Monday, September 17, 2018

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher: 'On the agenda'

Official release:

Dear friends and neighbors:  
Hoping everyone has readjusted to back-to-school and/or back-to-work and their commutes have not been too impacted by the 495 Bridge project.  A few Up and Coming’s and Updates to kick off the last official week of summer.  And a late update on what is being considered at tonight's council meeting!
Up & Coming:
  • Tonight – City Council Meeting.  7pm City Hall.  Moved from Wednesday due to the Yom Kippur holiday which begins at sundown on 9/18.  You can watch the meeting HERE or on Facebook Live on City of Hoboken FB Page.  See below for more on tonight’s agenda.
  • 9/23 - Hoboken Arts & Music Festival.  Back downtown – Observer to 7th St. - with headliner bands Marshall Crenshaw & The Smithereens! Click the link for more details.   
  • 9/29 – Hoboken High Hispanic Fest 2018!  Come get your salsa on with the Skyline Salsa Band from 12-8 behind Hoboken High School on Grand between 8th and 9th!
  • 10/7 – Hudson County Computer – Only Recycling in Hoboken.  9am – 1pm at Hoboken DPW, 256 Observer Highway (at Willow)
  • 10/9 – All Schools Open House – This is the event to learn about schools that are available for your children.  Meet over 35 of them including Hoboken Public Schools, from Pre-K to High School in one evening.  Sponsored by Hoboken Family Alliance.  5-8pm at Hoboken High School Gym 800 Clinton St.
Tonight’s meeting
Cost of parking – both legally & illegally – could increase dramatically tonight!
On tonight’s agenda are three ordinances that will generally result in increased parking related charges and fines.  In theory, these are meant to accomplish two things – bring pricing up to market pricing and to generate more revenues to be able to reinvest in parking and transportation type activities and investments like expanded Hop service and improved roads.  And in theory, I am for this in general. 
My concern is that the increases are a big step at once without specifically identified improvements and that the increases will have a further negative effect on our businesses in particular at a time when we should be doing more to help them.  Additionally, after an incident late last week relating to temporary parking signs, I have drunk the Kool-Aid that we need to first do more to have the proper controls over our citywide parking signage.  
And given how important parking is to everyone in our city, I would hope that these increases would be rolled out in a more cohesive plan which includes benefits and operational improvements (like signage).  Quick summary of the ordinances up for 2nd reading:
  • B-64 – Increases parking fines across the board by an average of about 47%.  Unsure how much additional revenue this will increase for the city.  
  • B-65 – Increases parking meter rates, establishes dynamic pricing and resets time limit to 4 hrs across the City.  Dynamic pricing means that it varies across location based upon demand and use.  In Hoboken, this means pricing will go up the most (from $1/hr to $3.60/hr) in our CBD, near the PATH.  It will go up the least (from $1/hr to $2/hr) in the west side of the city.  You can see the proposed map HERE of how this pricing will apply.
  • B-66 – Changes rates at our garages - here, there are both reductions and increases.  It reduces the cost of parking on the shortest end while increasing monthly parking rates across the board.  Short term rates reduce to $5 for the first hour (from $7), increase slightly to $11 (from $10) for 2 hours and monthly rates across the board.  As an example, for standard resident parking:
Garage B – Increases from $235 to $250 
Garage D – Increases from $185 to $240
Garage G – Increases from $160 to $200
Midtown – Increases from $185 to $235
No changes at the Garden St. which is currently at $200/month.
Suez / Water Infrastructure
On tonight’s agenda we will be voting on $106K of legal and engineering contracts to investigate whether there is any causal effect between the JCMUA Meter Chamber project in SW Hoboken and the subsequent water main breaks; of note (and knock on wood), since that project has been completed we have not had any further breaks.  Also, at the last council meeting, we approved bidding out our water management services with the goal of improving our economic and operational partnership with our water management provider.  I have gotten a lot of questions, but basically here are a few key points:
  • We are not (yet) throwing out Suez.  The city council infrastructure subcommittee, the administration, our advisors and Suez continue to work together on everyday repair and maintenance solutions as well as trying to determine if and how we can have a more productive agreement and partnership that makes better sense for all parties.  
  • The RFP process is such that it is first sent to the State Comptroller who has 30 days to comment on the RFP before we can advertise.
  • The City is in process of finalizing approval for 2.5 miles of water main repairs with construction expected to begin in late 2018/early 2019.
City Lease with EasterSeals NJ
There was a bit of a kerfuffle after the last council meeting regarding a lease that the City is proposing to enter into with EasterSeals NJ for 1,000 sf of space that was given to the City at the Trader Joe’s building at 14th and Willow by Advance Realty.  EasterSeals NJ is moving their Hudson County offices to this location and is expected to continue to provide supportive services for elderly and disabled, with the hope that they will expand these services to Hoboken Residents.  Additionally, they will coordinate with local organizations dedicated to the homeless, like our own Homeless Shelter, as part of the City’s planned coordinated effort that will be rolled out shortly.  I applaud all of the efforts that are being made as homelessness is heartbreaking at the very least and I am 100% supportive of efforts to provide more services to our elderly and disabled.  
At last week’s meeting, I raised questions concerning whether the lease we were being asked to enter into was an arms-length lease at market terms.  Which is what you should want your public officials to do.  Was a public process conducted for the space when selecting EasterSeals; how was free rent determined when other leased space to non-profits like Hoboken Family Planning is not free; what were the circumstances around EasterSeals leaving Jersey City (we understand the lease ends 9/30); what conflicts, if any, are there as we are subject to a lawsuit by Advance Realty; and are there any conflicts relating to John Allen, the Chief of Staff to the mayor, who is on the board of EasterSeals NJ and is lobbying for this lease to occur.  Since then there has been continued discussion on these, with resolution of some, and the dialogue continues.  
Other items:
2nd ward intersections.  
I have met/spoke with Freeholder Romano, Chief Ferrante, Lt. Petrosino, Lt. Orrico, Director Sharp and Kimberli Craft, our new City engineer and toured all of the intersections in the 2nd ward.  Here is a quick rundown of actions/ideas/next steps (more to come...):
  • Sinatra and Constitution Ct – southbound stop sign not installed.  Unfortunately, I am now being told that it was never approved and a survey will need to be done to justify having one.  Right now, I would not recommend doing this because I don’t believe the results will justify a sign given the crane blocking Sinatra and Shipyard Lane.  We are going to meet to discuss what we can do in the interim.
  • 15th and Garden – Looking to do a PILOT for a traffic type circle at this location. Additionally, looking to enhance the pedestrian signs with strobes that would trigger when people are at/near the intersection.
  • 13th and Park – Pricing “shades” for the light at 14th and Washington.  Previously was told this was a simple, inexpensive fix.  However will be more costly than thought.  In parallel looking to do a PILOT for a traffic type circle at this location.  
  • 14th and Hudson – Asking county engineer to add automatic pedestrian light change (triggered currently only by pushing button).
  • 15th and Hudson – Adding pedestrian warning signs to the intersection.
Finally – The dog park behind Harborside is up and running!  
Please feel free to send me any and all thoughts you have.  Thank you to Directors Pellegrini and Gonzalez for getting this done so quickly!  And hoping the kids will be able to enjoy what is still a great open space to run around in!
As always, feel free to reach out if you want to discuss this further, or anything else, by email or by phone 201/208-1674.  And please forward this to anyone you think would benefit from hearing about this.
Hoboken City Council, 2nd Ward
Engage. Inform. Advocate.
“More Voices are Better”

