8/13/2010 Update:

City fails to vacate garage by deadline

Zimmer now in breach on two fronts, city’s legal argument weakens.

Despite a Herculean effort by dozens of dedicated city employees, Hoboken failed to vacate the Municipal Garage by the deadline. At Wednesday night’s council meeting members of the public expressed doubt that the city would be able to move out on time to avoid yet another violation of the contract with developer S. Hekemian. In response, un-elected Councilman Michael Lenz brought Environmental Services Director Jennifer Wenson-Maier to the microphone:

“We will be out by Thursday night. The press is welcome to come on Friday and take a look.”

– Director Jennifer Wenson-Maier

Lenz went on to describe those who claimed otherwise were “sinister” and “disgusting.” Two days later, “accurate” best describes the watchdogs who called Zimmer’s plan into question. See for yourself. These photos were taken Friday morning (today), well after Director-Maier’s Thursday night deadline to vacate.

Hoboken411 obtained this letter dated Thursday, August 12 from S. Hekemian declaring their intention to close as scheduled, despite Lenz and Zimmer’s comments to the contrary.

“SHG is ready, willing and able to close and, pursuant to the terms of the PSA (Purchase and Sale Agreement), has set an 11:00 a.m. closing time for Friday, August 13, 2010 at (the offices of DeCotiis Law in Teaneck). Despite the City’s attempted wrongful termination of the PSA and RDA (Redevelopers Agreement), SHG will appear and will be ready, willing and able to close.”

– Attorneys for Hekemian

Had Mayor Dawn Zimmer lived up to the city’s obligations, SHG would have handed over another $22,950,000.00 today on top of the $2,550,000.00 deposit in escrow.

Because the city failed to close by missing deadlines to vacate the property and secure a “No Further Action” letter from the NJ DEP, SHG will likely demand their deposit back. No doubt all this is headed to court for a judge to sort out.

Bottom line: Don’t blame the city workers. Blame the politicians.

The city workers who busted their butts to get Hoboken off the property (see after the jump) deserve a round of applause and steak dinner for doing their best under impossible circumstances placed in their lap by Mayor Dawn Zimmer, her Directors and Council Majority. Instead what several of them will be getting is laid off while the city stands to lose $25.5 million dollars for Zimmer’s failure.

8/12/2010 Update:

Mad scramble at Municipal Garage!

All hands are on deck to get city property off the Observer Highway Municipal Garage in time to close a sale of the site to a developer tomorrow, even though the Mayor called off the deal!

City workers – some of whom have been told they will be laid off next month – are working as hard as they can to get 30 years of accumulation off the property by tonight. As anyone who’s done a last minute move knows, you often end up leaving a lot of your stuff by the curb. Massive roll-off containers of city property like desks, shelving, etc., are being thrown away because there is no place for it to go. Check out these pictures of the employees who are busting their butts to clean up the mess left behind by Hoboken’s political “leaders”.

Even though Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s 5-vote majority voted to declare the city’s contract with S. Hekemian null and void Tuesday night, city workers have still been ordered to vacate the property and deliver it “broom clean” as per the contract of sale.

Why would the city move if Zimmer has no intention of selling it to Hekemian?

Because Zimmer’s mishandling of the sale has put the city on very shaky legal ground. After failing to secure a “No Further Action Letter” from the DEP (because Zimmer ignored the problem until it was too late) the city pulled a “You can’t fire me, I quit!” legal move, declaring Hekemian in breach of contract for doing their environmental review due diligence ahead of the city’s own breach of contract. That contract said the city would be off the garage site by August 13, and deliver it “broom-clean” to Hekemian at the closing on Friday. With the city in breach, lawyers talked Zimmer into taking a flier of a legal maneuver by declaring the developer in breach first in an attempt to keep a $2.55 million dollar down payment.

Why move anyway? That was the question last night.

This was the subject of discussion at last night’s council meeting, which got heated when un-elected Councilman Michael Lenz started yelling frantically while Councilman Mike Russo was speaking. Lenz had just finished a six and a half minute speech (or LLL, for “Lengthy Lenz Lecture”). Lenz is Council President Carol Marsh’s “Svengali,” so she allows him to speak as long as he wants, or out of turn. If others not part of the Mayor’s majority do the same, the gavel comes down.

Take a look at this un-called for outburst:

The simple answer is: if the city were on solid legal ground in its battle with Hekemian they wouldn’t have to move off the Observer Highway property. They’ve canceled the contract of sale unilaterally, but a judge – not Zimmer - will decide who’s really in breach. Ask yourself why Zimmer has refused to release correspondence from Hekemian, instead only offering the public a peek at the one-sided letters from her own attorneys?

Meanwhile, take a moment today to appreciate the work of the city employees caught in the middle (and the rain) today struggling to move off garage property. Today they pay for this ridiculous political drama.

Tomorrow, the taxpayers will, as Zimmer kisses $25.5 million dollars goodbye.

8/10/2010 Update:

11pm Update: City Council voted to attempt to cancel the contract, claiming the developer was in “material breach.” Ravi Bhalla, Carol Marsh, Dave Mello, Michael Lenz and Peter Cunningham (via phone) voted yes and Beth Mason, Nino Giacchi and Michael Russo voted no.

