Monday, March 16, 2020

City: Case No. 5 confirmed

Official release:

Agency Logo
Monday March 16, 2020, 6:51 PM

City of Hoboken, NJ

Advisory: Communication from Mayor Bhalla to residents regarding COVID-19 updates in Hoboken

Below is a message from Mayor Bhalla to the Hoboken public regarding COVID-19 updates: 

I want to first reiterate my thanks to Hoboken residents for your understanding during these past few weeks. As a City, we are taking every precaution to keep Hoboken residents safe and healthy to the greatest extent possible. While our day to day lives have changed for the near future, the fighting spirit of our community, and the kindness and empathy I’ve seen demonstrated on a daily basis is what makes our community special. Together, we’ll get through these challenging times.

Fifth positive case of COVID-19 in Hoboken

We unfortunately have another positive confirmed case of COVID-19, a male in his late 20s. The individual has self-isolated at home, but is expected to make a full recovery. As in previous cases, the Hoboken Health Department is conducting an ongoing investigation to help develop a timeline and is contacting individuals that may have come into contact with him, who will be asked to self-quarantine. We keep him, and the other four individuals confirmed to have COVID-19, in our thoughts and wish them a speedy recovery.

Advocating for federal assistance for our small businesses and employees

Undoubtedly, our businesses and employees are going through major hardship, and that is not lost upon me. They make up the backbone of our City, and they need our help. On the local level, a simple way you can help – buy a gift card online. This is a something tangible that you can do now while advancing our policy of social distancing, and use after this crisis.

On a federal level, I today strongly urged bi-partisan federal action through an additional relief bill to help our small businesses and employees, in a letter to Senator Booker, Senator Menendez, and Congressman Sires. All three are strong advocates for New Jersey, and I know they’ll do everything possible to provide relief through a third legislative package.

Updates to Hoboken rules and regulations from this weekend due to prevent the spread of COVID-19, with Governor Murphy’s directive today:

To provide you with some of the most up to date information, earlier today, Governor Phil Murphy issued a directive that included several new regulations, and some that mirrored our policies and procedures Hoboken has previously adopted. Here is what you need to know:

All non-essential businesses are now ordered to be closed at 8:00 pm: Governor Murphy’s directive, issued only hours ago, calls for every type of non-essential business to close at 8:00 pm. The only types of businesses permitted to stay open after 8:00 pm are essential businesses, including groceries, pharmacies, medical facilities, banks, bodegas, and supermarkets. This is a new regulation, and according to the Governor’s office, goes into effect tonight.

All bars and restaurants are take-out and delivery only: Governor Murphy is now implementing this policy state-wide, that we issued on Saturday. As previously announced, all bars and restaurants are now not permitted to serve food within a restaurant and must provide take-out or delivery service, only. One important clarification issued by the Governor is that restaurants are permitted to sell take-out alcohol with food, if they choose to do so. If alcohol is sold, it must be sealed in its original packaging.

All gyms, health clubs, day cares, movie theatres, playgrounds, recreation centers and ballfields closed: These regulations previously issued by Hoboken last week remain in effect.

City Hall as phone call or email only: This regulation we issued on Friday remains in effect.

10 pm curfew still in effect: The curfew we instituted over the weekend, which begins tonight (Monday) remains in effect. Governor Murphy’s communication to my office this afternoon indicated that the state is suggesting an 8:00 pm – 5:00 am travel restriction beginning tonight. The actual curfew will begin at 10:00 pm through 5 am in Hoboken, with the exception of work or emergencies. This is not to punish anyone who for example may be walking their dog, but simply to discourage large gatherings in the evening hours. We ask residents to abide by this regulation to the greatest extent possible.

Understandably, there have been a number of questions and concerns from residents regarding various City directives, and several other topics related to COVID-19. I’ve received a number of them myself, and I’m trying to personally respond to all of them to the best that I can. I encourage residents to utilize the two COVID-19 hotlines that are being answered by our Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), from 9 am to 8 pm on a daily basis.

The hotline for general COVID-19 issues pertaining to Hoboken: 201-420-5620

The hotline for seniors needing assistance: 201-420-5626

While there will certainly be more communications in the days and weeks ahead, I want to once again thank all residents for doing everything they can to practice social distancing. I’m extremely thankful for all of our first responders, medical professionals, Health Department, our business owners, City Council President Giattino for serving as a liaison to the Council, CERT volunteers and schools, all cleaning staff in every part of the City, and more as we continue to keep our residents safe.

Sincerely,

Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla

NJ Governor Phil Murphy rolls out the National Guard

This is not a drill. As the New Jersey numbers of the novel coronavirus officially hit triple digits in New Jersey; Governor Murphy is calling out the National Guard who he says will "assist in our efforts in anyway necessary."

The spreading coronavirus, originating under the auspices of the Chinese Communists who covered it up since the first case mid-November is the new reality as tougher measures are going into effect.



See NJ.com for the story.

Talking Ed Note: Does that comment about the National Guard sound somewhat ominous? 


Canada reversed its position Friday and followed with a similar announcement of its own

France and its orders to stay home was breached as good weather tempted people to go out

Italy reported a massive increase in infections with almost 4,000 new cases and almost 400 deaths in a 24 hour period. They are not seeing much of any support from their EU partners.

Does anyone know if either of the top Democrat candidates reversed and announced willingness to finally support  the travel restrictions set early this year by President Trump saving many American lives?

Joe Biden continues to criticize President Trump's travel restrictions saying it will not stop but only "slow" it. Well, duh. It's so hard to let go of the political mantra this is a "war against immigrants" as Senator Chuck Schumer tweeted: 



Meanwhile, the Chinese Communist government under fire for its clampdown on the residents of Hong Kong only months back is on a propaganda push to stop any negative reference to its actions that launched the pandemic. 

Red China is blaming the US for their coronavirus and how quickly the brave protestors of Hong Kong are forgotten.

Comrades-in-arms are leading the way paying off the WHO and Western media flacks praising China for its efforts and decrying critics as "racist." 

How's that globalism working out? 

Hoboken Police Chief Ken Ferrante to speak on the challenge to law enforcement today

Hoboken Police Chief Ken Ferrante announced on Twitter this am:

The appearance is one among others set for Fox News America's Newsroom:

Yesterday, Mayor Ravi Bhalla appeared on CNN discussing the curfew set to go into effect tonight in Hoboken at 10 pm. He reiterated the call based on safety reasons.

Note: The appearance is rescheduled to tomorrow.

Councilwoman Jen Giattino: "Coronavirus Information"

Official release:

 
 
 
Dear friends and neighbors,
 
In an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus the following measures have been taken:

Closed
Schools
Daycares
Health Clubs
Playgrounds
Recreational Fields
Bars
*Restaurants will only be providing delivery and takeout service
 
A curfew from 10pm to 5am for Hoboken is in place.
 
We are a tightknit, strong community. We all need to do whatever we can to support our local businesses and restaurants. Order in if possible. Buy gift cards. If you are now working from home and can, continue using local services that you normally use such as housecleaners, babysitters, dog walkers. If you don't need the services but can continue to pay them this could be the difference in their economic survival, so please consider doing what you can.
 
What to do if you or a household member has been in contact with a confirmed coronavirus case or is experiencing symptoms from the virus:
 
1. Contact your physician
2. Call the Health Department 201-420-2012. You will get a voicemail but your call will be returned.
3. Self-quarantine.
 
Helpful numbers:
COVID-19 hotline is 201-420-5620
Seniors requesting assistance is 201-420-5625
 
Distribution for free and reduced lunches for students click here
 
I am periodically updating my FB page with information.
 
As always please reach out with any questions, ideas, thoughts.
 
Stay Healthy!

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher: 'How to Help Yourself and Others'

Official release:

Dear friends and neighbors,
As you probably have seen, one of our Hoboken neighbors has tested positive for coronavirus.  The man has been at home, quarantined, has minor symptoms and most importantly, is expected to make a full recovery.  His case is being monitored by all relevant authorities, including Hoboken’s Health Department, to minimize exposure to others.  I don’t think anyone is surprised and most of us felt this was a when, not an if.  
The City has sent out multiple emails this week about their efforts, important contact information if you or anyone you know feels they may be exposed to the virus, as well guidance on what you can do to make a difference.  
  • If you feel you were exposed to the virus and/or have symptoms, see your primary care physician first.  You can also call the Hoboken Health Department at 201-420-2000 ext. 5211.
  • Wash your hands often, sanitize active areas often, keep a safe distance apart from others (6 ft recommended), and exercise common sense. 
  • Check in on anyone who is vulnerable in your life or community and reach out to the Hoboken Health Department if you think they need assistance.
Here are links to the correspondence to date (most recent at the top) if you did not get a chance to read them previously:
HELPING OTHERS
Many of you have asked how you can help our more vulnerable neighbors – our seniors, our homeless, those who may have food and housing insecurities already and those who have health issues.  The simple answer, after spending the better part of yesterday speaking with representatives from the many agencies/groups in Hoboken who are and/or will be providing services to those in most need, is that our OEM director is recommending a centralized effort to minimize individual interactions.  
Although not yet set up, Director Leo Pellegrini, Health and Human Services, will be coordinating this effort that will be ultimately led by Hoboken’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).  Once it is, there will be an opportunity for all members of our community to get involved and help and the City and CERT will provide information on how to do so.  Although this will immediately target our six senior buildings, I have asked that we include a way to identify, track and support seniors in our community who live in other buildings as well.
For now, overall I got the following feedback from the various people I spoke to about their most current efforts as it relates to their seniors is they are generally doing well:
  • Mark Recko, Hoboken Housing Authority Executive Director – extra cleaning and sanitizing in the three senior and disabled buildings, flyers provided at each door to all residents of these buildings in Spanish and in English with pertinent contact information and safety guidance.
  • Brian Onieal, Hoboken CERT Captain – outreach to all six senior buildings (including HHA), providing flyers/fact sheets at each door with pertinent contact info and safety guidance (attached).  Major concerns raised are more economic relating to the stock market effect on their retirement funds. 
  • Tom Foley, Senior Services Department Head – all activities cancelled at the multi service center, but his team is reaching out and checking in on Seniors who usually attend, and medical van services still available. 
  • John Carey, Commander of American Legion Post 107 – actively checking in with their six residents and all members of the post.  Have a lot of younger members who are providing support and so far so good.
  • Columbian Towers, Columbian Arms and Marion Towers – I have heard indirectly that management in all cases have been doing extra cleaning and sanitizing at these senior buildings.
In the interim, WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY IS reach out to those in your personal community – your block, your floor, your neighborhood – who you feel may need some support.  Offer to shop for them, pick up a prescription, or just make sure they are doing ok.  Create a shopping or meal train amongst your neighbors, exercising specific care to minimize individual exposure.  I have spoken with two friends who are seniors (in age only) who were taking precautions and not really leaving their home unless necessary and they welcomed my offers to help.  
Also, all agencies that will be helping to support our more vulnerable need donations and contributions:
      
We all are adjusting our lives to coronavirus.  I personally go back and forth – is this really as bad as the media is making it out to be? Our own Hoboken case makes it feel close and the recent announcement that Tom Hanks and his wife have put a real face and reach on it.  But what I think is most important is always, and especially in a time if stress, being respectful of other’s views – everyone has their own reality as they process how the threat of this virus may impact their own lives. Mine was and still is concern about my mother who is 75 and as you know had recent lung and heart related issues.  And this now extends to being concerned about interacting with anyone I know who may be most vulnerable due to age or existing health.  
I am so inspired, but not surprised, to hear from many of you and see on social media your interest in helping others in our community who may need it during this crisis.  I have been asked a couple of times over the years what is the one word I would use to describe Hoboken.  And each time I have answered: Community.  Our Hoboken community is unlike any other, especially in a time of stress or disruption.  There is none better.
If you, or if you know anyone who might need anything during this time, please do not hesitate to reach out to me and I will do my best to help. As always, please forward to anyone you think may be interested in receiving this.  Feel free to email me at hoboken2nd@gmail.com or call me at 201-208-1674 to discuss what you have read or anything else that is important to you.   
TiffanieFisher
Hoboken City Council, 2nd Ward
Engage. Inform. Advocate.
“More Voices are Better”

