Sunday, May 13, 2012

Southwest Park dream at stake with Tim Occhipinti vote front and center


Mayor Dawn Zimmer's crowning achievement to date - saving the Hoboken University Medical Center against longs odds - is past glory but her foremost reason for entering the political arena looms with an ordinance on the table at the City Council meeting Wednesday night - the long held hopes for the creation of a Southwest Park.

Negotiations for the centerpiece of that dream in an area built around Block 12 are falling short and Mayor Zimmer is following through on a previous request to the City Council to approve an ordinance to provide the authority to use the powers of eminent domain to make a Southwest Park a reality.

The ordinance for the Southwest park is on the table Wednesday night and requires five votes.  Previously, a resolution on eminent domain last July (see page 4 in attachment below) came down to one critical vote and put a defining issue before Councilman Tim Occhipinti.  With Councilwoman Jen Giattino, an ally of Reform but voting no in only her third council meeting, the pressure on Tim Occhipinti to deliver for the fourth ward was front and center.

Block 12 is the City's central objective for building a contiguous Southwest Park.

Occhipinti provided the fifth vote for the tool to pursue a southwest park but not property specific.  The resolution gave the mayor the authority to pursue a southwest park vision with previously approved county funds.  This time the stakes are real with actual lots from Block 12 designated as targets for a park.

MORTe as a whole is expected to vote against the plan the mayor is presenting for a Southwest Park; this with a one year deadline looming on a  $3 million county grant set to expire this year.

The likelihood of Council members Terry Castellano (No to Pier A Park), Michael (what's in it for me) Russo, and Beth (Develop or Die) Mason supporting the Southwest Park plan are quite low leaving Tim Occhipinti as the likely critical fifth vote to bring the plan to fruition.

The ordinance requires five votes on introduction to move to the next stage when public comment can be heard in advance of a City Council vote.  If the ordinance fails to obtain five votes Wednesday night, there will be no public discussion on the ordinance and the Southwest Park plan is dead.

The $3 million from Hudson County reprogrammed toward the Southwest at the urging of Tim Occhipinti are also at stake.  The County funds were approved with a one year deadline and the efforts at using those funds were focused as designated by county regulation on the southwest.

Talking Ed Note: There's two types of eminent domain and the one on the table is not the controversial redevelopment version in the Supreme Court Kelo case but the version historically used for the public interest - rehabilitation - such as for parks, highways, etc.

This ordinance for a Southwest Park is where the rubber meets the road. The complete memo from Mayor Zimmer to the City Council follows below.  Designating the lots in Block 12 eligible for eminent domain does not mean the owners aren't compensated, only that the compensation would be set fairly.

Mayor Memo Southwest Park

4th ward resident Jake Stuiver rebuts Tim Occhipinti: 'Explain your betrayal and abuse of public trust for developers'

The following is a letter by Hoboken activist and 4th ward resident Jake Stuiver and appeared in the weekend paper.

Dear Horsey:

It is unfortunate that Fourth Ward Councilman Timothy Occhipinti took the time to launch a 503-word tirade against me without allotting even one sentence to address the very serious misconduct I exposed in my April 8 letter.  My previous letter concerned Mr. Occhipinti’s highly unorthodox and improper behavior on behalf of a campaign contributor at the March 20 Zoning Board meeting.

Instead of splitting hairs over whether the campaign contributor, Danny Tattoli, is a developer or a “businessman” and whether Mr. Tattoli donated the additional $2,000 he reported in his disclosure statement or just the $1,500 reported on Tim’s ELEC, Tim should have addressed the real issue, which is what business he had, as a City Councilman, attempting to testify at a Zoning Board hearing at all. The City Council is the appeals authority for Zoning Board decisions, and any council member taking a public position on any such pending matter compromises the integrity of the process and potentially exposes the city to litigation. We all know how Tim feels, or is told to feel, about lawyer’s fees, so even he can agree that would not be good.

Mr. Tattoli had illegally constructed a restaurant facility right in the vicinity of a planned Fourth Ward park, and Tim attempted to meddle in the hearing on whether to retroactively grant the necessary approvals. When the Zoning Board attorney advised Tim that council members may not testify at such hearings, he wasted several minutes of the board’s time protesting in a “sidebar.”

Tim pays lip service to fighting for parks when it suits him politically, and never misses an opportunity to claim credit for accomplishments to which he cannot demonstrate the slightest contribution, but when it counts, Tim is not fighting for his ward but rather selling it out to the highest bidder. Mr. Tattoli broke the rules, and Mr. Occhipinti broke more rules to help his sponsor get away with breaking the rules.

I stand by what I said, and Mr. Occhipinti, in declining to contest it in any serious manner, seems to tacitly agree – Tim is a developer shill and corruption apologist who champions not his ward and its residents, but rather the campaign-finance legal loopholes that defined his arrival on the council and continue to define his service on it.

I give Tim an A for effort for attempting to rationalize his misdeeds with tit-for-tat campaign-finance allegations. As usual, however, Tim's arguments lack three fundamentals of serious discourse: logic, cogency and veracity.

The petulant silliness of Tim's rebuttal is, quite frankly, insulting -- not to me personally, but to the entire Hoboken public, which should be able to expect its elected officials to respond to alarming charges with the appropriate gravity. Tim stands accused of betraying and abusing the public trust with a form of legalized corruption that should have been left behind in the Cammarano era. What the public deserves now is an apology and an explanation, not a childish, incoherent rant to deflect and distract from the issue of who he really represents.


Jake Stuiver
Fourth Ward Resident

Answer to the charge is the rebuttal from Hoboken resident Jake Stuiver to Tim Occhipinti in their latest letter exchange.  Above a community meeting at the Rue School last June to discuss NJ Transit development downtown saw Occhipinti (l) side with the big developer and ignore the public at tables discussing drawings of viable options.  Occhipinti ignored several presentations with the public and remained isolated with the NJ Transit people (above).

Related: MSV's originally story on Occhipinti's uncanny consistency in siding with developers, any developer against the Hoboken community: