Thursday, December 13, 2012

Mayor Zimmer testifies before Senate committee on Hurricane Sandy's impact on Hoboken and its business community

Office of the Mayor announces:

MAYOR ZIMMER TESTIFIES BEFORE US SENATE COMMITTEE ON HURRICANE SANDY’S IMPACT ON HOBOKEN


Mayor Dawn Zimmer testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship on Thursday, December 13th. She discussed the impact Hurricane Sandy has had on Hoboken and the challenges still faced with the recovery process. She will also meet with Members of Congress to highlight the unmet needs of businesses and residents. Her prepared remarks before the committee are available below. 


Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship – December 13, 2012

Prepared Testimony
Presented by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer 

Good morning Chairwoman Landrieu and Committee members. It’s a privilege to be here today.

My name is Dawn Zimmer and I am the Mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey. Hoboken is located just across the Hudson River from New York City. We are proud to be the birthplace of baseball and Frank Sinatra and home of the Cake Boss. More than 50,000 residents and hundreds of businesses call our square mile city their home, which is why we are one of the most densely populated cities in America – more than New York City. We are proud to be one of the most walkable communities in the country, and we rank number one in per capita use of public transportation for commuting. We’re a vibrant urban community filled with hundreds of boutiques, restaurants, and outdoor cafes.

But Hurricane Sandy was devastating for Hoboken, our businesses and our residents. For the first time in history, the Hudson River spilled into Hoboken from the north and south, flooding more than half our city. Our community center, public works garage, three of our four fire houses, and more than 1700 homes flooded. We estimate the total damage to our community at well over $100 million.

Thankfully our main street, Washington Street, did not flood, and is again open for business. But hundreds of businesses located off of our main street were severely flooded.

Even the businesses that did not flood have been severely impacted because one of our principal means of transportation to New York, the PATH train, was flooded and still has not been restored. Many businesses report up to a 60 percent reduction in business due to the difficulty of getting to and from Hoboken.

Some businesses that flooded remain closed or are forced to operate at an alternate location as they try to navigate the insurance gauntlet.

I call it an insurance gauntlet because the National Flood Insurance Program is not designed to meet the needs of the built urban environment.

I believe there is a fundamental unfairness in the system that I respectfully ask Congress to address.

When businesses located in a flood zone buy their properties, they are forced to purchase flood insurance by their mortgage companies. But the Flood Insurance Program treats garden style businesses as if they were “basements.” And under FEMA’s definition of a “basement,” the coverage is greatly limited to only include things like the boiler, hot water tanks, and electrical control panels.

These rules do not reflect the reality that in places like Hoboken, New York City, and other urban areas, the premises characterized as basements house vibrant businesses and principal residences which are critical elements to the vibrancy of our cities.

A store or apartment that requires you to walk down one or two steps is plain and simply not a basement. The business owners and residents who work and live in these stores and homes are required to buy flood insurance, are required to pay premiums into the flood insurance system, yet they receive virtually no coverage.

After having paid flood insurance premiums for years, many discover for the first time that their claims are denied because the flood insurance they were required to purchase does not actually insure them.

What we have is unfortunately not a rule that protects against moral hazard, but a trap that victimizes people at their time of greatest need.

For many businesses, their only option is a loan from the Small Business Administration. But almost all business owners I’ve spoken with tell me they can’t afford more debt. But they do need help, and we are at risk of losing the small businesses that make our communities special, so I respectfully ask that this committee and the Congress consider other options for providing direct relief to our small business owners.

Unfortunately, those businesses without flood insurance who do seek assistance from the SBA will be the next victims caught in the flood insurance trap. If they are able to receive an SBA loan, they will be required to get flood insurance and pay into a program that offers virtually no assistance for their urban garden style business. Their insurance costs will go up excessively, but unless Congress takes action to address the definition of a “basement” – or the coverage provided to those units – then the garden style business or home owner will be forever caught funding a flood insurance system that fails to benefit them in any meaningful way.

The inequity of the system is apparent when we see homeowners receiving $250,000 in coverage for vacation homes on the shore while primary homes and businesses fall through the cracks of the flood insurance program.

In the immediate term, I strongly urge Congress to provide direct assistance for businesses and residents caught in the flood insurance trap. Specifically, I ask you to take action to address the unfair basement issue for the future.

I suggest that rather than denying people coverage, businesses and residents should be given incentives to invest in taking the necessary steps to reduce the impact of flooding.

For example, there could be a system of encouraging the installation of energy efficient waterless tanks on higher floors that can be installed in closets.

But the current system does not provide incentives – it just inflicts pain on innocent victims at a time when they are most vulnerable.

I thank you so much for your willingness to listen to our concerns and for the opportunity to speak with you today.

Mayor Zimmer pictured here at a City Hall press conference in the immediate aftermath
of Hurricane Sandy spoke before a US Senate subcommittee earlier today.

Legal showdown on at-large council seat Friday

The looming showdown on the at-large council seat will be heard tomorrow in Hudson County Superior Court and anxiety is heightened with the second hearing.  A decision by Judge Peter Bariso could see a request of the full council to vote on the seat together or alternatively, no vote may be called leaving a 4-4 deadlock until next November.

