Thursday, January 17, 2019

Criminal or Coverup, PayrollGate explodes!


The following exclusive investigative report is an accumulation of MSV's efforts, analysis, and opinion now into the tenth year covering Hoboken government, politics, and corruption. All the opinions as stated below are the sole responsibility and copyright of

City Council learns high-powered criminal defense attorney brought in by the Bhalla Administration to "investigate" its payroll discrepancies after prior communications manager's separation agreement 

Hoboken PayrollGate lands like a bomb on City Hall

In a stunning development, City Council President Jen Giattino learned her query on inflated payroll inside the Hoboken mayor's office has led to the Bhalla Administration hiring a criminal defense attorney.

At the first council meeting on January 2nd, Giattino inquired about an odd increase in payroll out of the Hoboken mayor's office.

Her query saw offered first incorrect information of "partial" salary adjustments among three mayoral aides and later, the discovery that four mayoral aides were on the payroll with two communication managers simultaneously.

Both the public and the City Council saw nothing by way of clarification on any details about the oddity last month or prior to the January 2nd meeting.

Behind the scenes, however, the Bhalla Administration was scrambling.

After her initial announcement last night, Giattino stated she'd been given dozens of pages on the matter including a "separation agreement" apparently for former communications manager Santiago Melli-Huber.

Enter criminal defense attorney, John Lynch, who briefly said he was in Hoboken on the matter for an unspecified "investigation" and "potential litigation."

Lynch is a criminal defense attorney based in Union City.

Senior criminal defense attorney John Lynch last night appearing before
the Hoboken City Council.

The criminal defense attorney was hired at the recommendation of Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia through the Joint Insurance Fund (JIF).

Why has the Bhalla Administration hired a senior criminal defense attorney for a former employee who worked inside the mayor's office for eight months and apparently departed not with a resignation as previously announced but under a separation agreement?

A public announcement from the Office of the Mayor declared the departure a resignation, effective the end of November and then later amended to mid-December.

A separation agreement of any kind between a municipal employee and the mayor's office and City of Hoboken suggests an added financial benefit and waiver to any and all future claims to litigation.

Any settlement package however agreed upon would require City Council approval and nothing of the kind was presented to the legislative body by the Bhalla Administration.

First, let's review the series of facts that have come to light at last night's City Council meeting.

Let's go to the videotape!


Key comments:

Council President Jen Giattino, on not immediately diving into closed session on the "payroll discrepancies" out of the mayor's office and newly revealed "separation agreement" with the former communications manager.

"There's been no transparency with the public or the council (on PayrollGate) and if we only discuss things in closed session; it will continue."

Councilman Mike DeFusco to Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia:
"...excessive payment for a (former) employee? What litigation are we talking about?"
"Why was an employee on the payroll that was no longer employed with the City?"
Aloia offered no response and DeFusco said that had nothing to do with any (potential) litigation.

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher to Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia.
"Why wasn't the JIF notified when you thought there was potential litigation previously? Why did you wait until January 7th?"

"We're trying to decide are we erring on the side of transparency or are we erring on the side of what feels like a coverup?... It's pretty damn frustrating."

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher: Nixle system "used for political propaganda for the mayor and political attacks"

Official release:

