Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher blasts Mayor Ravi Bhalla for fabricating hypocrisy about council passage for Hilton Hotel set for tomorrow night
Dear friends and neighbors:
The mayor has just sent out an email to many of you implying that the city council will somehow be political and get in the way of approving the hotel project tomorrow night.
I am so incredibly angry about this email that I don’t know how to even respond.
Mainly because at a time when we have been working so hard to come together, our mayor only wants to continue to divide us. And it is insulting to the hard work that our City Council subcommittee has undertaken over the past two weeks to ensure that we get the best outcome for our community. And also because it is so telling that our mayor is so comfortable sending out disparaging and false propaganda emails to his extensive email list with his bullhorn. All I can do is try to refute it.
Apparently the mayor doesn’t believe his own JOINT PUBLIC STATEMENT (click link or read full text below) that his office sent out on Friday showing our combined support for the project. Let me be very clear – and please circulate this widely:
We have five locked in votes for the project and I am confident based upon prior support that we will get to either an 8-1 or 9-0 vote fairly easily. (Councilman Doyle has been firm in the past about his views that the hotel is out of scale for Hoboken, and this being 20% bigger I am not sure where he will get to).
You are welcome to come to the meeting to advocate, or give away your email via signing a petition – and you know that I always say more voices are better – but if you are doing so because you are in any way concerned the project won’t get approved because of his propaganda email, save your energy for the next fight the mayor will pick.
We are all still working on final changes to make sure that the deal that the mayor sold to our community, is actually what is reflected in the legal agreement. Things like:
- Ensuring that the $2M of funds that the mayor’s chief of staff promised to board members of the Y to restore the Y, actually in fact go to the Y. The mayor has proposed in the actual agreement that it go to the city and only MAYBE go to restore the Y which is not what was agreed.
- Ensuring that all of the community benefit payments are actually funded before certificates of occupancy and completion are given to the developer. Instead of the developer friendly arrangement of making the payments after the developer no longer has incentive to pay which is what the mayor negotiated.
These kind of details really matter and we are working closely with the City’s counsel to try to bridge these gaps.
Three weeks ago I was faced with having to have to vote for an out of scale building – made 20% bigger by this mayor – yet sweetened with a $3 million give back for two local non-profits. The mayor’s chief of staff was heard telling people that this is a civics lesson – the council’s only role is to vote up or down. We were also told that we had to work within a self-imposed tight timeframe that if we didn’t support the entire deal and vote yes on October 17th, the entire project would fail and not be able to be saved. And then when the benefit package was prematurely leaked to the public, suddenly if we even considered saying “No” to the project for any reason, we would be pushed as anti-public schools and anti-YMCA. Remember the mayor has the bullhorn.
So up or down – how should I vote?
The subcommittee would struggle to make any meaningful improvement to the design of the building, so we focused on improving the community benefit package.
And we did. Significantly.
We worked our way through it – and I can say it is a testament to Councilmembers Cunningham, Giattino and DeFusco and their willingness to work around the clock and stay together in the face of this pressure – and leverage our block and push as much as we could to improve the overall community benefit package so that it addressed more of our community’s needs including affordable housing, charters and infrastructure. And we did so as quickly as possible so that we could remove the angst and division that our community was feeling and state publicly that we would go into the council meeting on October 17th with at least the 5 votes necessary to approve the project. The developer also saw the benefit of this. And we delivered this last Friday, October 12th (see text below).
And since then, nothing has changed!
Don’t let the mayor kid you, the benefits were expanded specifically because a voting block of four council members demanded that we get more and broader benefits in exchange for our support. Had the mayor actually solicited our support prior to giving us his ultimatum, he probably could have gotten to the same outcome. But that isn’t how he wants to work.
The last few weeks have been an incredibly difficult political landscape, a view that is shared by many parties involved in this project. And I do know that there are some in our community who will not like the outcome – they’ll say the hotel is too big, the community benefit isn’t big enough or the benefits are not going to all of the right places. And I don’t disagree with any of that. But that is what political compromise is. You work with what has been given to you, you ensure that the pros outweigh the cons, you balance the priorities of all decision makers, try to navigate where you can be most effective, use leverage where you can, and ensure your vote represents as many as possible.
I am voting yes on the project. Do I need to say it again so that it is clear for the mayor?
Yes because I believe the positives outweigh the negatives, the contribution to our taxes will benefit our whole community, the majority of the feedback I have received most of you is public support having this hotel – even the now monolithic structure, the improvements to the area are significant and will redefine our southern waterfront, and this hotel will bring a much needed daytime population to our community that will support the businesses we all want to see succeed. Over the next 25 hours, I will still fight to make sure the details work.
