Thursday, November 28, 2019

A Blessed Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Pupie & me

UPDATE: HobokenHorse can exclusively report the rescheduled sentencing date for Frank "Pupie" Raia in Newark federal court is set for December 3rd at 11:00.

Will this one hold? That's a question for further analysis in premium later Wednesday.


Frank "Pupie" Raia is set to be sentenced.... in December.

This is the fourth change in sentencing for Frank "Pupie" Raia convicted in federal court last July for leading a voter bribery scheme out of his social club on Jefferson St. in the Hoboken 2013 election.

The repeated delays in sentencing are making people nervous.  

A vintage picture of Frank "Pupie" Raia hugging it out on upper Washington St. Parting is such sweet sorrow.
copyright, all rights reserved

This however, is a different story. This is a story about Pupie and a Horse.

The rest of this story is premium content and went out to members late Wednesday.
If for any reason you didn't see yours, please email

Hoboken's Lime e-Scooters are No. 1 - GLOBALLY

The Mile Square City is number one!

According to Lime, the remaining one of two original piloted e-Scooter companies tried in Hoboken; the Mile Square City is atop the list of its client cities globally generating the most ridership.

That's a bold statement for an e-Scooter program in major cities like Miami, Paris and over 100 countries around the world.

The overwhelming majority of Hoboken residents want to preserve the program based on a survey appearing yesterday on the Hudson County View.

With the end of the e-Scooter six month pilot program this month; there's been much noise among some frenzied Hoboken residents seeking the permanent removal of the Lime e-Scooter program.

Pictures of e-Scooters riding or parked a foot or two ajar on the sidewalk and videos of riders slowing making left on red traffic lights among others have become staples on local Twitter and Facebook.

Despite the growing pains and initial problems, however, fully 75% of Hoboken residents surveyed want the e-Scooter program to continue in some fashion with a paltry 25% wanting it permanently ended.

Hoboken recorded over 500,000 trips since late May when the e-Scooter pilot started.

The City Council is examining the issues on the use of Lime e-Scooters targeting a potential relaunch for April 1st next year.

For the complete story, please see the Hudson County View.

This is not a picture in Hoboken of an incorrectly parked Lime e-Scooter. Streets however are for vehicle parking and thoughts of having e-Scooters park there are stupid and should be a non-starter.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher: " eScooters, Big Development, and a sad passing..."

Official release:

Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Updates on two (of many) important, current issues in our community…
There is an important information session on Monday (tomorrow) evening at the Hoboken Terminal where NJ Transit and LCOR, the developer of the Railyards Project, will available to have conversations in small group settings with residents regarding the proposed changes to the 1.4M square foot Hoboken Yard Redevelopment Plan.  Please try to attend.  The open house/information session will be held in the waiting room at Hoboken Terminal from 6:00 until 8:00 pm.  I plan to attend at 7pm (I have an earlier conflict).
Overall the plan has been amended again and will be up for first reading on Dec. 4th.  Councilmembers DeFusco and Falco have indicated the further revised plan will now call for the European Market at Warrington Plaza to be built first and the 312’, 28-story residential tower to now require 20% affordable housing, up from 10%.  IMHO, both fine amendments but they still don’t address the main areas of concern:  that we are adding a massive 28 story residential tower to an area that was targeted to be commercial, that this massive residential tower will now become a bad precedent for Hoboken, that we are also increasing another tower to 300’ or by 50%, that we are not addressing NYWW / UDD at all, and that we do not have language that suggests this project will help fund Rebuild By Design if / when necessary.  
LCOR has said that they “need” to build a residential tower at that location because that is all that can fit on what is now a smaller footprint due to the RBD resist structure.  But maybe if they just waited until the structure is built just two years from now, they can build over it. Worse timing for them, but better outcome for Hoboken.
Of note, when I was at the NJ Senate Hearing last week at Hoboken Terminal regarding NJ Transit one of the issues discussed was proper planning and addressing capacity issues on NJ Transit.  This residential tower will add probably about 500-700 people into our morning public transportation commutes.  It’s as if NJ Transit is just feeding their own problems.  If the building was built as commercial, it would be people coming into Hoboken and not competing for our precious public transportation capacity.  We only have a few locations where commercial is most feasible, and this location is the best.
There is so much more that could be done here if only there was a willingness of our local government to fight more for Hoboken's interests.  Is a European market an interesting amenity and improvement for that area?  Sure.. although I know some local businesses are actually concerned about it taking business away from them.  It would be great to have this discussion.  Is more affordable housing a good thing?  I believe so.  But what is the long term cost to Hoboken by trading away a fundamental tenet of the original plan of not having residential next to our transit hub – one that would have transformed Hoboken and bring much needed tax revenues into our community (and brought a European Market as well)?  
There is no need to rush this through before the end of the year without the proper discussion and defense for what works for Hoboken – other than to meet the timing interests of the developer.  They indicate their contract with NJ Transit ends soon.  What they don’t say is that it has been amended multiple times over the years.  And I personally am not sure why this is a decisive issue for Hoboken – there are probably $250-350M of profit that is up for grabs at this reduced size project.  Someone is definitely going to build there…  
This has been a tumultuous week for eScooters in our area.  After six months operating, our pilot program ended on November 20ththe same day a 16 year old was killed riding a Lime scooter in Elizabeth after only 20 days into their program.  My heart breaks for the family of and those closest to Mr. Gomez.  I have reached out to Elizabeth’s Mayor and Council members offering to meet to share information about our respective programs.  
As I mentioned in my email last week, last Monday the ad-hoc subcommittee formed to address eScooters (and all sharing programs – Bike and Car) met.  Councilmembers Cunningham and DeFusco couldn’t join so Councilwoman Jabbour joined me, Councilman Russo, Director Sharp and his team.  The takeaways were that we decided to work towards April 1st to re-launch a new pilot (may need to rethink this date because I was told AFD probably isn’t the best day to re-launch…).
How we get there:  we meet with all the big, we capitalized e-Scooter companies before the holidays to share the concerns and specific issues about Hoboken and collect information about what the “art of possible” is.  With this we prepare a detailed RFP to be sent by end of January that will incorporate very specific demands to address safety in particular.  These may include things like geo-fencing certain areas and one-way streets, having corrals instead of just leaving anywhere, a system that would put more financial burden on eScooter companies to enforce given our own lack of enforcement resources, and addressing insurance and liability concerns.  And then after we get responses, assuming they are acceptable, the idea is we would choose probably two companies (Jabbour raised valid operational concerns about having more than one) to relaunch with.  The bar will be very high and will have to be met before this comes back to the Council for a vote.  
To those of you who want to see e-Scooters come back, we welcome all input.  But please know that the subcommittee is absolutely aware of the demand and support for e-Scooters.  The best input you could provide is not just telling us how much you like them, but giving us ideas for improving the program so we can incorporate these thoughts into our discussions. 
To those of you who do not want to see e-Scooters come back, please know that the subcommittee is keenly aware of your concerns.  The best input you could provide is no different than above – not just saying you hate them, but ideas you may have that could help address your biggest concerns.  
We may or may not get there but I can tell you we are going to try. And ALL of your input is crucial.  #MOREVOICES
SAD NEWS… For those of you who may not be aware, Hoboken is home to former State Senator and Assemblyman Bernie Kenny and his wife Roberta.  A few days ago, they awoke to the untimely passing of their oldest son Bernard Jr. who at just 36 passed in his sleep.  Bernie has a long history in New Jersey politics and has been a sage for me over the past few years.  I am so sad for his and his family’s loss.  Bernard leaves a sister Allie, a brother Francis and four amazing nieces and nephews.  And as I overheard someone recently say to Roberta, “Bernard had the best parents.” If you knew Bernard, or anyone in the Kenny family, please come to the service for him at Our Lady of Grace tomorrow morning at 11am.  
In Bernie’s own words “I am so proud to treasure him as my forever son and to be his forever father.  He was one of those special people we call a ‘good soul’… Please remember Bernard by heartfully accepting those you love.”
As always, please forward to anyone you think may be interested in receiving this.  And feel free to email me at or call me at 201/208-1674 to discuss what you have read or anything else that is important to you.  Have the best Sunday and hug your kids.  I hope to see you tomorrow night at the Hoboken Terminal.
Hoboken City Council, 2nd Ward
Engage. Inform. Advocate.
“More Voices are Better”
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Friday, November 22, 2019

Funeral service for passing of the son of former NJ State Senator Bernard Kenny

Official release:

Bernard F. Kenny, III 
Memorial Mass 
11:00am, Monday 
November 25
Our Lady Of Grace Church 
400 Willow Ave 
Hoboken NJ

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Councilmembers DeFusco and Falco Secure European Market, 20% Affordable Housing Commitment for Hoboken Railyard

Official release:

After listening to community feedback and working closely with the developers of the proposed Hoboken Railyard project, Councilman Mike DeFusco has secured a plan that guarantees a European-style market will be built during the first phase of construction at the train terminal. Additionally, Councilwoman Vanessa Falco will be introducing an amendment that will designate 20% of all new residential units constructed as part of the project as affordable housing units. These definitive commitments from the developer, if approved by the City Council, will help small businesses grow in Hoboken, encourage makers and creators to invest in the city and help prevent the most vulnerable residents from being priced out of their hometown. 
“Over the past four years, I have brought all stakeholders together to actualize a plan that will bring a world class market to Hoboken Terminal,” said Councilman Mike DeFusco. “Transforming underutilized space at Warrington Plaza will bring innovative new businesses into Hoboken and improve the overall commuting experience for tens of thousands of people everyday. I’m proud that we have made concrete progress to advance this plan to create new jobs, tax revenues and opportunities to push our city forward.” 
“As a proud, lifelong resident of Hoboken, I’ve seen the cost of living skyrocket in our city over the past few years and watched as neighbors have been forced to relocate their families,” said Councilwoman Vanessa Falco. “This is the largest redevelopment plan in our city’s history and it is critical new projects like this bring their fair share of affordable housing units to Hoboken. My priority as a Council representative has always been to address the affordability crisis we are facing and a commitment like this sets the tone for all future development agreements. I’m confident after transparent community conversations, we as a local government will soon adopt a plan that properly rehabilitates and invests in the neighborhood surrounding our terminal.” 
A community meeting regarding the project will be held on November 25 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. in the waiting room of Hoboken Terminal. The amendments will be introduced during the December 4 City Council meeting with a final vote tentatively scheduled for December 18. 

Monday, November 18, 2019

Grist for the Mill: The Eminent Domain Edition

When it comes to thievery, Hoboken is developing a reputation. Back in the day, the word was to avoid the president named streets, seen as opportune locations for a mugging.