Dear friends and neighbors:
2019 is off and running with a lot going on.  Below are some up and comings, updates and dot connections and remember, everything in RED is a link.  I also wanted to let you know that the City Council had its reorganization meeting on January 2nd with Councilwoman Giattino (6th Ward) being elected (8-0-1) as Council President for the 4th time/3rd in 4 years and Councilman Ramos (4th Ward) being elected (8-0-1) as Council Vice President.  I was elected council representative to the Planning Board and will be advocating for you on the following City Council subcommittees:
  • Revenue, Finance, and Infrastructure – Chair for the 4th year.  Its what it sounds like – Budget, all infrastructure projects, and also administrative topics.
  • Community Development North – NW Park, North End redevelopment plan, any redevelopments in the northern half of Hoboken.
  • Zoning – mainly looks at updates to our zoning code.  
  • Affordable Housing – looking to find ways to add affordable housing in Hoboken.
  • Health & Human Services – this includes the recreation department.  
Last week the Appellate court rendered what I personally believe will be the last ruling in the long litigation.  You can read the ruling HERE.  Effectively what this means is that Applied / Ironstate has no further barriers to being able to build.  This has been a frustrating process for everyone involved.  This being said, I and many believe that if offered a better way to keep or exceed their economic value in the Monarch site, that Applied / Ironstate would consider and arguably prefer not building there.  It is a difficult site to build on – not only would they have to reconstruct the entire platform, but given DEP environment restrictions on not building in the water during migration season, the time to build will be longer than other buildings.  Additionally, although the building feels big – it is actually only 150K square feet across 77 residential units with a lot of common space that will be costly to build and does not generate revenue.  
Mayor Bhalla has been in negotiations with Applied/Ironstate and at the last council meeting, the City Council approved hiring an appraiser to evaluate both the Monarch site and the Hoboken’s DPW garage.  Once the city has a better understanding of what the net value of Monarch is we can then better understand if there is a trade that can happen that would be satisfactory and beneficial to all parties.  So more to come...  PS on this – I am told that Toll has included Monarch in its sales materials for its nearby properties.  They don’t know more than any of us – they are just having to protect themselves and disclose the possibility of it being built.
I am befuddled.  More meters.  Increased rates.  I wanted to include some sort of link that would give you more information, but alas, there are none...  As I have stated before, I opposed most of these changes mainly driven by the City’s lack of communication on such an important topic.  But one, in particular, I want to make sure you are aware of is that electronic meters have been “installed” citywide converting all free, four-hour visitor parking to metered parking.  To use the meters, you need to either use the ParkMobile APP or call them and pay by credit card (see sign below).  
Latest update.  City Council approved an ordinance for 3 medical marijuana dispensaries on December 19th.  I voted 'no' because the legislation does not include, in my opinion, the proper oversight and management of the licenses (one person is contemplated to make those decisions as opposed to a board/committee).  Two of my council colleagues are working on making revisions that will hopefully address this issue.  Of note, Hoboken was not selected as a location by the state for the dispensary so we will not see establishments anytime soon.
That night I sponsored a parallel, protective ordinance that would have temporarily made all other marijuana establishments a prohibited use under our zoning code until after the State voted and we agreed on a plan for recreational use in Hoboken.  This would give us time to figure out what makes sense for Hoboken, and not allow applicants to circumvent the process and seek and receive approval from our land use boards / officers.  This type of legislation was passed in a number of cities across New Jersey, including many of our neighboring ones like Weehawken and Union City.  Although I thought I had the support of most of the council going into the meeting, I was surprised when only four voted in favor so it did not pass.  
Here is an interesting article that wrote this week on the subject.  It focuses mainly on the revenues that NJ would make (if passed) before NY legalizes it.  And the revenues we will lose once NY does.  Think specifically what this would mean for Hoboken both before and after NY legalizes it.  At the State level, there is still no agreement (ie. not enough votes) on what the legislation should be put forward.  More to come…  
As part of our regular discussion in our infrastructure subcommittee meetings including yesterday’s, I have urged the city to provide better updates on Washington St. which they did yesterday.  Long story short, we are in the final stages with the hope that the project will be completed in April.  11th and 13th street corners are being finished and paving north of 11th street will occur when the weather is warmer.  You will see work happening up and down Washington Street to address final punch list items which are normal for a project like this (or any project).
Of note, although we will be re-installing the bases at the corners, we have not yet decided on the design for the 11th street intersection to replace the baseball that is being removed.  This is what was proposed by the administration, that the council politely suggested should be reconsidered.  Any suggestions are welcome as we look at redesigning it.
With a new year comes a new communications manager for the city of Hoboken and apparently a new philosophy that the City’s emergency and community alert system should be used for political propaganda for the mayor and political attacks against certain city council members.  The two messages that are prompting this are the ones sent out on January 10th and January 11th.  Not only is this not appropriate on any level, it is also a breach of the Terms of Service under the city’s contract with Nixle.  Nixle is an important tool for our community and one that we should not risk losing because of actions like this. 
I appreciate the feedback that several of you (and others) sent to me, other council members and the mayor about your frustration with the politicizing of community messages.  I encourage more of you to do so and, if interested, to come to the City Council meeting tonight to let the entire council know that it is not acceptable and help us nip this in the bud.  
I have reached out to the mayor and business administrator on this (no response yet), have sponsored a resolution requesting an end to this practice that will be voted on tonight and will be submitting a letter today from six of nine council members to Nixle requesting that they take action as well (yet preserving this important service).   Please note that nothing is stopping the mayor from using his own personal / campaign email for whatever message he wants to put out, but we feel strongly, and I hope you do as well, that Nixle, as a city platform, or the communications manager, as a city employee, should not be used for political purposes.
Hoboken is a very special community as I know all of you are aware.  And a hidden strength of our community is the many examples of our broad commitment to those with special needs.  The Hoboken Special Needs Parents Group is one of those many examples.  Founded by two amazing moms (both 2nd ward!) - Sheillah Dallara, who is also on Hoboken’s Board of Ed, and Megan Yavoich, who is also a children’s ministry leader at Hoboken Grace.  They and the group are a wealth of information for parents who are seeking more support, resources and information as they care for their children with special needs.  Please go to the HSNPG website to find out more information.  And I hope you will attend their first ever Support & Resource Fair on 2/2.
I want to thank everyone who donated to my fundraiser for the Together We Rise shopping spree for foster teens.  Because of your generosity, we raised almost $1000 to help fund a shopping spree for 10 teens.  I have to say, that it was a very moving and emotional experience.  Any child separated from their family is only done so for safety reasons.  The goal is to keep families together.  But sometimes it just doesn’t work out.  Teens in foster care are particularly heartbreaking to me because they are often less apt to find a forever home.  
At the event, I shopped with two sisters – 14 and 16 - who were together in a loving foster home.  Although typically not allowed, the foster mom shopped with us and helped them decide how to spend their money and you could see how much the girls seemed to appreciate and love their foster mom.   You are also not allowed to ask about their story, but the foster mom told me how good both girls are and how both want to be with their mother but their mother disappoints them weekly by not showing up or to not doing the things required to regain custody.  It was heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time.
But the most amazing person is the guy in the photo below.  A young guy, he was with us all day taking pictures and was a wealth of information.  I just assumed that he was one of the team running the event.  But no… he is Danny Mendoza who founded Together We Rise in 2008 when is was 21 and in college.  You can read about his brief story HERE...
I spoke with Danny about the possibility of doing an event like this closer to our own backyard, maybe at Newport Mall and will also speak to the incredible Bev Savage, our Hoboken neighbor, who runs CASA for Hudson County.  Let me know if you would like to help put this together.
Finally, with this, we officially start together the last year of my first, four year term serving you.  If this past year is any indication, it is going to be a constructive, albeit bumpy year.  I want all of you to know that I am 1,000% committed to working and getting things done for you.  The reality we live in is that we are in an incredibly political environment like Hoboken has never seen.  And my guess is with the upcoming elections this fall for all six ward seats, and a mayor who has announced that he wants to run a slate against all incumbents (whoever decides to run), that it probably won't change.  But notwithstanding the politics that you may witness, know that often not seen is the constructive dialogue between the council and City Hall, that A LOT gets done, that I regularly communicate with the mayor on important issues, and that the city council votes in support of the mayor’s agenda 90+% of the time.  
As always please forward this to anyone you think may be interested and feel free to reach out via email, text or phone (201-208-1674) about this or anything else important to you.   
Best wishes, 
Hoboken City Council, 2nd Ward
Engage. Inform. Advocate.
“More Voices are Better”