The Zimmer majority threw away $25.5 million in city revenue tonight. Many believe this was cowardly move designed to cover up the complete ineptitude of the city, and lack of proper action vacating the site in time. A never-ending story that will likely be caught up in the judicial system, with an unknown outcome. More to come on this later…

Emergency Council Meeting Tonight

Just when you think the Municipal Garage debacle can’t get any more bizarre, it takes yet another turn down the road to disaster.

Late Monday afternoon (3:24pm to be exact), Mayor Dawn Zimmer declared the need for an “Emergency Meeting” of the Hoboken City Council to take place tonight. The only item on the agenda: a Hail Mary pass to deflect her mishandling of the Municipal Garage sale.

Zimmer is calling the council in a desperate attempt to build a legal case defending her failure to act. Critics of the administration have been saying for months that Zimmer’s inaction has put the city on a collision course with default as the deadline looms to close the $25.5 million sale to S. Hekemian.

Zimmer took months to act, now default looms

Zimmer was warned of the need to act quickly on obtaining state Department of Environmental Protection certification that the Observer Highway property was cleaned up to the standards necessary for a transfer. The Acting Mayor ignored the warnings and focused on getting elected to the permanent job. The city was so far behind the eight-ball it pushed the closing date from June 30 to August 13 – the latest it could close under terms of the agreement approved years earlier by then-Councilwoman Dawn Zimmer. Seeing the city in trouble – and mindful of the fall in property values – Hekemian offered to give the Hoboken another year to get it’s house in order. The developer’s opening terms were rejected without negotiation, leading to a standoff the city stands to lose.

With failure imminent Zimmer goes to Defcon 1

The city’s responsibility was simple: Get off the property and turn it over with a “No Further Action” letter from the DEP by August 13th.

Hoboken is on a collision course with default – which will mean it will have to give back Hekemian’s $2.55 million dollar down payment. Now Zimmer is now trying to build a case that the developer defaulted first. How? By claiming they are “interfering” in the effort by the city’s environmental consultants to clean up the site and get the clean bill of health they need to avoid default. Sources tell Hoboken411 that Hekemian sent the city an 11-page memo outlining exactly why the cleanup cannot be deemed complete. In response, the city’s attorneys are apparently suggesting a “tampering” defense.

Even if the DEP does not issue a letter, the city’s own experts can write their own claim that no further action is needed. The developer can then offer their expert’s letter outlining how the city’s review is invalid. Despite repeated Zimmer Administration assurances that the DEP letter would come in before the 13th, it has yet to materialize.

Experts that 411 has spoken with have said for weeks that it won’t. Everything else is just spin. If the letter was forthcoming, there would be no need for any “emergency” meetings before the deadline, right?

Zimmer wants Muni Garage talk behind closed doors

The environmental cleanup is not privileged information, and everything the city’s consultants do and say would be available for discovery in the inevitable lawsuit. For that reason alone Zimmer’s call to have the council hear from environmental consultants in closed session before acting on an as yet undisclosed resolution at tonight’s meeting is in conflict with the Open Public Meetings Act.

OPMA also requires 48 hours notice and proper publication of council meetings, which isn’t happening here. Instead Zimmer is claiming “emergency” powers, despite the fact the emergency has been caused by her own ineptitude.

For months the word was Keep the deposit

The commentary from the Zimmer wing of the City Council has been telling. They’ve spoken of “keeping as much of the developer’s deposit as possible” instead of finding ways to close the deal. It’s not just $2.55 million on the line. It’s the entire $25.5 million dollar purchase price which vanishes into thin air if Zimmer cannot close the deal. Zimmer wants you to forget $18 million of that money has already been squandered, and will never be recovered unless she can close this deal. Millions more in revenue will be lost if the no-taxed Muni Garage never gets developed.

Hoboken had Hekemian over a barrel. They had the deposit, an ironclad $25.5 million contract to sell a property that is today worth much less under the existing development scheme, and could have cashed in big. Ignoring the city’s contractual responsibility to meet the DEP deadline on Zimmer’s year-long mayoral watch put Hekemian in the driver’s seat. Tonight Zimmer will likely add insult to injury by asking the council to declare Hekemian is in default before the city can default first on Friday. She will likely have five votes to do so (after former Developer’s Accountant Michael Lenz makes a long-winded speech about how developers are at fault) in a vain attempt to seek legal leverage.

The fact is a judge will likely see right through the ploy, as Hekemian sues for it’s deposit back, as well as legal fees and damages associated with the bad faith the city has exhibited. Hoboken has signed a lot of lopsided deals that favored developers in the past, but this one with Hekemian wasn’t one of them. That’s exactly why Dawn Zimmer voted for it in 2007. Today she wants you to think otherwise. The fact is, she became Mayor and she blew it.

Tonight’s hastily called “emergency” meeting begins at 7pm, but watch Zimmer’s army of taxpayer-paid attorneys argue nothing should be seen by the public until the council takes a vote.

This debacle just gets worse and worse, but if you have been watching the council meetings and reading Hoboken411, you’ve seen it coming for a long time.