These days, it's the snatch and grab antics of the local government, up to its ears brimming with, "That's a nice property you have. Shame if someone took it."

Snatch and grab is making the City of Hoboken famous, or infamous, depending on how you view the local government's thirst for seizing property through eminent domain.

One of the active cases involving Academy Bus in southwest Hoboken found its way as these cases inevitably do to Hudson Superior Court.

The Assignment Judge Peter Bariso is disturbed by the antics of the City of Hoboken in this case. The  judge is also cognizant of the earlier eminent domain case for the Southwest Plaza (park).

To say the judge is not fond of how the City of Hoboken is going about eminent domain would be an understatement.

In a 27 page transcript of the hearing, Judge Bariso is nothing short of scathing about the misleading appraisal brought by the City of Hoboken and less than enamored with its fulfilling a requirement under the eminent domain statute for good faith negotiations with Academy Bus.

In the balance, if not the eventual outcome of eminent domain, the landscape of Hoboken's southwest and many, many millions of dollars.

Previously, Academy Bus saw leaked its offered plan to build a park with a large redevelopment including hundreds of residential apartments and a public school facility at no cost to taxpayers.

The owners were miffed when their negotiating efforts were leaked and misapplied. Their discussions with the mayor's office were miscast even as they conducted them in good faith seeing invites to Hoboken Board of Education trustees as part of a conversation in meetings to build a public school.

Oddly, accusations from Ravibot Central took the opportunity of the public leak to falsely accuse City Council President Jen Giattino and Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher of meeting with Academy Bus and negotiating for the City of Hoboken without consent of the mayor's office. Add that ruse to the pile of legal brouhaha.

The public backfire is rumored to have occurred when former mayor Dawn Zimmer and her husband Stan Grossbard were incensed at the prospect of a development in eye shot of their home which has been up for sale for some time.

Cue the chorus, "What about the children?" The BoE badly needs space for its growing lower grades.

Mayor Ravi Bhalla got an earful of yelling from his predecessor and backed off from considering the Academy Bus redevelopment plan featuring a park and a new school built as community givebacks.

One of the problems Judge Bariso points to is what he clearly sees as an untrustworthy effort by the City of Hoboken in its appraisal process he called "disturbing."

He will conclude at the end of the hearing that the parties should negotiate a fair outcome but if they don't, he's seen enough and will write a legal opinion.

His admonition to the City of Hoboken foreshadows further complications. Of the City of Hoboken's actions to date with Academy Bus, Judge Bariso concludes, "It doesn't pass the smell test."

Take a gander yourself but fair warning, it ain't pretty. In the end, it may cost Hoboken plenty.

More to come.

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 and be assured your confidentiality is protected with MSV's State of NJ Shield Law protections upheld repeatedly in Hudson County Superior Court.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Councilman Peter Cunningham: 'Rail Yards plan now is not what we passed in 2014, it's far bigger and far worse!'

Official release:

Dear Friends and Neighbors, 

Many thanks to all of you who participated in the recent Council elections.  While the Council candidate I endorsed, Tim Crowell, was not successful, I commend him for doing a great job with such short notice and mostly personal funds spent to mount a campaign against a well-funded and known opponent in Phil Cohen.  I also want to recognize the sacrifices all candidates made in putting themselves out there, taking time away from their families to deliver their message to the constituents.  It’s really hard work - I know.  Congratulations to Phil, and I hope he represents the 5th Ward well.

What happens in the near term around big development in Hoboken is critical to the future of our city. There are a lot of upcoming projects including the Rail Yards, SW Hoboken, and North Hoboken.  At last Wednesday’s council meeting, I experienced what may come when upon Councilman Defusco’s request, Council President Giattino pulled the massive out of scale Rail Yard Redevelopment from the agenda.  This was an amendment put forth by the Bhalla Administration that's much larger, and residential heavy, than what we approved in 2014.  Russo made a motion to override, and Russo, Defusco, Falco, Doyle and Jabbour supported hearing the Rail Yard project.  Ramos abstained, and Fisher, Giattino, and I voted no.  Remember, we’ve seen no feasibility, transportation, or shadow studies on this amendment.  Russo, Jabbour and Phil Cohen (along with Bhalla’s council candidates) accepted union contributions in support of the Rail Yard Plan.  Links to the election reports are below.  I am concerned about Phil’s support of big development going forward, and I hope you are too.
Once you launch the above link, you can search by candidate.  Cohen, for instance, has contributions from three different unions listed on page 6.
Once you launch the above link, you will see the team Bhalla contributions.  On page 6, you will see union contributions which I believe are driving big development decisions, and flirting with our local pay to play laws.
These are contributions received after the 2017 elections.  It’s interesting to note Jabbour’s contribution from Local 825.  Operating Engineers Local 825 is strongly behind the Rail Yard Development Project. 

There will be a community forum hosted by the developer, LCOR (not the City) on November 25th at Hoboken Terminal from 6-8pm to discuss the plan amendments.
Beyond my term in office, I assure you I will be watching and reporting on how the new City Council votes on development related matters.  I strongly feel the majority of the Council are beholden to developers and the unions, and as a result, our city and our quality of life will likely suffer. 

Thank you for your support for the past twelve years.  It was and will always be my privilege to serve you.


Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher: 'More on the e-Scooters'

Official release:

Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As I have said before, EScooters were not my issue until two days into our pilot last May when the Lime representative called me and asked how things were going.  I was driving in my car at the time and literally shrieked “How is it possible that there are 11 year olds riding on these scooters?!?!?”  After that discussion, I sent out what would be my first of many newsletters to you informing you about what was going on with the program, and from that point on this became my issue.  Since then I have never strayed from my message:  
We need to work really hard to make this program work for Hoboken, but for it to work it needs to be safe.
That is why a week ago, after joining my Council colleagues Giattino, Cunningham and Russo at lunch with another EScooter company, when Councilman Russo asked if I would join his Parking and Transportation subcommittee (including Cunningham and DeFusco) to tackle how to address the future of EScooters in Hoboken, I said yes.   We have our first scheduled meeting this Monday evening.  Since then, the mayor’s office reached out and asked if we not only would address the longer term plans, but to also make a recommendation to the mayor for the shorter term plan – aka whether or not we support extending the EScooter pilot which currently ends on November 20th.
Ripping the band aid off....I can tell you that I will not support the extension of the existing pilot.  
But… I will continue my work trying to improve the program, now with Councilman Russo, the Council subcommittee, and the administration, and craft both a detailed RFP as well as legislation with the hope that we can have a safe and sustainable program in the future.  I 100% support the idea of having a multi-modal system of transportation in Hoboken.  I have ridden the EScooters and totally get the functionality and convenience.  But also see the safety concerns and risks that need to be better addressed.
Several reasons.
First and foremost because the City of Hoboken has not demonstrated its ability to safely manage this program.  From the onset the administration raced to be the first city in New Jersey to onboard EScooters.  When they first brought it to the Council to vote on the pilot – the Council was promised both education and enforcement plans prior to launch and neither materialized.  Since then, little has been accomplished that was not driven by Council efforts and legislation.   Most notably, we debated who is responsible for this at the original meeting where we approved the pilot – whether it was the EScooter companies or the City – and I feel strongly the City needs to lead this but clearly in partnership with our EScooter providers.  So we need time to put the right framework in place and I think this is possible.
Winter.  Dark, early nights.  Slushy streets.  Snowy sidewalks.  Increased pot holes.  Small wheels.  Bad combination for Hoboken.  I met with Lime who has indicated they have experience in other northern markets, but none like Hoboken with narrow streets and sidewalks and 60,000 pedestrians in one square mile.  I don’t believe Hoboken should be an experiment and especially without having the right safety and enforcement framework in place (see first and foremost above…).
Not enough progress, and not quickly enough.  We banned EScooters from the upper and lower waterfront and our parks two months ago.  And still, Lime has not put geo-fencing technology in place to facilitate this.  I asked for data on ridership along the waterfront (where we saw the most reckless riding), but were not given this.  In both cases EScooter providers were not financially incentivized to accomodate our requests.  In the case of the latter, we moved to put the ban in place along the waterfront and parks.  Don’t get me wrong, I think Lime has made a lot of positive efforts to improve safety and work with the City but at the end of the day, their interests are not aligned enough with ours under our existing contract and we do not have an enforcement or recourse framework to change this.  It is 100% the honor system which is not how a program like this should be managed.       
No effort to obtain injury statistics.  As late as a few weeks ago, the administration still had not yet begun an effort to obtain or centralize information on injuries.  We know people are getting hurt.  Seriously hurt.  We hear about it from many sources.  And we should understand better when, why, how and how serious.  Why?  So we can identify what changes we may need to make to improve safety.  And so the public can be better informed on what the risks are to riding in Hoboken.  Hopefully this is something the Council subcommittee can help tackle.
A needed break to reset terms.  Lime made a critical error when they said that Hoboken is their best market in the world.  They should have kept this as their secret!  Because what that means – and what we are experiencing – is that every other EScooter company out there wants to be in Hoboken.   I have spoken to several and what that really means is that Hoboken has the best chance at getting the best terms – including safety, efficiency, and financial – if we talk to all of them and make this competitive. 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Frank Raia sentencing in voter fraud conspiracy delayed to November 19th

A short reprieve in the sentencing for Frank Raia convicted last July in federal court for directing a 2013 voter bribery conspiracy in Hoboken is rescheduled to November 19th.

The delay in sentencing is the third as he will be joined at the new sentencing date by soldier Dio Braxton who pleaded guilty for his role in voter fraud activities in the same 2013 Hoboken election.

Frank "Pupie" Raia chats with Michelle Russo in this exclusive
2011 photo at a City Council meeting as Dio Braxton (front) looks on.

Hudson County View first published the update on the rescheduled sentencing date and highlighted how Raia was undone by his friends and political associates of his social club on Jefferson Street.

Among those who testified last July against Raia, Matt Calicchio who was a political operative to the former second ward councilwoman Beth Mason, Michael Holmes and Freddie Frazier.

Calicchio earlier pleaded guilty for his role in voter fraud activities in both the 2013 and 2015 election and has seen his sentencing date last September postponed with no rescheduled date announced.

Both Holmes and Frazier testified last summer as cooperative federal witnesses with agreements in lieu of prosecution.

In 2014, a grassroots Reform Movement revolt formed against Raia, long believed involved in massive voter fraud activities involving the Hoboken Housing Authority residents.

 Raia sought another five-year term to his quarter-century service on the North Hudson Sewerage Authority.

 Kurt Gardiner took on City Hall and former mayor Dawn Zimmer who had put up no opposition to Raia, the sole candidate leading into a City Council vote.

