City Council 2/7/2007 – Recap
Here’s the full recap from this past Wednesday’s City Council meeting. You can also read the original preview posted a few days ago after the break.
Campos Make a Sober Return
For the first time since his arrest on DUI charges, Fourth Ward councilman Chris Campos appeared at the City Council meeting. He was quieter than usual, but far from silent. Campos did not work the crowd with the same level of bravado people are used to seeing from him. He never mentioned his arrest, or made any apology. No other Council members referred to it, and Campos left the meeting early at 9pm, citing a family commitment.
Some were surprised at how active he was in working to kill the “Zero Tolerance” legislation targeting inebriated St. Patrick’s Parade Day revelers. Campos is due back in New York City Court March 6th… three days after the parade.
Politics Leads Zero Tolerance Debate
A funny thing happened on the way to the debate about cutting the hours of operation for the bars on St. Patrick’s Parade Day. It turns out the Ordinance sponsored by Councilwoman Theresa Castellano that was supposed to keep the bars closed on Parade Day until 11am would not have taken effect in time for this year’s event unless the Council held a special meeting.
Mayor Roberts did not want that to happen, and used an “executive communication” to the Council to trump the resolution and ordinance. A majority of the council used it as an excuse to appeal to the bar owners and workers at the meeting, making a big show of voting down the resolution. Yes, Councilman Chris Campos voted against Zero Tolerance for Parade Day drunks, choosing instead to endorse the weaker policy of the bar-owning Mayor.
Police Chief LaBruno said he has identified 63 establishments he classified as “problematic.” The chief also said overtime for police will run in the tens of thousands of dollars to keep control of the crowds. He pointed out in 1993 he had to order all liquor selling establishments closed because of how things got out of hand, and he would not hesitate to do it again. The Chief wanted the Courts open and operating on parade day so he could move offenders through the system. Doesn’t look like that is going to happen now.
Municipal Garage Resolutions Disappear, Controversy Remains
The Mayor’s proposed ordinance to raise the proposed height of a building complex on the Municipal Garage Site to 12, 10, and 8 stories was pulled from the agenda before the meeting started. Apparently the votes weren’t there for the plan, which failed twice before (last month and back in August).
As a sign of “good faith,” Councilwoman Castellano and Councilman DelBoccio removed their resolution calling for the project to be put out for sealed bids under the approved 9 and 7 story plan. They are members of the Observer Highway Redevelopment Advisory Committee, which put together the 9/7 plan, and is opposed to the 12/10/8 plan that Roberts is trying to hand over to Ursa/Tarragon – coincidentally one of his biggest campaign contributors. The Mayor’s process is such a mess that there is talk of re-bidding the project, but Community Development Director Fred Bado told the council he would have more information for them next week.
916 Garden Garage Debacle Update
Parking Utility Director John Corea told the Council things are moving forward for the automated garage, even with new parts being imported by an Israeli firm getting held up in Customs. Corea said 20 cars are back in the garage and as many as 100 more may be allowed back by February 19th. He says they are on track for a grand opening on April 1st. This seemed to please the council, who did not have any resolutions on the agenda for “Zero Tolerance” on April Fools Day.
NJ Transit Redevelopment
A split council voted to approve the creation of a new Redevelopment Zone on the Hoboken Terminal and Rail Yard. Residents warned the Council that NJ Transit already had a development deal with a developer named LCOR, and that they were concerned the move to create a redevelopment zone there would just grease the wheels for a massive high-rise development project.
There was some debate over how to best make sure Hoboken had some say in the project, and ultimately the council decided to go the redevelopment route. The council was asked to set up a community input process so citizens could have some say over what will go on the rail yards, but no promises were made. Council members Castellano, Cricco, and Russo voted no on the resolution.
Bloated Budget/Overdue Audit
Michael Russo also tried to once again get his budget amendments on the table for a vote, but since it was not on the posted agenda the council decided not to deal with it. Meanwhile, Business Administrator Richard England says the audit of last year’s budget is done, and it does not include anything that will impact this year’s budget. England was asked if there are any end-of-the-fiscal year budget surprises looming, and he said no. England also said the 4th quarter tax bills would include a slight tax increase he called “pennies” that were “not significant.”
The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, February 21st with a caucus at 6pm and regular session at 7pm.
It promises to be a lively night at the Hoboken City Council meeting, with many political agendas and axes ready to grind and – as always – citizens and taxpayers stuck in the middle.
The mood of the meeting may be marked by the return of Councilman Chris Campos, emerging in public for the first time since his DUI arrest. All eyes will be on the Fourth Ward councilman, who apparently left his dream of running for State Assembly on Union City Mayor Brian Stack’s ticket on the West Side Highway as the NYPD “cuffed him and stuffed him.”
According to today’s Jersey Journal “Political Insider” column, Hoboken State Senator Bernie Kenny is fighting Stack’s challenge, and finding more high level support than some people thought. It goes on to say this makes it less likely that Councilman Ruben Ramos (aligned with Kenny/Roberts) would be picked to run with Stack, and that Councilman Michael Russo – often at odds with Roberts – would now be a more likely Hoboken running mate for Stack. Watch for a potential “Mea Culpa” speech from Campos, who may also try to pack the room with supporters in case people show up to call for his resignation.
On to the posted agenda:
Municipal Garage Redevelopment Battle
There are competing resolutions about this. The first outlines all the ways David Roberts has screwed up the effort to sell the Garage for development, and calling on the city to immediately put the property up for sale via clean, sealed bids under the Redevelopment Plan that was put together by the Observer Highway Redevelopment Advisory Committee.
While that resolution explains how the process has gone wrong under Roberts, the Mayor has for the THIRD time placed his own resolution to trash the community plan and hand the property over to his favorite developer (Ursa/Tarragon) to build a massive building on the block that will rise 12, 10, and 8 stories.
The council rejected Roberts’ high-rise plans three times already (In 2005, August 2006, and January 2007) but he just keeps trying to push it through. See more about this here: Downtown Redevelopment Battles Continue.
St. Patricks Parade Resolution
The other hot item is the St. Patrick’s Parade resolution that we have been talking about here. A big crowd of bar owners is expected for that debate, which could get pretty heated.
NJ Transit Redevelopment
The Council will vote on whether to designate the Hoboken Terminal and Yard as “an area in need of redevelopment” following the Planning Board’s vote on the issue. NJ Transit has picked LCOR to be their designated redeveloper of the property, and it’s widely rumored they want to build a wall of high-rise office and condo towers up the south side of Observer Highway. See more here. If the council approves the redevelopment designation, the City’s planners will put together a Redevelopment Plan for the site.
Making School Zones Safer
The council will also consider an ordinance to slow traffic down around the Connors and Brandt schools. This includes new flashing light speed limit signs, and a 15 MPH limit during school hours. Other schools are not included in this ordinance, which by the way misspells “Brandt” as “Brant” several times. Love that quality control.
It should be a very interesting evening, with the council caucus beginning at 6pm and the regular meeting at 7pm at City Hall.