7/26/2010 Update:

Breaking News Update!

Weehawken pulls Hoboken`s butt out of the fire, again

Hoboken411 has learned Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner has agreed to sign a “Shared Services Agreement” with Hoboken that will establish a new joint municipal garage on the border of both municipalities. An announcement is expected sometime today.

The facility will be located in a warehouse building situated just west of the Willow Avenue bridge on 18th Street.

Weehawken is also allowing use of it’s soccer fields while the Sinatra Park field continues to be closed, with no re-opening date in site.

The idea is not a new one. Former Mayor David Roberts also tried (and failed) to reach a multi-municipality deal for a new Muni Garage. Roberts failed in large part because of his lame duck status brought on by his budget debacle.

Second Ward Councilwoman Beth Mason was also beating the drum for a “Shared Services” Muni Garage while Zimmer’s Administration was secretly planning to move to the Pino Site – a plan blown out of the water by public opposition sparked by Hoboken411′s exposé.

This story is breaking. More details as they become available.

SEE ALL ARCHIVES AND ORIGINAL HOBOKEN411 EXPOSÉ BELOW!

6/28/2010 Update:

Stevens garage plan dropped, road closure ahead

Last Tuesday night, the Zimmer Administration gave the Hoboken City Council two recommended sites to consider for a temporary Municipal Garage. Less than a week later, both lease options are out and a no-bid contract for vehicle maintenance may soon be in.

Dawn Zimmer didn’t attend the meeting, but her staff recommended two plans. The first was a turn-key site in Jersey City, while the second utilized Stevens Institute waterfront property, while also closing off Clinton Street between 15th and 16th for outside storage of city vehicles.

Zimmer dropped the Jersey City option after Mayor Jerramiah Healy and his political rival – downtown Councilman Steven Fulop – both opposed it. Zimmer’s obedient attack dogs were then unleashed on Fulop, who is the only independent member of the Jersey City council. Mayor Healy was left unscathed, Hmmmmm. After all, Zimmer made a deal to run her Democratic Committee candidates on his HCDO line despite the arrest of several members of Healy’s administration and political allies in last year’s corruption sting.

Stevens: Cold feet on collusion concerns?

With zero explanation, Zimmer abandoned the Stevens waterfront garage plan her people recommended. Sources say somebody’s feet got cold when the issue of potential collusion between Stevens and City Hall came up at the meeting last week. A council resolution regarding the Fund for a Better Waterfront’s appeal of a boatload of variances approved by the Zoning Board has been held up – again with no explanation. Resolutions regarding other appeals to the council have been handled quickly while the Stevens appeal has been held up while the administration was negotiating to lease space on Stevens property. Quid pro quo has crossed some people’s minds, so now that plan is dead. Whoops!

So what is the Zimmer *plan* now?

If the city does not vacate the Municipal Garage by August 13th, it will be in default. That means the loss of $25.5 million dollars in cash from the developer it agreed to sell the property to. Zimmer is now “touting” a plan that makes it pretty clear the city feels a default is coming: closing Clinton Street between 15th and 16th to traffic for use as outside storage of vehicles, dumpsters and large roll-off trash containers and awarding a no-bid contract for maintenance of city vehicles off-site.

After going through the motions of three “open” requests for proposals for temporary garage sites, the Zimmer administration won’t bid the contract for maintenance of the city’s fleet. Who is getting the contract? Zimmer didn’t say.

Many unanswered questions, lots of public relations hype

After the jump you’ll see an exclusive Hoboken411 video of what goes on inside the Observer Highway garage.

You’ll see some of the Police motorcycle fleet, among many other things that ought to be stored inside a garage, and not out on Clinton and 15th. Where will the city’s road salt pile go? How about all those refrigerators and washer-dryers that get picked up every week? Oh, and the SWAT bus and horse trailer we still own? Will these be moved up to Clinton Street, too? What will the impact be on traffic, residents and businesses?

Zimmer’s team – which infamously and erroneously wrote a $16 million bond ordinance that claimed the Muni Garage was located “at Garden Street and Observer Highway” – hasn’t answered those questions. They’re too busy looking up spin-words like “innovative, creative, out of the box approaches to problem solving” for the press release announcing this latest failure to meet long-standing deadlines.

The special meeting originally scheduled for this week has been canceled.

6/24/2010 Update:

Only in Hoboken does this happen….

The comedy of errors continues at City Hall as the deadline to vacate the Municipal Garage looms.

At this week’s special council meeting on the issue the Zimmer Administration presented two proposals for the council to consider. One involving a piecemeal temporary solution including closing a public street to park city vehicles and borrowing space on Steven Institute land for by still-closed soccer field.

The other involved a property near the A&P in Jersey City.

Zimmer’s team pitched the Jersey City location even after Mayor Jerramiah Healy showed up on her doorstep to oppose it. While they told the council of Healy’s opposition Tuesday night, they didn’t disclose the fact that Healy also offered to provide space to Hoboken at the Jersey City DPW garage on Route 440 as a “shared services” solution.