Gardiner won the council appointment taking the plumb from Raia and currently is serving the five-year term.

For the complete story, please see the Hudson County View.

Talking Ed Note: Hobokenhorse broke the story of Hoboken voter fraud allegations during the 2010 fourth ward special election and later featured an interview with Raia denying allegations about his role in Hoboken voter fraud.

The 2014 grassroots Reform revolt against Pupie being reappointed to the NHSA was led by a Horse and a Giant.

Related: The 2010 story on swirling allegations on Hoboken voting irregularities at The Observer:

Evidence cited in the Observer story first reported here highlighted "Operation Bounty," a Hoboken good citizen program offering $2,000 for evidence leading to any conviction for voter fraud in Hoboken.

Operation Bounty was co-sponsored by HobokenHorse and the Hoboken Journal, the reform website published by Kurt Gardiner.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

City Council President Jen Giattino: 'Why I removed the NJ Transit Redevelopment Plan'

Official release:

Dear friends and neighbors,
When: Monday, November 25th,
Where: Waiting room at Hoboken Terminal
Time: 6-8pm
NJ Transit and LCOR(the designated developer for the project)will hold an open house/information session in the waiting room at Hoboken Terminal. Representatives from NJ Transit and LCOR, as well as select professional services firms, will be available from 6:00 pm until 8:00 pm to discuss with residents the proposed changes to the Hoboken Yard Redevelopment Plan. All members of the public are invited to attend.

Attached are the following documents:
Memo from Director Brown is attached
This is not a presentation by the City of Hoboken it is by LCOR, the designated developer.
The Planning Board will be reviewing the amended LCOR Redevelopment Plan on Tuesday, Dec. 3. It is their responsibility to determine whether or not the amended plan is consistent with the Master Plan Reexamination
At the November 6th council meeting I had removed the first reading of the Amended LCOR Redevelopment Plan at the request of Councilman DeFusco. Unfortunately, Councilman Russo made a motion to overturn my decision which was seconded by Council DeFusco. The supporting votes were as follows:
This led to the council voting on first reading for the amended plan even though the public had been told it was removed from the agenda. I was disappointed that 5 of my council colleagues felt comfortable with that choice.
Please reach out with any questions and your thoughts on the amended plan.


Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher - More on NJ Transit and LCOR, the developer

Official release:

Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It wouldn’t be Hoboken if we didn’t have a lot going on and a lot of important meetings on a lot of important topics happening.  Please mark your calendar and try to join the following two events:
Tomorrow evening, Wednesday 11/13 from 5-7pm at the Historic Waiting Room of the Hoboken Terminal.  Senate President Steve Sweeney Chairs the bi-partisan Select Committee on New Jersey Transit that is investigating NJ Transit operations and performance.  This committee will be conducting a public hearing at the Hoboken Terminal to collect feedback from NJ Transit commuters.  The hearing will begin at 5pm.  
I spoke with NJ Transit and Senate representatives today they are specifically looking for feedback on ALL forms of NJ Transit transportation – trains, buses and light rail.  So please plan to attend and share any and all of your experiences – good or bad. 
In particular, the senate committee is looking for people to actually testify at the hearing.  I have done this several times and will do so tomorrow night – it just involves signing up on a list and then sitting in the audience until they call your name.  Then you have just 2-3 minutes to share your experience.  It can be as simple as “my train has been cancelled seven times in the last three months” to “I waited 20 minutes and watched 19 126 buses go by without stopping” to “the light rail is amazing!”.  Having an official log allows for a transcript of the hearing to be used for future reference.  All-in my guess is that it might take 15-30 minutes of your time so make this your 15-30 minutes of fame for a great cause! Let me know if you want to join me!  
Other state senators who will be joining are some of the top leadership in the NJ Senate including Senate Majority leader Loretta Weinberg (represents most of Bergen County), Senator Patrick Deignan (Chair of Transportation Subcommittee), Senate Minority Leader Tom KeanSenator Kristin Corrado and Senator Joe Cryan.  Although our State Senator Stack is not on this committee, I have a call in to see if he will be joining and have not yet heard back.
Remember…#morevoicesarealwaysbetter – but if you cannot make it, send me your thoughts tonight and I will try to incorporate in my comments.  
Monday 11/25 from 6-8pm again at the Historic Waiting Room of the Hoboken Terminal.  Representatives from NJ Transit and LCOR, the designated developer for the project, will hold an open house/information session, from 6:00 pm until 8:00 pm to discuss their proposed changes to the Hoboken Yard Redevelopment Plan.  Click on these links for a copy of the comparative memothe traffic study and review letter and the draft amended plan.  Click here for my email on the original plan titled "We Can't Afford To Get This Wrong".
The revised proposal that was passed 6-3 on first reading at the last Council meeting includes the substantive changes listed below:  
  • Affordable Housing: Restores “minimum” language for 10% affordable housing set-aside.  
  • Bulk & Design Requirements: Includes language that provides City control over design, setbacks, etc. – to be addressed in the Redevelopment Agreement and Site Plan application. Requires a shadow study be completed as part of Redevelopment Agreement and Site Plan process.  Minor modification of language regarding the Clock Tower view corridor: removed the word ‘parts’ in reference to Observer Highway.  Limits Multi-Family uses to Site 2 only.
  • Future Potential Development: To address concerns regarding the intent of this section, the name of this district that had included approx. 1M square feet of future buildings has been changed to “RBD/ NJT Constrained Area – No Build Zone”. Buildable square footage references have been eliminated. Uses are limited to open space uses (active or passive park, walking trails, public art space, etc.).
  • Sustainable Design & Flood Resiliency: Replaced “construction of a minimum LEED-certified” with “construction of minimum LEED Silver”.
  • Variance Relief: Removed the language that allowed the Planning Board (instead of the City Council) to grant future variances.
What it doesn't do is reduce the height of site 1 from 300 ft back to 200 ft, nor restore site 2 back to being commercial instead of residential.  
PLEASE REMEMBER…notwithstanding the above, just like the current City Council is considering whether to approve this amendment, so can a future City Council approve any amendment to undo any of these restrictions.  IMHO, what the Council will be considering is changes to a plan that maximizes the profits to the developer today without engaging with us on what makes most sense for Hoboken.  And the developer also retains the right to ask for a better deal on the rest of the site in the future.  
Hoboken spent years and Mayor Zimmer led this effort for the area around the terminal to be built as commercial.  That made sense for Hoboken – to attract commercial tenants to the most attractive commercial area in Hoboken.  I have spoken to a number of real estate advisors who say that that area is very attractive to commercial tenants and should be no problem to lease.  So why not have this conversation today - before its too late?   
The ONLY rush is that LCOR has stated they have a contract deadline in the next couple
of months where they have to show progress or risk losing their role as developer.  

