I hope everyone is settling into the weekend and either went or was able to see online the Lighting of Hoboken’s Christmas Tree. We are in the season full swing! I unfortunately could not make it as I am away to attend a funeral for a longtime family friend who at 80, passed peacefully with a smile on his face and surrounded by loved ones.
There is always a lot happening in our own version of Sesame Street… this newsletter includes an update on just a few:
- Hoboken Waterfront – UDD and Monarch
- Update from 12/7 Council Meeting including:
- Protective and medical Marijuana legislation
- Update on Washington St. timing
- Personal attacks against me
- The Budweiser Clydesdales coming to Hoboken
(FORMER) UNION DRY DOCK SITE
As you may have seen, Mayor Bhalla issued the following statement yesterday that he received notification that the US Army Corps of Engineers has given approval for NY Waterways to move their ferry operations to the former Union Dry Dock site.
“I have just received notice that the US Army Corps of Engineers has granted NY Waterway a permit to move their ferry maintenance and refueling depot from Weehawken to the former Union Dry Dock site in Hoboken. I am incredibly disappointed but for me, this fight is far from over. I am re-doubling my efforts to ensure that this property will be a public park, NOT a ferry maintenance and refueling depot. Before NY Waterway is given permission by Governor Murphy to ravage our waterfront and environment, I invite the Governor and NJ Transit to visit the site so they can see firsthand the detrimental impact this will have on the families and children of our community.”
This decision is so frustrating, although not unexpected. Mayor Bhalla has already reached out to both Senators Menendez and Booker and, along with the City Council, remains committed to continuing this fight.
Graphic credit: Hoboken Residents for a Public Waterfront
The single most critical next step is for Mayor Bhalla, Governor Murphy and NJ Transit to agree on a superior location for ferry operations. And right now all reports – ours and NJ Transits – point to Hoboken’s own Lackawanna Terminal as one of the preferred sites. Given this approval, it may be more difficult to stop NYWW from occupying the former UDD site in the near term, but that doesn’t mean we should not stop fighting for the right permanent location elsewhere.
I urge all Hoboken residents to call Governor Murphy’s office at 609-292-6000, tell him how important our waterfront is to our community and ask him to do the right thing for his constituents: protect Hoboken’s waterfront and better align all public transportation at one or all of the superior sites identified, including Hoboken’s Lackawanna Terminal. Please also email our representatives and post on twitter and FB including the links for the video showing our waterfront and to the Alternative Site Engineering reports.
To those who are less supportive of this effort. Please note none of us are supportive of NYWW shutting down under any circumstances. That is not what this is about. This is about continuing the decades-long effort of protecting our waterfront for the best and highest use for Hoboken and working for the best strategic solution for all transportation needs.
Last week, I attended the oral arguments for the remaining legal case outstanding relating to Monarch. This was the appeal of the lower court decision that Hoboken’s flood ordinance banning residential development in high flood zones along the waterfront does not apply to the Monarch site. What is being decided is whether health and safety trump property interests. The judges pushed the attorneys on why our ordinances should not be seen as being targeted at the developer, and the attorneys for the city’s position did a great job explaining both the legal position as well as providing context of what the flooding risks are in Hoboken. As Mayor Bhalla recently said, appeals are difficult to win, but we await the decision which we expect to receive at the earliest, prior to the end of the year, but more likely early in 2019.
Also, as you may have heard through the grapevine, Mayor Bhalla is actively working with Dave Barry and Ironstate/Applied, owners of the proposed Monarch site as well as other development sites in Hoboken, to identify a solution that could see the conclusion to the longstanding battle for our waterfront including vacating their interests on the north waterfront. This is by no means a secret, and Mayor Bhalla encouraged socializing this issue more broadly as he continues settlement discussions.
He recently met with residents across Hoboken including my neighbors at Hudson Tea to discuss ideas and get input. If you happen to be someone in the commercial real estate advisory and/or appraisal industry who is interested in seeing a settlement and could offer some thoughts on evaluating development projects, I urge you to reach out to the mayor’s office to offer your support. Profitability is the main currency in development negotiations and is front and center in this settlement.
UPDATE FROM 12/7 COUNCIL MEETING:
PLACEHOLDER AND MEDICAL MARIJUANA LEGISLATION
There were two pieces of legislation introduced for first reading at the meeting (click to read):
I introduced an ordinance that I refer to as “placeholder legislation” that in effect prohibits ALL marijuana establishments in Hoboken under our zoning code until such time that we agree and put in place longer-term polices. This is a protective measure that would eliminate any risk of a marijuana establishment being approved by variance by our zoning and planning boards (in a residential zone for example). This type of legislation has been passed by many other cities across the state including Weehawken. This protective ordinance was voted in 7-1-1 with Councilwoman Jabbour being the only ‘No’ vote and Councilwoman Falco abstaining because she felt she needed to understand the whole topic better.