Healy, Fulop oppose Zimmer and Lenz

Appointed 4th ward councilman Michael Lenz supported leasing a piece of Jersey City property over Healy’s objections, but Zimmer backed off it today when the Chairman of the HCDO put pressure on her to stop. No further word from Lenz, who is beholden to the HCDO for his political patronage job at the county’s Meadowbrook Campus. Meanwhile downtown Jersey City Councilman Steven Fulop introduced a resolution to oppose Hoboken’s proposed move to 16th Street and Marin Boulevard, saying:

“We don’t need Hoboken Public Works trucks, junk, garbage, noise, and pollution in Jersey City. Hoboken backed itself into a corner for short-term gain and now expects us to solve its problem. Fortunately, we have something else that Hoboken lacks – time, and we will use it as I am sure the Jersey City council will explore all avenues to make sure we don’t become Hoboken’s dumping ground.” – Councilman Steve Fulop

Mile Square Towing site in focus now

At the meeting this week former Environmental Services Director Joe Peluso rose to speak out in favor of a less expensive plan to lease an existing garage in the industrial northwest used by Mile Square Towing. Peluso says the owners are offering low lease rates, though they did not participate in the city’s roundly criticized Request For Proposals exercise in futility over the past several weeks.

In a letter to the city that was provided directly to Hoboken411, the attorneys for Mile Square Towing are calling on the city to discuss their option, and indicate they will be at City Hall this afternoon to do it. Read their letter, including some vague references to potential meddling in the administration’s RFP process by Councilman Lenz that may have precluded Mile Square Towing from submitting a proposal. The site is near 16th and Jefferson, far, far away from any homes but still within Hoboken.

Hoboken has to start moving off the existing Muni Garage site on Observer Highway on or about August 1st to meet an August 13th deadline to vacate, according to Environmental Services Director Jennifer Wenson-Maier. It may be a short move is the city fails to get the NJ DEP “No Futher Action” letter concerning pollution on the site. If the city defaults on its deal to sell the property it could be back on the site days after the deadline.

6/17/2010 Update:

Place your bets! What happens next with Muni Garage?

At last night’s Hoboken city council meeting – the vote was 8-0 in favor of getting authorization for the $16m bond “just in case” its needed to buy back the Municipal Garage for one reason or another.

Below are the current Vegas odds for the next major milestone in this giant Hoboken headache:

  • City moves to alternate garage site and receives DEP “No Further Action Letter” by August 13 deadline to vacate, Hekemian is there with a check for the full contracted amount and all goes according to original plan: 250 to 1
  • City moves to alternate garage site, but doesn’t receive DEP “No Further Action Letter” by August 13 deadline to vacate. Hekemian can’t have property on time, but agrees to extend the deadline with no concessions from the city: 100 to 1
  • City moves to alternate garage site, and receives “No Further Action Letter” by August 13 deadline to vacate. Hekemian decides not to throw good money after bad and resigns from the project, forfeiting their $2.55 million deposit: 50 to 1
  • City moves to alternate garage site, but doesn’t receive DEP “No Further Action Letter” by August 13 deadline to vacate. Hekemian can’t have property on time, and negotiates concessions from the city: 25 to 1
  • City moves to alternate garage site, but doesn’t receive DEP “No Further Action Letter” by August 13 deadline to vacate. Hekemian rightfully calls this a breach of contract, demands it’s $2.55 million deposit back plus interest and breathes sigh of relief: 10 to 1
  • City doesn’t receive DEP “No Further Action Letter” by August 13 deadline to vacate so it doesn’t bother to vacate at all. Hekemian rightfully calls this a breach of contract and demands it’s $2.55 million deposit back, and indicates it may also seek damages: 5 to 1

What do you think the final outcome will be?

6/15/2010 Update:

Municipal Garage Bids opened

The bids were opened today at City Hall for sites for a new Municipal Garage. The city issued two Requests For Proposals, one of interior space and the other for exterior parking and storage. Two bids were for locations just outside of Hoboken in Jersey City. As expected, bids were also made for sites in Hoboken, including the Pino site, Stevens Institute and a very likely to be rejected bid from Frank Raia for the “Mercury Site.”

Raia’s bid was in the form of a letter that did not follow the RFP. It also included a Triple Net Lease not specified in the RFP. It, like the Pino site would also likely face community opposition. Here are the locations:

  • 720-32 Grand and 727-33 Adams
  • 173 16th St/619 Marin Blvd, JC
  • 39 New York Avenue, JC
  • The Pino Site
  • 1414 Grand Street
  • Somewhere on the Stevens Campus with no address or location specified in the bid.

More details to come…

6/14/2010 Update:

Council Tables Muni Garage Bond Ordinance Vote

The five Zimmer-aligned members of the Hoboken City Council sent a collective message for the many days leading up to the Special City Council Meeting of Sunday, June 13th:

“We must pass this bond ordinance, or the sad property tax-paying residents of Hoboken will be on the hook for $16 million dollars!”