Nixing the truth

The second meeting of the City Council is set for tonight and the biggest threat is to the truth.

This isn't about the recent propaganda with false if not defamatory fabrications claiming the good government councilwomen in Council President Jen Giattino and Second Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher held a meeting with Academy Bus to look at and "push" their development plan.

That's a Shadowy fabrication touted in the usual dark, dank bowels from the usual political operative suspects, paid and unpaid.

Let's nix that fabrication so we can address a real, actual problem up for council consideration tonight.

Call it NixleGate or nix the matter outright. A continuous political operation being run out of the mayor's office is creating a snowstorm of problems, legal and political.

Not a week ago, the odd political blast using the Hoboken notification system, Nixle, saw that release out of the mayor's office to "inform" the Hoboken public about an imaginary threat to one of three existing mayoral and very political aides working on behalf of Mayor Ravi Bhalla.

That distraction intended to move people off the scent of the unanswerable question about how many mayoral aides are being carried on the 2019 Hoboken payroll. It's a mystery wrapped in a riddle of belated confession and subterfuge. Hey, there's an Administration to protect here.

Lots of bellowing, hot air, and outright lying that one of the said mayoral aides, Jason Freeman, faced the ax, courtesy of the City Council. In truth, the only threat was budgetary to a singular future position if any of three politicized aides departed. A proposed council ordinance last year would keep a limitation to two mayoral aides should any of the current three exit. Or is it four?