Remember, LCOR does not own the site, they just have the right to develop it.  I am not at all suggesting we don’t develop the site, I am only suggesting we do a little more work with them – the right kind of work like understanding the math around what works best for Hoboken – before we agree to any changes to the plan.  Otherwise, we are just putting the interests of the developer ahead of the interests of Hoboken.  
Remember, the vote was 6-3 to move forward with this plan that was introduced by the administration.  Jen, Peter and I were the only ‘no’ votes. 
I am not sure if you are aware, but it was this project that made me think about running for City Council.  I sat in the audience in late 2014 when the City Council approved the current plan for the Railyards.  You could tell there was a lot of thought put into the plan including putting commercial uses close to the path terminal and residential further away, but it was obvious the city did not have the benefit of as experienced advisors as NJ Transit and LCOR had.  And that is when I thought that maybe my professional background might be helpful to our community.  Since then I have led the effort to ensure that in all real estate negotiations we are not the underdog and are advised by the best advisors so we do not leave anything on the table again.  The Hilton Hotel is a great example - it was our hotel/real estate advisor that reverse-engineered the developer profit model that allowed us to ask for $3+ million in community give backs.  Unfortunately, you have to have a willing government to want to do this, and so far on this iteration of the Railyards project, that willingness doesn't seem to exist.  But I will keep fighting for it and for Hoboken.
As always, please forward to anyone you think may be interested in receiving this.  And feel free to email me at or call me at 201/208-1674 to discuss what you have read or anything else that is important to you.  Please join me tomorrow night!
Hoboken City Council, 2nd Ward
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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Winners & Losers: Picking up the pieces amidst the Ravibot rubble

Some on each side of the ledger will be obvious and some not so obvious.

There's no arguing that Mayor Ravi Bhalla and his infamous cast of FacePunchers are losers, joined by the tarnished fading legacy of former mayor Dawn Zimmer. Whoever thought she'd cast her lot with a council ticket endorsed and underwritten by big development special interest powers across the Soprano State?

It's only the beginning of the bizarre turns and missteps as we map out the new Hoboken political landscape. Oh, it's being remapped as we speak.

Recall earlier the predictions here the Ravi-Russo Alliance was coming to an end with the November election?

One close political observer noted dryly after the polls closed, "Russo booked out of that deal with Ravi faster than the Flash. Who's going to break the news to Emily?"

So, with the dust settling on the aftermath here's the comprehensive list.


Ravi Bhalla - an obvious pick since his council slate was all but slaughtered by Hoboken voters less Phil Cohen who began his run in May and almost ran unopposed due to some early FacePunching with a transparently evil letter sent to Nick Maganuco's employer, a Manhattan-based financial institution.

The Hoboken mayor was big on power and projecting it even without much of any opposition on the City Council which cooperatively passed over 90% of what he wanted other than his 3% tax increase and endless praise for his broken promise out-of-the-gate second job.

Only two months into serving as mayor, Ravi Bhalla held a fundraiser at 10th & Willow declaring war on the City Council (secretly excepting Michael Russo of the Ravi-Russo Alliance) and waging a scorched earth campaign through his first two years against anyone he or his FacePunchers deemed in the way.

Losing four out of five ain't bad? That's the Mendoza line with Ravi Bhalla being offensive without the "silk hands." He overplayed his. Badly. Now, he's stuck with two-years of real checks and balances on a City Council that remains much the same. No rubber stamp for you!

Dawn Zimmer - the former mayor was let out of the attic and almost simultaneously endorsed the Ravi Bhalla council ticket as the powerful big development union PAC, Stronger Foundations. Then she went out targeting Tiffanie Fisher and Jen Giattino with their big development funded opponents claiming the opposite. The tarnish is sure to settle in and leave fading rust. Not the way to end your Reform legacy but she just did.

