Mike Lenz kickoff, developers prepare election assault on Hoboken

Councilman Mike Lenz kicked off the opening of his campaign headquarters on lower Madison Street earlier today. (We’ll have video later.)

The race is officially on for the fifth decisive vote on the City Council. It should be an exciting election and it’s loaded with some heavy ramifications. Already, there are elements making themselves present; elements showing the developer influence in Hoboken is neither dying, nor dead. It is reassembling and making a strong bid already to take down the independent voice of resistance in Hoboken. Considering the millions at stake, the investment in shady telephone polls and attack mailers will be a drop in the bucket. And it’s waves have been felt throughout town. Ironically, they call themselves, “Citizens for Sensible Development.” You have to applaud the raw cynicism of these developers.

This attack flyer arrived in mailboxes in time to help Cammarano who is going to jail on Monday for his pro-developer zeal. Tarragon/USRA was the source of the funding for this attack. Many people feel the telephone poll leading into the City Council item on the Western Edge was their handiwork.

The attack flyers above were financed by Tarragon/USRA on behalf of Peter Cammarano.
Many people believe the wave of telephone polls attacking the Western Edge plan is a continuation of that investment after Cammarano saw his demise in another developer extortion scam.

Last year after Cammarano’s resignation, it surfaced the smear flyers against Dawn Zimmer were part of an organized developer attack that only became clear after Peter Cammarano had been summarily ejected from the mayor’s office. The smear tactics turned out to be substantial and there is no question it will be amping up in this 4th ward special election.

Here’s a segment from a story on Hoboken Now, that appeared long after the election results last year in August:

Tarragon/URSA eager to continue developing in Hoboken

URSA is a partner with national developer Tarragon, which filed for bankruptcy early this year. Tarrragon/URSA built six Upper Grand properties in northwest Hoboken as well as Hoboken’s currently under-construction movie theatre.

Tarragon/URSA also owns ten acres of land along Hoboken’s western edge, which they are eager to redevelop. They haven’t gotten approval yet from the city to move forward.

And this is hardly the first time Tarragon/URSA has financed political campaigns. Sciarra and partner Mark Settembre donated heavily to former Hoboken Mayor Dave Roberts and the Hoboken Democratic Party in 2005. Cammarano entered public office in 2005, when he ran on Robert’s slate to get elected to the City Council.

“I gave money to Roberts for sure,” said Sciarra today. “We thought he shared our vision of economic development.”

But after Hoboken passed an anti-pay-to-play law in 2007, as a redevelopment firm, Tarragon/URSA is forbidden from donating directly to individual candidates. Many see the PAC donations as a way to circumvent pay-to-play restrictions. In light of these new revelations, Zimmer said today she is asking city attorneys to look into whether Tarragon/URSA violated pay-to-play law.

Sciarra admitted today that he donated the money to the PACs, because he saw now-Acting Mayor Zimmer as less receptive to redevelopment projects in Hoboken.

Now like in 2009, none of this money will appear anytime soon in the public eye. In fact, there will not be any overt monies contributed to a campaign although their presence will certainly be felt. They will just set up a PAC (Political Action Committee) to do the work they themselves need done. This is how the existing campaign laws are set up and the will of the people trampled.

Of course they will pretend they are targeting something bad. The effort has already begun with sophisticated costly telephone polling to sabotage the Western Edge plan presented recently in the City Council. Now with our local government opening up to hear more input from the public, you’ll be seeing more voices sounding even more concerned about “developer profitability” and “studies” of plans to ensure economic viability. You’ll also hear about the dreaded fear of mixed use space, re: office space available as part of mixed use development.

Now why are any of these developer talking points being voiced by citizens? When did Hoboken residents become concerned about a developer making sufficient profits? Wasn’t there a groundswell for open space, a pool and a community center? But isn’t that on the table now? It is, but watch to see how those long dreamed plans are now viewed by various folks as inadequate on any number of counts. It won’t be long now.

Whoever wins the 4th ward Council special election November 2nd will be playing a critical swing vote on the City Council and on these matters especially important. Three Zoning Board nominations are up for consideration soon after. Peter Cammarano’s soul may be gone from controlling the Hoboken Zoning Board as he heads to Club Fed Lewisburg, PA along with his person on Monday.

Don’t be fooled and think the danger has passed. The threat to Hoboken won’t be.

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