For reasons unknown, Ravibots and their fire-breathing fabricators attempted to elevate Freeman as some sort of martyr-in-waiting. Why was Freeman's name being tossed out as cannon fodder and not John Allen, Chief of Political Operations and race-baiting staged council activities? It's all backfired but not before a circular argument was released after the fact citywide using the Nixle system.

According to some engaged citizenry, that's a blatant breach of the Nixle terms of service. Tonight the City Council will take up that question among others connected to the escalating and monumental problem of exactly how many mayoral aides are on the Ravi Bhalla payroll.

It's a murky mess featuring propaganda efforts and massive fabrications with weeks of reverse-engineering apparently in overdrive attempting a fix for what Hoboken residents were told didn't exist.

The first victim in this massive political scheming out of the mayor's office is the truth.

Talking Ed Note: Also on tap, when does a Hoboken mayoral office employee resignation actually become official? Just like those payroll blips growing inside the office of the mayor, the Hoboken public awaits an explanation. 

Maybe a legal beagle can walk down the hill from Union City and explain it to everyone. Apparently, having three lawyers in John Allen, Ravi Bhalla and Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia are no longer sufficient.

Nothing to see here, move along. Ignorance is strength, we've always been at war with Oceania and three or four mayoral aides, litigation and theft of service have always been with us.

Don't say you weren't warned. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Grift is a grift

With all the explosive corruption eruptions blowing up in 2019 in the Mile Square City, it's easy to get lost in the pile of investigations.

But let's return back to one very real and the odd odor emanating out of the mayor's office.

Hoboken as the rest of this known universe is into the third week of January 2019 and there's no public answer available out of the mayor's office as to how many mayoral aides are on the taxpayer's payroll?

How many mayoral aides have been on the payroll into 2019? How many in December?

And of course, why?

At the last City Council meeting, Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia agreed with the business administrator the magic number is four.

What has the public learned since? Well, nothing from Ravi Bhalla's mayor's office other than distractions pointing fingers using the official notification system to draw attention away from the central questions at hand.

So here we are heading toward the end of January and this fundamental question of public interest or is it public integrity surrounding the mayor's office is the unanswerable question.

Now, why is that?

She said it's a scandal. She's so cute when she says scandal. Stay tuned.

Update: 2:25 pm - Call it an act of God, Horse Sense or what have you but there's smoke coming out of the upstairs at City Hall. Fasten your seat belts; it's going to blow. Lawyer up!

Monday, January 14, 2019

FBI arrest threatens extinction level event for Hoboken voter fraud

The following report is a cumulation of MSV's investigative efforts, analysis and opinion investigating Hoboken voter fraud, now into the tenth year. The opinions stated below are the sole responsibility and copyright of

Arrest for alleged Vote-by-Mail voter fraud in senior building sows fear and trepidation across Hoboken

Pattern of paid "campaign workers" by the hundreds nearly all voting-by-mail in 2015 Hoboken council elections parallels 2010 fourth ward special election placing Councilman Michael Russo at the epicenter

Ravi-Russo Alliance strategy for November council ward races jeopardized

The arrest Friday of William Rojas, 68 at Fox Hill Gardens, a senior building of the Hoboken Housing Authority sent shock waves across Hoboken.

Following three arrests months earlier connected to the 2013 Hoboken mayoral election; this arrest paves the way for further law enforcement action connected to the 2015 Hoboken council elections. 

That singular arrest signals an ongoing probe putting others in jeopardy where hundreds of paid "campaign workers" almost to a person similarly cast ballots using vote-by-mail ballots.

While Rojas is an exception, almost all of those "campaign workers" were listed on the campaign reports of Michael Russo, the third ward councilman up for reelection this November. 

The Department of Justice alleged Rojas was a campaign worker for a yet unnamed Hoboken campaign with payment for Vote-by-Mail ballots paid by check by an unnamed PAC.

In 2015, Russo faced no opposition on the ballot in his ward council race but reported approximately 245 paid campaign workers, mostly for $50 each. (See graphic below.)

2015 campaign records show Councilman Michael Russo as the inexplicable hub with hundreds of paid "campaign workers" in 2015 but only 20 of almost 245 among his reported listed "campaign workers" worked in his ward race.
Almost to a person, each of those campaign workers would vote-by-mail in the 2015 Hoboken council elections.

In 2015, Michael Russo spent approximately $15,000 for listed campaign workers, an amount he also declared loaning to his campaign for the same election.

For an incumbent facing no opponent, Russo's war chest was largely spent on hundreds of campaign workers outside his ward, mostly in the fourth ward (just under 150 campaign workers) and (68) in the fifth ward. 

