Tuesday, April 23, 2019

For Earth Day, Ravi Bhalla remains silent on North Bergen power plant

Silence is golden. Especially if you're Mayor Ravi Bhalla eyeing a bigger prize: a congressional seat in Hudson County.

So on Earth Day, Ravi Bhalla emanated virtue signaling blowing wind in every direction but the North Bergen power plant where gas will flow to New York City if the project sees final approval.

Here's a report by Hudson County View with staged pomp and circumstance as Ravi Bhalla signs his Climate Action Plan featuring nary a word on the biggest climate and environmental controversy in the area.

On hand to sit by and applaud his self-congratulations are council members Emily Jabbour and Jim Doyle.

Last October, Councilman Jim Doyle submitted a resolution in opposition to the $1.8 billion gas power plant proposed in North Bergen for New York City. His resolution was quickly and quietly removed from the City Council agenda by the Bhalla Administration as Ravi Bhalla then attended the annual Nick Sacco Ball the following day where HudCo politicians go to kiss his ring.

Albio Sires is believed by some ready to end his political career with a final two-year congressional term. Sacco will be a kingmaker in selecting who inherits the seat in the heavily controlled HudCo Democratic district.

Ravi Bhalla wants that seat and remains utterly silent on the biggest climate issue in the area.

Larry Wainstein, a mayoral rival to North Bergen Mayor and State Senator Nick Sacco launched a lawsuit alleging the power plan would violate the civil rights of North Bergen residents and points to an executive order by Governor Phil Murphy.

From the Hudson County View story:

“This action cites Gov. Murphy’s Executive Order 23, which states, in his own words, ‘low-income communities and communities of color have been exposed to disproportionately high and unacceptably dangerous levels of water, air and soil pollution,” he said during a press conference at his headquarters last night.
“With accompany potential of increased public health impacts. It is clear that the people or North Bergen are being discriminated.”
NJ Governor Phil Murphy has endorsed Nick Sacco's re-election for mayor in North Bergen.

Monday, April 22, 2019

New hotel approved by City Council in 6-2 vote for upper Jefferson St.

Last Wednesday leading into the holidays, the City Council passed a redevelopment agreement for 1300 Jefferson St.

The redevelopment agreement passed on a 6-2 vote. Council members Jim Doyle and Tiffanie Fisher voted no and City Council President Jen Giattino, reportedly away in Iceland did not vote.

The redeveloper agreement is concerning for some due to a lack of 10-day public review. The City Council last December added that requirement by resolution.

A new hotel is proposed at the location where hundreds of residential units and a bowling alley previously failed to obtain approval.

From the approved redevelopment agreement:

The redevelopment agreement was shuttled on to the agenda by the Bhalla Administration on behalf of the Just Block 112, LLC, a private partnership using non-union labor. 

The new hotel proposal will require approval from the Hoboken Planning Board and will include a second building with 207 residential units.

Talking Ed Note: The downtown Hilton Hotel announced to much fanfare last fall is on hold with litigation in opposition.

The complete redevelopment agreement for upper Jeffersion St. is available at the link starting on page 251:

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Councilwoman Jen Giattino: 'Parking meter Q&A'

Official release:

Many of you have questions about Hoboken's visitor side metered parking zones. 
Where/What is a visitor side metered parking zone?
Generally the south and east sides of the street in permit parking zones. Non-permit holders pay to park for up to four hours.
Who has to pay meter in visitor side metered parking zones?
Who does not have to pay meter in visitor side metered parking zones?
Residential Parking Permit 
Business Permit 
Visitor Permit
Visitors with hangtags(available at City Hall but will be online shortly)
Why have visitor side metered parking zones?
On-street parking capacity in Hoboken is limited. Visitor side metered parking zones generate more turnover from visitors and help improve parking availability for resident permit holders. 
How do Handicapped or disabled person's pay for parking in visitor side metered parking zones? 
With a valid disability license plates or placards pay for the minimum amount of purchasable time (15 minutes) within the visitor side metered parking zone, then no additional payments are required for the remaining 3 hours, 45 minutes that the vehicle is allowed to park within the zone. After four hours, the vehicle must be moved out of the zone. 
How do I add license plate numbers to my account?  
From Parkmobile app, tap on “more” on the bottom of the screen, then “vehicles”. From there you can add and store up to five license plates at a time. 
I have my Mom and Aunt's license plate added to my account so when they visit it is simple for me just to pay.
Do you believe you have received a violation in error?
Email the Hoboken Parking Utility at parking@hobokennj.gov to schedule a time to meet with a Parking Enforcement Supervisor. Include as much evidence as you can to demonstrate the error, including a photo of the ticket, photos of the parking situation, and your Parkmobile parking session receipt.Based on the supervisor’s review, they may provide a written report to the municipal court for the judge to take into consideration when making his or her determination. You may still need to schedule a court date and appear in court.
Where do residential permit holders have to pay?
Everywhere you had to pay before. These are primarily in commercial zones. Director Sharp is working on a map to clarify locations, but in the meantime, if you don't see the sign below that says ALL OTHERS PAY BY PHONE 4 HOUR LIMIT residential permit holders need to pay the meter. 