Should the latter outcome prevail, it would be the biggest victory for the Old Guard since the attempt to block the hospital sale.  Obstruction from the "Council of No" would commence in force and the most simple matters requiring a council majority such as year end line item budget transfers would turn into galactic hour long discussions led by the king of grandstanding Councilman Michael Russo.

Please rise Hoboken! Tomorrow Judge Peter Bariso will hear part two of the legal matter on the open at-large council seat.
His action Friday could see the eight Hoboken City Council members meet and vote together on the issue.

With no clear leading mayoral candidate among the Old Guard council or citywide, chaos reigning against the mayor and the City on the council may be the closest victory at hand leading into next November's citywide elections.

The judge in a similar case in Newark ruled there was no basis to weigh the validity of a mayoral tie-breaking vote because the council had enacted council rules earlier abstentions would not be counted as either "yea" or "no" votes.   That decision has made some in the reform community anxious and for others it's confirmation the courts can not be relied upon to overcome staged political operations against the law. 

Hoboken's City Council is guided by Robert's Rules of Order and abstentions are counted as a no vote.  The Old Guard Council members likely hatched a plan to see one member absent during the 30 day window to avoid a 4-4 tie and the mayor casting a fifth and determinative vote.

Judge Bariso at the first hearing does not appear to be swayed by the action and will decide what if anything is required of the Hoboken City Council.  A vote of the full City Council could be ordered and take place before the end of the year.

The 30 day window for a council appointment vote was suspended with the legal action on the open council seat in Newark and may be viewed similarly in Hudson County Superior Court.  Councilman Michael Russo who was conveniently absent in the council meeting after ally Beth Mason was mysteriously absent at a prior meeting called an appointment beyond that window an attempt by the mayor for a second bite at the apple.

What Russo didn't tell the Jersey Journal is he and Mason already took their bite.  Now it's the judge's turn.

Talking Ed Note: Da Horsey has learned a bit about some of the current roster of Hudson County Superior Court judges. MSV continues to differ with those who expect the legal ruse by the Old Guard to prevail.

On another legal front, one rumor refusing to die says Beth Mason embittered by her latest election humiliation at the hands of Hoboken voters for the BoE is looking to open another lawsuit.  Some say the chatter is to challenge the 290 Hoboken voters who had their ballots tabulated via email and fax and Mason wants each subpoenaed to demonstrate they were displaced by the hurricane.

If true, it's unclear if Mason's husband would provide an additional allowance for yet another lawsuit by his overly litigious wife.

photo courtesy NJ.com, by arrangement

Mayor Zimmer to testify before US Senate committee on Sandy this morning


MAYOR ZIMMER TO TESTIFY BEFORE U.S. SENATE COMMITTEE ON HURRICANE SANDY IMPACT ON HOBOKEN

Mayor Dawn Zimmer will testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship on Thursday, December 13th.  She will discuss the impact Hurricane Sandy has had on Hoboken and the challenges still faced with the recovery process. She will also later meet with Members of Congress to highlight the unmet needs of businesses and residents.

NHSA: temporary outfall compliant with NJ DEP requirements

North Hudson Sewerage Authority announces:


NHSA INSTALLS TEMPORARY OUTFALL INTO HOBOKEN/WEEHAWKEN COVE 

HOBOKEN, NJ (DECEMBER 12, 2012) -- The North Hudson Sewerage Authority has installed a 
temporary outfall into the Hoboken/Weehawken Cove at 16th Street and the Hudson River. The 
temporary outfall is being used while the permanent 60 year old, underground outfall pipe 
running from the Adams Street treatment plant to the River undergoes extensive repair and 
rehabilitation. The temporary outfall empties into the Hudson above ground, as opposed to the 
permanent outfall under repair, which runs below ground for its entire length. 

The discharge into the Hudson River is highly treated effluent at a secondary level, fully 
compliant with all NJ Department of Environmental Protection requirements. The latest 
monthly monitoring (November), which is regularly reported to the State, demonstrated that 
the effluent exceeded the NJDEP requirements for treatment in all categories. This level of 
treatment makes the water discharged through the temporary outfall even cleaner than the 
State mandates. 

The rehabilitation of the permanent underground outfall line will take approximately 18 
months. The line is being repaired because of its age (over 60 years old) to ensure its integrity 
for decades to come. This preventative maintenance avoids potential underground sewer line 
breaks and leaks which can lead to roadway collapses and environmental spills. The repairs 
have nothing to do with adding treatment capacity at the Adams Street plant. 

Dr. Richard J. Wolff, Chairman of the NHSA, said, “We know that the public is not used to seeing 
the treated effluent being discharged into the Hudson above the water line. Normally, the 
discharge is below the water surface. However, we should keep in mind that the effluent is 
exceeding secondary treatment levels. So, by all environmental standards, it is extremely clean. 
As soon as we are able to complete the repair of the below ground permanent line, we will take 
the temporary above ground line out of service.”