Monday, December 16, 2019

Horse Sense: Hoboken's holiday gift, a reprieve from the massive NJ Transit Redevelopment

There will be some extra eggnog to enjoy in Hoboken this year. To all my friends!

Partly due to the results in the November election and back room special interest money scrambling, the efforts for total control over local government sought by Mayor Ravi Bhalla and passage for his massive NJ Transit Redevelopment in downtown Hoboken are stifled.

If only for the moment, efforts to begin turning Hoboken into Jersey City's schizophrenic downtown skyline of skyscrapers will recommence in 2020.

Special interest big construction dreams for Hoboken are temporarily on hold as Ravi Bhalla's NJ Transit Redevelopment
did not pass in 2019 and political warring for the special interest money temporarily took center stage.

Prior to the November council ward elections, Ravi Bhalla went full steam ahead without any public notification seeking to repay his big construction special interest pals backing the out-of-scale NJ Transit redevelopment in the downtown rail yards. More than a few eyebrows were raised by that scam on the public.

Warnings here embarrassingly revealed the principal intent was to shove two massive 30-story or so towers into an initially smaller plan seeing extensions rolled out one after another in a far more dense, non-commercial focused plan passed in the City Council back in 2014 under former mayor Dawn Zimmer. The Ravi Bhalla scheme would in the end be bigger and far more dense than the previous versions entertained.

As the warnings here ensued, enough of the public realized supporting Ravi Bhalla's council ticket bid for majority control with his special interest backed candidates and their statewide big construction interests wasn't such a grand idea. His council ticket was then rejected by the voters.

The result led ultimately to the decimation of the hope for a Ravi Bhalla rubber stamp council as Hoboken people realized more was at stake than a mayor who would see two councilwomen thrown out of City Hall who dared step on "his turf" to help a resident unfairly facing eviction at the rent office.

Only former Hoboken Zoning Board member Phil Cohen, who self-funded a major campaign in the fifth ward against two upstart opponents on Ravi Bhalla's council ticket prevailed. Cohen who has voiced opposition to two large out of scale towers downtown will get to vote on the NJ Transit Redevelopment after all.

In addition, Ravi Bhalla's all-out push to leverage the election and his special interests big construction allies saw him bump off Councilman Jim Doyle when the NJ Transit Redevelopment was first coming before the Planning Board. He did so to assure its swift approval, not stop it.

Behind the scenes leading into the November election, Ravi Bhalla's NJ Transit Redevelopment efforts went south. The election pressure from his special interest big construction allies to force capitulation on the City Council failed to see their leverage materialize with passage.

Councilman Peter Cunningham held fast with Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher and City Council President Jen Giattino who refused to see the NJ Transit Redevelopment put up for a vote without adequate public notice on the several iterations repackaged for multiple rollouts.

A rushed public meeting by the Administration and an all out push to erase the last vestiges of Reform and its principles of transparency failed to materialize for Ravi Bhalla on Election Day.

Councilman Mike DeFusco who saw his opponent's resources dry up before Election Day trounced the Bhalla council candidate by a 2-1 margin. Behind the scenes, he's been coaxing the same NJ Transit special interests in support of the redevelopment to get behind him and the shiny object dangled before the public: a European Market at the transit hub downtown.

Ravi Bhalla seeing this, decided it was now time to do a 180 before a rival gets credit and more importantly, the special interest loot he covets and sees as his. He's now against the same NJ Transit Plan he attempted to see passed prior to the November election last month. Another vote disappeared from the agenda at the last council meeting giving DeFusco a holiday case of the sadz.

This is the same NJ Transit Redevelopment Ravi Bhalla sought rushed through the City Council for approval without public awareness or input before the November election. Post election, he doesn't want to see the councilman he fears most in 2021 claim a mantle of credit for its passage.

All of this was foretold here back in 2017 in the ugly squalor of the Hoboken mayoral election and all of it is coming to pass.

None of this means the NJ Transit Redevelopment with its 29-story residential tower slated first for economic "viability" is out of contention. For the moment, Hoboken can take a breath and enjoy the holidays.

You can thank City Council President Jen Giattino for this temporary reprieve. Once the dust settles come January, Hoboken will be back at square one in the bullseye for big special construction interests with some local pols scrambling to get as much of that loot for their political ambitions with it.

You were all warned about this years ago here too.

Merry Christmas!


This Horse Sense editorial is dedicated to all Hoboken voters who didn't buy the Ravi Bhalla Big Lie.