Lastly, on tonight's agenda is a resolution waiving the estoppel(waiting) period on the ordinance that was adopted at the last council meeting to roll back meter prices. This means rates will revert back, Thursday, April 18.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher: 'The major benefits to Hoboken under the new Suez contract'

Official release:

Dear friends and neighbors:
Since 1994, Hoboken has repeatedly sold its future water revenues to fill unexpected budget gaps.  But tonight, for the first time in 25 years, the City Council will be voting on a new contract with Suez that returns our water revenues to where they belong – back to Hoboken.  This is the biggest step to date towards solving our infrastructure issues which have been a top priority for me because it is a top priority of all of you.  
Click above to hear my remarks at Friday's press conference or here to watch my interview with Hudson County View.  If you have not yet done so, you can read the announcement from the City as well.  This agreement and new contract with Suez accomplishes so much for Hoboken:
  • Generates significantly more revenues for Hoboken to invest in its water infrastructure – enough to cover all $33M of the necessary upgrades in Hoboken's Water System Renewal Plan. 
  • Provides for new state of the art leak technology that will help us detect leaks as early as possible.
  • Establishes an operational best practice framework going forward for operating our water system.
  • Resets our go forward partnership with Suez.
  • Changes to a fixed fee structure to manage and operate our water system.
  • Creates a water utility that will be fully self-funding
And the best part is that all of this happens with:
  • No negative, but potentially positive, impact to taxpayers, and 
  • No additional increases in water rates (other than annual CPI/inflation).
How did we do this you ask?  Read on….
The concept was actually quite simple.  With the mayor’s support, we got a bunch of people in a room and changed the conversation about the contract.  We discarded the notion that you had to start from our existing bad terms to try to make them better.  We instead decided that "Hoboken keeping all of its water revenues" would be the new starting point - flipping the entire structure of the contract on its head and starting from scratch:   
  • Existing:  Hoboken receives just a small fixed amount of revenues and Suez keeps the rest. 
  • New:  Suez is paid a fixed amount and Hoboken keeps all the rest of the water revenues. 
After all, it's Hoboken’s system, it's Hoboken’s water, and Hoboken is responsible for all of the repairs and upgrades to the system.  Not Suez.
BTW, that “bunch of people in the room” included my City Council Finance and Infrastructure subcommittee that I Chair, Hoboken’s Business Administrator Stephen Marks and Director of Environmental Services Jennifer Gonzalez, our financial advisor Dennis Enright of NW Financialour legal advisor Joe Baumann and his team at McManimon, Scotland and Baumann.  And sometimes Suez.  All of us worked collaboratively throughout this process to deliver the best outcome for Hoboken.  #MoreVoicesAreAlwaysBetter. 
After making Hoboken the first priority, we moved to determine what the market cost was to run a water system like ours and who else does this other than Suez?  The Administration thoroughly researched alternatives and we were advised on what was available in the market going so far as to draft an RFP for a new water provider.  This laid the groundwork for our parallel discussions with Suez:  Hoboken wants an improved partnership and deserves a better deal, at market terms and where Hoboken’s water revenues can be used for system upgrades and repairs.  
The single most important question to me is how the water revenues generated by all of you who pay for water (directly and indirectly, everyone pays) are split between Hoboken and Suez.   Here are some figures to give you order of magnitude (all numbers are approximated):
  • $9 million – Total revenues from all water bills in Hoboken.  
  • $4 million – Cost to buy water.  
  • $5 million – Net revenues = total revenues less the cost to buy water.  
This is the amount that ultimately gets divided between Suez and Hoboken.  
  • $33 million – the amount needed to fund the upgrades in Hoboken’s Water System Renewal Plan covering almost 20% of Hoboken’s water system.  
Not only is how much Hoboken gets important but so is how much it leaves on the table for Suez.  For example, if Hoboken gets $1.5M, it may sound good if Suez gets $1.5M.  But how about if Suez gets $3.5M?  Then suddenly $1.5M doesn’t look that good… We needed to know who gets what.
We actually did it!  Hoboken goes from receiving $350k per year under our existing contract, to $3M+ per year plus upside over time (from volume and inflation increases) in our new contract.  These higher revenues allow Hoboken to:
  • Fund all $33M of upgrades in Hoboken’s Water System Renewal Plan, and 
  • Repay the $10M+ liability we owe to Suez, amortized over 15 years, with 
  • No increases in water rates (other than inflation/CPI).
Here is visual to show you what getting more of the revenues looks like:  
  • For Hoboken – Increases to $3M plus future upside or 60% of net revenues. Currently receives a fixed amount of $350K or 7%.   
  • For Suez – Reduces to a $2M fixed payment or 40% of net revenues under new contract.  Currently receives $4.65M plus future upside or 93% of net revenues.  
Hoboken owes Suez >$10M for costs Suez incurred since 2014 on Hoboken's behalf under the existing contract.  These included increases in bulk water rates and emergency repairs and would is addressed as follows:  
  • Existing Contract - No Extension with Suez:  Hoboken would owe ~$11.5M and would need to increase water rates by 16% to repay it.   
  • New Contract Extension with SuezHoboken will owe closer to $10M (discount given) that Hoboken can repay through the water revenues it will receive, with no further increase in water rates required to repay.  
This is where it gets pretty technical but here is a visual of how our contract discussions have evolved:
I have attached a full page pdf version as well that may be easier to read.  The dark blue box tracks Hoboken’s share (increasing), the bright blue tracks Suez's share (decreasing), and the red boxes at the top show the additional water revenues that would be needed through rate increases to address our $10M+ liability.  Our new contract has the highest revenues for Hoboken including any future upside and requires no water rate increases. 
In 2017 we considered a different proposal that ultimately did not receive support of the City Council.  Although definitely a major improvement vs. our existing contract, the 2017 proposal was more of a repackaged version of prior extensions (1996 and 2001requiring significant water rate increases to fund the benefits to Hoboken including the amounts owed to Suez and annual increases for capital with Suez still receiving most of the revenues and any future upside.   Led by my then Finance and Infrastructure Subcommittee comprised of me, Council President Giattino and Councilman Cunningham, we asked many of the questions we posed this time around, but without sufficient responses, with the previously undisclosed and mounting liability, and with a proposal that still seemed to have Suez keeping most of the revenues, we recommended to the City Council that we should try to do better for Hoboken.  
Our new contract proves that we could do better and that it was worth fighting for.  Tonight I am proud to recommend that the City Council vote to approve. 
Working Together For Hoboken
This has been a long time coming and something I have personally been working on for almost two years as negotiations began with Suez under the prior Administration.  I want to say that although I led the effort to get the best economic deal for Hoboken, this was 100% a team effort.  Believe it or not, most of the time the Mayor, the City Council and the Administration work great together for the benefit of Hoboken.  
I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to the operational improvements we are achieving as well.  It was the main focus of Director's Marks and Gonzalez to ensure Hoboken receive the best possible service and that Suez be held to the highest operational standards going forward.  In exchange, Hoboken would give more focus to the operations of our system than in the past and make minimum annual investments in our system of $1.5M which is a no brainer given our needs and now with available funding.  The signs of a true partnership.
I want to take the opportunity to thank all eight of my Council colleagues who each have been part of this process as either member of the infrastructure subcommittee over the last three years or as supporters.  Specifically, Council President Giattino who has actively helped shape all conversations along the way and Council Vice President Ramos who got all of us - including Suez - back in the room in September amidst significant angst after the series of terrible water main breaks last summer.   Also to thank Mayor Bhalla who provided the environment for us to work together and get it done.  And finally to Suez who has been willing to make significant economic changes to our agreement to benefit Hoboken and yet still be our partner for the next 15 years.
When I ran for election in 2015, one of the biggest issues I heard from residents was how our aging and failing water infrastructure was negatively affecting their quality of life.  The picture below I took on August 28th, 2015 just three days before I turned in my petitions to be on the ballot.  During my entire term as your City Council representative, I have made restoring our water infrastructure one of my biggest priorities.   This new contract is going to go a long way towards achieving this goal and I could not be more proud to help get this done working together for Hoboken.  
As always please forward this to everyone 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”