Grist for the Mill: Look who's invited to Ravi's Friday night dinner!

Among 55,0000 Hoboken residents, not many can say they were invited to have dinner with Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla. That honor with the mayor Friday night went to one person who appeared out of nowhere to launch attacks on council members last summer.

Mike Donnelly, special guest of Friday dinner
At his last appearance before the City Council, this mayoral dinner honoree concluded by saying to Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, "no one sent me."

Last month, MSV published a Sign of the Times column unveiling that said political attack dog Mike Donnelly was none other than a good buddy of Ravi Bhalla's Chief of Staff, John Allen. As described:

Mayor Ravi Bhalla

The Friday night dinner at the uptown steakhouse Dino & Harry's, witnesses saw special Ravi Bhalla dinner in a corner of the restaurant with the mayor, John Allen and Mike Donnelly. In another part of the restaurant sat Councilman Peter Cunningham who was most definitely not invited.

Bhalla and Cunningham would chat briefly before the former left but it's John Allen's best bro who generated the most interest. What was behind his invitation to have a Friday night dinner with the Hoboken mayor?

Some have speculated Donnelly, an uptown resident may have developed a political infection from his friend working in the mayor's office. Both lack any institutional memory (or involvement) in Hoboken's battle against corruption and the good government movement known as Reform. Allen failed to land a council seat when he was installed on Bhalla's at-large council slate last year. That defeat quickly found him placed inside the mayor's office as chief of staff.

Ravi Bhalla COS John Allen
The infection may have taken and some think the talking points attacking varied council members as part of an interest in standup comedy combined with Donnelly's ignorance on the Hoboken political scene. The passing interest may not last as Mike Allen is working to further Ravi Bhalla ties to Old Guard forces.

Next year Hoboken's City Council ward races will square off and the combined forces of Ravibots will do the unthinkable and further unite with the Russo Clan in an effort to take out the good government trio of councilmembers Peter Cunningham, Jen Giattino and Tiffanie Fisher should they seek reelection. All three have stood independent and set the tone for the City Council where most of the Bhalla Administration agenda is easily passed but questions are asked and policy routinely analyzed.

As the mayor's Chief of Staff, John Allen has been keen to embrace the political component of the job and many see him inside City Hall as the day to day mayor with Ravi Bhalla focused on how to forge a path to another political gig in Washington DC. Allen has been having steamy conversations with the second ward failed council candidate Peter Biancamano who most recently lost a seat on the Hoboken Board of Education.

It's not the BoE seat Biancamano wants back but the second ward City Council seat. He lost in a three-way race to Tiffanie Fisher in 2015 and he's not gotten over it. He's been telling people he can beat her next time in 2019.

The romantic conversations between John Allen and Peter Biancamano have passed the initial dating stage. Allen is thought to be sweetening the pot and Biancamano's heartstrings with the idea of being bestowed a place on the mayor's council ticket. They are locked in a passionate political embrace with each believing they are on the "same team" with one goal. "We have to work together to get rid of Tiffanie," is their refrain.

Reform elements who were part of the good government movement for decades are shuddering at the prospect. Those on the BoE will be especially appalled. But one longtime observer of the now defunct Reform Movement said of Ravi Bhalla he was not surprised. "He'll torch Hoboken if that's what it takes to move up the political ladder and get what he wants, a seat in Congress."

People suspect the ugly politics will be back with a Ravi-Russo Clan alliance bringing bad Hoboken memories back to the present in 2019.

Grist for the Mill is MSV's rumor column. Got a tasty carrot for Horsey? Send it to All email is kept confidential and is protected by MSV's proven Reporter Privilege upheld under the NJ Shield Law in Hudson County Superior Court. In farm animals we trust.