Saturday, May 19, 2018

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher: 'Hoboken updates amidst dreary weather'

Official release:

Dear friends and neighbors:

Hopefully, this update on Hoboken issues will find its perfect place amongst today’s dreary weather and the nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.  There are some attachments and action items that I hope you will consider for today and this week as well.  This weekend's update includes: 
  • Connecting the Dots:  Today’s Diaper Drive for Families in Need
  • NYWW/Former UDD site – ACOE public comments due 5/24; Alternative Site Analysis 
  • NJ Transit Buses
  • Messy Wires and Cables
  • Return of a Stop Sign and Stanchions
  • Washington St. – meeting with Businesses
  • A few other upcoming and noteworthy
Two things I have come to realize are that many of our neighbors are not aware of all the amazing non-profits and organizations in Hoboken that provide necessary and supportive services to our more vulnerable neighbors.  And that most people want to find ways to give back in their own community.  I want help connect these two dots.  So with each update I send going forward, I will try to include a new series called “CONNECTINGlTHElDOTS” with information on a local organization and ways you can potentially support this organization.  If there is ever any you want me to include, please let me know.  I attended an event at HOPES CAP on Thursday evening, so today I am starting dot connecting with them…
Imagine if you or your friends could not afford diapers for your babies and young children.  If you have the means, please consider donating diapers TODAY (of all ages) to assist the families of HOPES Early Childhood Program who struggle to make ends meet.  You can drop them off tonight between 9pm-2am at Maggie’s Place, 87 Jefferson St., or at the following locations:  HOPES CAP, 301 Garden St., or HOPES Family Resource Center, 532 Jackson St.  If you want to order some diapers online and send, please do so to the Garden St. location.  Even just one package helps.
From the beginning, HOPES formally Hoboken Organization against Poverty and Economic Stress (H.O.P.E.S), was charged with the responsibility of combating poverty in Hudson County, New Jersey by providing a variety of social services for the community. Established in 1964, HOPES CAP Inc. is a Community Action Agency provides programs which respond to the social, educational, and training needs of the low income individuals in the community from newborns to seniors.  In 1966, HOPES implemented one of the first established Head Start programs in the country.  
With the alleged move date of June 1 looming, NYWW has not yet received its required permits to begin its operations at the former UDD site.  No one wants to see NYWW shut its operations, and although they may threaten to do so for negotiating purposes, IMHO there would not be a scenario where NYWW shut’s down over this – their business is profitable, they have valuable assets and ferry services are too critical to the entire region and are only expanding.  So that being said, Hoboken continues to press on to ensure the focus remains on providing an optimal location for NYWW’s operations, just not in the center of our waterfront.  With this a few updates:
Public comments due 5/24 on their ACOE water permit application.  On Wednesday night, the City Council voted unanimously to a resolution I sponsored along with Councilwoman Jen Giattino to submit a letter from the entire City Council to the Army Corps of Engineers requesting a public hearing (resolution and letter are attached). ACOE issued a public notice on 4/26 and the public comment period ends on 5/25.   The process does not require a public hearing, but given the importance of this to our community we felt it was critical for as many voices to be heard on the issue as possible.  The Mayor also submitted a request.  Please take a minute to read the letter and submit your own.  More voices are always better. Feel free to plagiarize any of the content in the letter.  
Alternative Site Analysis is being conducted for Hoboken by Boswell Engineering.  Why are we doing this too if others have done this?  Because of potential bias in the results… Only Hoboken will be able to solve for Hoboken’s best interest.  NYWW has supposedly conducted one that they have not made public and that excluded Bayonne as a potential site.  NJ Transit is performing a second one (they conducted one in 2009 – see below), with a particular focus on Bayonne.  
2009 NJ Transit Site Analysis Report not previously disclosed.  Fund for Better Waterfront sourced this report through an OPRA request that reviews 9 sites from Weehawken to Bayonne and ranks the former UDD site 5th, with Hoboken’s own Lackawanna terminal as 1st.  Interestingly, it identifies pressure from the City of Jersey City and the developer LeFrak as the main obstacle for Lackawanna.  And we now know that the developers in Weehawken who bought their land from NYWW’s Arthur Imperatore are what is pushing NYWW out from their current site.  And… NJ Transit and their development partners LCOR have both indicated to me that the land around Lackawanna is too valuable for ferry operations.  Is it only me that thinks that private profit is being prioritized over public interest?
I, and several of our neighbors attended the NJ Transit meet and greet last Monday at Lackawanna Terminal where top executives were there to speak with commuters.  I spoke with Executive Director Kevin Corbett and other senior officials about the 126 Bus and in particular the long lines in the north.  In a nutshell, they are constrained by PABT – specifically the evening rush hours.  They cannot add any more buses given the staging requirements and lack of space.  They will be looking at the numbers for Hoboken to see if reallocating buses within our own city may help balance out the waits – as they understand a lot of our population growth has happened in the north end.  