Federal Court: Frank "Pupie" Raia and Dio Braxton must stand trial together on June 11th

Hoboken's corruption past meets the present as a trial is set for June 11th surrounding the criminal allegations of vote buying.

The Jersey Journal reports Frank "Pupie" Raia and Dio Braxton facing allegations of buying votes in 2013 will stand trial together beginning June 11th, per an order of the court.

Another alleged member of the conspiracy Liz "Church Lady" Camis was the first arrested in the vote-buying allegations using Vote by Mail ballots. She's pled guilty and is likely to appear as a witness for the government.

A vintage photo of Frank "Pupie" Raia attending a Hoboken City Council meeting.
He's set for trial June 11th with Dio Braxton. Both are alleged participatns in a conspiracy to buy votes

From the NJ.com story:

Frank “Pupie” Raia, the Hoboken politico and real estate developer who federal prosecutors have accused of overseeing a cash-for-votes schemein the 2013 municipal election, lost a bid to have his case severed from his alleged co-conspirator.
Raia’s lawyer, Alan L. Zegas, told the judge overseeing his case that he would be denied a fair trial if he were forced to face charges alongside Dio Braxton, who is accused of promising Hoboken residents $50 per vote at Raia’s direction. Both men have denied the charges.
NJ.com points to the history of political corruption and alleged voter fraud in Hoboken, a story Hobokenhorse.com first broke in 2010 and steadily reporting on since.
The charges facing Raia jolted Hoboken, where it’s long been an open secret that local political machines paid for votes using mail-in ballots. Prosecutors allege Raia ran one of these operations by directing his allies to promise voters $50 in exchange for applying for and casting mail-in ballots in 2013. That year, Raia, a Democrat, was an at-large council candidate in the city’s nonpartisan municipal race and supported a voter referendum that would have weakened rent-control laws. He and the referendum lost.
The complete story is available at the link:

City Council President Jen Giattino & Councilman Mike DeFusco Propose New Pet-Friendly Ordinance to Replace Ban on Dogs from City Parks

Official release:

DeFusco, Giattino Propose New Pet-Friendly Ordinance to Replace Ban on Dogs from City Parks
Councilman Mike DeFusco and Council President Jen Giattino are working together to change Hoboken’s outdated law prohibiting dogs in City-run parks. Last week, Mayor Ravi Bhalla began strictly enforcing these antiquated laws without warning, resulting in unnecessary tickets and fines being imposed on Hoboken residents. The current ordinance allows dogs to walk through parks only to gain access to dog runs. DeFusco and Giattino will co-sponsor a replacement ordinance during tonight’s City Council meeting that will permit dogs into City parks, while penalizing careless owners who don’t clean up after them $2,000
Councilman DeFusco and Council President Giattino are releasing the following joint statement:
“For years the vast majority of Hoboken dog owners have acted responsibly when bringing their canine companions into our public parks. Over enforcing this policy will not solve the issues of dog litter, it only alienates dog owners and prevents Hoboken’s furry friends from enjoying open space with us. As dog owners ourselves, we understand the frustration of Hoboken residents who have been penalized for simply allowing their pets to stretch their legs. This is why we are revising a dated ordinance that makes Hoboken a more pet-friendly community. The new policy will help maintain the beauty and cleanliness in our parks and make sure Hobokenites can enjoy them whether they’re walking through them on two legs or four.”

