Monday, October 8, 2018

Happy Columbus Day

City Council Subcommittee responds to proposed changes on Hilton Hotel project

Official release:

City Council Subcommittee Responds to Mayor's Proposed Changes to Hoboken Hilton Project 

The Hoboken City Council subcommittee, tasked with evaluating the proposed Hilton Hotel project, was briefed for the first time recently with the revised plans for the hotel that have tentatively been agreed by Mayor Bhalla and KMS, the developer.  The modifications include changing the overall architectural feel of the project by adding three more stories to the plan that the mayor announced in April and 20% more bulk and square footage than what was previously approved in 2017 by the City Council which the mayor (then councilman) opposed.  In exchange for this increase, KMS will provide $3 million in cash to Hoboken for community benefits which currently have been earmarked by the mayor to two, private non-profits.  The mayor is expected to ask the City Council to approve these changes at the October 17th meeting.  Although the members of the subcommittee each individually support the efforts of the selected non-profits, they are issuing this joint statement in regards to their concerns.   

“The City Council subcommittee has long advocated for and remains in support of a hotel development that brings tax revenue, job creation, economic development and vibrancy to Hoboken while respecting neighborhood and community concerns.   However, our city's infrastructure issues are front page news, our main street has suffered from under investment and management, and our low and moderate income residents are being displaced every day.  It is critical that major development projects like this are both sensitive to the surrounding environments and provide benefits and relief to these issues which the Mayor’s proposal fails to do.  The subcommittee is committed to working together with all stakeholders to address and overcome these challenges.”  

Mayor Bhalla’s proposal falls short of these needs by limiting the allocation of the $3 million to two private foundations:  $1 million to fund the endowment for the Hoboken Public Education Foundation (“HPEF”) which raises private money to invest in our public schools, and $2 million to the Hoboken Community Center (“HCC”), for the potential restoration of the former YMCA.  These are both great organizations that benefit the community, but given the size of the community benefit fee of $3 million, the subcommittee has questions about the narrow focus of these large contributions, the lack of any public process, the fact that the use of the funds will not be directed by any elected officials (mayor, school board or City Council), and that offsets to the myriad of near-term financial commitments to be paid by taxpayers were not considered.

The subcommittee recommends broadening the scope of the $3 million while still including both HPEF and HCC as recipients by:  supporting the education mandate but expand to include all public schools including charter schools; allocating a significant amount into the city’s Capital Fund and dedicate those funds specifically for planned infrastructure improvements and other large scale capital projects like the Multi Service Center, Northwest Park and the proposed HCC when their plans are finalized; and contributing to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund which has been underfunded for years.  Additionally, the City Council requests KMS to contribute $75,000 directly to HCC at the onset of construction (expected to be in early 2019), as opposed to after the hotel opens in ~2-3 years, so that HCC can fund its much needed feasibility study as soon as possible.   

“As many know, the mayor has already communicated with each HPEF and HCC about his proposed contributions which has already made for a strained and divided community dialogue.  It is unfortunate that he chose a path of excluding both the governing body, who will need to vote on the proposal, and the public in this critical decision for our community.  This is a bad precedent for Hoboken that the City Council hopes to make better by encouraging public input.”

The full City Council will convene on Wednesday October 17th to hear the issue.

Grist for the Mill: Ravi has a new developer-union deal and it comes with a $3 million dollar payoff

Word is out in Hoboken this weekend about Mayor Ravi Bhalla's newest backroom developer deal for the downtown hotel and it's going to kick up a storm.

Remember the original "needle" style boutique hotel proposal languishing for years? Finally, it was approved as a 17 story building and applauded by the construction unions who spent tens of thousands of dollars at the close of the ugly mayoral race last year to push Ravi Bhalla over the line. Those tens of thousands don't include the millions in free publicity when the Bhalla terror flyer landed to help him eek out a win with 32% of the vote.

It's not quite another side job for Mayor Ravi Bhalla; let's call it a side-deal of the backroom variety benefiting the
hotel developer, his union friends and would-be friends who would see $3 million to quiet the outrage.
The downtown hotel suddenly rises another three stories and increases density 20% as part of Ravi Bhalla's latest deal.

Now the hotel, a previously thought done deal is getting a pro-developer, pro-union boost. It will magically jump another three stories to 20 with 20% more added density and unions will get labor work for building it with a plus. Labor after completion is believed to also include mandatory union employee positions.

But that's not the only kicker. To soften the public, activists and post-backroom deal resistance which will not swallow easy the sudden pro-developer winnings, a three million dollar kickback, uhm, benefit is proposed handed over to the local school district and the defunct uptown Y. They would receive one and two million respectively with the new Ravi Bhalla backroom deal lacking any public process or transparency.

Who do you think will be miffed most in Hoboken? You can start anywhere. It will be a lengthy list.

The public school district annually currently receives millions in Abbott district aid earning Hoboken lots of scorn statewide. The local Y closed its doors years ago and has rebuilt to house people trying to reintegrate into society while its exercise facility closed suddenly leaving disappointment in its wake.

