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Kingpin returns: one more for the road


I’ve been waiting quite a while
to write my post mortem Hoboken story. 
Ever since I returned from Russia at the end of February 2014, my life
in Hoboken has not been the same.   I
gave up my anonymity, I took the blue pill and it was my decision alone to get
involved and try to help.
Upon returning from Russia, I
wrote a scathing report on the city administration regarding their efforts around
the Super Bowl.  I was asked not to send
it anywhere, so I didn’t.  I wanted to
expose them, for their arrogance and incompetence, but it would only help those
who were out to do the administration harm. 
The final two months leading up to the Super Bowl showed me just how the
public sector and specifically this current administration are incapable of
working alongside volunteer efforts.  And
besides, the person I found to be most ineffective, no longer is the Mayor’s
Chief of Staff, so it is irrelevant to now expose his incompetence.   Instead, I made the choice of openly saying
that I would no longer support this administration with my own personal
efforts.  They still had my vote, just
not my money or resources.  I thought
this would be behind me, and that I would be able to go back to hiding in the
shadows of the Hoboken bars.  Instead, I
was about to go through Zoning Hell.
In March of 2014, I went to
see the City of Hoboken’s Zoning Officer, Ann Holtzman with a simple process
question about an addition I wanted to build on to my house.   The letter she showed me should have been my
signal to not even try to move forward with my simple addition.  Months earlier the Zoning Board had decided
that modifications to all non-conforming lots, that is any lot in Hoboken that
is not 20X100 would have to go in front of the zoning board so that the public would
have the right to discuss any “Quality of Life” issues that might arise.  For those who haven’t attended an event at my
house, I have a very unique space. My backyard doesn’t encroach on any homes
and my backyard can be accessed through a gate from the street.  Both buildings adjacent to my property are two
and three stories taller than my house. . 
There are no quality of life issues, but nonetheless, instead of being
able to begin construction immediately upon approval from the Construction
Office, I would now be spending the better part of 2014 waiting my turn to be
heard by the Zoning Board. All the work I planned to do would be within the
City Zoning regulations, so I was not asking for any specific variances like
height, or rear set back or anything, just that my lot size was not big enough
but this path seemed better than fighting City Hall and challenging their
interpretation in court.
What transpired over the next
year is so unbelievable; I cannot condense the story into a synopsis.  My story seems so insane, yet let me assure
you that my evidence is a lot more than a diary.  I have evidence to suggest that there were
City professionals that were not even looking at the right house when using
Google Earth to evaluate my property, instead of actually going to my house.
 