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

First glance: new Suez Water contract is a huge win for Hoboken

Saddled for decades with a water contract originating back to the corrupt dark days of the Anthony Russo administration, the new water contract announced Friday is a big win for Hoboken.

The details are not fully clear and the contract itself isn't available but the ties to the historically bad contract where water revenues were surrendered in return to plug a budget deficit led to huge losses, seen and unseen.

Mayor Ravi Bhalla announced the new agreement with Suez on the
problematic water contract. Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher spoke
on the negotiations and was joined by councilmembers Jim Doyle
and Emily Jabbour last Friday.

In one visible aspect, Hoboken was limited to 300K annually in infrastructure repairs to its antiquated water system with segments fully a century or more old. As the pipes began to burst, the 300K annually was quickly surpassed and residents inflicted with a growing million dollar and unpaid bill.

When former mayor Dawn Zimmer proposed late in her second term a new deal, all of the bad was buried along with a suggested outstanding $8.5 million bill. The sovereignty question and competitive analysis were sorely missing in her proposed contract. The council balked and no council member sponsored it for a vote. The infrastructure portion of the bill continued climbing into the double-digit millions as the City Council sought a competitive bidding process to reclaim sovereignty for the City, much-needed dignity and any semblance of fair pricing.

Finally, Mayor Ravi Bhalla after some initial saber rattling about suing for past sins signed on to the dotted line in decades past worked with the City Council to hammer out a new deal with Suez more favorable for the City of Hoboken.

The thoughtful and timely focus appears to have finally turned around an abysmal situation. More details and analysis is required but there's plenty of reason to be positive with the daylight in over $30 million in committed infrastructure without the significant increases proposed in the Zimmer proposal, as reported on the Hudson County View.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher: 'Washington St. & Budget hearings'

Official release:

Dear friends and neighbors:

****ALERT:  Milling and Paving on upper Washington St. starting tomorrow (4/15).  Click HERE for the notice just sent from the City about diverted 22, 89 and 126 buses.  Warning... I think the instructions aren't quite correct... and I have informed the City.  But you can get the gist with this, just be on the look out for a corrected one.  

Tomorrow night (Monday) is Budget Hearing #3 that will cover the following departments: 
  • Community Development (Development, zoning and affordable housing) – 6-7pm
  • Health & Human Services (Recreation, seniors, and rent control) – 7-8pm
  • Parking and Transportation (self explanatory...) – 8-9pm 
You can tune in online HERE (click on the April 15th date) or on FB Live.  Please tune in or better yet, attend in person and participate in the hearing!  

  • If you are someone who has raised questions or concerns about how we plan to manage development, affordable housing, rent control or our recreation and senior programs, then this is the hearing for you
  • If you are someone who wants to know HOW MUCH DOES HOBOKEN MAKE FROM PARKING METERS and other types of permit fees and what we do with these revenues, then this hearing is for you! 

Restating what I said previously:  As Chair of the Finance and Infrastructure subcommittee, I will be presiding over the hearings.  The budget that has been proposed by the mayor has an almost 3% tax increase and includes depleting our surplus.  Our job now is to determine if there is any further opportunity for us to reduce the burden on taxpayers, yet still support the necessary services to improve (or at least maintain) the quality of life of our residents.

Please join or watch this important hearing!

As always please forward this to anyone you think may be interested in this.  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”

Friday, April 12, 2019

City of Hoboken announces new Suez agreement

Official release:

Agency Logo
April 12, 2019,

City of Hoboken, NJ

Community: Mayor Bhalla announces new contract with SUEZ for water main operations

Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla today announced that the City of Hoboken and SUEZ have agreed to a new water service contract that would invest at least $33 million in water infrastructure upgrades through 2034. The new contract, which is subject to City Council approval, establishes a new public water utility and includes an average of $2.2 million in water investments per year, over six times the amount of the current contract.

“This contract with SUEZ provides for unprecedented investments in Hoboken’s water system,” said Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla. “Hoboken has been suffering for years with increasing water main breaks due to a previous, woefully inadequate contract that provides for no proactive water main upgrades. The renegotiated agreement will finally allow Hoboken to make the critical upgrades to our water infrastructure that have been badly needed for years. I am hopeful the Council will agree and vote in support at Wednesday’s Council meeting.”

The new agreement was based upon the framework of the initial SUEZ negotiations led by former Mayor Dawn Zimmer and her administration in 2017.

“I am pleased that Mayor Bhalla's administration and SUEZ have agreed to a revised contract that provides critical funding for annual water main investments,” said Mayor Zimmer. “This achievement is the culmination of negotiations begun by my Administration and completed by Mayor Bhalla.  Thank you to the many public servants from both of our Administrations who worked so hard to make this happen.”

