Ravi Bhalla pushes huge NJ Transit redevelopment downtown, City Council balks

City Council ejects Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s rapid push for big NJ Transit redevelopment 

City Council President Jen Giattino inquires why no public meeting and no Citywide Nixle alert

Related: Union Dry Dock eminent domain to see no opposition from NJ Governor’s Office?

Snapshot from the presentation of the NJ Transit redevelopment plan.
City Council President Jen Giattino raised questions on why the public
was not invited for a public meeting on the plan.

Last night, the decade long fight over the size and scale of a massive downtown redevelopment backed by NJ Transit through its arm LCOR sought to slip past an unsuspecting Hoboken public.

The ramming speed push came by way of Mayor Ravi Bhlla and his Administration.

City Council President Jen Giattino bluntly asked why the public was neither alerted nor invited to a public meeting before the massive proposed redevelopment plan was put before the City Council for a vote.

After a presentation from LCOR and council discussion, the redevelopment was shelved in an 7-1-1 vote to table.

Councilwoman Emily Jabbour abstained, apparently in caution to public questions during the meeting about a possible conflict from the 2017 Hoboken election. Councilman Michael Russo pushed hard for a vote and was the lone vote against.

Jabbour, a first-term councilwoman along with Councilman Jim Doyle were part of Ravi Bhalla’s slate which saw major backing from construction unions. Part of that support featured massive airtime of TV commercials courtesy of a statewide PAC, Stronger Foundations. first broke the story of the PAC’s spending tens of thousands of dollars with cable TV ads back in late October 2017.

The NJ Transit redevelopment, a long time contentious issue going back to the early day of the Dawn Zimmer Administration has generated large public turnout at meetings over the years in the hundreds.

The NJ Transit redevelopment plan lacks any downtown refueling station for NY Waterway, another major issue arising from the acquisition of Union Dry Dock by the ferry company in uptown Hoboken.

Some suggest the recent action by the City of Hoboken to acquire Union Dry Dock for additional park space using eminent domain may not be opposed by the NJ Governor’s office.

For the moment, that issue sits in the background connected to NJ Transit and its stronger eminent domain powers over those of the City of Hoboken. NJ Transit to date has declined to host a refueling maintenance station for NY Waterway in downtown Hoboken.

Members of the public in attendance were taken aback however by the Bhalla Administration’s attempt to ram through the major downtown redevelopment without a public meeting or alert. Some noted their longtime involvement on the issue but scarcely found out in time to attend the meeting and raise a red flag.

A public meeting is now expected on the major development issue and will be announced soon.

The City Council has frequently criticized the Bhalla Administration and the mayor’s office for using the citywide alert system NIXLE for political purposes.

Most recently, NIXLE against its policy was used by the mayor’s office to push a non-binding resolution stated to “uphold” the 2011 pay-to-play ordinance. Last night, that resolution was tabled again. Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher called it a “political stunt” pointing to Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s efforts only a month earlier to see that ordinance unwound using an outside legal opinion he sought.

Mayor Ravi Bhalla conflicted from voting on NJ Transit’s development
proposal back on the council attempted to ram through its massive
plan last night with no public meeting/input. It failed.

This snapshot story will be updated.

Correction: An earlier tally on the motion to table the Bhalla Administration NJ Transit Redevelopment plan made by Councilman Peter Cunningham failed to note the correct vote of Councilman Michael Russo. He oppossed the motion ending 7-1-1 in favor of tabling.

Talking Ed Note: A question if the Hoboken Rail Yards Task Force received notification on the redevelopment vote was posed to Director Chris Brown but Councilman Michael Russo, a clear yes vote interjected. The Hoboken public never heard the answer.
The Hoboken City Council acts as the redevelopment agency and Councilman Jim Doyle noted its prominent role in any actionr. This redevelopment plan put forward a month before the critical council ward elections is no accident. 
Ravi Bhalla and his Administration were counting on an intimidation factor forcing approval in the City Council. The last time a single council member voted no for the downtown Hilton Hotel, TV ads appeared going on attack against Jim Doyle who was the solitary ineffectual vote against.
People are awaiting to see what Dark Money and the PACs will do in this election. The damage in 2017 is already done.

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