As always, if you have any further questions, want to yell and scream at me, or want to discuss this or anything else, please feel free to call me at 201/208-1674 or email me. Two favors – forward this to everyone you know. And if you did happen to receive the email from the mayor, email him back and ask him why he thinks the city council is not supportive of the project.
Friday, October 12, 2018
HOBOKEN MAYOR BHALLA AND CITY COUNCIL SUBCOMMITTEE AGREE TO REDEVELOPMENT AGREEMENT FOR HILTON HOTEL, PUSH FOR 9-0 VOTE
Hoboken, NJ – After weeks of deliberation, the Mayor of Hoboken and the City Council subcommittee have agreed with KMS Development on the terms for the proposed Hilton Hotel to be built on Hoboken’s southern waterfront.
The project will bring a world class hotel and operator to Hoboken, generating $1.7M in additional tax revenue, adding 200+ union jobs at fair wages with preferences for Hoboken residents, transforming our southern waterfront near our crown jewel, Pier A park, and building amenities that benefit Hoboken residents like a roof top bar and much needed banquet space. Additionally, KMS has agreed to invest $4.85 million in the Hoboken community addressing broad community priorities including public education, infrastructure, affordable housing, and recreational facilities.
In aggregate, the revised proposal will include the following public benefits:
- $2M to help establish the Hoboken Community Center, with up to 100K to be immediately available to fund their feasibility study
- $1.165M for infrastructure, with $165K of this to be dedicated to the needs of the adjacent neighborhoods
- $1M to the Hoboken Public Education Foundation, which supports the Hoboken Public District Schools
- $484K to the Hoboken Public Charter Schools, divided equally among the schools
- $200K into Hoboken’s Affordable Housing Trust
“I could not be more proud to bring this history making project to fruition; the community benefits of this deal will be positively felt throughout our community. I want to thank KMS Development for their longstanding support of the residents of Hoboken. I want to also thank the City Council for their commitment to Hoboken and working together with me to raise the standards of development in Hoboken,” said Mayor Bhalla.
“We are proud to provide our support for this incredible project that brings so many positives to Hoboken and to have collaborated with KMS and many stakeholders to deliver an expansion of community benefits in the areas of affordable housing, education, and infrastructure that help address the broad needs of our community. We thank Mayor Bhalla for prioritizing this project and look forward to working with him again on other important initiatives. We are recommending that our council colleagues join us to deliver a 9-0 vote for this important project at the upcoming council meeting on October 17th,” said City Council subcommittee members Peter Cunningham, Mike DeFusco, Tiffanie Fisher and Jen Giattino, and Council President Ruben Ramos
“This is a world class Hilton hotel that will be an enhancement to life in Hoboken. We are excited this project enjoys broad political support and are proud to become a contributing member of the Hoboken community,” said Dennis Martin, KMS.
Martin added, “We thank mayor Bhalla for his leadership and the city council subcommittee members Peter Cunningham, Michael DeFusco, Tiffanie Fisher, and Jen Giattino and council president Ramos for their longstanding support and dedication over many years. The Mayor and City Council have been dogged advocates for their constituents and this is a better deal for Hoboken residents because of the benefits they each were able to secure in negotiations with us.”
“This hotel is a major win for Hoboken and for the housekeepers, concierges, banquet workers, and others who will work hard every day to make it a success. KMS Development Partners worked proactively with our union to ensure that these workers can count on jobs where they are treated with dignity and respect. We are very grateful to Mayor Bhalla, who has been an absolute champion of hotel workers, and to Council President Ruben Ramos and Councilman Mike DeFusco, who have long advocated for smart hotel development. The Hotel Trades Council looks forward to working with KMS and with Hoboken officials to make this hotel a great amenity for Hoboken residents and guests,” said Rich Maroko, Vice President of Hotel Trades Council.
“This week’s announcement regarding the Hoboken Hilton, a fully union-built and union-operated waterfront hotel, demonstrates the city’s commitment to economic development projects that include smart private-sector investment that will improve the quality of life for residents while creating hundreds of union jobs. We thank Mayor Bhalla and City Council President Ramos for their leadership as well as the members of Council’s redevelopment subcommittee for their efforts. Mayor Bhalla and Council worked diligently on reaching a deal that revitalizes Hoboken’s waterfront, preserves the historic Post Office, and provides immense community benefits. It has been a pleasure to work with KMS Development throughout this process, and we are so pleased they have committed to providing millions to support education, housing, recreation and infrastructure for Hoboken in addition to the projected $5 million in annual economic activity the hotel will generate,” said Mark Long, Director of ELEC 825.
“The Hoboken Hilton Hotel project demonstrates what good can happen when an insightful developer, KMS, teams up with labor, the Mayor, and members of the City Council for responsible development. We are proud to support what will be both a union-built and union operated endeavor,” said Steven M. Gardner, Director of New Jersey Laborers’-Employers’ Cooperation and Education Trust.