The agreement with the City and SUEZ calls for the establishment of a new water utility.  The revenue from the bulk water consumption would then be placed in the new water utility, and the City would then reinvest the majority of the revenue into water main upgrades. The water system would no longer be operated as a private water concession, but instead as a new public water utility. SUEZ would continue to maintain and operate the water system, however all revenues generated from water bills would be invested by the City as opposed to SUEZ.

An average of $2.2 million, over six times the amount required in the current contract, would be invested by the City each year for water main upgrades according to the contract, which includes $1.5 million in proactive upgrades and $700,000 for maintenance and repairs.  Additionally, the contract also includes $2 million in smart leak detection technology, which will record water consumption data in real-time to detect leaks.

Under a contract and several extensions negotiated by a prior administration beginning in 1994, several multi-million upfront payments to the City were used to fill budget deficits and were not invested into infrastructure upgrades. The previous agreement required only $350,000 per year for capital repairs and upgrades, which has been substantially insufficient for even emergency repairs.

Under the terms of the new contract, at least 18% of the City’s water mains will be upgraded by 2034, while the old contract upgraded only 5% of the system from 1994-2017.

In addition to the renegotiated contract with SUEZ, the Bhalla administration and the former Zimmer administration have independently invested over $17 million in water main infrastructure upgrades through the City budgeting process.  This includes $7 million for the complete replacement of century-old water mains along Washington Street and a combined $10 million in water main replacements in identified priority areas. $5.2 million of these replacements will begin construction this summer.

“SUEZ is proud to continue its partnership with the City of Hoboken and to be part of the critical transformation of its water system,” said Chris Riat from SUEZ Water. “Our priority, as well as the City’s, has always been ensuring the safety and reliability of the residents’ drinking water. We look forward to working with the City to modernize Hoboken’s infrastructure for years to come.”

“Our new contract and improved partnership with SUEZ allows Hoboken to reclaim most of our water revenues and self-fund all necessary improvements to our aging water system,” said Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher. “This is a great outcome for Hoboken and I will encourage my City Council colleagues to approve this new contract.”

Councilman Mike DeFusco: Suez agreement is "great first step" for Hoboken

Official release:

Statement from Councilman DeFusco on Hoboken’s Agreement with SUEZ
On Friday morning, Hoboken announced the City has reached an agreement with SUEZ to continue operating the city's water system. The deal will include much-needed investments in the city’s aging water infrastructure, and it stems from the kind of open, direct negotiation that Councilman Mike DeFusco called for between the city and the private water operator last year. At the time, Mayor Ravi Bhalla had threatened a lawsuit against the company, an action that could have destroyed any chance of progress if not for the intervention of the City Council.
Councilman Mike DeFusco issued the following statement:
“Last year our city was on the verge of making a historic mistake in once again jumping into a protracted lawsuit that would only benefit lawyers instead of the residents of Hoboken, by entering into a lawsuit with SUEZ. 
Last summer, I demanded that the Mayor start a dialogue with the company and work towards an agreement that would make the investments in our water infrastructure that are so badly needed. The leadership shown by the City Council, particularly Ruben Ramos and Tiffanie Fisher, rescued our city from a legal battle that would have served no one and allowed us to reach a responsible agreement with SUEZ. This is a great first step to making much-needed investments in our water system, but this is not a silver bullet, it will not entirely fix the century-old problem. We can and need to do more and I look forward to improving infrastructure across Hoboken.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

There's no joy in Mudville

Or Shadowstan.

After taking a second job he promised not to do a mere month into the office of mayor and alienating a good chunk of the Hoboken electorate, Ravi Bhalla finds more troubling discontent behind his shoulder.

The Shadow.

Whether it's due to the politically inept or ignorant climber John Allen running the show or a complete lack of attention or care, the jig is up not two years into a four-year term.

Was buddying up to Carmelo Garcia's bomb thrower and appointing her to a major Hoboken board the last straw?

It didn't help.

The rest of this content is Premium content and will go out to members later today.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

"Great Debate" set for April 15th at Willie McBrides

Official release:

Great Debate: Left Versus Right

The Pulse with Peter B. is proud to announce a one night only special event entitled “The Great Debate: Left versus Right” at Willie McBrides, Monday, April 15 at 7pm. The debate will feature a moderated discussion exploring substantive issues between two of Hoboken's own deep thinkers, Dr. Anthony Petrosino on the left and Joshua Sotomayor Einstein on the right. It will be moderated by the host of The Pulse with Peter B., Peter Biancamano. Topics covered will be economics, immigration, foreign policy and more. Questions from the audience will be taken.

The Pulse with Peter B. is Hoboken's premier local focused show covering sports, restaurant reviews, and political analysis. The half hour program features Biancamano interviewing veteran sports commentators, local food bloggers, and Joshua Sotomayor Einstein for his take on Hoboken focused politics and government analysis. The show has also gone on scene to highlight local events in Hoboken such as Mutz Fest, the Chili Cookoff, the Annual Casino Night of the United Synagogue of Hoboken, Mac and Cheese Fest and more.