The basic story is that 99%
of all my evidence suggests I was trying to put my air condition condensers in
one location.  My application, my
survey’s, my architect’s blueprints, all point to the same location and my
zoning application was approved 9-0 in 25 minutes.  However, my architect uttered one word that
could possibly have been interpreted to reflect a different location had it not
been for the other 99% detailing exactly where I wanted to put these condensers.
 However, the City’s zoning professionals
decided to ignore the blueprints, application and all other testimony and that
one word trumped all the overwhelming  evidence and as a result I was effectively
stopped from proceeding with my addition, even though it was approved by a 9-0
vote.  Well, I could have spent 2 to 6
years in litigation, but who wants to do that? 
Upon questioning why the Zoning Professionals would reach this
conclusion, the City’s Zoning Professional, who also owns the compost contract
with the City, claimed she was not aware of my desire to put the condensers in
the specific location, that same location that was on my application,
blueprints and bulk of the testimony. 
However, in an OPRA request I found a letter from the Zoning
Professional to the Zoning Board using the exact words and matching the precise
location of where I wanted to put the condensers.  Still, the compromise offered to me from the
City’s Zoning Professionals was that if I agreed to move the condensers to
where they wanted, I would not have to update my blueprints, you know the
blueprints that had them in the location I wanted that these same professionals
claimed they weren’t aware of. 
My neighbor came to the
hearing in support of the application but mentioned that flooding in the
courtyard was a concern.  The quick
response from the Zoning Board was that I would have to put a dry well in my
backyard.  That would add another $25K to
my budget, but dry well is a buzzword since it’s part of the City’s Rebuild by
Design project, so now for me to do my simple addition, I would have to pay for
removal of concrete in my backyard AND my neighbors and build and maintain a
dry well.  Now remember I paid the City’s
Engineer to do a study of my house.  I
had three other required surveys done by Caulfield.  The flooding, it was determined, was caused
by the same neighbor’s rain pipe, which was illegally dumping water onto my
property.  Let me reiterate, the water
was not running off onto my property, rather their rain pipes were illegally
terminating on my property.  The
Construction Office has since cited the neighbor for this illegal pipe in
violation of the City’s public nuisance ordinance, but don’t let facts get in
the way, Zoning said I had to put in a dry well and so it must be done. 
There’s so much more, but
that should paint the picture.  So my
application passed 9-0 in 25 minutes (by the way, I had three “quality of life”
witnesses that the Board Chairman said would not need to be called).  There is absolutely no logical reason that my
project should not have been able to proceed as submitted and approved.  But nevertheless, it was effectively killed.
So why did I chose now to
write this.  My house is sold so I am no
longer concerned that me speaking up can make things worse.  I enjoyed my 15 years in Hoboken.   With
the help of others involved in the music scene, we started something with The
Pier Sessions.  It led to the Beer Garden
up at the Marina.  Between that and
bringing Leo Pelligrini to Indianapolis to see the Super Bowl events, that led
to Mumford and Sons and Bob Dylan playing Pier A.  I brought the NFL’s 9/11 ten year anniversary
tribute to Hoboken.  The City asked for a
fee from the NFL and I got them twice what they asked for.  I brought the only successful New Jersey
Super Bowl initiative to Hoboken and didn’t spend any taxpayer money doing
it.  After SuperStorm Sandy, I was able
to get the NFL Network to do a story on Mayor Zimmer and Eli Manning walking
around town and looking at storm damage. 
Did I receiving a thank you from anybody for coordinating this?  No, I was told the NFL Network spent too much
time focusing on Eli Manning and not enough of Mayor Zimmer. 
There are many others who
left Hoboken who made a greater impact on our City politics than I
did.  Jake Stuiver and Eric Kurta are the
first two that come to mind.  There are
many others like Roman Brice and Nancy Pincus, who have been sued for their
involvement.  But my story is
unique.  I helped Jen Giattino win her 6th
Ward Council Seat.  I organized several
events for Mayor Zimmer and her Council Slate including the Eli Manning
fundraiser at The Madison.  I had them
all in my home, campaigned for them, helped them with their get out the vote
effort and never asked for anything in return.   They even filed on their ELEC report that I
provided $2592.13 in fundraiser refreshments. 
For those who need more clarification, none of those refreshments were
non-alcoholic.   I did not want an appointed position, although
I was asked about several boards including the HHA.  But when I needed their help not one of them was
there for me.  In a city deeply rooted in
political favors, I didn’t need or want anything done that could possibly be
construed as inappropriate.  I wasn’t
looking for any political “influence”.  I
just wanted them to look at what was happening to me with my zoning issue,
recognize how wrong and unfair it was, and offer a way they could help.  Something, anything, would have been
appreciated.  Instead, all I got was
another round of bills from the City’s zoning professionals. 

Yes, I’m obviously bitter.  Yes, I feel betrayed.  Mayor Zimmer was never good at separating
friend from foe.  I brought her and her
husband into the NFL’s Commissioners Suite at MetLife Stadium twice, but today Stan
cannot even say hello to me when passing me on the street.  But in the end it’s all good, as I am leaving
Hoboken happy.  I’m married, my wife has two
wonderful, adorable kids from her previous marriage and she is now pregnant
with my baby boy.  My venture into
Hoboken politics was another chapter in my long strange trip.  The next chapter has better schools, lower
taxes, a swimming pool in my backyard and leaves a collection of pitiful,
self-absorbed, self-righteous politicians in my past.

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