City Council 4/19/2007 – Recap
Flooding, overdevelopment, and the budget were discussed by the Hoboken City Council last night during a five and a half hour meeting. The issue that took up the most time? Pedi-Cabs again! Here’s the condensed version.
Southwest Redevelopment Delayed Again
The Southwest Redevelopment Plan was on the agenda for a Pubic Hearing and Final Vote, and the hall was packed with people looking for their chance to weigh in. Dawn Zimmer and the Southwest Parks Coalition were there to outline all the flaws. Members of the development and real estate community were on hand to push the Council to move ahead so they could cash in on the new 12-story towers it allows.
Councilman Peter Cammarano explained the Planning Board did not have a chance to actually vote to “memorialize” their findings related to the plan, so he moved to postpone the vote yet again. This despite Mayor Roberts’ move to have the Planning Board attorney write a letter to the council outlining that board’s recommendations in an effort to get the Southwest Plan pushed through. Cammarano’s motion to push the vote ahead to at the next meeting May 2nd was approved.
Council watchers are in disagreement about whether they will act on this then, or push it past the May 8th Council election.
The head of the North Hudson Sewerage Authority came to discuss the latest round of severe flooding, and what can be done about it. Executive Director Fred Pocci told the council the NHSA has been ready to move ahead with improvements to the sewer system that would help alleviate part of the problem, but that it can’t do much without cooperation from New Jersey Transit. There are major sewer lines that bring water from the southwest part of town out to the Hudson beneath NJ Transit property.
In order for the system to be improved, NJ Transit would have to spend about 20 million dollars. The NHSA says NJ Transit stopped action on the project, and wasn’t funding it even though it had been in the works for years. There was some speculation Transit would try to tie the sewer improvements to the massive redevelopment plan it’s preparing for the rail yards. Pocci said the NHSA wants to install storm pumps and improve existing infrastructure, but the total cost could exceed 32 million dollars.
Pocci said many roads would be ripped up, including Observer Highway, calling it a “difficult” project as 120 year old wooden sewers are replaced. Pocci said if NJ Transit changed course and got on board with the project again they still couldn’t even begin work until at least June of 2008.
Several people complained about the flooding which seems to be happening more often and to a greater extent than ever before. One born and raised resident said he warned the Council several years ago that this kind of flooding was coming and they needed to address the sewers long ago.
Development Moratorium Proposed
With the streets barely dry and the council talking about approving more high-rise condos, 2nd ward candidate Beth Mason called for a moratorium on new construction projects to deal with the already overwhelmed infrastructure. Mason said the council should stop development until they know how to fix the flooding which is causing so much property damage.
Mason said the safety and welfare of the citizens should come first before more condos are built, putting more pressure on the city. Council members did not respond to her suggestion, which follows a moratorium several years ago under similar circumstances.
Still No Budget, Attorneys Fired
The council was told the budget is being held up by the state (again) and that the city runs the risk of once again overspending the budget. In response, the council passed a resolution to fire all the politically connected outside attorneys and have the work done in house by the in house legal department. This is because the council wants them replaced with other politically connected attorneys.
Church Square Park Trees Murdered
Despite earlier Roberts Administration claims to the contrary, a report shows contractors working on the latest playground in Church Square Park did indeed cut the base roots of two trees, causing their death. Parks activist Leah Healey said the trees stood in the park for 120 and 75 years, and the Jungle Gym construction caused their untimely destruction. Council members expressed their disappointment.
PediCabs vs. Taxi Cabs
For about an hour and forty minutes the City Council went back and forth with advocates for the introduction of pedi-cabs, and those who opposed them. Councilwoman Terry LaBruno was the only advocate for the plan on the council, which meant a ban on the pedi-cabs was going to move forward no matter what anyone said. Still, the council entertained a lengthy debate, which may continue at the next meeting when the actual public hearing and final vote will be held.
During a budget discussion, Cammarano said the council should not be spending like “Drunken Sailors.” The mention of inebriation immediately put the spotlight on Chris Campos, who has a pending DUI charge against him. Campos looked down at the table as people laughed and looked for his reaction to the “Drunken Sailor” comment.
Councilwoman Terry LaBruno also gave the audience a laugh when she said the “We are so lacking in ball space.” Write your own joke there. (LaBruno was actually referring to parks.)