The fifth ward campaign workers all share another factor in common. Every single one of the 68 listed on Michael Russo's campaign report filed with NJ ELEC lives at the same address: 311 13th Street. 

That's Fox Hill Gardens, the uptown senior building of the Hoboken Housing Authority.

A sample of the pages of campaign workers listed at Fox Hill Gardens in the fifth ward paid by Councilman Mike Russo who ran for reelection in the third ward. William Rojas arrested for alleged voter fraud using Vote-by-Mail is however not among them.

The 2015 fifth ward council race featured Reform stalwart and incumbent Peter Cunningham who faced Eduardo Gonazalez backed by Russo on a cooperative slate of six ward candidates across the Mile Square City.

The rest of this exclusive investigative report is MSV Premium.
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Friday, January 11, 2019

Fourth Hoboken resident charged in Hoboken voter fraud conspiracy; first in 2015 election


Fourth arrest in Hoboken for alleged voter fraud
First arrest in the 2015 election; others for 2013 election

Official release from the US Department of Justice, Newark:


NEWARK, N.J. – A Hoboken, New Jersey, man has been charged with promoting a voter bribery scheme by use of the U.S. mail, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced today. 

William Rojas, 68, is charged by complaint with a violation of the federal Travel Act for causing the mails to be used in aid of voter bribery contrary to New Jersey state law. He is scheduled to have his initial appearance this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy L. Waldor in Newark federal court. 

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Under New Jersey law, registered voters are permitted to cast a ballot by mail rather than in person. To receive a mail-in ballot, voters must complete and submit to their county clerk’s office an Application for Vote by Mail Ballot (VBM Application). After the application is processed by the county clerk’s office, voters receive a mail-in ballot. 

From September 2015 through November 2015, Rojas agreed to pay certain Hoboken voters $50 if those voters applied for and cast mail-in ballots for the November 2015 Hoboken municipal election. 

Rojas provided these voters with VBM Applications, told the voters that they would get paid $50 for casting mail-in ballots, and then delivered the completed VBM applications to the Hudson County Clerk’s office. After the mail-in ballots were delivered to the voters, Rojas went to the voters’ residences to collect the mail-in ballots and mailed the completed mail-in ballots to the Hudson County Clerk’s Office. After the election, Rojas delivered checks to these voters. Bank records show that voters living in Hoboken received $50 checks from an entity associated with the campaign that employed Rojas. 

Rojas faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. 

U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark, and special agents of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of the Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Christina Scaringi, with the investigation leading to the charge. 

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Farrell of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Special Prosecutions Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Rahul Agarwal, Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division. 

The charge and allegations in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Police Officer Ronil Singh, in memoriam

The following courtesy: 

United Sikhs Honor Corporal Ronil Singh

“Corporal Singh had a heart of gold, he made a positive impact on everyone he encountered and had an infectious, kind, spirited and humble attitude on life. His service to humanity made all Sikhs proud,” said Jesse Singh, United Sikhs Executive Director. “In honoring our fallen brother, we encourage the local community to help support the Newman Police Department and Corporal Singh’s family during this difficult time.”
As reported by authorities, Cpl. Singh was fatally shot on Dec. 26 just before 1 a.m. after he pulled over a suspected drunk driver. The suspect has since been arrested and charged with murder.

Financial donations to Cpl. Singh’s family can be made directly to the Stanislaus County Sworn Deputies Association, The address is PO BOX 2314, Ceres, CA 95307 or online via Donations are tax-deductible under the Stanislaus Sworn Community Support.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Horse Sense: Ravi Bhalla regurgitates veto noise but silent on alleged no show job scandal

An oddly timed release from the mayor's office today about the failed council override to eliminate a future, potential position among the currently unknown quantity of mayoral aides is raising eyebrows.

Note in the statement below, there's no acknowledgment the related inoperative ordinance was about a future position eliminated if one of three, (or is it four) current mayoral aides should depart.

Nary a word here addresses the multitude of unanswered questions pointing to allegations questioning a no show job and/or theft of service scandal in the mayor's office.

So, too, there's been no explanation why there are four mayoral aides on the payroll into 2019 and among them, two communication managers.


Here's the odd and oddly timed statement on the failed override from the December ordinance.
“The ordinance in question, which attempts to weaken the office of the Mayor, is unlawful, as per the determination of the City of Hoboken’s Corporation Counsel. Each of the Council Members who voted to adopt this ordinance were placed on notice by the Law Department that the ordinance they were attempting to adopt was unlawful.  This advice was apparently ignored. The City Council Members took an oath of office to be lawmakers, not lawbreakers.  I refuse to participate or be complicit in unlawful activity and therefore VETO this ordinance.