Important questions left unanswered or deflected

Whether “bum rushing” this bond ordinance through is or isn’t a good idea is not the most important question. There are many other concerns that council members conveniently avoided discussion about:

  • The city contractually agreed to have the current garage site remediated AND vacated by August 13th. Why are we not even CLOSE to making that happen? Who dropped the ball on that?
  • Part of the process of vacating the current garage involved establishing a new site. Why did the RFP’s only go out AFTER Hoboken411 shined the light on the situation? With less than three months till the deadline? Why did they wait? Did they WANT to fail?
  • The city is apparently cloaking their blatant mismanagement of this deal by fear-mongering and threatening taxpayers with a big increase if the bond ordinance isn’t passed. Then labeling those who don’t support it as the ones to “blame” if taxpayers have to foot the bill. The reality is – the city screwed up, and they need their own bailout. We’d have much more respect for them if they were upfront about it, rather than pointing fingers outward or complicating the situation with real estate stipulations no one had a straight answer about.
  • Why are they so quick to bend over backwards for a financing company? What happened to hard-ball negotiations? Where is the list of alternatives, and potential drawbacks? Who on the council benefits? Who has influence with these companies? Conflict of interest? Many residents in Hoboken suspect something fishy.

Another very important fact that Hoboken residents MUST know from the meeting last night – was that most so-called “public speakers” were not your ordinary citizens with honest concerns – but rather Zimmer-appointed members of the Planning, Zoning, Housing Authority and Library boards. In other words, they were planted “cheerleaders” that will support anything and everything the administration wishes to do, in effect giving a FALSE public perception of what the residents really want. If I were a council member, I’d draft a resolution making it mandatory that all public speakers disclose their roles in Hoboken’s government, and how they were appointed.

6th Ward Councilman Nino Giacchi summed up the reasons why more information is needed before a vote can be made at the end of last nights meeting:

6/13/2010:

Council Meeting

The Hoboken City Council will vote on the Municipal Garage Bond Ordinance tonight. Note that many members are absent, because Council President Peter Cunningham decided to change it because *one* councilman wasn’t going to be at the regular Wednesday meeting.

6/10/2010 Update:

Mason: Stevens may be site of new Muni Garage

With Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s secret plan to move the Municipal Garage to the 3rd ward crumbling under the weight of community opposition (and Hoboken411 sunlight), one councilwoman says her ward is the next to be targeted.

Beth Mason sent out an email to constituents and the media today alerting the community to a new plan to place the Municipal Garage operations on land owned by Stevens Institute. As Hoboken411 reported two weeks ago, Stevens was among the landowners that submitted bids to the city to house Muni Garage operations. The Zimmer Administration promised to make all the bids open to public on the city website, but has so far refused to do it even several days after the extended RFP deadline has passed.

Zimmer turns her sights on the 2nd ward

At a recent City Council meeting, Council President Peter Cunningham publicly stated the garage could be moved to Stevens. It is on videotape and I’d be happy to dig it up if Cunningham continues to deny it. Now Mason says, “It is widely believed that City Administration and Stevens intend to place this garage on either the corner of 8th and Hudson Streets or on valuable waterfront property directly across from Frank Sinatra Park that would be better used to provide more open space for our residents.” 8th and Hudson was the site of a community battle against Stevens plans to build a large parking garage several years ago, which was one of the sparks that pushed Mason into civic involvement.

Yet another residential area being considered

If the 8th and Hudson site is on the table it would mean heavy equipment and dumpsters moving to one of the most historic neighborhoods in Hoboken. If it goes on the waterfront it will be a new eyesore after so many others have been taken down. Zimmer continues to target the wards of her political enemies instead of putting the Muni Garage where the Master Plan calls for it in the Industrially-zoned section of Cunningham’s 5th ward.

The other major parcels of Industrial-zoned land are in the southwest section of the 4th ward currently represented by Michael Lenz, who will be on the ballot in a special election this fall. First Zimmer targeted Michael Russo’s 3rd ward, then last week the strategy turned toward punishing Theresa Castellano’s 1st ward by perhaps scuttling a deal with a developer and keeping the existing Muni Garage in a residential neighborhood. Now Zimmer appears to be setting her target on Mason’s 2nd ward and Nino Giacchi’s 6th ward, where Stevens’ possible waterfront location for the Muni Garage is located.

A special meeting to discuss the mishandled project will be held on Sunday night at 7pm.

See all exclusive Hoboken411 updates below!

6/3/2010 Update:

City still scrambling – 4 council members stand behind words

Ever since Hoboken411 uncovered the lack of transparency at Hoboken City Hall – and divulged where the Municipal Garage was secretly going to be placed – a lot has happened. 100′s of residents have banded together to fight the 6th and Jackson location – and certain “officials” at City Hall are scrambling, spinning and are in full damage-control mode. Much of that spin will not be regurgitated here until something actually meaningful happens.

Residents in opposition show no signs of relenting

But meanwhile, the 3rd (and 4th) Ward residents who oppose the original re-location are NOT slowing down, only getting stronger and faster, and sent this email today:

“First and foremost, thanks to everyone who attended the meeting last night. I think we had more people there last night than the previous meeting. Looks like we’re going to have to continue to solicit our friends and neighbors to attend the next meeting where the bond ordinance will be discussed.