Dr. Petrosino, a distinguished professor at University of Texas Austin and former Hoboken School Board Assistant Superintendent, who splits his time between Hoboken and Texas, has received more than 17 million dollars in grants (from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education and the McDonnel Foundation for Cognitive Studies), and has been published in over a half dozen peer review journals, as well as papers and websites. Einstein is the elected NJ GOP State Committeeman representing Hudson County, founding member of the Hudson County Regional Jewish Council, founding member of the Hudson County Young Republicans (re-chartered in 2015), a columnist for the Jewish Standard, contributor to Chicpeajc.com, and is an essayist who has been published in over 18 news sites and papers on Jewish and political topics.

“In our Politics with Peter B. segment each week, we break down local issues that you care about. In “The Great Debate”, we present the community with an important dialogue on national issues. Everyone knows what Einstein can bring; on April 15 we add the always articulate Dr. Anthony Petrosino to the mix. It’s a recipe for a great night exchanging ideas between the left and right in a deep way that we don’t usually see in the media” said Biancamano. 

Councilman Mike DeFusco endorsed by LGBTQ Victory Fund

Official release:

DeFusco Endorsed by LGBTQ Victory Fund for 2019 Council Run
HOBOKEN, N.J. -- Councilman Mike DeFusco has been endorsed by the LGBTQ Victory Fund for his 2019 First Ward Council re-election. The LGBTQ Victory Fund works to change the face and voice of America’s politics while striving for equality by increasing the number of elected officials nationwide who openly identify as LGBTQ.
Councilman DeFusco is the Chairperson of the Hudson County Democratic Organization’s LGBTQ Caucus and will play a key role in helping all 12 municipalities achieve a score of 100 in the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index. He is currently one of only two candidates in New Jersey to be endorsed by Victory Fund for the 2019 election.
“Defending and protecting the rights of all Hoboken residents has been one of my top priorities since taking office,” said Councilman Mike DeFusco. “Whether it be pushing for new energy and new ideas in our local government or advocating for the LGBTQ community, I have always put the best interests of Hoboken above all else. I am proud to receive this important endorsement and look forward to working with the Victory Fund and Hudson County Democratic Organization to continue building a diverse and inclusive party."
Victory Fund is the only national Political Action Committee dedicated to electing LGBTQ individuals to all levels of government. It was founded in 1991 and has since assisted the campaigns of countless successful LGBTQ candidates.
“The LGBTQ Victory Fund is pleased to endorse Mike DeFusco in his re-election bid to the Hoboken City Council,” said Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund. “Councilman DeFusco’s commitment to accountability and smart public policy that addresses the real concerns of constituents makes him the best candidate to represent Hoboken’s First Ward. When Councilman DeFusco wins in November, he will continue to not only be a vital voice and advocate for the LGBTQ community, but for all of Hoboken.”

Monday, April 8, 2019

Grist for the Mill: Ravi Bhalla calls the police on Hoboken woman who wanted to speak to him?

A police incident ensued a week ago Friday when a Hoboken woman seeking to speak to Mayor Ravi Bhalla led to the Hoboken Police  intervening before taking a criminal complaint.

The scene of the complaint occurred far from City Hall at the Hoboken Business Center where Ravi Bhalla was holding a secret meeting sans security detail.

Whispered as "the Ravi incident," the participants include a Hoboken woman in the local business community who was surprised to see Mayor Ravi Bhalla arrive at the building in the secluded southwest corner of town.

An earlier attempt to speak to the mayor by the same woman was reportedly rebuffed last November at City Hall. Both incidents revolve around a family business interest and liquor license in a downtown bar making the news last year.

A knock at a conference room door saw it opened then slammed and locked by Ravi Bhalla who didn't want to have a discussion nor apparently, allow the woman to see who he was meeting. Banging on the door did little to change his mind. In the ensuing melee, the Hoboken police were summoned.

Shortly thereafter, the Hoboken police arrived on the scene. A complaint filed against the woman likely involves at least one Hoboken official. Is it Ravi Bhalla, Business Administrator Stephen Marks or is another city employee's name appearing on the dotted line as the complainant?

On Friday, a request for comment to the mayor's office about the incident received no response. 

Blowback from the failed mayoral appointment of Patricia Waiters to the Hoboken Rent Control & Stabilization Board is deeper than originally thought. Members of the seven-member board were outraged at the utter depravity Ravi Bhalla, a former rent board attorney demonstrated by appointing Hoboken's low brow Rev. Al Sharpton imitator on an important quasi-judicial body. At least one board member threatened to resign if the City Council approved the appointment by resolution.

Four days after Ravi Bhalla appointed Waiters, he withdrew his pending resolution before the City Council meeting sparing Jim Doyle and Emily Jabbour. One of their two votes was needed for the appointment's majority approval.

None of this can be sitting well with former mayor Dawn Zimmer who handed Ravi Bhalla an endorsement and the inside track in the ugly 2017 mayoral election. An angry call is rumored from her husband Stan Grossbard to Ravi Bhalla along the lines of "what the hell are you doing?"

They can't be happy with this and the Ravi-Russo-Waiters alliance being fully exposed. It's making all of them look bad. Hobokenhorse.com reported this and the Ravi-Russo alliance's official birth when former mayor and convicted felon Anthony Russo was welcomed back into the mayor's office the day Ravi Bhalla was sworn into office. It's Hoboken's version of Rosemary's Baby.

Many people in Hoboken's detonated Reform Movement including the three good-government stalwarts on the council: Peter Cunningham, Jen Giattino and Tiffanie Fisher are shaking their heads and might be saying, "We told you so." The only council member of that nine-member body who endorsed Ravi Bhalla for Hoboken mayor in 2017 was Jim Doyle who took a spot on his at-large ticket.