To be clear, this ordinance was nothing more than a petty attempt to weaken the office of the Mayor and attack the hardworking members of my administration.  This staff which includes my Chief of Staff, John Allen and Deputy Chief of Staff, Jason Freeman respond to emergencies and help keep our City running at all hours of the day, among countless other responsibilities.  They are true public servants who put Hoboken first and do not deserve to be attacked by vindictive City Council Members.

Instead of wasting time trying to settle political scores, I once again, as I did one year ago, invite the City Council to join me in working collaboratively on initiatives and policies that benefit the residents we have been sworn to serve.”

If the ordinance is inoperative under the law in the future and "unlawful," why the veto?

Why blatantly misinform the public about this being the elimination of a current position?

That's a lot of hot air expended for an ordinance that is inert in 2019. So ask yourself the question, why, and why now?


There's been coverage of a potential no show job and/or theft of service scandal out of the mayor's office on the Jersey Journal, the Hudson County View and most recently/comprehensively MSV.

Meanwhile, there's no explanation coming from the mayor's office, the Corporation Counsel Office, the Business Administrator Office and of course nothing but silence from Mayor Ravi Bhalla.

Last week, Council President Jen Giattino asked a simple follow-up question about odd increases in payments out of the mayor's office. The Bhalla Administration told her it was for "a differential in pay."

That was not true. The real differential acknowledged at last week's City Council meeting by Corporation Counsel  Brian Aloia is there are four mayoral aides on the payroll in 2019.  But...

The mayor's office can't even tell, let alone explain to the public how many mayoral aides are on the payroll.

Friends, something is rotten in Denmark.

This editorial and investigative reporting dedicated to my friend, The Giant. More to come.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

City of Hoboken defeated in appeal against Monarch Towers

Appellate ruling is the last in series of defeats against the Barry Brothers' Monarch Towers

It's the last legal stand and the City of Hoboken with the Hudson Tea Building went down fighting as the NJ Appellate ruled in favor of Shipyard Associates, re: the Barry brothers, Ironstate Development.

The defeat appeared inevitable with what the Court referenced about the failure of the Hoboken Planning Board to properly act.

" Shipyard II we also affirmed the trial court's decision that the planning board's unlawful refusal to hear Shipyard's application resulted in automatic approval of the preliminary and final subdivision application for the new high-rises."

Who is responsible for that bonehead decision?

Renee Steinhagen who opposed Shipyard in the appeal offered her take on the outcome writing, "Very disappointing decision. The court's dismissive and cavalier attitude toward the City's authority to enforce anti-flood safety ordinances enacted in response to Hurricane Sandy is equally puzzling as it is disturbing. The lack of serious consideration of significant legal issues, both statutory and common law, that must be understood in the context of the public's interest calls for the Supreme Court's supervision of the appellate division in face of powerful development interests."

The last in a series of years-long legal rulings pave the way for two towers to be built in northeast Hoboken. The desirability of doing so, however, is an entirely different matter. The sunk costs to build at the junction on the water are enormous. Word on the street of discussions going on behind closed doors between the Barry brothers and Mayor Ravi Bhalla paints a different picture as they look to trade (again) on the uptown parcel of land to build bigger (and denser) elsewhere in the Mile Square City.

"We can do business with Ravi," is the rumored oft-heard refrain from the Barry's (unlike the intractable former mayor Dawn Zimmer.)

Ravi Bhalla held a series of meetings late last year looking to gauge the reaction of residents in the west side (third ward) and downtown west Hoboken about the Barry's building bigger and denser in their neighborhoods. The third ward residents already facing further traffic jams and quality of life dilemmas with the monstrous Bijou Project at 8th and Jackson were particularly irate.

Stay tuned as the horse-trading is going to heat up. And keep an eye on those ELEC reports!

The complete legal decision issued yesterday:

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Councilman Ruben Ramos: "Upgrades to Madison Street Park Underway!"

Official release:

Dear friends,

Yesterday we had the groundbreaking for the rehabilitation project for Madison Street Park.  The new park, which is heavily used by children in our area, will re-open on or around April 15th with many upgrades and improvements such as new playground structures and safety surfaces, spray park features and seating areas.  Please click here for more information about the plans and the public process that started this time last year.  
Please share this with everyone you think might be interested in hearing about this project.  And don’t hesitate to reach out to me at any time to discuss any matter that is important to you.  
Ruben Ramos
Hoboken City Council, 4th Ward
*Please follow me on Facebook and Twitter to see more updates on Hoboken.