Councilman Phil Cohen - community updates

Official release:

Please note this release from Councilman Phil Cohen came on Friday prior to additional City of Hoboken actions handling the current emergency situation.

 
Dear Neighbors,

There’s a lot of news and updates to share. I try to be concise, but I include more details here than usual on important issues like the Coronavirus and our budget, so thanks for hanging in there with me. 

Coronavirus Update
As of March 12th, the Hoboken Office of Emergency Management declared a state of emergency in Hoboken due to the Coronavirus. All non-essential City-run events and meetings are canceled until further notice; all City-run recreation programs are canceled; and the Hoboken Public School District and the Hoboken Charter Schools (Elysian, HoLa, and Hoboken Charter) will close on Monday, March 16 for two weeks.
Hoboken continues to closely monitor the latest developments regarding the Coronavirus to keep the public informed. Over the past days, Mayor Bhalla’s office and the City Health Department have been in close contact with Governor Murphy’s office and the New Jersey Department of Health receiving regular updates. Also, the City has formed a Coronavirus task force consisting of members of the Hoboken Health Department, Hoboken Police Department, Hoboken Fire Department, Office of Emergency Management, Hoboken Volunteer Ambulance Corps, the Hoboken Public School District, Stevens Institute of Technology, and the Mayor’s office. 
According to the New Jersey Department of Health, the best thing residents can do is to stay home if you are sick. Symptoms of the Coronavirus could include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, which could appear in as few as two days or up to 14 days after exposure.
The following steps recommended by the NJ Department of Health to prevent the spread of the flu and the common cold, which can also help prevent the Coronavirus:
-Wash hands often with soap and water. If not available, use hand sanitizer
-Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
-Avoid contact with people who are sick
-Stay home while you are sick and avoid contact with others
-Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing
-Receive a seasonal flu vaccine (while the vaccine can’t necessarily prevent the Coronavirus, it can minimize the number of residents with flu-like symptoms)
-Review and follow all of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) travel advisories when planning travel. If you become ill after returning home, call your healthcare provider before going to a doctor’s office or emergency department of a hospital.
You can read more about Hoboken’s response to the Coronavirus here as well as the declaration of a state of emergency here.  You can also follow me here on Facebook and Twitter as I am sharing current information and links to resources on this public health issue that merits everyone’s careful attention. 
$14 Million in FEMA Grants for Our Northwest Resiliency Park
February 24 was a great day for Hoboken and the 5th Ward! 
Senator Menendez and Mayor Bhalla announced we are receiving 14 million dollars in FEMA grants to help finance the 5th Ward’s 5-acre Northwest Resiliency park — presently under construction — protecting us from chronic flooding and making our lives better every day with beautiful recreational facilities and passive green spaces — and no impact on our municipal budget!
When complete, our Northwest Resiliency Park will be a national model for combating climate change and stronger, wetter storm events. With an underground water detention system holding nearly 2 million gallons of stormwater, our park will reduce sewer overflow events in Northwest Hoboken from 4 times a month to 4 times a year – a 90% decrease! Combined with amenities including a multi-purpose athletic field, landscaped green spaces, an ice skating rink, playground equipment and more, Hoboken’s biggest park will provide game-changing quality-of-life improvements for the residents of the 5th Ward and all of Hoboken.
Congratulations to Mayor Bhalla and his hard-working directors, especially Director Jennifer Gonzalez and Director Caleb Stratton for their tireless work culminating in securing these extremely competitive grants. Thanks to our Federal, State and County partners, especially Senator Menendez, NHSA Director Wolff and our NHSA commissioners, and County Executive DeGise, without whose assistance, neither this park nor the FEMA grants would be possible. Finally, thanks to Mayor Zimmer for her vision and determination that led to the acquisition and creation of this park. 
You can learn more about the FEMA grant awards here!

