Monday, November 6, 2017

Councilwoman Fisher pounds Jim Doyle and the Bhalla campaign

The following letter excerpts come courtesy of the Hudson County View:

In a letter to the editor, Hoboken 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher refutes some claims made by her council colleague James Doyle on the recent downtown hotel plan.



From the letter:

With almost 1/3 of Hoboken to be redeveloped, we need to elect the person who is best equipped to make sure that future development works for Hoboken.

To me the only candidate who is positioned to do this is Council President Jen Giattino.

Two weeks ago, Councilman Jim Doyle wrote a letter to the editor here citing the strengths of Team Bhalla as it relates to addressing development in Hoboken. I wanted to take this opportunity to refute a number of statements he made.

My background is commercial real estate finance, having worked 22 years for both real estate companies and banks financing real estate projects and companies.

Which brings me to the plan for a Hotel at the Post Office site. In Jim’s letter, he leads the reader to believe that the City has approved an actual hotel to be built – which is not the case.

What was approved by City Council with a 7-2 vote, including a ‘yes’ vote from me, is just a plan. There is no agreement to build, and KMS, the proposed developer of the hotel that is being contemplated has not yet even been designated as developer, and you cannot negotiate a development agreement until the developer is determined.

Jim (Doyle) actually made this point repeatedly during the council meeting where the plan was being discussed – that the plan was not an agreement with the developer, because the developer had not yet been designated, but that it was just a plan.

So I’m a little confused by his assertions in his letter that contradict this.

Jim also makes the statement that he and Councilman Ravi Bhalla both support a “12-14 story ‘boutique’ hotel to this location, in line with the heights of the surrounding buildings.” That sounds nice but this is neither feasible nor a realistic alternative.

And this is where in my opinion Team Bhalla and Team Giattino diverge.

Hotel development is more complicated than other types of development. Jen, who is on the subcommittee that oversaw the plan along with Ravi, Councilmen Cunningham and DeFusco, insisted that the City hire a financial and real estate consultant with hotel industry expertise to advise the City.

It is fair for Jim to say that he and Ravi don’t want to see building heights greater than 12-14 stories in that area, most in Hoboken including Jen and me have sensitivities to height, but he and Team Bhalla have no basis to say that they can somehow deliver a hotel in that location at those heights.

And just a couple more corrections for the record:

- When Jim says “12-14 stories….in line with the heights of the surrounding buildings” and “the building will be 29 stories and 290 ft. high and the 2nd highest building in Hoboken”, he excludes the Hoboken Yard Development Plan that he championed in his role as the Chair of the subcommittee for the project.

- Jim wrote that the hotel, if built, will overshadow Pier A park.

But he doesn’t mention that the subcommittee was extremely sensitive to the shadow concerns which reflect those of many in our community and included the following in the plan “the City may evaluate design proposals that necessitate deviating from these requirements in order to achieve a design that creates the least possible shadow impact on Pier A Park.”
Finally, I find it unfortunate that Jim believes Team Bhalla to have a better understanding of how to negotiate development. Just look to the 7th and Jackson Project that was also approved by a vote of 7-2.

In that project, again led by Councilman Doyle and voted ‘yes’ by he and Councilman Bhalla, the City gave the developer $128 million of tax abatements for the next 30 years. How did this happen?

For the entire letter from Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, please see the Hudson County View.