Talking Ed Note: Local elected officials may see published without editorial comment any official release here. The mayor's office elected under its former and current communications manager (zebra jr.) to stop providing them. With the investigative reports unearthed and published here on the antics there before and since, no surprise. 

Monday, January 7, 2019

No show job Ravi Bhalla caught in no show job in the mayor's office?


The first Hoboken controversy of 2019 is underway and Mayor Ravi Bhalla has some 'splaining to do.

The Mile Square City is paying not three but four mayoral aides into 2019 and two of the four are officially listed as communication managers. This came to light to the surprise of Hoboken residents and City Council members both at last week's council meeting.

Among the major questions, do we have a serious lack of transparency, a no-show job or both?

Trying to pace the sour actions of the mayor's office under Ravi Bhalla is exhausting. The latest scandal shows four
mayoral aides where three was enough and no one is clear on who leaves and when after another appears.
With two communication managers, is one a no-show gig?

Bhalla only days ago vetoed a City Council ordinance passed last month limiting his office to two mayoral aides should any of three depart but last week it came to light there's a fourth on the books. At the same council meeting, a 5-4 vote fell one short of a required sixth to override.

It's unclear if a no-show job is at root or if any of this is going to change. Even with two communication managers on the mayor's office payroll, the answers are anything but transparent.

At last week's council meeting, Council President Jen Giattino followed up on an inquiry posed earlier that morning asking why the already announced as departed eight-months and out communications manager was appearing as paid and present on the payroll in 2019?

The former or is it current employee of the mayor's office and communications manager is Santiago Melli-Huber. His official announced departure of resignation was announced by the City for November 30th and then amended without explanation to December 14th.

To complicate matters further, the mayor of Trenton officially announced Melli-Huber was its full-time employee last month in December.

Stilted answers from Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia and Business Administrator Stephen Marks at last week's meeting admitted Hoboken had four mayoral aides on the taxpayer payroll and apparently not one but two communication managers in the mayor's office into 2019. Legal citations followed refusing further discussion pointing to Rice noticing requirements of an employee. This legal belief is apparently inoperable based on a decision by the NJ Supreme Court last June.

Whispers about the two communications managers appearing simultaneously on the mayor's office payroll into January conflict with a trial balloon floated to allow for the transfer of "passwords" and maintaining the City of Hoboken website

That cover story may already be crumbling before the public can be expected to swallow it whole.

City of Hoboken payroll records reveal the previously announced departing communications manager Melli-Huber was paid BOTH his regular bi-monthly pay AND 10 days of vacation pay on December 19, 2018.

Then, on January 2nd, the same mayor's office employee reappears on the City of Hoboken payroll for two more weeks in bi-monthly pay. Last week at the meeting, Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia reluctantly confirmed Santiago Huber-Melli was a current, 2019 employee of the mayor's office.

Further questions arise with Santiago Melli-Huber now declared an apparent simultaneous full-time employee of both the City of Trenton and City of Hoboken in 2019. How long was this duplicity intended to go on?

As of early December, Hoboken had four mayoral aides and not one, but two communication managers on the payroll at the same time.  Vijay Chaudhuri returned to the mayor's office on December 5th overlapping with Melli-Huber in the same position.

Chaudhuri was the campaign manager for Ravi Bhalla in Hoboken's 2017 mayoral race and Chief of Staff for the previous mayor, Dawn Zimmer.

As many questions about the unsaid, unknown, and possibly suspect undocumented arrangement are outstanding, Council President Jen Giattino and the council awaits further answers. Answers that are not forthcoming to the public or the City Council under the new no. 1 (or is it no. 2) City of Hoboken communications manager.

Council President Jen Giattino last month noted the recent political operations emanating out of the Hoboken mayor's office. Not days into 2019, her simple payroll query sees another surfaced.

Talking Ed Note: Last year, a mere month into office, Ravi Bhalla broke his campaign promise to focus on Hoboken as his sole job announcing what has been described by some as a no-show second job with a Republican law firm. That second job pays him $60,000 in salary plus a rich commissions plan for rainmaking. Many view that second job as connected to NJ governmental contracts. Now it looks like another no-show job has appeared in the mayor's office.