Carryout Plastic Bag and Styrofoam Ban
Hoboken is a national leader in environmental sustainability.  As of March 8th, the City has officially banned ALL commercial use of styrofoam containers and carry-out plastic bags. The updated bag ban has been implemented as a part of Hoboken’s Climate Action Plan. You can read about the action plan here
Ban on All Carry-out Plastic Bags
• All carry-out plastic bags, including “reusable” plastic bags, are prohibited at all retail and food establishments as of March 8, 2020. 
• Retail and food establishments must still make paper bags available to customers for a fee of 10-25 cents per bag. All proceeds from the fee will continue to be collected by the retail or food establishment to offset the costs of the paper bags.
• The following plastic bags are still permitted with no fee: produce bags; product bags (packaging); bags for frozen foods, meat, fish, flowers, plants, or baked goods; pharmacy prescription bags; newspaper bags; laundry or dry-cleaning bags and packages of multiple bags, including pet waste bags.
Styrofoam Ban
• Single-use products made with expanded polystyrene (EPS), commonly known as styrofoam, will no longer be permitted for sale at retail or food establishments in Hoboken as of March 8, 2020.
• Single-use products that consist of EPS including cups, containers, lids, closures, trays, plates, utensils, napkins and more will no longer be permitted for sale at retail or food establishments.
Read more about the ban here
 
Holding the Line on Taxes In a Challenging Fiscal Year
I have been appointed to six Council Subcommittees: Rebuild by Design (which I Chair); Zoning; North End Redevelopment; Environmental Services; Public Safety; and (most relevant for the purposes of this newsletter) Budget and Finance, which is responsible for working on the introduction and consideration of Mayor Bhalla’s municipal budget for Calendar Year (CY) 2020. 
 
Over the last 10 years, Hoboken has held the line on taxes, while our Hudson County tax rates have doubled. However, shortly after I was sworn in, I learned that 2020 will be a particularly challenging fiscal year for the City. The unfortunate reality is that we will have a tougher than a normal municipal budget year due mainly to rising fixed costs. 

Projected Calendar Year 2020 Shortfall
The day after I was sworn into office, I learned of an anticipated $7.4 million shortfall in Hoboken’s Calendar Year (CY) 2020 budget. This $7.4 million shortfall is based largely on the following factors:
-A 7.3% projected increase in employee medical benefits costs for City employees
-A mandated pension bill from the State of New Jersey for 2020 that is almost $600,000 higher than the City’s bill for 2019. 
-Newly negotiated union contracts have added a $3.5 million difference from the previous expired contracts. 
-Increased premiums from the State’s Joint Insurance Fund; reduced fines and fees from our Municipal Court; increase in solid waste disposal costs; revenue shortfalls from investments; and increased expenses for parking enforcement.  
 
The Budget and Finance Subcommittee has been very active, scheduling weekly meetings since mid-January with members of the Administration and working on plans for receiving a proposed budget from the City. You can read Mayor Bhalla’s statement addressing our municipal budget here
 
