stevens Park. The wheelchair entrance is located in the rear entrance of the building on River Street with handicapped parking located behind the two buildings (McLean & Babbio) located directly across the street from the ramp. For additional information, visit:http://www.debaun.org/Directions.html

The latest on the resistance to the Monarch Project from HobokenRPW

Hoboken Residents for a Public Waterfront announce:

1) Hoboken MAYOR DAWN ZIMMER invited all members of our group to attend her STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS on Wednesday evening, January 25, 2012 at 7pm.  The address will be made in DeBaun Auditorium in the Edwin A. Stevens Hall on the campus of Stevens Institute of Technology.  The main entrance to use is on 5th Street across from Stevens Park, while the handicapped accessible entrance is located in the rear of the building on River Street.  The Mayor has stressed how important it is to defeat the Monarch project (http://hudsonreporter.com/view/full_story/17245976/article-Zimmer-reports-on-quality-of-life-issues?instance=hoboken_letters_story_left_column) and we hope to hear a good deal about her plan in Wednesday evening's speech.

2) The HUDSON COUNTY PLANNING BOARD will hold a special meeting in the next 30 days to handle the overflow of concerned citizens who signed up at the first meeting to speak out against the project (http://www.nj.com/hudson/index.ssf/2012/01/hudson_county_planning_board_t_1.html).  Kevin Coakley, legal counsel representing Shipyard Associates, attempted to silence our protest by arguing residents of the Hudson Tea buildings could not make public comments because the condo association's legal counsel had already spoken.  The Board quickly denied Mr. Coakley's request and decided a special meeting would be needed to hear the overwhelming negative public outcry.  We will keep you updated when we know when this meeting will be held.  The more vocal public support we receive the better.

3) The HOBOKEN PLANNING BOARD has notified us the Monarch project will be on the agenda for their meeting on Tuesday evening, March 6, 2012 at 7pm.  The Hoboken Planning Board is our greatest opportunity to defeat this project.  WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT!  We must ensure the room is filled and overflowing into the hallway with residents opposing the project.  11 years ago this same developer withdrew his application to develop the uptown piers after a strong showing of opposition from local citizens (http://betterwaterfront.org/?p=1022).  It has been communicated to our group numerous times by many public officials that a strong showing of opposition at public hearings is imperative to defeating this project.  Please plan to attend this meeting.

Hoboken Residents for a Public Waterfront
@HobokenRPW on Twitter