Migdalia Pagan Milano - on paper it was the most cynical of candidate selections. Plucked out of obscurity working for the mayor's office in the newly formed office of constituent services, the plan to harvest the might of the Ravi-Russo Alliance went horribly wrong. A reliable source claimed almost two weeks out her backing would be cut leaving her with nothing but a pile of big development mailers in her crashing wake. That astounding source proved to be 100% accurate even if it seemed unbelievable at the time. Migs went down faster than the Lusitania and Titanic.

Cristin Cricco-Powell - the darling "me too" candidate where me too meant stealing City Council President Jen Giattino's record and positions on overdevelopment while cynically taking money and online advertising from the same Soprano State big development interests behind Ravi Bhalla. Started off respectful but quickly veered off with negative and quite personal attacks. Sixth ward residents quoted they were told Jen Giattino was backing the Monarch Project uptown. Even Dawn Zimmer got into the act but all the negative campaigning failed. Solution-focused at the council forum, Cristin Cricco-Powell has a big future as US Senator of Austin, Oakland, and Portland. Don't tell her that's not viable. She deserves it or at least a Reality TV show facsimile.

Ravi Bhalla FacePunchers - these overpaid tone-deaf numbskulls in the mayor's office believed arrogance over competence would carry the day. If they spent half their time thinking how to make Hoboken better and focus on service they wouldn't be updating their resumes and begging HudCo powers for jobs. If John Allen escapes, who will run the day-to-day operations? Running race-baiting operations out of the mayor's office against the City Council wasn't a good look.

Councilman Jim Doyle - he saw his name penned in political operative narratives backing people he'll never have a beer with discussing policy let alone endorse. At least this time there won't be another special interest TV commercial attacking him after he was the lone vote against the Hilton Hotel. His continuing hell will be suffering two more years on the City Council as Hoboken activists keep asking, "who saved the non-transparent NJ Transit Redevelopment Plan?" Raise your hand Jim and suffer the indignity with that day after the election vote that will live in infamy.

Stan Grossbard - an insider architect of negative campaigning inside the Ravi Bhalla eternal campaign, he was convinced more Big Lies, smearing and attacks would produce the same result as in 2017. There wasn't a quick fix terror flyer available this time. Karma is a you know what?

Councilwoman Emily Jabbour - who will commiserate with her at City Council meetings when plans go awry? Michael Russo won't be fulfilling that role anymore.

Ravibots - All self-righteous attitude without the good government policy, they thought the mantle of Reform would stick no matter the growing turds of hypocrisy from the boss. They kept bragging to each other in their bubble how they were going to lay waste and destroy everyone in their cult of personality leader's path. There are two full years of crow eating. Start chowing down and enjoy the view of Ravi Bhalla NJ Transit towers with it.


Councilman Mike DeFusco - Whether you like to hear the words "European markets" or not, you're going to hear it a lot more. He was the top target of Ravi Bhalla yet the mayor's campaign unplugged efforts against him to invest in all-out attacks in the second and sixth wards against Tiffanie Fisher and Jen Giattino. They're scared to death of DeFusco competing for the big outside special interest money and his never-say-die Terminator attitude on the campaign trail. He's already running joined by Michael Russo as they begin their respective efforts for Soprano State funds and the mayor's chair.

Councilwoman Jen Giattino - being in the heart of Hoboken, her good government light was a beacon Ravi Bhalla and his cohorts badly wanted to see extinguished. She grew her vote totals from 2015 and showed she was willing to take on all comers and boy did they come. Ravi Bhalla, his wife, Dawn Zimmer, and even a former NHSA commissioner went out knocking on doors throughout the sixth ward, all for naught. Redemption tastes all the sweeter and came with hard work, moxie, and guts. Giattino won by about 10 points pulling away and proved she has it in spades.

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher - her good-natured policy wonk style was challenged unlike in her 2015 election. After Giattino, she was the top target of the mayor's office. Everything and the kitchen sink was thrown against her. High-priced out of town political communications gurus, the most campaign mailers against in any council ward race (six) and Ravi Bhalla spending inordinate amounts of time repeatedly going through buildings even illegally into the Hudson Tea.  Some low-information voters bought into the attacks but she countered with strong factual campaign efforts of her own and won the day with over 1,000 votes adding the provisionals. Policy leadership is her next challenge.

Councilman Ruben Ramos - he won re-election easily but the shocker of it all is he also reportedly won the 4-2, the home of Dawn Zimmer and her base of support in the fourth ward. Did she forget to make an effort in her own backyard? Ramos didn't and will play a big role in shaping development in Hoboken as a result.

Phil Cohen - he lucked out when Councilman Peter Cunningham announced he would be retiring from public life after 12 years on the City Council. Getting an early start in May with campaign funds crushing his two opponents combined gave him the lift to narrowly avoid a runoff. He may luck out again if the City Council approves Ravi Bhalla's NJ Transit Redevelopment plan before he takes office in January. Will he publicly voice concerns and push to make changes prior? Wait and see.

Nora DeBenedetto - she received all the Old Hoboken vote and was the beneficiary of a massive financial effort on her behalf by the mayor's office generating a bigger vote against Tiffanie Fisher then in 2015. It doesn't matter that Dawn Zimmer didn't know who she was; that's how proxy wars are conducted. Those collective efforts failed against a hard-working councilwoman/opponent. Nothing to be ashamed about in trying.

Councilwoman Vanessa Falco - showed some loyalty to the head of her ticket getting out the vote for Mike DeFusco on election day. Her focus on affordable housing sees an advocated boost as a result.

