Monday, November 14, 2016

Councilman Ravi Bhalla: 'My perspective on the national election'

From the desk of Councilman Ravi Bhalla:

Dear Friends & Neighbors,

Since last Wednesday, I have heard from so many concerned residents about the results of the Presidential election.  They worry about what’s in store for America.  Some fear for their own civil rights, others worry about their friends, and some are still shaking their heads, wondering how this happened. I myself have seen the hatred of this new political climate earlier this year, when a Hudson County resident and supporter of President-elect Trump called me a “terrorist” and said I do not belong in this country.

But amidst the fear, there’s been an encouraging question I’ve received over and over from good people in this community, which is, “How do I get involved?”  On this day, two things come to mind.

First, as you may know, I am a Sikh American.  Today is a special holiday for Sikhs, the day of the birth of the founder of our faith, Guru Nanak Dev Ji.  Guru Nanak advocated against prejudice based on race, religion, gender, and social status.  Guru Nanak said, “See the brotherhood of all humankind as the highest order; conquer your mind, and conquer the world.”  Guru Nanak was also an advocate of equality of women and all humankind, back in the 15th Century, in accordance with our core values as Americans today.  On this day, we should both remember Guru Nanak and seek guidance from his message to the world, as we confront the challenges of our current political climate.

“Fear none, frighten none,” is another core tenet of Sikh philosophy that we can draw upon when gracefully resisting injustices and unprovoked attacks on our rights and liberties as Americans.  Finally, at the end of the Sikh daily prayer, we say “Nanak naam Chardi Kala, tere bhane sarbat da bhala,” which means that with the name of the Almighty comes rising and optimistic spirits, and that we pray that everyone in the world may prosper and be in peace.  These are high ideals, but as a Sikh, I wanted to share them with you and hope they provide some inspiration that at the end of the day, as Hobokenites, Americans, and world citizens, we’re in this together.  We must reach out, understand, and most importantly, activate!

Let us start organizing at the local level, as real change starts from the bottom up. The key to a powerful party across the state and nation are tight-knit communities full of smart, committed people who will no longer stand on the sidelines and choose to instead build a grassroots effort that spreads the promise of hope and a more progressive future, instead of buying into fear.

It would be easy to tune out politics now if you’re unhappy with the results of the election. But it wouldn’t be the right thing to do, and it most certainly is an un-American response. The President and Hillary Clinton have called for us to root for the success of our country despite our discomfort with Mr. Trump as our president. That’s the right message, but we won’t accept or support initiatives that perpetuate discrimination and are in direct violation of our own personal principles. And while we want a prosperous nation, in my America, we won’t turn a blind eye to hatred or accept bullies as part of life – we stand up to them.

If you’d like to get involved, learn a bit more about how you can help, or just be around like-minded people who want to figure out how to make a difference, there is a group of Democrats meeting tonight, Nov. 14 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Pilsener Haus & Biergarten at 1422 Grand St. in HobokenThe group is called New Jersey Awakens, and Dana Wefer of Hoboken is spearheading the effort to organize locally to make an impact nationally.

If you can’t make the meeting but are curious as to how you can get involved and use your talents to improve our community, state, or country, e-mail me at, and I’d be happy to talk to you!

Ravinder S. Bhalla

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher: Public can engage on proposed settlement agreement

From the desk of Second Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher:

Dear 2nd Ward and Hoboken Neighbors – 

Tonight (11/14) at the City Council Meeting at 7pm at 94 Washington St., there is an important vote on a potential settlement for the two litigations that the City has been involved in relating to the proposed Monarch project and the proposed 800 Monroe project.  I will not be voting nor participating in deliberations or public discussions concerning the settlement at the meeting because I am conflicted.  

I urge all of you to read up on the settlement agreement (it is not that long) and attend the Monday meeting and / or send an email to the City Council and the Mayor expressing your views.  I have listed at the bottom of this note all of their emails.  Given the complexity of the agreement, the decision is not certain.  Here are various links to City announcements and the settlement agreement:

Effectively the settlement would conclude litigation on each site, would result in the City getting the land on the waterfront that would be then used only for public open space, some additional affordable housing units, and in exchange Applied would get additional density and other accommodations at their site at 8th and Monroe.  

As you may know, I wear many hats.  I am your neighbor and a resident of the 2nd Ward. I have led the public opposition to the Monarch project.   I am on the Board of the Hudson Tea Buildings Condominium Association which is actually party to all five complaints in the litigation concerning Monarch.  And most recently I was elected by what I think are many of you to be your representative on Hoboken’s City Council.  However, in this instance the hat that creates either the most tangible conflict is that of being a homeowner in the Hudson Tea, on the 2nd floor, facing east.  And with this hat, comes the possibility of receiving financial benefit from the outcome of this settlement, and thus the conflict.  Although I always thought that I had a conflict, I did not contemplate a situation like this.  I always thought any settlement relating to Monarch would be where the outcome would have the same unanimous support that we saw in the beginning of our community fight and would represent a community-wide alignment of interests.  Not one like this where the interests of residents across the city are not as perfectly aligned. Although I know that this is not about me, and is 100% about all of you, no one is more frustrated than I am to be effectively censured on an issue that has significant importance to all members of our community.   

I wish I could say more, but I can’t.  So it is important that you do. 
This email is going to people in all areas of Hoboken so whether you support the Agreement, are opposed to the Agreement, have suggestions on a better solution – whatever you think, please let our Council and our Mayor know.  They need to hear from the public on this.  Your voice will always matter most on local matters.  

