Monday, October 22, 2018

Hoboken for sale: Mayor Ravi Bhalla touts the long-feared NJ Transit development

MILE SQUARE VIEW EXCLUSIVE

The ink isn't dry on the internet pixels with the Hoboken Hilton Hotel agreement last week and Mayor Ravi Bhalla all but announced bigger development coming to Hoboken with an NJ Transit redevelopment in downtown Hoboken.

In an editorial submission published far outside the Mile Square City on NorthJersey.com, Mayor Ravi Bhalla glowingly writes about the prospect of the NJ Transit redevelopment "can be the shot in the arm" to "restore NJ Transit" and "make" it a "leader in job creation" for New Jersey.

Residents began sharing the Friday article with each other over the weekend deeply concerned another Bhalla backdoor deal will follow with millions in goodies doled out to divide and undermine any community and council opposition.

Mayor Ravi Bhalla, construction unions and NJ Transit's man at City Hall? His op-ed appearing nowhere in Hoboken but in NorthJersey.com sounded warning bells across the Mile Square City over the weekend.

Among the benefits, Ravi Bhalla's pro-NJ Transit development editorial claims are $150 million to NJ Transit, upgrades to the downtown terminal and plaza, a new bus station, upgraded Ferry Terminal building and business space earmarked for emerging companies.

Residents are already sharing the North Jersey.com article noting Hoboken itself is not the focused priority. Nor do they see Bhalla's NJ Transit promotion as standing with the City of Hoboken residents who have long opposed any large-scale downtown redevelopment.

Former Councilman Dave Mello, the current chairman of the Hoboken Housing Authority who served on the council with Bhalla in Hoboken's now-defunct Reform coalition sounded ominous warnings on the NorthJersey.com story.


The two-term councilman went on to decry passing a negotiated agreement in subcommittee saying he felt a gun had been placed to his head. At the time, it was thought the land where NJ Transit sits could be completely removed from Hoboken oversight and influence by the State. The implied threat led to an eventual approval where former mayor Dawn Zimmer agreed to a scaled-down NJ Transit redevelopment with no 20 plus story buildings.

Over the weekend, Councilman Peter Cunningham who also served as an ally with Bhalla for eight years on the council decried the mayor's recent actions for his lack of collaboration and flip-flop on the hotel. Last year Bhalla opposed the Hilton Hotel and then not a year later privately negotiated a taller hotel adding 20% more density. 

The deal was sweetened with several million dollars from the hotel developer to Hoboken non-profits, a formula some political observers expect will be used again to ram a secret agreement quickly through the city council.

NJ construction unions part of a Super PAC called Stronger Foundations backed Ravi Bhalla last year for mayor and are calling the NJ Transit redevelopment in Hoboken a win-win

Questions swirling around some of those construction unions suggest they may have decisively aided last year's Ravi Bhalla mayoral victory with 32% of the vote using the highly controversial and widely reported Ravi Bhalla terror flyer. Those rumors have lingered since last November's election and are rampant in City Hall, local government and law enforcement. 


Bhalla was a law partner in the law firm of Florio Perucci Steinhardt which counted NJ Transit as a client. He was conflicted as a result from participating on related matters on the City Council leading into last year's venomous mayoral election. As Hoboken mayor, he no longer faces those barriers.

The local 825 union touted the "success" of the LCOR NJ Transit Hoboken redevelopment plan last year on its website.

Talking Ed Note: Earlier this month, MSV warned the redevelopment template put forward by Mayor Ravi Bhalla would be cynically bringing the NJ Transit redevelopment to the Mile Square City in "How Ravi astroturfed Hoboken."