Hoboken residents - enough showed they were not sleep-walking and were immune to the Big Lies platform out of the mayor's office. It's short-lived as they are immediately thrust into the challenge facing down the Bhalla-pushed NJ Transit Redevelopment. Victory may be short and trumped quickly by City Hall cynicism, ambition, and statewide development interests. Time to pick up the pieces and act before it's too late.


Monday, November 11, 2019

Sign of the Times: Veterans Day in Hoboken

A beautiful sunny fall day served as the perfect backdrop to the Veterans Day ceremonies in Hoboken at Elysian Park today.

In attendance with dozens of members of the public, Mayor Ravi Bhalla, Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro, Freeholder Anthony Romano, City Council President Jen Giattino, Councilmembers Peter Cunningham, Jim Doyle, Tiffanie Fisher, Emily Jabbour, and BoE trustee Melanie Terkirian.

John Carey who managed the ceremonies acknowledged the elected officials in attendance offering superb comic relief saying of their presence, "You're all covered."

The ceremony included prayer and concluded with a recorded rendition of Taps by Asst. City Clerk Jerry Lore.

Veteran John Carey (l) with Mark Villamar and US Veterans at Hoboken's Veterans Day ceremony in Elysian Park

Hoboken Honor Guard flanked the Veteran's Day ceremony 

Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro, Mayor Ravi Bhalla, and Freeholder Anthony Romano

City Clerk and US Veteran Jimmy Farina stands abreast of the Hoboken Honor Guard

Some of the dozens of Hoboken residents in attendance at the Veterans Day ceremony in Elysian Park.

Among many Hoboken US Veterans in attendance, former Hoboken Fire Chief Richard Tremitiedi (2nd from left)

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Councilwoman Jen Giattino: Join us at 11:00 Monday at Elysian Park to honor our Veterans

Official release:

Dear friends and neighbors,

Please join me tomorrow at 11am in Elysian Park to support our Veterans!

In 1919, President Wilson commemorated the first Armistice Day with these words:
“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”

After World War II and the Korean War, Congress recognized a need to expand the meaning of the day to recognize all of our Veterans and not just those of World War I.

Tomorrow is a day to thank and show our appreciation for all that have served our Country. Looking forward to joining you in supporting our Veterans at Elysian Park. 


Thursday, November 7, 2019

NJ Transit Sneak Attack! Ravi-Russo-DeFusco resuscitate vote for massive NJT redevelopment!


In a sleight of hand, it's off, no, it's back on the council agenda, the massive Ravi Bhalla NJ Transit Redevelopment returned and suddenly found its way back for a vote following Tuesday's council elections.

The massive two-phased plan slated with a 29-story residential tower downtown made a magical reappearance on the council agenda last night courtesy of a big special interest behind-the-scenes push.

The NJ Transit Redevelopment wasn't on the agenda and would require a council majority vote to overturn the ruling of the chair, City Council President Jen Giattino, who refused to insert it on to the Wednesday council agenda.

While a weary Hoboken public looked elsewhere, the five needed votes to insert the agenda item appeared like Japanese zeroes falling out of the sky at Pearl Harbor.

Council members Mike DeFusco and Michael Russo led the sneak attack against the public forcing a vote to overturn Giattino, winning 5-3-1.

Joining in the banzai Tora! Tora! Tora! attack: council members Vanessa Falco, Emily Jabbour, and Jim Doyle.

Voting to keep the Ravi Bhalla NJ Transit Redevelopment off the agenda for any vote: City Council President Jen Giattino, Councilman Peter Cunningham and Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher. Councilman Ruben Ramos abstained.

Et tu Jim Doyle? Yes, that's no typo, Councilman Jim Doyle voted to overturn Council President Jen Giattino with
Emily Jabbour to put up a vote on the massive "no study" Ravi Bhalla NJT Redevelopment.

The succeeding vote to approve the massive redevelopment on first reading never seeing any economic/feasibility study, traffic or shadow study then sailed through on a 6-3 vote.

The three council members opposing the Ram-It-Through Ravi NJT Redevelopment vote: City Council President Jen Giattino, Peter Cunningham and Tiffanie Fisher. (Yes, the good government trio standing up once again for Hoboken.)

Mayor Ravi Bhalla coming off a crushing defeat of his council ticket on Tuesday has immediately jumped back into the fray to stake out his claim to big development campaign monies.

Once again, no Nixle notification, nor alert to the Hoboken Railyards Task Force so the public could not show up and voice opposition in the public portion.

With the two successful votes and backroom big development pressure reemerging leading into the council meeting, Ravi Bhalla is officially competing with both Mike DeFusco and Michael Russo for the big development monies about to pour in and define the 2021 mayoral campaign.

Hey, I didn't know Jim Doyle and Emily Jabour could fly big development Zero fighters?

Talking Ed Note: The Ravi Bhalla Administration is planning to schedule a public hearing for the massive plan during the week of Thanksgiving ensuring Hoboken residents are distracted and busy with travel and holiday plans.

The final vote is expected to be on the council agenda at the December 4th meeting.

The fight for special interest money is on and Ravi Bhalla wants first dibs.

Now, tell me again who is good government reform and who is for big development - special interests?

The Ravi smear mailers on the last campaign against Jen Giattino and Tiffanie Fisher aren't even dry and the big development sellouts are back showing their true colors.

All that's left is for Ravi Bhalla to undo the 2011 pay-to-play ordinance and see the big Soprano State big development loot roll into his coffers.

I warned ya.