Monday, July 17, 2017

City Council President Jen Giattino's remarks

Remarks by City Council President Jen Giattino as prepared for delivery.

City Council President Jen Giattino with Reform supporter Nial at her mayoral kickoff event at Moran's.

Thank you all for being here tonight. My name is Jen Giattino and I am honored to be running for mayor of Hoboken.

I am running for mayor because I love Hoboken. I am all about Hoboken and the people of Hoboken – newcomers, oldcomers and people who’ve been here for generations. I will be mayor for everyone. People of all colors and ages. People of every faith or no faith, people of ample means or limited means, people of all sexual preferences, all political parties, and everybody else. Mostly I just see people as people and our amazing diversity is one of the reasons that I love Hoboken.

I am running for mayor of Hoboken to address the needs of the people in our community, to better manage our growth and to enhance our urban village that we all call home. I do not think of being mayor of Hoboken as a stepping stone to anything else. Hoboken needs a mayor who will spend every day focused on making Hoboken the best place it can be.

When it comes to “quality of life,” I walk Hoboken daily and I will not stop when I am mayor. I understand and relate with the problems and concerns of our residents. When I see water seeping through a sidewalk, a light out, a pothole, or an unsafe intersection, I report and follow up to ensure it is addressed. These may seem like small things, but they are important. When I am mayor, my city directors will be leaders in establishing a culture of constituent service throughout the city and will make sure that reported problems are taken seriously if they cannot be anticipated in the first place.

When it comes to managing growth, everyone feels the impact of crowding around us. The 126 bus, the ferries, roads and bike racks are all overcrowded. It really does feel like we are bursting at the seams. I feel it too. When we begin to discuss growth we should be asking, what is the impact of development in our community and how do we manage it? I know most of the peopleare concerned with over development. 

Development needs to be done in a way that works and benefits us. We need to urgently complete a new Master Plan and change the zoning ordinance in a manner that provides the community, property owners and developers with clear standards for future development.

The way to minimize overcrowding is to build less residential and more commercial. Fewer people going in and out, more people working close to home. In any zoning change or redevelopment plan we need to make sure Hoboken gets the maximum community investment that matches the priorities of our residents. I voted against the large development on 7th and Jackson not because it did not have community benefits, but because it did not have enough. Three out of the four corners of our town have significant development ahead and we need to make sure it does not negatively impact our quality of life and that Hoboken gets the most benefits from these developments.

Commercial development is also a key way to broaden and diversify our tax base. I have been an integral part of keeping taxes flat since I was elected in 2011, having served on the Revenue and Finance Committee for my entire tenure on the Council. With much of the necessary investments in our infrastructure ahead of us, now is the time to find ways to offset these future costs which will by my focus. Another way to lessen the tax burden on residents is to work with the County and insist that Hoboken get County investment in our community proportionate to our tax contribution to the County. I have always worked effectively with the County and State officials and anticipate continuing my good working relationships with them to achieve this.

I have been fortunate to call Hoboken my home for 18 years. Raising three children here, I understand the challenges families have. Families are staying in town and the school age population is exploding. A big part of that is the positive changes that have happened throughout Hoboken schools and especially at the Hoboken Board of Education where the Board majority and Superintendent Dr. Christine Johnson are doing an amazing job. Some of my proudest moments have been working with the many schools within Hoboken. I have actively supported and campaigned for those Board of Education candidates, been honored to work with All Saints Episcopal Day School on environmental awareness, and helped Hoboken Charter School find a new home and navigate the system after their fire, just to name a few. While the City of Hoboken is not directly responsible for district schools, charter schools or private schools, the City should be an asset to the schools’ efforts to deal with their own issues. As mayor, I will see that that happens.

Being on the Council, I unfortunately have seen firsthand the displacement taking place in our town which threatens the very diversity that makes Hoboken so special. Our most vulnerable have nowhere to turn. This needs to be fixed and as a community we cannot turn a blind eye to these neighbors. In my capacity as Councilwoman for the last six years I have helped many in danger of being displaced throughout our City. As mayor, I will work to not only help in a moment of crisis, but to find solutions so that these residents no longer feel unsupported and insecure.

When we talk about our urban village, in addition to the efforts that are currently underway, we need to continue finding alternative fixes for our flooding issues such as separating storm water and sewer systems where we can and exploring a third pump with North Hudson Sewerage Authority. And in order to maintain the feel of our urban village we must also revisit legislation such as our flood ordinance. By reforming the flood ordinance, we can help to protect the historical character of our town. No better example of our historic character is the centerpiece of our town - Washington St. Fixing the water mains, roads and, what is most important to me, pedestrian safety, is only a start. We must work with residents, businesses, and property owners to make our Main St. inviting and more successful.

A big part of what makes Hoboken feel like a village is our open space. We have outdoor space that needs to be completed such as the BASF site which I have been fighting for since I was elected to the Council in 2011. I am also a proponent of completing what many of our neighbors started decades ago which is for Hoboken to have a contiguous waterfront public park. This includes the Union Dry Dock site and continuing the fight for the Monarch site. Mayor Zimmer has done an amazing job of increasing our open space. Now, we now need to add focus to other community facilities such as the YMCA, the Multi-Service Center, a pool, and also the maintenance and enhancement of open space and parks that we already have. Community members and stakeholders must be included in this process.

Those who know me best know I am an inclusive person and this approach is the most effective way to get things done and strengthen our community. As a three-time Council president, elected by my peers, I have made it a priority to work with all Council members and as mayor I will continue to prioritize working with stakeholders and other elected officials at all levels.

To quote a friend and Hoboken resident, “out of change comes the opportunity to see things differently, to keep the ideas that work and replace those that don’t.” With this, I ask for your support in creating an Administration that works, and works for all of us.