However, Peter Cunningham at the last minute (literally around 1:30AM) asked that the regularly scheduled city council meeting for 6/16 (Wednesday) be moved to 6/13 (Sunday) at 7PM, to accomodate Nino Giacchi’s travel plans out of the country. In this day and age, I’m not sure why he could not participate via teleconference. Giacchi clearly did not even seem phased about missing the meeting. He did not even suggest to the council that it should be moved for his absence, Cunningham did. All this while 3 councilmembers said Sunday would be conflicting with their personal schedules (Russo, Castellano, and Mason). Regardless, the meeting date was changed, so please clear your schedules for Sunday 6/13 at 7PM.

Attached, please find the letter that 4 council members signed last night (Russo, Castellano, Mason and Giacchi). We also had two verbal agreements from Mello and Lenz, but Mello argued that the language “residential” could mean keeping the current garage location, which is absurb because, as you can see, the letter says clearly “voting against relocating… to any residential area…” I will be forwarding this letter to all of them today, including the mayor and corporation counsel (if I can find Kates email address) for some purported language revisions so that the rest of them can sign, but I won’t hold my breath.”

Great to see the community come together to put the kibosh on cocky and condescending government “officials” who work for US – not the other way around!

5/27/2010 UPDATE:

Garage RFP Deadline passes with proposals delivered

The hastily drawn-up Request For Proposals for the “temporary” Hoboken Municipal Garage brought in a number of bids by the 2pm deadline:

Details are sketchy, but as expected – a proposal was submitted for the Pino site on Jackson and Monroe between 6th and 7th.

The Pino bid was encouraged by the Zimmer Administration despite the public outcry that followed Hoboken411′s exclusive story.

Bids were also received from former Mayoral candidate Frank “Pupie” Raia, who owns a number of properties in town. Its not yet known if Raia is proposing to put the Muni Garage on the former “Mercury Site” at 7th and Grand – or another parcel in the northwest. The Mercury Site is on a residential block as well.

Another bid came in from Academy Bus, which owns acres of property in the Industrial Northwest and Southwest areas.

Two bids were also made to offer space inside existing garages only, not including the necessary outdoor space offered in the Pino, Raia, and Tedesco (Academy) bids. Stevens made a proposal for this. There is also talk the city may extend the RFP another week to blunt neighborhood opponents mobilizing to protest at next Wednesday’s (June 2nd) city council meeting.

More as it becomes available…

5/24/2010 UPDATE:

Opponents to move Hoboken’s Municipal Garage to a residential area had a very busy weekend!

Spin machine on overdrive!

Last Friday, CBS Channel 2 News came to Hoboken to do a story about the controversy.

Mayor Dawn Zimmer refused to do an interview with WCBS-TV reporter Christine Sloan. Instead of facing tough questioning, Zimmer had her public relations team hand Sloan a press release. Zimmer found time last week to cut a ribbon on a harmless bike rack, but wouldn’t speak directly to reporters about the Municipal Garage. Here’s the Channel 2 story:

City Hall “sources” changing spin, again

Ten days after Hoboken411 broke the story about the garage, the weekly paper finally printed it’s own story. It included yet another novel approach to unbelievable spin attributed to “a government insider close to City Hall” who claimed the administration “may have been using the city’s interest in the spot for leverage in other negotiations.”

If you believe that you’ll believe the Mayor has a bridge to sell you to go with that Municipal Garage.

You weren’t told potential locations, but the city told landowners?

For months now, members of the public have been demanding to know where the new garage is going.

In response, Zimmer’s City Attorney and Director of Community Development have repeatedly stated that they could not disclose a site was being considered until after a contract was signed. Now the administration – through unnamed sources – wants people to believe they were telling all the interested property owners full financial details of which sites the city was considering, but not the public?

411 dares anyone to go on the record on this with their name and title to publicly make this claim.

They won’t. Why? Because it’s false.

Truth of the matter: Nobody wants the “temporary” garage

Not ONE person in town is enthusiastic about turning over their property for the next ten years for a “temporary” Municipal Garage. The Pino property is worth more as a potential residential development, and sources tell 411 that the owners are in no hurry to sell, and won’t do it for less than a fair market value. The city conducted a sales appraisal for the Pino property. That’s how serious Zimmer is about moving there.

Property owners approached by the city know the administration is over a barrel because of it’s mismanagement of the garage issue. Then-Councilwoman Dawn Zimmer voted to sell the existing garage to a developer in 2007. She knew she was starting a countdown to exit the Observer Highway property with that vote. Zimmer also knew the issue was unresolved when she took the Mayor’s office in July of 2009.

That was 10 months ago.

Executive Session minutes will prove 411 story

Hoboken411 has no direct knowledge of what’s been said at several executive session discussions of the City Council on this issue. However, is very comfortable knowing these sessions are recorded by the City Clerk, and by law – minutes of closed meetings may be made public once the need to keep the discussions private is resolved.

411 sources on this story have been solid from the beginning. This should be clear from the information the city council and Mayor’s office have been forced to confirm following Hoboken411’s reporting. Make no mistake that certain council members aligned with the Mayor have been – and continue to be – supportive of moving the garage into the 3rd ward.

