Friday, March 2, 2018

Councilman Peter Cunningham: Completing our waterfront & maintaining public safety

Official release:

Dear neighbors and friends, 

I wrote to some of you the other day expressing my serious concern over Mayor Bhalla's strategic and poorly timed announcement that he has indeed taken on another job. It's more than breaking a campaign promise, and it's buried in his announcement below.

We are certainly on the same page as it's relates to Union Dry Dock, but in other issues I am concerned.  It is unfortunate for him to say, "put politics aside" while he kicks two of the City's most talented members off the Rent Control Board because they supported another Mayoral candidate.  This is hypocritical to say the least. The new members that he just appointed are also dismayed by his action, because the two members have a great deal of expertise and knowledge that is difficult to replace in this very sensitive area.  

I also share similar concerns with Mayor Bhalla on LepreCon day. However, the Mayor had committed to forming a task force with the hospitality association to solve the problem collaboratively.  He has instead taken a far different approach akin to swinging a sledge hammer, which in my opinion is disingenuous.

At our next council meeting, I look forward to supporting Councilwoman Giattino's amendment to our flood ordinance that helps to protect the character and scale of Hoboken's neighborhoods severely under attack by the consequences of our current ordinance.   For example, under the current law, we are treating non-flood zones as flood zones.  This amendment removes the "X and shaded X zones from the enforcement area.”

Lastly Mayor Bhalla’s  job is to be a full time mayor.  However, his new law firm job draws a salary, and he has upside potential of making over a million dollars a year!  This has many potential conflicts of interest and appears more about leveraging his Mayoral seat for political and economic gain than doing what is right for the citizens of Hoboken.  My concerns are not political.  They are about doing what's right and this is not.  

As always, I appreciate hearing your thoughts.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Mayor Ravi Bhalla

I hope you enjoyed the weekend! I'm please to share more positive updates and steps we're taking to improve the quality of life here in Hoboken. 

Union Dry Dock
Earlier this year, our community rallied together to prevent former Governor Christie's administration from taking over the last piece of our waterfrontWith Union Dry Dock no longer planning to operate as a business, we now have a historic opportunity to complete a contiguous, public waterfront park, a decades-long vision that is finally within reach. As a next step, I'm calling for a Special Meeting of the City Council on Wednesday at 7:00 pm to request authorization to seek to acquire this land by purchase or condemnation in an amount not to exceed $11.6 million, which is the value of the land as per our appraiser. Hoboken is well positioned to secure this land without any tax increase through our dedicated Open Space Trust Fund and grant opportunities through Hudson County's Open Space Trust Fund, among other funding mechanisms. Simply put, we may never again have this tremendous opportunity to complete our waterfront with a public park if we do not act now. 
If residents are in favor of completing this waterfront park, it is critical to make your voices heard by emailing your Council Members as well as showing up at Wednesday's Council meeting. Your voice matters! Thank you to all of the waterfront park activists, including those residents in Maxwell Place and Fund for a Better Waterfront, for your advocacy for this critical project.
Addressing Lepre-con
One major complaint I have heard in previous years, and on the campaign trail, was the outrageous behavior that ensues on "con" days, including Lepre-chon. In the days after my election, I made countless calls to officers of the Hoboken Police Department who suffered serious injuries being assaulted by drunken and disorderly bar patrons. I decided that enough is enough. As Mayor, I cannot tolerate our officers being assaulted and disrespected by people who come from out of Hoboken and trash our City at the expense of our residents.
While the vast majority of bars are responsible businesses, a select few establishments have failed to adequately control their patrons and the activities within their premises, leading to severe public safety issues. Meanwhile, the City Council was dragging its feet as many Councilmembers have conflicts or relationships with the bar community. Fortunately, real action was taken by the City's Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) prosecutors, which prosecuted violations firmly, leading to penalties against 11 establishments, including five that are now shut down for the Lepre-con event. While some are upset at this decision, this represents the first time that City Hall, since moving the parade, is taking concrete steps to address these serious public safety and quality of life issues. 
Finally, I'm happy to report that the State of New Jersey Attorney General’s Division of Alcohol Beverage Control has agreed to send 12 to 14 State ABC detectives for the Lepre-con event. These detectives will help monitor establishments to ensure compliance with ABC regulations, which includes not overserving patrons or exceeding capacity, among others.
Full time Mayor of Hoboken

Some concerns have been raised about my affiliation with a small firm based out of Hackettstown, New Jersey, as “of counsel” to the firm. I want to address this issue head on. 

Let me be clear: I have only one job: Mayor of Hoboken. My affiliation with this firm is not a “second job” a “side job” or anything else that would interfere with my duties as your Mayor. Naturally, some are trying to take advantage of this confusion to manufacture a controversy about me having another job. In the interest of transparency, you can view the of counsel agreement with this firm here, which makes painstakingly clear that I will be Hoboken’s full-time Mayor and will not be engaging in the day to day practice of law.
In sum, I no longer practice law, I have severed ties with my former firm and I am working as your full-time mayor. This is what I promised and it will not change.  
I’m very proud we were able to hit the ground running in these few weeks as your Mayor. I have signed an Executive Order designating Hoboken a Fair and Welcoming City, successfully blocked NJ Transit from acquiring the Union Dry Dock Property, secured over $1 million in transportation funding from the Murphy Administration, and taken measures to crackdown on nuisance bars that ruin our quality of life on Santa-con and Lepre-Con. This is in just the first few weeks of my Administration, and there are more great things to come. We will look to expand our Southwest Park, and once spring time kicks in, milling and paving of Washington Street will commence and you will see substantial improvements to the quality of our streets and roads.
It’s time for the City Council to stop playing politics and using this “issue” for personal political gain. The election is over. We are one community. It’s time to focus on the issues and do the people’s business as we were elected to do.
Thank you and I look forward to staying in touch in the days and weeks ahead.
Ravi S. Bhalla
Hoboken Mayor