Some Reformers, open-eyed observers and a Horse saw the writing on the wall and said so.

Spring has sprung so hit the donate button on the upper right of the page or forever hold your peace. All of this is further grist for the mill. You want the juice? Well, pony up.

Grist for the Mill is MSV's rumor column but its success makes it the most popular column in all the Mile Square City. Have a tasty carrot for Horsey? Send it to smartyjones@me.com and be assured your confidentiality is protected with MSV's State of NJ Shield Law protections upheld repeatedly in Hudson County Superior Court.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Councilman Mike DeFusco: "Parking, Parks & Pub Crawls"

Official release:
Spring is in the air, and it’s a busy time here in Hoboken so I wanted to update you on several important issues being discussed by the City Council.

Last year, I was proud to vote against the mayor’s citywide parking meter hike, raising prices up to 260% as a way of plugging budget shortfalls.  I said at the time that raising these fees without first modernizing our existing transportation infrastructure, creating more garage spaces, or utilizing technology (like demand based pricing and real-time availability) is a back-door tax which hurts our residents and businesses.  Despite my concerns, the rate increase narrowly passed the City Council 5-4.
When the pricing took effect last month, the community rallied against this ill-conceived plan and we brought about positive change, together.   Thanks to massive opposition from thousands of Hoboken residents and business owners who spoke out against the rate hikes, the mayor acknowledged he made a mistake and called to scale back. Hoboken should be encouraging people to visit, shop and dine in our city and enjoy all it has to offer as opposed to creating even more obstacles for businesses to succeed.  I look forward to working with the mayor to develop and implement holistic solutions to modernizing Hoboken's parking and transportation infrastructure.  To read more on the repeal,  click here. 
On the same day Mayor Bhalla called to repeal the meter increases, he introduced his 2019 budget which not only proposes a sizable tax increase but also that we use the above meter revenue to cover rampant overspending. This budget proposes to raise taxes by nearly $2 million while allocating an additional $1.2 million in anticipated meter revenue to plug other holes in the budget.  Simply put, the mayor is relying on money that didn’t yet exist through questionable parking policy to pay for expenses already made — a buy first, worry later mindset.  Without the anticipated revenues from the meters, our budget is now nearly $3 million deficient and Hoboken taxpayers are being threatened with a significant tax increase.  
Residents should not be forced to pay for this mayor’s spending spree and do not deserve a budget that relies on backdoor taxes and gimmicks to compensate for overspending.
I am calling on Mayor Bhalla to work with the City Council to develop a fair budget with responsible spending cuts, starting with the bloated staff salaries coming from his office, luxury vehicles and contracts to politically connected law firms. These expenses are threatening Hoboken’s middle-class families and it is time for the Mayor to work with the City Council to ensure that we hold the line on taxes and maintain our AA+ credit rating.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Ravi - "I surrender"

Yesterday afternoon, the Ravi Bhalla Administration contacted the City Clerk's office and withdrew its resolution of Patricia Waiters as the mayoral appointment to the Rent Leveling & Stabilization Board.

After four-plus days, the appointment controversy pending council approval was flushed.

Mayor Ravi Bhalla and John Allen, chief face puncher cried, uncle. Ravi said, "I surrender."

Patricia Waiters, of course, showed up at the council and repeated the excuse fed to her blaming the City Council. She was informed the Bhalla Administration pulled her appointment.

John Allen and his fellow face punchers never told her the truth.  One face puncher was overheard in City Hall reportedly saying, "I blame Horse."

Damn right.


There's more to come.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher: 'April happenings'

Official release:

Dear friends and neighbors:
As someone who wants to believe all people are inherently honest, April Fool’s day is crippling to me.  In 1996, reading about the Taco Liberty Bell in the Wall Street Journal I was amazed!  And it wasn’t that long ago that our own Hoboken Girl tried to trick me into believing Taylor Swift was moving into the Hudson Tea (I awoke panicked, as a board member at HTB thinking about all the potential paparazzi…).  Thankfully this year, HMAG’s article on job creation and HobokenGirl’s article on Justin Bieber had specific references to it being April Fool’s.  Phew.
So with that we start April, and hopefully spring, this week with a full agenda of Hoboken features to share with you.  
  • Light It Up Blue for Autism.  Wednesday (4/3) 6-7PM.  Join us as we light City Hall up blue following Autism Awareness day for the entire month of April!  We will be honoring those in our town who have supported our autism community and help make Hoboken even more aware, accepting and supportive to those effected by Autism Spectrum Disorder.
  • Special Meeting of the Hoboken Historic Preservation Commission - Wednesday (4/3) 6-9PM.  At Hoboken Public Library, 500 Park Avenue.  In the aftermath of Super Storm Sandy, the State Historic Preservation Office and HUD gave Hoboken roughly $.25M in grants to update the citywide architectural survey last completed in 1979. Please come and hear about the new survey of over 1600 properties and how it can shape the future of Hoboken. It will also be live streamed on FB.
  • City Council Meeting - Wednesday (4/3) 7PM.  Click for the agenda and to watch online (link appears when the meeting starts).  You can watch live on Facebook as well. Includes the 2nd vote on: the repeal of the recent parking meter rate increases, new laws regulating bar crawls, and a potential new e-scooter program (more about this below).
  • Municipal Budget Hearing - Thursday (4/4) 6PM-9PM.  City Hall.  The 2019 draft budget by the mayor includes a 3% tax levy increase.  Join the City Council as we look for ways to reduce taxes but maintain services.  You can watch live on Facebook as well.  This hearing includes presentations from our City Clerk's Office, our Law Department and our Finance and Administration department which covers the Mayor's office, Constituent Services and our City Engineer (including Washington St. and intersection improvements).  More hearings scheduled next week.
  • Pre-K 3 and Pre-K 4 registration All Week (4/1-4/5).  Click to find all the information you need about registering including what documentation you will need to bring.
  • Shredding Day – Saturday (4/6) 9AM-2PM.  DPW site, Willow & Observer Highway.  Shred your identity to avoid theft.
  • Hoboken Literary Weekend by Little City Books – 4/5-4/7.  For all ages and at various locations throughout the city.  It is the first of its kind and hopefully not the last!  Tickets have been selling out so get yours soon!  I will be away, but one I personally wish I could attend is:  NY Times best-selling author Daniel Pink on Saturday at 4pm at Hoboken High.  Best-selling author of WHEN: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.  (like not sending these newsletters the day of meetings…).   
  • Hilton Hotel Project - For those unaware, the owner of properties adjacent to the Hilton Hotel site filed litigation citing concerns about the validity the negotiated terms of the project.  The project has been delayed as a judge gave a ruling this week that questions whether much of the $4.85M in community givebacks are allowed.  This was the response from the City.  More to come…
  • Our Schools are Bursting At The Seams –This week, the Board of Education had a meeting with parents of children attending Calabro to discuss planned changes that would have Calabro students (and teachers, etc. ) moving to Brandt next year.  The root of these changes are twofold – reduced state level funding and massive increases in school enrollment.  Yes, read that second part again – MASSIVE INCREASES IN SCHOOL ENROLLMENT.  In the face of rising taxes – the draft school budget suggests an increase this year of 5.4% - and significant increases in enrollment at the lower levels, the BOE is suggesting that combining Calabro with Brandt will afford better programming and use of school resources and will allow Calabro to be used for our growing pre-K enrollment.     
At least once every two weeks I have a conversation with someone about their belief that they cannot send their children to our district schools.  And by the time I get done with them touting all the amazing positives, they say to me “I had no idea...”  I will write an entire newsletter in the coming weeks on this topic, but today, the numbers speak for themselves:
  • Since 2011/12 (9 years), enrollment is projected to be up next year by approximately 900 kids (39% total increase, 4% annually) from 2300 to 3200. 
  • Of these, approximately 87% are PreK-2nd grade representing a 71% increase during the same 9 yr period.  
  • This year’s 6th grade is the front of the wave - enrollment this year vs. last year is up 77% in one year from 82 to 145. 
  • TOTAL enrollment in the district schools (pre-K3 to 12th) since last year is up 5% and expected to go up over 13% next year.
There are so many unforeseen implications to this growth that as a small, landlocked community we have to deal with.  And the combination of Calabro and Brant is just the first sign.  More to come…
  • 11th Street Baseball - Just in time for Baseball’s Opening Day last Thursday, Hoboken quietly returned the bases to the 11th street and Washington “baseball diamond” that day. New concrete bases with the original brass numbers.  A little self-promotion – this was not part of the City’s plan.  I pushed for this and worked directly with T&M to ensure we retain this ode to Hoboken history.  And the timing was perfectly coincidental with Opening Day 2019.  
  • Parking Meter Rates – tonight is the second vote on the full repeal of the Dynamic Parking ordinance.  I plan to vote yes on this, but am working with my council colleagues to hopefully come up with a replacement plan that will include some increases that will be supportive to our businesses (incentivizing turnover) but not punitive to our residents.
  • Revitalizing our Businesses - You may have read the Hoboken Reporter’s article on this… “Citywide Special Improvement District floated.” If not, please do.  Next Monday, we are having a stakeholder meeting to present the case for a Special Improvement District in Hoboken.  If you are a commercial property or business owner and are not yet aware of this meeting, please email me for details.  We sent invitations out to over 1600 people.  Since I have been on the City Council I have been pushing for an increased focus on Economic Development in our community.  As a result of significantly underinvestment and focus in this area, we have been watching our businesses close.  I am the City Council representative to the steering committee made up primarily of local property and business owners working together with an advisor who has successfully established over 35 SID’s across the area, including the one we all hear about all the time – Downtown Jersey City.  This is not a done deal yet, but I am so excited about the upcoming meeting to introduce this to the stakeholders in our community.  
E-Scooters - Tonight on the council agenda, there are two items relating to E-Scooters.  The second reading for an ordinance to allow them to be ridden in bike lanes, and a resolution for a pilot (aka trial) program for 300 EScooters at no cost to the city.  I need your feedback on this – my visceral response is a “No”.  Not because I am anti-scooter because I am not.  I see the value in helping to lead toward less cars.  I am leaning ‘no’ because there is absolutely no parallel legislation regarding enforcement and safety and I have concerns about collisions with children on bikes in bike lanes and with pedestrians when they do not stop at a stop sign.  Just google "escooter safety".  That said… this is one of those times when I feel like my opinion may not reflect that of the people I represent.  So please tell me your thoughts.
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”