In parallel, the administration rushed to introduce a toned down version of their prior marijuana ordinance having many of the prior features I described in my 10/23 email, however now only includes medical marijuana dispensaries. A further important distinction is that the inclusionary zone districts have decreased to exclude two primarily residential areas that do not have residential designations – I-1(W) and CBD (H)(CS). This legislation passed 8-0-1 with Councilwoman Falco abstaining for the same reason.
In order to be heard on second reading at the next council meeting on the 19th, both have to be reviewed by the planning board which is tentatively scheduled to meet on the 17th. If there is no meeting, it cannot be heard for a 2nd reading and we would start all over again with 1st reading in January.
The State has yet to act on legalizing marijuana and allowing recreational marijuana to be sold in New Jersey and it is commonly expected that nothing will be approved before the 2019 legislative session. However, the state is expected shortly to approve the expansion of medical licenses by 6, with 2 of those licenses designated for North Jersey.
More to come… (and yes, I still owe you the summary feedback I have received…)
UPDATE ON WASHINGTON STREET
We are hopefully in the final stretch… you can even hear optimism in the words of people who praise lower Washington and are now, shall I say it, actually hopeful about the prospect of it being completed. The contractor has given their outside date of May, but the administration is saying that everyone is working together and targeting April. Fingers remained crossed…
While on the subject, I have gotten a number of questions about the 11th street intersection and whether the historic baseball references will be kept. The short answer is yes. I have meet with T&M and Underground Utilities about the bases and how to best preserve them. The brass numbers will be preserved, but the bases will probably be re-formed in a darker concrete. They are currently light grey set in darker pavers. To stand out they will need to be a darker grey set in the light concrete. They are also going to focus on aligning them as much as they can in a diamond formation. The big outstanding question is what, if anything, will be in the middle of the intersection which is currently a baseball made out of pavers. We are looking into what we could do, but the initial idea was for a brightly painted (DOT colors) Hoboken “H” with two baseball bats crossed – kinda like a cross and bones… I shared this with the rest of the city council and this idea was tossed. We are having a few more ideas created, but if you have any, feel free to send them along… the more ideas the better.
PERSONAL ATTACKS AGAINST ME
At the City Council meeting on Wednesday night, two people spoke during public portion and personally attacked me in a way that is not often seen. You can watch the video (of the council meeting from the City’s website) if you are so inclined HERE – their remarks (and my response) occur between 1:27 and 1:37. Thank you to those who have reached out to me with kind and supportive words, to Council Vice President Giattino who came not only to my defense but to the others who were impacted by the statements made (minute 1:52-1:54) and to Council President Ramos who tried to tone down some of the remarks being made while still preserving the speakers’ First Amendment rights.
One of the speakers was a familiar face and voice at council meetings and the second speaker, who read prepared remarks (poorly I might add), is a 26 yr old named Anthony DeLeonardo who is less familiar. Their combined bullying was clearly coordinated, as further evidenced by their “HIGH TEN” as they exited the meeting together. And their speeches were delivered with malice and included false insinuations and assertions. Importantly, I have good reason to believe their attack was orchestrated out of the Mayor’s office, by John Allen, Chief of Staff to Mayor Bhalla and Vijay Chaudhuri, former Chief of Staff to Mayor Zimmer and recently re-hired as Communications Manager for Hoboken (I think that day was his first day back).
That is the only reason I am bringing attention to this. Because it’s not acceptable. On any level. I have pretty thick skin. You have to, to be in public office, especially in Hoboken. But it wouldn’t feel good to anyone being on the receiving end of this. And no one should have to be subjected to this, especially by their own government. Please help me in demanding that it stop right now.
THE CLYDESDALES ARE COMING TOMORROW! 3:00-5:00PM on Washington Street
As I mentioned previously, the famous Budweiser Clydesdales are coming to Hoboken to deliver beer to restaurants & stores on lower Washington Street between 1st and 8th! Don’t miss your chance to see them up close and have a picture taken with them! You can read more about the event HERE! And you can read more about the history of the horses and their care and activities HERE! I am bummed because I will still be away and won’t be able to join – so please take lots of pictures and send to me!
The funeral I attended today with my family was one of the loveliest I have been to. The person who passed I had met when my family moved in across the street over 40 years ago – I was their Friday night babysitter for my first 5 years living across the street where my parents still live. The priest today said Mr. Roethel was best known for his generosity and making sure everyone always had enough… whether it was enough food or enough help. And one of his sons said he spent his last 6 months doing brain exercises so he would be able to tell others before he passed what he most remembered about them. An amazing reminder this time year of what a generous heart means – wanting others to have enough.
Happy 6th Night of Hanukkah to those who celebrate. Hoping everyone is finding the light they want and need in this season. As always, if you have any questions or want to discuss this or anything else, please feel free to call me at 201/208-1674. And please follow me on Facebook and Twitter to find additional updates.