Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher blasts Mayor Ravi Bhalla for fabricating hypocrisy about council passage for Hilton Hotel set for tomorrow night

Official release:

Dear friends and neighbors:
The mayor has just sent out an email to many of you implying that the city council will somehow be political and get in the way of approving the hotel project tomorrow night.  
I am so incredibly angry about this email that I don’t know how to even respond.  
Mainly because at a time when we have been working so hard to come together, our mayor only wants to continue to divide us.  And it is insulting to the hard work that our City Council subcommittee has undertaken over the past two weeks to ensure that we get the best outcome for our community.  And also because it is so telling that our mayor is so comfortable sending out disparaging and false propaganda emails to his extensive email list with his bullhorn.  All I can do is try to refute it.  
Apparently the mayor doesn’t believe his own JOINT PUBLIC STATEMENT (click link or read full text below) that his office sent out on Friday showing our combined support for the project.  Let me be very clear – and please circulate this widely:    
We have five locked in votes for the project and I am confident based upon prior support that we will get to either an 8-1 or 9-0 vote fairly easily.  (Councilman Doyle has been firm in the past about his views that the hotel is out of scale for Hoboken, and this being 20% bigger I am not sure where he will get to).  
You are welcome to come to the meeting to advocate, or give away your email via signing a petition – and you know that I always say more voices are better – but if you are doing so because you are in any way concerned the project won’t get approved because of his propaganda email, save your energy for the next fight the mayor will pick.  
We are all still working on final changes to make sure that the deal that the mayor sold to our community, is actually what is reflected in the legal agreement.  Things like:
  • Ensuring that the $2M of funds that the mayor’s chief of staff promised to board members of the Y to restore the Y, actually in fact go to the Y.  The mayor has proposed in the actual agreement that it go to the city and only MAYBE go to restore the Y which is not what was agreed.  
  • Ensuring that all of the community benefit payments are actually funded before certificates of occupancy and completion are given to the developer.  Instead of the developer friendly arrangement of making the payments after the developer no longer has incentive to pay which is what the mayor negotiated.  
These kind of details really matter and we are working closely with the City’s counsel to try to bridge these gaps.
Three weeks ago I was faced with having to have to vote for an out of scale building - made 20% bigger by this mayor – yet sweetened with a $3 million give back for two local non-profits.  The mayor’s chief of staff was heard telling people that this is a civics lesson – the council’s only role is to vote up or down.  We were also told that we had to work within a self-imposed tight timeframe that if we didn’t support the entire deal and vote yes on October 17th, the entire project would fail and not be able to be saved.  And then when the benefit package was prematurely leaked to the public, suddenly if we even considered saying “No” to the project for any reason, we would be pushed as anti-public schools and anti-YMCA.  Remember the mayor has the bullhorn.
So up or down – how should I vote?  
The subcommittee would struggle to make any meaningful improvement to the design of the building, so we focused on improving the community benefit package. 
And we did.  Significantly. 
We worked our way through it – and I can say it is a testament to Councilmembers Cunningham, Giattino and DeFusco and their willingness to work around the clock and stay together in the face of this pressure – and leverage our block and push as much as we could to improve the overall community benefit package so that it addressed more of our community’s needs including affordable housing, charters and infrastructure.  And we did so as quickly as possible so that we could remove the angst and division that our community was feeling and state publicly that we would go into the council meeting on October 17th with at least the 5 votes necessary to approve the project.  The developer also saw the benefit of this.  And we delivered this last Friday, October 12th (see text below).
And since then, nothing has changed!  
Don’t let the mayor kid you, the benefits were expanded specifically because a voting block of four council members demanded that we get more and broader benefits in exchange for our support.  Had the mayor actually solicited our support prior to giving us his ultimatum, he probably could have gotten to the same outcome.  But that isn’t how he wants to work.
The last few weeks have been an incredibly difficult political landscape, a view that is shared by many parties involved in this project.  And I do know that there are some in our community who will not like the outcome – they’ll say the hotel is too big, the community benefit isn’t big enough or the benefits are not going to all of the right places.  And I don’t disagree with any of that.  But that is what political compromise is.  You work with what has been given to you, you ensure that the pros outweigh the cons, you balance the priorities of all decision makers, try to navigate where you can be most effective, use leverage where you can, and ensure your vote represents as many as possible.  
I am voting yes on the project.  Do I need to say it again so that it is clear for the mayor?
Yes because I believe the positives outweigh the negatives, the contribution to our taxes will benefit our whole community, the majority of the feedback I have received most of you is public support having this hotel – even the now monolithic structure, the improvements to the area are significant and will redefine our southern waterfront, and this hotel will bring a much needed daytime population to our community that will support the businesses we all want to see succeed.  Over the next 25 hours, I will still fight to make sure the details work.
As always, if you have any further questions, want to yell and scream at me, or want to discuss this or anything else, please feel free to call me at 201/208-1674 or email me.  Two favors - forward this to everyone you know.  And if you did happen to receive the email from the mayor, email him back and ask him why he thinks the city council is not supportive of the project.  
Hoboken City Council, 2nd Ward
Engage. Inform. Advocate.
“More Voices are Better”

City Council President Ruben Ramos: "Upcoming Paving, SW Park Presentation & Coffee with a Cop"

Official release:

Dear friends,

I wanted to update you about a few upcoming events and issues that may interest you:
  • Paving on Harrison Street from 4th to Observer starts today (Oct. 16).
  • Voter registration deadline is today (Oct. 16) to be able to vote in the upcoming election.  If you don’t know if your registration is updated (for example if you recently moved), you can check here.  If you do need to update, you can download forms from the site and drop them off at City Hall today by 9pm.  
  • Southwest Park - Tomorrow night (Oct. 17, 7pm) at the City Council meeting, there will be a presentation which will include the “Interactive Structure” and the new fencing along the northern portion of the park.  Dead trees have already been removed and new trees will be planted in the coming weeks.  If you cannot join in person, you can watch the presentation on the City’s website or on Facebook Live.
  • Coffee with a Cop - On Saturday (Oct. 20) from 930 am - 11am at G Milz Boken Roadhouse, 61 Jackson St.  A great opportunity to meet and ask questions of our police in an informal setting.  Joining me will be Hoboken Police Chief Ken Ferrante, Captain Gino Jacobelli, Lt. Mike DeTrizio, Sgt. Ed Drishti, and Officer Cynthia Rivera.  All residents welcome! 
  • New Hilton Hotel - Friday, the City Council subcommittee reached an agreement with the Mayor and the developer, KMS (read our joint statement), for the new Hilton hotel.  As a result, we have confidence there will be the requisite votes needed for it to pass when the City Council votes tomorrow night (Oct. 16).

Please feel free to reach out to me at any time to discuss any matter that is important to you.   And please share this with any of your neighbors who you think might be interested in these updates.


Ruben Ramos

Hoboken City Council, 4th Ward