Another major constraint is that a significant number of bus drivers have retired and they are struggling to find replacements.  If you are experiencing any recent improvement it probably has to do with some recent hires.  But if you know of anyone who may be interested tell them to contact NJ Transit here.  They told me with overtime, the role can pay as much as $65k / year with benefits.  
We also discussed adding a bus stop in the 1st ward at the corner of Newark and Willow which I have shared with 1st Councilman Mike DeFusco and the city.  And finally, I encouraged them to provide further subsidies to NYWW – as they find an alternative site for them – so that they can reduce fares for Hoboken and make ferry riding a viable alternative to the buses.  Right now the cost differential between the two does not make sense for many.  
Do you have messy cables hanging across your street that are either or both a safety hazard and an eyesore?  5th Ward Councilman Peter Cunningham has organized with the City meetings with both Verizon and Cablevision (and it successor names) to discuss the removal of these wires.  If you have any please email me the following:
  • A picture of the cables/wires and any context around specific safety concerns (like impacted by a tree, low hanging, etc.)
  • In the subject, write "MESSY CABLES" and the ADDRESS.  This will let us easily chronicle them.
The missing stop sign at the intersection in front of Pier 13 has been restored by the county and the visibility has been improved.  Thank you to Freeholder Romano for his assistance with this.  
Alas, the stanchions are back in full force in the second ward… installed without any prior warning.  I met with several residents at the corner of 13th and Garden yesterday to discuss.  At this corner, with vertical stanchions installed in the middle of the fire zones at 6 of the 8 corners, and a fire hydrant in one of the remaining two, there is virtually no place for any stops to be made.  While standing there we witnessed a mail truck parked in front of the fire hydrant, a car parked for 30 minutes at the only other free corner while dropping off supplies, and a car has to stop in the middle of the block holding up traffic to unload heavy items.  As I discussed with my neighbors, pedestrian safety (and idling Uber's) is what is driving the installation of these, as we witnessed dozens (plural) of cars not stop at the stop sign at that corner and a few vehicles park and extend into the crosswalk.  I am not sure what the right solution, but it feels like all fingers point to better enforcement to make things work better in these areas.  Please let me know your thoughts on the stanchions.  My understanding is they are coming to more intersections near you….  
Last week, Councilman Cunningham and I hosted a meeting at Elysian Cafe (thank you Eugene and Joyce Flinn) for the Washington St. businesses north of 8th street to meet with the administration and our construction manager (T&M) to discuss the Washington St. Project.  We have seen a number of businesses on the southern end of Hoboken be dramatically and negatively impacted by this project – with some going out of business altogether.  We need to do better.  The two main focuses of the meeting were the disruption that eliminating parking has on businesses and what we can do to get this project completed as fast as possible.  Unfortunately the contract with the contractor, as written, is inflexible and the City has historically been hesitant to make any meaningful changes due to litigation concerns.  That being said, as a result of the meeting, and suggestions by the business owners, the City is going to attempt to streamline parking disruptions so that you will not see any blocks where parking has been removed with no work.  Additionally, the City will be looking to find ways to compel the contractor to work longer than 730-330.  Honestly, Peter and I were both shocked when we heard that the contractors are not working longer hours (as approved by the City Council) to expedite the project.  The contractual completion date is 8/21, after which the contractor is obliged to pay a $5,000 / day fee (but is expected to challenge).  But everyone in the room recognized that that date is not a reasonable expectation.  Please share any observations you see as and when about the project as it moves north…
May 19 & 20th, 2pm Hoboken High School’s production of the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  If you were not aware, Hoboken’s theatre department is award-winning and puts on professional level productions.  There is limited seating left and tickets range between $5-10.  This production is district-wide so the cast includes elementary through high school students.  You can buy tickets here.
May 21st , follow up meeting on Affordable Housing at the Multi Service Center at 7pm.  Please join to help us find ways to solve how this nationwide crisis is affecting our own community.
May 23rd, 630 pm, Hoboken’s 120th Memorial Day Parade.  Read more here.  Please join me and our Hoboken veterans to honor those who have sacrificed their lives for all of us.
As always, please feel free to email me or call me at 201/208-1674 if you have any questions or comments or want to discuss this or anything else. 
Hoboken City Council, 2nd Ward
Engage. Inform. Advocate.
“More Voices are Better”