Ravi Bhalla this past year blew out the mayoral aides numbers - but not in a good way. Compare his first year with four mayoral aides at a cost to taxpayers of approximately $300,000 versus one for former mayor Dawn Zimmer at $35,000. This doesn't even include the additional costs of a new constituent office.

The City Council failed to find a sixth vote to override a veto with an ordinance limiting Ravi Bhalla to two mayoral aides should one of the existing three depart. Now it's learned, Ravi Bhalla morphed it to four.

While Ravi Bhalla's council allies Jim Doyle, Emily Jabbour, and Michael Russo won't say a bad word about any of this; Councilwoman Vanessa Falco might be feeling jacked. She held to her vote of no on first reading of the ordinance to limit mayoral aides in the future and again in the failed override vote.

Related: The Jersey Journal weighed in on the brewing controversy Friday with this story.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Council President Jen Giattino: "Closing out 2018"

Official release:

Dear friends and neighbors,
Happy New Year.  It has been a busy year and I wanted to share with you some of the results of working together to improve our community.  Please click on the links for more information about each.
This year I was appointed as the City Council Liaison to the Hoboken Homeless Shelter and was asked to join the Hoboken Homeless Task Force.  One of my proudest moments while serving on the City Council was securing a housing voucher for a chronically homeless woman right before Christmas. I am now working to find an apartment for her.
After the Administration requested and the City Council approved renting municipal space to Easterseals New Jersey for $1 annually, I sponsored a resolution to ensure that all non-profits renting municipal space be treated equally.
Two of the most historic streets in Hoboken are in the beginning phases of a historic rehabilitation projects with the hopes of securing historic preservation grants from Hudson County for the projects.
I sponsored legislation to minimize the inconvenience to residents who are towed in emergency situations; instead of being towed to another city, in these situations you will now be towed to the municipal surface lot on 13th & Jefferson St..
I sponsored this change to ensure that tenants will have more certainty upon their lease signing as to what they will be charged during their lease term.
This amendment will help curtail oversize building in the R-1 zones. 
Removing the X and Shaded X Zones from Hoboken flood ordinance regulations
This effectively allows properties who do not require flood insurance in these zones to not have to be subjected to flood ordinance restrictions.  As of yet, the borders have not been clarified by the Administration but I am hopeful that they will be soon.
Church Square Park improvements
I advocated for and we installed new turf!
New loading zones
Adding much needed loading zones to residential neighborhoods. 
Water infrastructure improvements / Suez contract
As a member of the infrastructure committee I am thrilled to have worked on the restructuring of our water contract and am cautiously optimistic that we will reach an agreement in the next few months.
A big thank you to my colleagues for electing me to my 4th term as Council President and thank you for all your input and support in 2018.  
Wishing everyone a successful and healthy 2019!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

It's Jen leading the City Council again

For the fourth time in her seven-plus year council career, Councilwoman Jen Giattino is selected to lead the Hoboken City Council as Council President.

Jen Giattino is now a four-time City Council President after her colleagues
 voted to return her to the role with no opposition in an 8-0-1 vote.

The Council President vote saw no opposition as Giattino's nomination easily won on an 8-0-1 vote. Councilwoman Emily Jabbour was the lone dissenting abstention.

Giattino received the gavel from Council President Ruben Ramos who was then elected in a similar vote for council VP.

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher was elected to the one-year seat as the council representative on the Hoboken Planning Board in a unanimous vote.

Giattino in a surprise move discussing the city bills moved to amend a small amount of approximately $2,000. The funds in question surround a departed municipal employee. She's seeking clarification on the official's departure who worked in the mayor's office until the end of November and was presented by the mayor's office as on the Hoboken payroll in December. There's an allegation the former employee was already working fulltime for another NJ municipality last month.

In one of the strangest incidents in recent council memory, both the Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia and Business Administrator Steven Marks refused to address any aspect of the apparent disparity in "extra" pay. They claimed a Rice notice must be given and would not address any aspect of the questionable payout.

Giattino had questioned the odd funding for four confidential aides earlier in the day prior to the meeting. According to sources close to Giattino, an answer expected before the meeting however never came.

Talking Ed Note: Shades of Old Guard corruption wafting across the Mile Square City right out of the mayor's office.

When you're caught en flagrant delicto with your pants down, try not to smirk about it guys. Not a good look.

Update: Our colleague at the Hudson County View is first out of the gate with a story on how a City of Hoboken employee can depart in November and hold two full-time jobs being paid a full salary from Hoboken.