Time will tell, and nothing’s over until it’s over. Watch the exclusive video of what goes on inside the current garage (thanks to all the hardworking Environmental Services employees) as well as deconstructing the City Hall spin, and the original story that first alerted the public, below!

5/21/2010 Update:

A quick tour inside the Hoboken Municipal Garage

I recently had the pleasure of hanging out with Hoboken Police Officer Robert Truppner for a day – and one of our stops was at the Hoboken Municipal Garage. You know, the one that the City Council was stumbling and fumbling about at this weeks City Council meeting?

And since 99.99% of Hoboken residents haven’t seen what goes on inside – I thought that now is a better time than ever to give you guys a brief glimpse.

PS- for those of you that have a disgruntled opinion about Police Officers in general – you ought to meet “Bobby” Truppner. Your viewpoints would certainly change in a jiffy. A class act that knows how to handle himself on the streets of Hoboken. Fair, balanced, and does his job well.

5/18/2010 Update #2:

RELATED NOTE: See massive public outcry at 5/19/2010 Council Meeting…

City Hall swerves as opposition mounts to garage plan

Mayor Denies, Delays, and attempts to Diffuse

Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s public relations team is using the “Three D’s” method in response to growing opposition to her secret plan to place move Municipal Garage operations to a residential neighborhood. After reading Hoboken411’s story about the group of concerned citizens organizing to oppose the plan, Zimmer sent out a news release designed to stop the bleeding.

Continue readin the truth behind the spin below…

Step 1: Deny

Rather than allow reporters access to the Mayor for direct questions about the Muni Garage, Zimmer had new taxpayer-paid spokesman Juan Melli send out a statement in response to press inquiries about the Hoboken411 stories. The spin was heavy, and the intentions clear.

Municipal Garage Update from the Mayor’s Office: “There have been erroneous reports distributed throughout the community regarding the status of potential sites for a public works garage. Here are the facts: There are ongoing negotiations, and we are reviewing all options.”

Anybody who watches the City Council meetings knows they’ve been going into executive session regularly to discuss the status of serious negotiations for a new garage. It’s generally understood (and not denied by Zimmer) those negotiations have focused on the Pino site.

“No decisions have been made, and all options are on the table. The City is under no contract to acquire properties.”

They can say all options are on the table right up until a deal is signed, but it’s known the Pino option is the only one that’s gotten to the final stages of negotiation.

The Zimmer team put the city in a bad position by ignoring the summer 2010 deadline to relocate the garage until after the November election.

Sources not bound by the council’s responsibility to keep executive session discussions confidential confirm the Pino property was at the top of the list when Zimmer first entered the Mayor’s office in July of 2009.

Hoboken411 has learned the city has only received appraisals for one site: the Pino property.

“Request for Proposals were issued on Monday, May 17 seeking bids for temporary space for a garage and parking. Responses to the RFPs are required within 10 calendar days and due by Friday, May 28th at 4:00 pm.”

This is a new tactic launched after Hoboken411 broke the news last week. It’s designed to make you think there are multiple interested bidders to host the new garage. Politics plays a role here because potential industrial-zoned sites for a new Muni Garage in the 4th and 5th wards would be vetoed by Zimmer allies Michael Lenz and Peter Cunningham, who represent those areas on the council. In contrast, the 3rd ward is represented by Mike Russo, who opposes Zimmer.

Step 2: Delay

“The public will be apprised of those responses at an upcoming City Council meeting which will be publicly advertised through the local press and on the City’s web site. The public is encouraged to comment on those responses when they have been received.”

In other words, the Mayor and her allies don’t want the public expressing their concerns in public at this Wednesday’s City Council meeting. This is the “Delay” part of the Mayor’s strategy, which continues…

“The Administration, in coordination with City Council President Peter Cunningham, agreed to postpone a vote on a bond ordinance for the temporary structure of the garage facility until the RFP responses have been reviewed.”

Translation: “You caught us before we could jam this through, so we’re changing strategy.” Postponing the vote on the bond ordinance for the temporary structure is an admission they were trying to get it done before the public figured out what was going on.

“This means that neither the bond ordinance related to the garage nor the garage itself will be discussed at this week’s Council meeting unless it is brought up at the public portion at the conclusion of the meeting.”

…and discuss it during the public portion they should. Many residents were already planning to be at the meeting to air their concerns, and doing so during the open public comment portion of the meeting to get them on the record would be the smartest move they can make.

Step 3: Attempt to Diffuse

“Planning and preparation for the set up of a temporary site have been ongoing, along with clean up and organizing in preparation for an upcoming move from the current site on Observer Highway. Once a final decision is made on the new location, with input from the public, then the City will be well positioned to move the municipal garage site to a temporary location.”

Opponents to the Jackson Street plan must continue to pressure the administration and spread the word because pressure is growing on the Mayor and her council majority to get this done. The city faces a deadline to vacate the Observer Highway garage in mere months. It’s already costing $100,000 a month to lease the property the city once owned free-and-clear. Zimmer and her allies may try to jam the Pino plan down the residents’ throats at the last minute claiming the city could lose millions more if it doesn’t act fast. All the more reason opponents need to act early and often against the plan.

Read the original 411 story, and details about last night’s community organizing meeting BELOW!