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Mayor Bhalla hires Sen. Booker aide to head Hoboken constituent office

Official release:

Hoboken Mayor Ravinder S. Bhalla has hired Caroline Caulfield to head the city’s newly formed Office of Constituent Affairs. Caulfield, a fourth-generation Hobokenite, joins City Hall from Senator Cory Booker’s Newark office, where she served in the area of constituent relations and correspondence.

“Caroline’s stellar professional qualifications and strong family ties to Hoboken make her the perfect choice to head the city’s new Constituent Affairs office,” said Bhalla. “She has a love and knowledge of Hoboken that is key in helping address the needs and concerns of residents.”

Caulfield carries on a family legacy of public service to Hoboken.  Both her grandfather and great-grandfather worked for the City.

“I feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity to continue this legacy of service,” said Caulfield. “I have tremendous pride in being from Hoboken, and I believe City Hall has an obligation to make our city more responsive to the needs of residents. I look forward to serving all of the city’s residents, paying close attention to the needs of our lower-income residents and those who have been impacted by our city’s rapid growth.”

Prior to working for Senator Booker, Caulfield interned for the New York City Department of Education and canvassed for the Human Rights Campaign. Caulfield earned her B.A. in Political Studies and Human Rights from Bard College.

Caulfield’s first day will be on Tuesday, May 29. 

Talking Ed Note: According to her Linkedin page, Caroline Caulfield is an aide to NJ Senator Cory Booker and a Hoboken real estate agent with Hudson Place Realty.

MSV was removed without explanation on releases from the mayor's office. Talking Ed Notes may accompany any as an exception to elected officials releases per MSV policy.

'Crossfire Hurricane' now comes The Pain

And here comes the DOJ Investigator General's report, part deux, later this month.

How ya'll liking the #RussiaCollusionHoax now? No amount of posturing and narrative is going to save them. Right here on MSV, in late 2016, this Horse called it. The Russia Collusion Hoax has backfired.

Enjoy the Show!

This post is dedicated to Sybil's Cave and the little band of rabble who hoped you'd believe in the bag of goods she tries to sell about the good government people, re: the good being bad.

It's a Pay-to-Play Soprano State inverted universe. Like the Ravi-Russo alliance; it won't last. #ByeSybil #SocialClub'HandicappedParking'

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Hoboken Corporation Counsel clears Boswell and law firm vendor on Pay-to-Play concerns

In a memo released on the eve before the City Council meeting tonight, the Hoboken Corporation Counsel Office cleared Boswell Engineering and a prominent law firm for concerns about pay-to-play.

The firms were named as concerning at the prior City Council meeting when a $60,000 contract for Prestige Environmental was tabled for similar allegations about alleged Pay-to-Play violations.

In a four-page memo, Alyssa Bongiovanni, an Assistant Corporation Counsel concluded the two vendors, Boswell Engineering and law firm Lite DePalma Greenberg, LLC "are in compliance with the City's Pay-to-Play ordinance." Each made approximately $300 contributions to the Ravi Bhalla mayoral campaign, within the legal limit.

Brian Aloia, Hoboken Corporation Counsel
When the Corporation Counsel and the Bhalla Administration placed Prestige Environmental on the City Council agenda for a contract for approval at the earlier May meeting, Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher asked for further review of the other two potential vendors.

The City Council then declined to approve the contract for Prestige Environmental and Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia pledged to immediately "investigate" the issue and respond to the council's concerns.

In the four-page memo, however, published late yesterday by the Hudson County View, Bongiovanni declined to discuss any aspect of Prestige Environmental or how the Bhalla Administration and Corporation Counsel office failed to perform its required due diligence under the Hoboken Pay-to-Play laws before submitting that contract for approval to the City Council.

The memo would admit in a separate footnote that Prestige Environmental "had made contributions in violation of Hoboken's Pay-to-Play ordinance to the candidate committee or Ravinder S. Bhalla and to Team Bhalla for Hoboken."

The footnote further explained "the City is no longer recommending a contract to Prestige," adding a review of Pay-to-Play is no longer "necessary" as the ordinance "only applies to entities with contracts with the City."

But under Hoboken's Pay-to-Play ordinance, the Administration and the Corporation Counsel Office are required to vet vendors are in compliance PRIOR to presenting a contract for approval to the Hoboken City Council.

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher indicated after reviewing the memo she would withdraw a resolution on Pay-to-Play on Boswell. The City Council is expected to take up consideration on a new contract for Boswell tonight.

The second resolution on Lite DePalma Greenberg is likely not to see any action by the council tonight.

The City Council is likely to continue to be wary of what comes to it by way of contracts and other financial matters from the Bhalla Administration. Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher offered, "... as we saw when the administration submitted the Prestige Environmental resolution for approval at the last council meeting, we need more confidence that our corporation counsel/ pay-to-play officer are independent and thorough enough to ensure proper enforcement of our Public Contracting Reform laws."

Brian Aloia was a $600 contributor to Ravi Bhalla's mayoral campaign. At the last City Council meeting, he suggested the City Council approve the contract for Prestige Environmental and he would review the matter later.

The suggestion itself is however not in compliance with Hoboken Pay-to-Play laws which specifically forbid any such approval by the City Council.

The City Council is leary of contracts offered by the Bhalla Administration since it became public earlier this year Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla took an employment contract with a Republican law firm for $60,000 and a generous commission plan for delivering new business.