How is this three million windfall to be accounted for and benefit wider Hoboken? There will be some very unhappy non-profits in Hoboken who feel they've been jacked again ala the conflicted Bhalla Chief of Staff John Allen who lobbied for EasterSeals to get a rental office in town at next to no cost for a decade.

The local fundraising school district group, Hoboken Public Education Foundation is already celebrating the backroom unannounced deal like they won lotto. Their weekend release from the Hoboken Public Education Foundation is below. The Charter Schools will benefit zero and are among the first to hear the bad news of the latest Bhalla backroom deal.
Hello ,

Earlier this week, we met with Mayor Ravi Bhalla who shared with us an amazing opportunity for Hoboken and our organization. In addition to the major plans to transform the former YMCA building into a new community center with a brand new community pool and recreation facilities, an uptown branch of the Hoboken Public Library, and dedicated classroom space for early childhood education, the Hoboken Public Education Foundation will be receiving a $1 million payment to create a permanent endowment to provide financial sustainability for our non-profit organization.

We began our journey with the Hoboken Public Education Foundation three years ago, when our own children were just beginning their experiences in the Hoboken Public Schools. We wanted to build a volunteer organization that would allow our community to contribute private funds on a tax beneficial basis, something very common in the New Jersey suburbs and New York City, but completely absent in Hoboken. With the help of our volunteer board, sponsors and each of you, we have raised $450,000 since inception.

Never in a million years did we imagine our organization would have the impact it has on behalf of our children today.  This $1 million negotiated by Mayor Bhalla will help us make even more investments in our public school district through innovative programs, improved facilities, essential technology, professional development, and much more.

We, like many of you, are committed to raising our children here in Hoboken for the long term. Right now, we are on cloud nine that this project will yield so many benefits for our kids.  This is an incredible win for Hoboken!  And, it's funded by givebacks Mayor Bhalla negotiated from the developer of the downtown hotel project - not by taxpayer dollars.

But here is where we need your help. We need the full support of the City Council Members in order to make this vision a reality for Hoboken.  Our understanding is that some may vote No to this endowment.

Our ask to you is this:

  1. E-mail your city council members (individual emails here: https://www.hobokennj.gov/departments/city-council) and tell them to please support this amendment
  2. Be on the lookout for our social media post, share and tag everyone you know
  3. Come out to the press conference that will be held on Tuesday morning 10/9 at 10:00am at 1300 Washington Street. If you have your I heart Hoboken Public School t-shirts, please wear them. We will have a few extras on-hand for those who wish to purchase
  4. Join us on Wednesday, October 17 at 7:00 pm at City Hall (94 Washington Street) to strongly urge the Council to approve Mayor Bhalla's plan for the YMCA and our schools. 

We know that you are all busy, but we also know that we cannot do this without you. If you can only commit to one task, please do your best to join us on October 17th to ensure the City Council hears from our constituents and votes Yes.

We can't let this opportunity slip by. We hope you'll let your voices be heard n support of this once in a lifetime opportunity for Hoboken.

Shirael Pollack, Erica Gavin, Jackie Dowd Prince
Co-Founders
Hoboken Public Education Foundation
http://www.hobokenpef.org

Talking Ed Note: How many parent votes can be bribed with a million? Ravi Bhalla is banking on re-election with their votes even if Hoboken's woeful infrastructure among many other needs gets ignored in the process. Since his path to get Albio Sires' congressional seat isn't looking too good currently, he may be stuck in Hoboken for a while. This will grease the wheels for his developer, union and select non-profit friends.

Stay tuned. This is one backroom deal sure to generate plenty of anger from the Hoboken public.

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

Meet Hoboken Proud Candidate John Madigan

Official release:

John Madigan is well recognized throughout Hoboken and across the county and state, having spent much of his adult life organizing, coaching and officiating at youth sports programs. In this capacity, John has positively influenced the lives of countless young people.
John has been a director in the Hoboken Youth Soccer League since 1999, and served on the Hoboken Little League Board of Directors for six years. He was also Little League coach for nine years, during which time he was a coach on the first Hoboken 11-year-old All-Start Team to win a District 7 championship. In addition, John has coached high school basketball at Hoboken High, St. Peter's Prep and Union Hill High School.
As a certified umpire, John calls ’em like he sees ’em. And while close calls are generally popular with exactly half of the people involved, his well-known reputation for fairness and accuracy, as well as his knowledge of the rule book, have earned him invitations to umpire at local and state championship games. Indeed, John is Hoboken Little League Umpire-in-Chief since 2010.
John is a graduate of Hoboken High School (Class of ’84) and has been a member of the A.J. Demarest/Hoboken High School Sports Hall of Fame Committee since 1997. He was elected to the Hoboken Board of Education in 2015. In his time on the board, John has served as chair of the Facilities Committee and currently sits on the Finance Committee.
John is a clerk in the William J. Brennan Courthouse in Jersey City. His wife, Catherine, is an ICU nurse at Hoboken University Medical Center; they have two grown sons.

On November 6th please cast your votes for Hoboken Proud 1-2-3!!