In a party line vote with a Southwest Park the stakes, the City Council voted 5-4 allowing for the use of eminent domain in additional negotiations to pursue almost an acre of land on Block 12. The property is currently under the control of a single owner who runs a surface parking lot on the location.
Tim Occhipinti who voted for the use of eminent domain in the Southwest just last year reversed his position and voted no to the ordinance.
Occhipinti spent much of his initial comments blaming Mayor Dawn Zimmer for failing to deliver on a Southwest Park six acre concept plan and said he would not support voting in favor of eminent domain. Last year Occhipinti voted for the City to use eminent domain in negotiations as part of the initial process to identify land for a park in the southwest.
Occhipinti himself had asked for a $3 million county grant be directed to the area for the purpose of a park in the location designated for a park by the City's master plan. Appearing very defensive, his initial remarks had nothing to do with his vote and his decision for doing so instead deflecting and complaining oddly against the mayor as if he was a resident with no direct vote on the matter.
(Video to come.)
Voting in favor of giving the City powers of eminent domain in additional negotiations: to pursue most of Block 12: Council members Peter Cunningham, Carol Marsh, Jen Giattino, David Mello and Council President Bhalla.
Voting against: Council members Terry Castellano, Michael Russo, Beth Mason and the occupant of the fourth ward seat where the park would be built, Tim Occhipinti. (MORTe)
Many people showed up filling the Council Chambers that had been more empty in recent meetings, speaking on both sides of the issue over an hour. Notable among them Hoboken open space activist Leah Healy and Nathan Brinkman who is opposed to eminent domain in general. (Video of speakers to come.)
After the vote on a short break, Tim Occhipinti went to the back of the room to distribute his prepared remarks to Hoboken Patch and the Hudson Reporter. Told he had voted for eminent domain on a park for the Southwest just last year he responded to MSV saying, "That was just a piece of paper."
Talking Ed Note: Most of the meeting was under control but the Old Guard in the rear of the room took opportunity to heckle and yell out at times and Council President Bhalla did not address it aggressively and it continued to erupt during the discussion.
Da Horsey was threatened inside the meeting by Old Guard operative Nick Calicchio who interrupted a quiet discussion near the rear of the room with Hoboken resident Nathan Brinkman saying, "If you don't want to get thrown out of this meeting, stop taking pictures."
He was told to get away and consider this a formal communication Mr. Calicchio. No threats are acceptable.
MSV has taken pictures at government meetings for almost three years and notes it was never an issue when others did it on behalf of Hoboken411. The Calicchio brothers apparently both Nick and Matt complained about photos taken of the rear of the room (from a distance of maybe 100 feet mind you) and a police officer came over to inquire with their complaint. He agreed on our right to take photos at government meetings and went back to deliver the bad news to the Calicchio brothers.
The officer was very professional and MSV thanked him.
Today in Union City Municipal Court, Matt Calicchio a paid political operative for Councilwoman Beth Mason is scheduled for trial for alleged harassment against a sitting BoE official and her five year old daughter outside the Wallace School.