Bhalla had promised to leave his prior law firm and focus on Hoboken as his full-time job if elected Hoboken mayor. Within a month of taking office, he was on the payroll of another law firm: Lavery, Selvaggi, Abromovits & Cohen.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Bayonne popping Ravi's bollards

The sweep in Bayonne's mayoral election by Jimmy Davis is reverberating across Hudson County and one of the biggest losers in the emerging county war may turn out to be Brian Stack and his underlings: Ravi Bhalla and Hoboken.

Stack who is making a play to be HudCo man about county saw his singular efforts to become Hudson County Democratic Chair threatened as Bayonne under Mayor Davis will likely get behind Amy DeGise, daughter of the HudCo County Executive Tom DeGise.

For Hoboken, the premature shot joining Stack's HudCo insurrection may be costly both for its services from HudCo and for the personal ambitions of those who signed up in the failed insurrection.

The Ravi-Russo Alliance birthed of last year's mutual love reflections between Ravi Bhalla and Councilman Michael Russo saw a nice gathering muscled together of Hoboken Democratic Committee members for the wannabe boss, State Senator and Union City Mayor Brian Stack but the output is clearly faltering.

Brian Stack himself is scrambling in Hoboken to find more local Democratic Committee votes to become the HudCo Democratic Party Chair but the Ravi-Russo game plan has created opposite of the intended effect.

Votes among the Hoboken Democratic Committee have splintered and the theoretical target of 80 (less some departures from town) is nowhere near the objective Stack had hoped to pocket.

Some insiders say Stack was warned Ravi Bhalla's political power play would come up short but Stack decided he had to move forward with his HudCo civil strife plan.

Many political insiders are concluding Ravi Bhalla by joining the Hudco civil war with Jersey City's mayor, Steve Fulop, put Hoboken in a politically (and financially) precarious position.

At the time, observers said Bhalla hoped to get back in the good graces of Brian Stack who he bucked with two forays previously running for NJ Assembly back to 2011. The buzz all over the county hasn't lessened after this MSV column:

RaviLeaks: 'He's bailing on mayor to take the Assembly seat'

Don't count your bollards before they hatch?
That may be the message for the insurrectionists in the HudCo civil war.

Talking Ed Note: To add to Hoboken's woes, Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro clearly reacted to the MSV column publicly announcing her interest in serving for another two-year term.  The Assembly seat closely aligned under State Senator Brian Stack is up for election next year in 2019.

Chaparro is clearly letting everyone know she has no intentions of laying down for anyone including Ravi Bhalla who is already looking for an exit ramp out of Hoboken not four months into the job.

Maybe he didn't really want it. More than a few Hoboken politicos stated that leading into the mayor's race last year but the Ravi Robots said it wasn't true and added, it doesn't matter. Does anything?

Such is the foamy splintered schizophrenia among those Ravibots. Is Ravi Bhalla going to try and bump off yet another woman in his quest for power?

Monday, May 14, 2018

Ravi Bhalla's alleged Pay to Play in play at Wednesday council meeting


City Council to weigh action against vendors' for excessive contributions to Ravi Bhalla
as Bhalla Administration "investigation" on Pay to Play vendors evaporates 

Hoboken's Public Contracting Reform laws in conflict with Mayor Ravi Bhalla?

Most of Hoboken's government business has moved efficiently ahead as in recent years. Even with Mayor Ravi Bhalla's declaration of war against most of the City Council, a full year and a half before council ward elections, the legislative body passed almost all of what's been placed before it this year.

Wednesday, however, will be an exception as the City Council weighs acting on vendors who it inquired about at the earlier May council meeting for alleged Pay to Play violations.

Ravi Bhalla and Corporation Counsel conceded the City Council acted properly not approving a $60,000 contract, in part to Prestige Environmental. After the red flag was raised, Ravi Bhalla admitted the City Council had acted appropriately and should contact him if it arises.

But two other vendor Pay to Play inquiries raised at the same earlier May meeting have been met with silence from Ravi Bhalla and the Hoboken Law Department. One of the two is being proposed by the Bhalla Administration for a new contract.

Those Pay to Play questions are swirling around Boswell Engineering and Lite DePalma Greenberg. Two council resolutions are challenging both under Hoboken Pay to Play laws. Both vendors are alleged to have exceeded the $300 maximum contributions to Ravi Bhalla and could be deemed ineligible to do business in the City of Hoboken for four years.

The City Council resolutions will be in conflict with Ravi Bhalla as his administration seeks to give Boswell Engineering the contract work intended previously for Prestige Environmental at the same meeting.

A portion of the proposed resolution on Boswell would halt an additional $40,000 contract the Bhalla Administration is submitting at the same meeting.
A resolution to bar Boswell Engineering from future City of Hoboken contracts is on the agenda for Wednesday
as the Ravi Bhalla Administration seeks to have approved another contract to the firm, a contributor to Ravi Bhalla.