Tiffanie Fisher
Hoboken 2nd Ward City Councilwoman

Engage. Inform. Advocate.
"More Voices are Better"

Mayor Dawn Zimmer
At Large (all Hoboken) Councilman Ravi Bhalla:
At Large (all Hoboken) Councilman Dave Mello:
At Large (all Hoboken) Councilman Jim Doyle:;
1st Ward (south east) Councilman Mike DeFusco:
2nd Ward (north east) Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher:;
3rd Ward (center west) Councilman Mike Russo:
4th Ward (south west) Councilman Ruben Ramos:
5th Ward (north west) Councilman Peter Cunningham:
6th Ward (center east) Councilwoman and Council President Jen Giattino:;

Development conflict on Monarch & West side Hoboken on tap

Tonight is an unusual scheduled meeting of the Hoboken City Council with the annual League of Municipalities convening later this week in Atlantic City.

On the agenda is the proposed settlement agreement on the Monarch Project with Applied, re: the Barry family. The City is looking to end the litigation by trading on higher density moving dozens of proposed units to west Hoboken at 800 Monroe.

At the last City Council meeting, dozens of Hoboken residents rose in opposition to the proposed settlement announcement displeased in what they conclude as caving in to the illicit actions of Applied and urging the Hoboken City Council to vote against it.

The proposed settlement has opened a sore spot for Hoboken residents opposed to over development. Many have voiced strong concerns about the increasingly bad situation with local traffic especially driving in and out of Hoboken during peak periods among other quality of life issues.

A petition begun after the City's proposed settlement announcement has obtained close to 600 signatures, most of them Hoboken residents in opposition from a new community group named HARMED, Hobokenites Against Radical Massive & Massive Egregious Development.

The announcement stated Hoboken could incur another million in litigation costs and that the outcome against Applied is "uncertain."

Hoboken residents on the whole are furious with the idea of capitulating to Applied. Also known as Ironstate Development, the Barry family reneged on a development deal with Hoboken after making millions in profits on the uptown Shipyard complex refusing to build tennis courts and parking as the original contract called for with the City of Hoboken

The Barry family is litigating the City of Hoboken seeking to build two towers on a pier in the northeast corner called the Monarch Project. They own a property at 800 Monroe and seek over 70  additional units at that location which would offset the tens of millions in profits deferred in the Monarch Project's cancellation.

The uptown office of Applied, re: the Barry family.

Talking Ed Note: Tonight's City Council meeting is scheduled for 7:00 pm. Members of the public can sign up on the resolution scheduled for a vote among eight members of the council. Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, a resident of the Hudson Tea Building has recused herself.

Five votes approving the proposed settlement are required for passage.

New Facebook page, "New Jersey Awakens" forms after President-elect Trump's election victory

New Jersey Awakens announces:


Three days ago, a Facebook page called “New Jersey Awakens” was formed.  Despite how new it is, the group already expects to draw a crowd of nearly 100 tonight in Hoboken at the Pilsner Haus Biergarten, with more than 200 indicating they may come.  The election of Donald Trump to the presidency has led to groups of disaffected Democrats and Independents springing up all over the country to meet, commiserate, and plan for the future.  

New Jersey Awakens, founded by Hoboken resident Dana Wefer, is aimed at “organizing Democrats and other progressives to reform the Democratic party and our political system from the ground up” according to the group’s page.  Wefer herself is no stranger to local activism as she engaged in a very public battle to curtail fiscal mismanagement and ethics issues at the Hoboken Housing Authority, where she remains chairperson of the Board.  “I started the Democratic Social Club because I was disillusioned by the formal democratic committee in Hoboken,” Wefer said.  “In 2013 we had a good Democratic candidate for governor, Barbara Buono, but statewide Democrats threw their weight behind Chris Christie.  It was really disappointing to me and the results have been obviously disastrous for the state.”  The club gathers monthly for a happy hour, has been registering voters at local festivals, and campaigned for Hillary Clinton making almost 800 calls to Pennsylvania voters on Election Day and organizing canvassing opportunities into Pennsylvania.

“Wednesday morning, I was just shell shocked,” Wefer says.  “I thought, I want to get in a room with other Democrats who feel similarly, we need to talk to each other.”  Envisioning ten people in a coffee shop, Wefer sent an email to her group and had more than 30 RSVPs by the end of the day.  When she put the event on Facebook, it continued to gain traction and attention outside of Hoboken.  Wefer rebranded the group “New Jersey Awakens” and hopes that it will serve as an organizing force for Democrats disappointed with the lack of grassroots effort in the Democratic Party.  “The Democratic Party is, in many ways, suffering from the same issues that we see in our society at large, especially social stratification,” Wefer said.  “It’s hard to run for office unless you have a lot of money, so our leaders end up being wealthier than the population they serve. Many have lost touch with the grassroots supporters and are insulated from the everyday issues facing people.  We need to get back to our grassroots as a party.” 

On Monday night the group will be organizing into committees and recruiting volunteers.  “We’re going to be compiling resources ready to mobilize if President Trump or his cabinet members attempt to implement policies discriminating against anyone on the basis of race, religion, orientation, ethnicity, or sex,” Wefer said.  The group is also organizing phone banks to call voters in Louisiana, where a Senate race will be decided next month, and locally to reach more Democrats.  “People are really motivated right now.  We need to harness that and give people a productive outlet to effectuate change,” Wefer said.  “We can’t just sit by."

Tonight's event at the Pilsener Haus Biergarten: 6:30 - 8:30