Monday, February 23, 2015

BREAKING: FINANCING FOR HOBOKEN'S SECOND WATER PUMP PASSES 7-2

Tim Occhipinti is critical voice in final City Council approval to finance a wet weather pump aiding west Hoboken flooding around Shoprite; installation at Maxwell Place

After almost three hours of discussion with much fair debate, Hoboken's second wet weather pump is approved in a decisive 7-2 vote.

Tim Occhipinti made a decisive move indicating the financing was needed to move the project forward saying flooding was a priority for him in office. His support proved pivotal in seeing Hoboken's second wet weather pump approved. The City Council had not two months earlier voted unanimously for the wet weather pump.

Tim Occhipinti: key to success approving flood pump.
Hours of discussion mainly in public portion saw dueling concerns between Maxwell Place and west side Hoboken residents. (Video at the link.) One Maxwell Place resident was asked to leave the meeting after repeatedly calling out during the council discussion.

Richard Wolff, Director of the North Hudson Sewerage Authority (NHSA) calmly addressed numerous concerns of Maxwell Place residents saying environmental concerns about airborne contamination would be addressed even as there's no evidence the DEP would require such a necessity.

Wolff explained in detail why the location, an island at Hudson and 11th Street of the Maxwell Place complex was the only location which made sense from both a technical engineering standpoint and financial basis. He said a shift from the east Hoboken location would add $10-20 million in costs.

The wet weather pump's installation is expected to take about 16 months with a cost of $12 million.

Tim Occhipinti's support for the wet weather pump proved crucial in a discussion oddly maintaining decorum from both the public and the council members themselves. Occhipinti's support for following through and financing the wet weather pump directly led to a last second change of mind by first ward councilwoman Terry Castellano after asking and getting assurances on timely updates from the administration and the NHSA.

Hoboken Zoning Board member Michael Defusco, a first ward resident voiced strong support for the water pump and may have had a role in Castellano's reversal. She voted "no" on the wet weather pump at the regularly scheduled meeting last Wednesday but flipped after Defusco's questioning her vote. Her first ward seat is up for election in November.

Beth Mason, the only council member to vote no twice on the pump  saw another ugly revelation revealed before the City Council meeting opening up the long running festering wound displaying  her scorched earth politics.

Mason's long time intimate political associate, Lane Bajardi who admitted to using two screen names on NJ.com in a deposition last July saw those names tied to alleged anti-Semitic remarks against Mayor Dawn Zimmer's family when he was part of her internet blogging team in her failed run for mayor in 2009. That story was broken yesterday by the Hudson County View.

The latest scandal surrounding Beth Mason may be the last straw in her attempting to hold on to the second ward seat and leverage it for higher office.

Voting yes: Council President Ravi Bhalla, council members Peter Cunningham, Jim Doyle, Jen Giattino, Tim Occhipinti, Terry Castellano and Dave Mello.

Voting no: Michael Russo and Beth Mason.

Via twitter seconds after the vote, Mayor Dawn Zimmer wrote:
"Thanks to Council for 7-2 vote on flood pump to protect our City's flood zones! We  will make sure this is built safely."

Update: This morning: City Council President Ravi Bhalla released the following statement to the media:

"It is exciting to be a part of a city government that is leading the charge to end flooding in Hoboken once and for all. Monday's historic vote paves the way for funding of a truly-needed pump that will provide relief for so many residents who are tired of wading through sewage and floodwaters after heavy rainstorms. This pump is a sound investment for the betterment of all Hoboken residents.

Thank you to my council colleagues who supported this pump, especially Councilman Cunningham, who demonstrated leadership in standing up for the interest of the residents most impacted by severe flooding.
Last night we saw a robust discussion - council members listening to the public, pressing the professionals for answers, and voicing their frustrations and concerns. Ultimately, we were able to put politics aside and act in the best interests of the community as a whole. Last night was a classic example of good government in action.

Additionally, I truly appreciate the healthy dialogue this issue has generated between the City Council, the NHSA, and our residents, especially those from Maxwell Place and the western portion of Hoboken. Residents impacted by this vote should know this is not the end of the discussion on this flood pump, and I look forward to seeing the outreach and communication from the NHSA as the pump construction process commences."

Related: H-mag, Hoboken's largest lifestyle online news magazine covered the story:
http://www.hmag.com/hoboken-getting-pumped-flood-mitigation-plan-passes/