At the previous meeting, the City Council declined to vote for a contract for Prestige Environmental.  The vendor sought a portion of a $60,000 contract.

In Ravi Bhalla's and his political committee Team Bhalla ELEC reports for 2018, Prestige made contributions of $600 and $1,200 exceeding the Hoboken Pay to Play laws limit of $300.

The council red-flagged the matter with Prestige Environmental and others with the Corporation Counsel stating it would be investigated immediately.

According to City Hall sources,  the City Council has not received any official answer. The Bhalla Administration has instead gone forward with a resolution seeking to award Boswell Engineering with a new contract.

Ravi Bhalla is in the midst of more Pay to Play allegations as the City Council considers
more of his contributors violating Hoboken's Public Contracting Reform Laws.
Did someone say Reform

Talking Ed Note: Ravi Bhalla is facing a Reform Resistance as its good governance adherents: councilmembers Peter Cunningham, Jen Giattino and Tiffanie Fisher are expected to tackle these sticky issues Wednesday night. This could be the first test of Hoboken's Pay to Play laws going up against the Ravi-Russo Alliance.

The mayor's office removed MSV from official releases without comment as these Pay to Play issues have come to light. MSV has broken exclusive stories swirling around Ravi Bhalla and Pay to Play issues back to the mayoral election last year.  The truth will be reported.

Here it comes...

There's more brewing in Hoboken with a bonafide big story later today.
Who do you think is going to face a stampede of truth from The Horse?

Some will not like it. They'd rather keep a fantasy going because lying to the public and each other is far preferred.

The truth matters.

Friday, May 11, 2018

City: Downtown road closures this weekend

Official release:

Agency Logo
May 11,  2018

City of Hoboken, NJ

Community: Weekend Road Closures Begin 8 p.m. on Friday

Dear MSV readers,

The following roads in southwest Hoboken will be closed this weekend beginning 8 p.m. Friday and reopening at 5 a.m. Monday:
  • Harrison Street will be closed at Patterson Avenue not allowing southbound traffic from Patterson Avenue to Observer.
  • Harrison Street will be closed at Observer not allowing southbound traffic from Observer to Newark Street.
  • Newark Street from Monroe to Harrison Street will be closed to both east and west bound traffic.
Please plan ahead and give yourself extra time when traveling.

The work being done on these roads is to prepare for the Hoboken meter facility upgrades, which will take place in the same location beginning on June 29.

Former councilman Dave Mello elected to chair of the HHA

Former Hoboken councilman Dave Mello was elected Chair of the Hoboken Housing Authority board last night.

The two-term former eight-year councilman acknowledged and thanked his colleagues in a Facebook post:

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Hoboken People's Republic plan to ban plastic bags?


That's the word on the street as the Ravi-Russo alliance kicks into high gear.

Councilmembers Jim Doyle and Michael Russo are believed teaming up to introduce the previously failed order of the State to stop Hoboken businesses from using plastic bags.

The old virtue signaling standby failed in an attempt under former Mayor Dawn Zimmer but like clockwork, the City Council is assaulted by an army of kids annually where they mouth the words ordering all Hoboken resident adults: hear and obey.

Well, they also gift the council with a homemade fudge bag.

Did you know that plastic bags cause Pelican cancer? There's no science to support the notion that we know of but think of how good we'll feel about ourselves if we act on this nation-state status. Federal laws, well, all local elected officials take an oath to uphold the New Jersey and US Constitution but those laws are optional! But I digress.

Okay, get out your granola and chow down with this nanny-state classic.

Talking Ed Note: The above MSV video is its all-time most viewed with over 300,000 views. The comments alone on the YouTube page are hysterical. Based on a skit from the series Portlandia, MSV asked in its original post, "Is your mayor trying to turn your town into Portlandia?"

Well, the attempt was stifled by this odd thing called actual Hoboken people but like a vampire, its rising right out of the grave.

Be afraid Hoboken, be very afraid.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher: Fixing Flooding, Removing Shipwrecks, and more...

Official release:

Dear friends and neighbors:
More things happening!  
LETS DESIGN AND FIX FLOODING TOGETHERWhat do you want our anti-flooding project to look like?  
Tomorrow night – May 9th from 7-9PM at Wallace.  We are having the kick-off public meeting for what is referred to as the “Design Phase” of our $230 Million anti-flooding project Rebuild By Design.  Honestly, even if you have not yet been interested enough to participate, now is the time where it will be interesting to everyone.  The task ahead of us is to design something that will range in height from 12+ feet to 1 foot and that will meander through our community, but have it look like anything BUT a wall.  It can look like a park, an amphitheater, a climbing path, a planter, or even a bench.  YOU GET TO HELP DESIGN THIS!  So please come to meet the design team, get an update and hear about the go forward design process that will take the next 12-18 months.  
An important "ALSO"…. notice on the map below – the pink lines to the south. There are 2: one that runs along the tracks, to the south of the Hoboken Yard (NJ Transit) Redevelopment Plan project site and one that runs along observer highway to the north of the project site.  They have not yet selected which path the project will take.
THIS HAS NOT YET BEEN RESOLVED and is a BIG DEAL.  Because no progress was made on NJ Transit’s redevelopment of the site to date, we find ourselves in a situation where the timing of the two projects do not match and there is a conflict about how to move forward.  The Rebuild By Design Project may progress with the northern line because NJ Transit / LCOR could not move critical structures in time.  This could result in the anti-flooding structure being built along Observer highway, effectively boxing in the project site between railroad tracks and a wall.  Whether you are pro-development or anti-development, or somewhere in between, come share your views about this conflict and the potential impact on Hoboken and learn more.  
SHIPWRECK COVE: 2 Done, More to do…
Yesterday, Ken’s Marine Service was onsite in the Weehawken Cove to remove the two of the boats that had been wrecked / damaged in our recent storm from 3 weeks ago.  Who doesn’t love watching crane’s lift heavy objects! (I totally do…).  
A special shout out to the administration – notably Parking Director Ryan Sharp, Fire Chief Brian Crimmins, Assistant Business Administrator Patrick Wherry and Anthony Ricciardi who have been navigating the myriad agencies researching this complex issue (Army Corps, Coast Guard, NJ State Police, NY State Police, NJ DMV).  Because these two boats posed immediate safety concerns (pieces of one were found during the Spring Fling Clean Up) they were able to be removed by the City however at a cost of approximately $15k.  The City is moving forward to extract the remaining four sunken boats.  But as I mention in an interview with NBC yesterday, we need to stop boats from being abandoned BEFORE they pose future safety hazards and burden Hoboken taxpayers.  And before six boats turns into sixty.  There is not a clear path for this, but in speaking with Chief Crimmins and Director Sharp yesterday, there may be a way given Hoboken actually owns the land under the majority of the Weehawken Cove.  More to come on this…
  • Summer Jobs for 14-17 year olds - The City is looking for high school students ages 14-17 for its Summer Green Jobs.   
  • May 16th , 9am St. Matthews 57 8th St. – Tenants Know Your Rights Workshop hosted by the Waterfront Project.  
  • May 17th , All day (south waterfront) – Propelify Innovation Festival which helps “turn ideas into action”. This internationally recognized festival attracts 10K+ attendees and was founded by Hoboken’s own Aaron Price.  There will be 80+ speakers this year including top innovating leaders from companies such as Google, Samsung and GE to Plated and Rent the Runway.  Governor Murphy and Senator Booker will also be speaking at the event.
  • May 17th, 7pm Public Library - Free Workshop on Education Grants, Scholarships and Financial Aid.  Anyone thinking about the costs of education from college down to kindergarten might want to attend.  It is put on by 2nd Ward resident Beau Kuhn.  The last time I promoted this, some of my neighbors with pre-college teens went and they raved about it, said it was eye opening and walked away more knowledgeable.  So here it is again...  
  • May 17th, 830pm-1030pm Propelify Fireworks Night Ride with Bike Hoboken.  Meet at 9th and Grand for the first night ride of the season that will coincide with Propelify’s Fireworks.  Click their FB event to learn more.
As always, please feel free to email me or call me at 201/208-1674 if you have any questions of comments or want to discuss this or anything else.  I am behind in responding to some of you but will be working on that today / tomorrow.  Have a great week! 
Hoboken City Council, 2nd Ward
Engage. Inform. Advocate.
“More Voices are Better”
PS… thank you to the 57 people who responded to my last email!  For the 52 of you who responded about your views on the PINK DUCK– 47 were in favor (whimsical, humorous, light hearted, summertime) and 5 were against... 
PSS – Thank you to everyone who supported me on my 40 Mile Bike Ride for World Wide Orphans on Sunday – whether financially or with your comments on social media and emails.  It was a beautiful day, the 1 mile hill up the Verazanno at the end was less daunting than I remembered, and our team of riders raised almost $100,000 which is amazing.  It takes a village! 

Monday, May 7, 2018

Pay to Play in play!

The story is updated below.

The contract last week for environmental services work at Union Dry Dock tabled by the City Council resulted in several vendors being under immediate investigation for Pay to Play violations.

All three are contributors to the Ravi Bhalla mayoral campaign.

The first vendor, Prestige Environmental was named for a proposed $50,000 contract that exceeds political contributions to the mayoral campaign of Ravi Bhalla and his political committee Team Bhalla.

Prestige Environmental reportedly made contributions totaling $1,800 in 2018, far in excess of the $300 limit for City of Hoboken vendors.

The Corporation Counsel, Brian Aloia is reviewing the matter with the law department. It's unclear when the results will be concluded or if it will be coupled with an announcement.

The Pay to Play ordinance passed in 2011 was part of a Reform effort to prevent wheeling and was championed by Councilman Peter Cunningham.