79 Lay-off Notices to Municipal Employees and March 4th Council Meeting
On February 28, consistent with December 2019 RIF notices issued to our 6 municipal unions, 79 municipal employees received lay-off notices indicating that they could lose their jobs in May, depending upon the state of ongoing labor negotiations.  In response, many City employees and their supporters came to our Council meeting last Wednesday night, sharing their personal stories about the incredible commitment they have dedicated to our community over the years and the stress and anxiety that they are dealing with as a result of receiving the lay-off notices. The City has described the need to follow-through with all 79 layoffs as a “worst-case scenario” contingent on the outcome of ongoing labor negotiations with our unions. 
I appreciate all our city workers and was moved by what I heard in Council chambers. I also appreciate the many friends, family members and supporters of our municipal employees who spoke on their behalf. I am hopeful that continuing good faith negotiations between the City’s municipal unions and Mayor Bhalla’s Administration will achieve significant cost savings and save many jobs that are on the line and, along with newly identified revenue sources, address the significant anticipated CY 2020 budget shortfall.  
At our last Council meeting, the unions and the Administration seemed to agree in principle that health care insurance savings in the millions of dollars could be realized by moving our employees to a State employee insurance program, rather than a self-insured insurance program. The Council unanimously encouraged the parties to resume negotiating to explore this potential cost-saving option. 
Urging My Fellow Council Members to Get Health Insurance From Their Own Employers, Not The City
During our March 4 Council meeting, I introduced, during new businesses, an emergency resolution to generate additional cost-savings for this year’s budget. I urged my fellow members of City Council to forgo the City’s health insurance benefits and instead take their own employer’s health care coverage. This cost-saving measure could save the City an additional $100,000+ annually which, in this extraordinary fiscal year, could save 2 employees’ jobs. Unfortunately, only Councilman Doyle, Councilwoman Jabbour and I thought this resolution was an “emergency” resolution, so the resolution was not considered last week, but rest assured, I will raise this resolution at our next meeting, on March 18.

My Commitment to the Residents of the 5th Ward
I commit to you that every decision I make regarding the budget will be done with the utmost respect and consideration for you, the taxpayers of Hoboken. I am committed to holding the line on taxes and believe it is not only unfair to burden Hoboken’s already over-stretched taxpayers with a threatened massive, double-digit tax increase, but I will never support any such budget. Full stop. 
 
Further, I will not support any tax increase where there are not shared cuts across every portion of Hoboken’s municipal budget.  This includes employees’ salaries and benefits, the biggest piece of our municipal budget. In addition to cutting costs, I am working side-by-side with my Council colleagues and Mayor Bhalla’s Administration to produce smart, realistic solutions for Hoboken’s budgetary challenges in a fair and appropriate fashion. I previously have written to you about sensible changes to our parking policies that I have supported, injecting important additional revenues to the City, while providing substantial discounts for our Seniors, veterans, and disabled residents, including here.
 
Together with Finance Director Linda Landolfi and Director of Operations Jason Freeman, I am confident that Hoboken will produce a budget that maintains our fiscal strength for the long term and minimize the number of municipal employees who will lose their jobs. 
 
Public budget hearings in Council chambers are presently scheduled for March 30, April 2 and April 6 at 6:00 pm. At these hearings, you can listen and learn about the components of our $117 million dollar budget from the City Directors who will present their departmental budgets to our Budget and Finance Subcommittee.  

Stay Tuned for Future Updates
As your Councilman, I am laser-focused on doing my best to protect you from an outrageous tax hike. I am encouraged by the work of the Administration and the Municipal Unions as they try to find long-term structural savings to protect our taxpayers as well as our municipal workers. I pledge to constructively support both the Administration and our City workers as they try to find areas of compromise to protect the fiscal strength of our community.  As we head towards finalizing a municipal budget in May, there will be much more to share. 

PLEASE COMPLETE THE CENSUS!
Hoboken residents, our Census letters are here!  Mine came yesterday. Be on the lookout in the mail for the 2020 Census form this month, and complete and return as soon as possible.
 In order to be eligible for critical funding for our schools, roads, housing initiatives, non-profits, and so much more, it is critical that all Hoboken residents complete the 2020 Census. You can see more about the importance of completing the Census here

If you want to reach out, or I can ever be of any assistance to you, please do not hesitate to contact me at HobokenPhil@gmail.com 
 
Thanks, and best wishes to you and your family.  
 
Stay safe everyone!
 
Phil Cohen
5th Ward Councilman
City of Hoboken, New Jersey
HobokenPhil@gmail.com
(862) 234-9053
P.S. You can learn more about me and my ideas for Hoboken on my website,