Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Case Against Fifth Ward Council Candidate Phil Cohen

Long-time good government and Reform Activist Kurt Gardiner, a fifth ward resident, offers this guest piece on that ward's local council race.


This is an important election on many levels but the most important issue in my humble opinion is how we develop Hoboken going forward. The two areas that will see the biggest impact are the Northwest Redevelopment area and more importantly, the New Jersey Transit redevelopment downtown by the Railyard. 

As we recently discovered, Stronger Foundations, a pro-development Super PAC Is endorsing four out of the five candidates on Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s council slate. This includes Phil Cohen. Right there Phil should be disqualified as representative of reform and good government; he will vote Ravi all the way, especially on redevelopment which will have a negative impact on Hoboken for years to come.

Phil Cohen

For example, during Phil’s eight-year tenure on the zoning board; there were five votes in 2014 on C or D variances. C or D variances increase density and Phil voted yes for more density in all five cases. Even developer-friendly Mike Defusco only voted yes in three of those instances. Thus, if Phil Cohen is evaluated by his zoning record; one can conclude he'll be a pro-development councilman. Any other explanation is a flat out lie.

Phil Cohen is also quite the divisive candidate despite his campaign assertions he has “a history of helping Hoboken.” In 2017, before Dawn Zimmer’s surprise endorsement of Ravi Bhalla for mayor, we had a united Hoboken Democratic Committee where I also served. Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher had won 65 of the 80 seats in the local election as a Hoboken Democratic Committee leader. In doing so, she had earned the right to be President. Phil Cohen in 2018, unseated Fisher and installed himself as President. What was his basis other than to divide the electorate? How did ousting Tiffanie Fisher help Hoboken? It didn’t but it did help Ravi Bhalla take full control over the group.

Councilman Peter Cunningham has sent out three emails in the last week alone outlining Ravi Bhalla's nefarious developer dealings and mark my words, Phil is behind Ravi every step of the way. That is why Peter Cunningham has gone out of his way to endorse Tim Crowell for fifth ward City Council. Unlike Phil, he won’t knee jerk vote for Ravi’s massive redevelopment plan which is 1) more residential 2) doesn’t guarantee commercial 3) is really open-ended. 

At the Stevens council forum, Phil Cohen said he is "concerned" about the 300-foot towers proposed by Ravi Bhalla and his allies, the Stronger Foundations Super PAC. What he didn't tell the Hoboken public is the same big construction Super PAC endorsed him last month. Phil Cohen's concern ends when Ravi Bhalla tells him to move on and vote yes to satisfy their mutual special interest friends. 

Alternatively, Tim Crowell will vote his conscience which is a lot more than I can say for Phil Cohen. If you want a developer-friendly big construction deal-maker, by all means, vote for Phil Cohen. Otherwise, Vote Tim Crowell for 5th ward City Council. Or come January of 2020, you will be stuck with redevelopment you don’t want and that Hoboken can’t handle.