The legislation failed to pass prior to July 1, 2011 as it lacked a fifth vote. Finally, with the swearing-in of Councilwoman Jen Giattino, the ordinance would clear the five votes needed.

Who sponsored the 2011 legislation? It was sponsored by Councilman Peter Cunningham with the named co-sponsor: Councilman Ravi Bhalla.

Who makes all the calls to vendors and Hoboken businesses creating the Pay to Play violations?

What occurred with Prestige Environmental is the exact reason the 2011 Pay to Play ordinance was passed.

The wording from the legislation speaks to this double-dealing pay to play intent:

Actual language from Hoboken's 2011 Pay to Play ordinance on wheeling.

What is the remedy for violations of the 2011 Pay to Play ordinance?

The remedy to violations is listed in refunding the money within 30 days of the violation's identification and a penalty four times the contribution made for the candidate and/or committee that willfully made the violation.

Update: The earlier 2011 ordinance on the maximum $300 vendor contribution or $500 to a political comittee shows detailed relevant applications for consideration with the three entities who contributed to Ravi Bhalla's mayoral campaign and political committee Team Bhalla.

A notice to the City Council sworn by the potential contract recipient is mandated to be submitted there have NOT  been any excessive contributions made. The City of Hoboken is mandated similarly to inform the City Council that the entity "is not in violation" - "prior to awarding the contract or agreement."

In this instance, the failure will be likely two-fold for one or more contributors to Ravi Bhalla by the Bhalla Administration. In addition, the Corporation Counsel attempted to see the City Council approve the contract with Prestige Environmental saying he would review it later.

The public need not await any later review with returned excess funds to see the writing on the wall with the systematic trading on elected office as with the shady "second job" employment contract with a Republican law firm.

Don't let any political operative, paid or unpaid, try to snow you otherwise.

Talking Ed Note: Let's see if the Hoboken Corporation Counsel Office will enforce the ordinance.

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Councilman Peter Cunningham: Upcoming Tenants' Know Your Rights Workshop

Official release:

Dear friends and neighbors, 

I know first hand from a tenant's experience to the stewards of this organization that the Waterfront Project does great work.  I am a big advocate for the organization.  For those in need of sage legal advice as a tenant, do not miss this opportunity on May 16th.  

For those that are looking for another good nonprofit to support in Hoboken (and Hudson County), this is it!  Thanks, and let me know if you have any questions.

Thanks, Peter

Friday, May 4, 2018

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher: "A lot going on"

Official release:

Dear friends and neighbors:
There always seems to be a lot going on, but this week there seemed to be more than normal including (but not limited to):   
  • Municipal Budget
  • Pay to Play concerns
  • Affordable Housing
  • More fairness for Hoboken’s LGBTQI community
  • Reducing local energy costs
  • Loading zones in residential areas 
  • Hoboken Shipwrecks and 
  • A large, HOT PINK duck  
Read below for more on these (its long, but hopefully the highlighted titles will let you scroll to the topics you find most interesting)…
Amended Municipal Budget
The 2018 Amended Municipal Budget passed with a zero percent increase.  The vote was 9-0 for the 3rd year in a row and 3rd time since 2010.  I have chaired the Finance Subcommittee and have made it my mission to work collaboratively with the administration and the entire council to ensure that the municipal budget weighs and balances the burden on taxpayers while still addressing as many priorities within our city as possible.   Some takeaway points:
  • Total budgeted appropriations (expenditures) actually went up by $4.1M (3.8%) to $112.1M.  
    • Like we are seeing across the country, this was mainly driven by $2.9M in increased healthcare costs.  Group health insurance alone costs $22.8M or 19% of our total municipal budget.  Other large increases include salary and pension ($2.7M) and Debt Service ($600k).
  • Taxes remained flat primarily due offsetting impact of a 2.5% expansion of tax base ($1.3M), increased use of surplus/parking surplus ($1.7M), a reduction in deferred Hurricane Sandy costs ($1.4M) and increased building permit revenues ($900k).
The entire City Council has provided input to the budget since prior to it being introduced by the Mayor, as such the budget now includes the following (and more) because of this input:
  • City Engineer and Construction Manager added to better and more efficiently manage all of our public works, construction projects and technical requirements (including intersection safety) and done so with a better eye on what is best for Hoboken.  These roles will pay for themselves with the reduction in third party engineering costs and IMHO are justified for the next decade given the demands within our community (in original).
  • IT resources to improve, upgrade and automate the Recreation Program and Rent Control records for better access and transparency (in amendment).
  • Traffic and transportation resources for warrant studies for intersection safety, consistent signage at all of our schools, and an analysis for the potential expansion/improvement of the HOP (in amendment).
  • Historic Preservation Design Guidelines that Hoboken has been without and is necessary so we can ensure we are best protecting and preserving our Historic character and properties (in amendment).
  • Expanded park landscaping and incorporation of dog facilities at two parks (in amendment)
  • Restoration of the cobbles for safety and historical purposes on both Court Street and Castlepoint Terrace (in amendment).
  • Expansion of constituent services.  There is city-wide consensus on the need for improvements in this area.  In recent history, it was addressed via the Mayor’s staff and Hoboken 311, but currently there are three additional heads in the budget including the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Mayor and two people who will work in a new department of constituent services.  There remains outstanding clarification on how this will be addressed across the new hires. (in original) 
In my opinion, this is a tight budget with little room for cuts and has some positive, necessary changes that will make our city run more efficiently.  That being said, there will be pressure next year given the reliance on some meaningful yet non-recurring savings/revenues that are in this year’s budget.  We need to continue to focus on efficiencies and revenue expansion this year so we can keep the burden on taxpayers as low as possible while improving the quality of life of our residents. 
Union Dry Dock and Pay-to-Play Concerns
The city continues to move forward on working with all parties to help NYWW find a better location than the former UDD site.  In parallel, NYWW as submitted their application for the Army Corps of Engineers permit, and comments are due May 25th.  
On Wednesday the City Council had to table approving a resolution submitted by the Administration with a last minute change to include environmental firm Prestige Environmental to do work relating to UDD.  Concerns were raised by City Council members about $1,800 in contributions made by Prestige in February and March, listed on the 1Q 2018 ELEC reports for Mayor Bhalla and Team Bhalla.  These amounts are in excess of the City’s contribution limits of $300 from vendors being considered for contracts for professional services.  This is a serious issue, covered in both state and local statutes.  Our local laws carry a penalty if a breach is found of not being allowed to provide any services to our city for 4 years (a full election cycle).  
The entire City Council was focused on how to move forward with minimal delay given the time sensitivity around UDD.  The Administration are expediently investigating the potential breach while simultaneously identifying immediately available replacements so there is no delay - we may have a special meeting to approve the contract / new firm.  In addition to Prestige, two additional firms (directly or through principals of the firms) with existing contracts were also identified that night – Boswell Engineering and Lite Depalma – as having made contributions to Mayor Bhalla in excess of the limits according to his ELEC reports.  Although smaller at $600 each, these are being investigated as well.  
Affordable Housing
Monday night there was a community meeting on affordable housing hosted by Councilwoman Falco, Chair of our affordable housing subcommittee (which I also sit on).  There were a number of speakers from agencies who provide support for residents who are being displaced and/or work on expansion of affordable development.  We have a crisis across our country with affordable housing and within Hoboken, given our attractive location and high land prices, this is even more pronounced.  We have a unique community – our own personal Sesame Street.  And with this we have a great opportunity to potentially show how we can have a community that is inviting to people of all economic backgrounds.  I welcome any thoughts you may have on this topic and if you would like to be more actively involved in this discussion going forward.  More to come…

Commenter on Mayor Ravi Bhalla & ethical government: 'Things have changed'

The following is a comment published on MSV surrounding the Pay-for-Play contract put up by the Ravi Bhalla Administration and rejected by the City Council on Wednesday. If MSV knew who the commenter is, the Horse wouldn't tell. 

While I agree with Mike Defusco and his sentiment that the Ravi Bhalla Administration is ethically challenged it does not escape my memory that Defusco may have violated the spirit of Pay to Play laws during the last election as well as exceeding campaign contribution limits in the last election for PAC contributions.  

But that’s not the point, under the Bhallla administration there seems to be a lack of oversight about this and the blame is clearly on Ravi Bhalla. This should have never made it to City Council for a vote. There is supposed to be a pay to play officer that catches these things. Where is the oversight? Where is the process?  

The problem stems from the fact that Ravi is a lawyer that is still pursuing the commission of government contract work while still being mayor. There were two vendors that bid for an environmental contract with the city and both were conflicted, with Bhalla. Any surprise here with a part-time mayor gallivanting across the state seeking government contract law commissions? Can we find a vendor please that Ravi has not hit up for money?

I can not support a mayor who shows such a lack of judgment and entitlement that he should personally profit from the Mayor’s office. There needs to be more oversight on this because clearly this administration can’t be trusted to police itself.  

Ravi’s statement indicates that he sees this issue as a problem so rather than double down using one of his Ravi bots to disseminate yet another political attack on the messenger he rather adroitly admits there is an issue here. Problem with that is he is asking for a mea culpa after the fact and that is not how good government is supposed to work.  

This never would have happened under Zimmmer. She may have been bad at math but she followed the Pay to Play laws. With Ravi Bhalla we have taken several steps back in how ethics and government are to coexist. 

This is an example of how pay to play is not just an abstraction. We have a Mayor whose craven pursuit of political contributions has led to a potential delay on critical environmental work on Union Dry Dock. Next time Hoboken needs to pick a mayor not on the basis of a midnight flier but one that is no so conflicted across the board.