5/18/2010 Update:

Update: Community reacts to Zimmer’s secret plan

Residents are mobilizing against Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s secret plan to move the Municipal Garage to a residential neighborhood.

Since Hoboken411 broke the story last week, a diverse group of 3rd and 4th ward residents have been working to educate the community. Thousands of fliers have been distributed throughout the area near the site on Jackson and Monroe Streets between 6th and 7th. The flier warns of a significant increase in noise overnight and weekends, dangerous conditions for young children, and the lower property values and decreased rents that would follow the garage.

Russo opposes garage plan, wants to see a park

A group of concerned citizens met with 3rd ward Councilman Michael Russo last night. While he was careful not to reveal details Zimmer’s Corporation Counsel declared confidential in Executive Session discussions, Russo was clear he opposed the plan to re-blight the up-and-coming area. If the city is going to acquire the property Russo said it should be for a park, not a municipal garage. He stressed a large crowd of people is needed to appear at the next meeting to oppose the ordinance to borrow nearly $2 million to build a “temporary” garage structure. The public will be given 5 minutes each to appeal to the council to stop the plan during the mandated Public Hearing.

It’s all about the numbers – Voters, and votes

Organizers of the effort continue to educate people living and enjoying the area targeted by City Hall.

In addition to spreading the word throughout the condos, apartments and HHA units close to the site, concerns are growing at the nearby Hoboken Catholic Academy and historic St. Ann’s Church. A diverse coalition of opposition is certainly growing, but Zimmer can count on her usual five votes of support on the council. She needs a super-majority of six votes to pass a bond ordinance, so the public will need to convince every non-Zimmer aligned member of the council to oppose the bond.

The meeting Wednesday begins at 7pm - in that big old building across the street from “The Cake Boss.”

Go up the stairs through the front door and make a left toward the council chambers. You can sign up to speak on the bond ordinance on the sign-up sheets provided on the railing at the front of the room.

The City Council works for you, not the other way around, so don’t be pushed around by the uptown guy who runs the meetings. It’s your five minutes and your right to take it. You’ll get to speak before the vote, and again at the end of the meeting if you sign up on the sheet for the “Public Portion.”

See the original exclusive story below…

5/13/2010:

Exclusive: Muni Garage to be placed in residential area

Hoboken411 has learned the secret location Mayor Dawn Zimmer plans to relocate the Municipal Garage is in the heart of a developing residential area.

Zimmer plans to move the city’s garbage trucks, open dumpsters of waste, snowplows and road salt piles into the shadow of new condos, apartments and the Jubilee Center. Though the administration has refused to reveal the location – even under City Council urging – 411 can report Zimmer will place it on Jackson and Monroe between 6th and 7th streets.

Up-and-Coming area re-blighted in one fell swoop

Next Wednesday’s City Council agenda includes a public hearing and final vote on a $2 million bond issue to build a “temporary” city garage at an undisclosed location. Zimmer’s council majority intended to pass the bond before letting the public know where they planned to build it. They’re trying to get it done before the neighborhood learns what they’re up to. 411’s investigation led to sources who confirm four contiguous properties owned by Theresa Pino are the subject of city negotiations.

The site is largely abandoned after once serving as part of the city’s towing and impound lots, but the surrounding area has recently been developed with residential housing. Right across the street is the “Julianna” apartments. On the Monroe Street side of the block new condos have been built. Some are so new they haven’t been sold yet. All their bedroom windows will overlook the 24/7 operations of the city garage if Zimmer’s secret plan is approved.

Trash dumpsters next to the Jubilee Center

In addition to new apartments, the new city garage will also disrupt the operations of the Jubilee Center just south of the property. Young children attending programs there will have to dodge heavy equipment and city vehicle traffic.

The block in question is technically in the 3rd ward, but is just across 6th street from the 4th ward and the north end of the Housing Authority. There will be an increase in truck and trash scooter traffic on Jackson, Monroe, 6th and 7th streets if the plan is implemented, along with noise from garage operations day and night.

Former Mayor David Roberts started selling off the old municipal garage in 2005 to fill his budget gaps. Since then the city has been looking for a new location. The Hoboken Master Plan makes reference to moving the facility up to an industrial-zoned location near the North Hudson Sewerage Authority plant. There was also talk of sharing a new facility with Weehawken, Union City and/or Hudson County to save money. Both Roberts and Zimmer were unable to convert on any of that talk, and after 10 months of foot-dragging, Zimmer is now facing a July deadline to move out of the current garage to make way for the new owners.

Will it be temporary or permanent?

Zimmer won’t even admit where she plans to put the garage, let alone explain why it suddenly has to go into a residential area. No word on whether the Pino property will be bought or leased by the city. Now that word is out about where the new muni garage will go, the city council may hear from some unhappy residents at the public hearing on Wednesday at 7pm. No City Council members assisted in the sourcing of this story.

What do you think? Should the municipal garage go in a residential neighborhood, or an industrial area where it won’t disturb homeowners and renters or endanger children at the Jubilee Center? What happened to the plan to build a joint facility by the sewage plant? How did this get so botched up?

Hoboken NJ

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