City Council 6/6/2007 – Recap
The last City Council meeting before the runoff election included lots of talk about parks and open space, redevelopment zones, pay-to-play law violations, some political jousting between runoff candidates, an update on the Joe Sherman saga, and the ever-popular dog waste issues.
Pier C Park Update
If you go by the city’s promotional posters and fliers for parks and open space, Pier C park should have been open by now. Year after year the construction has been put off as the Roberts administration struggled to get its ducks in a row. Last night the City Council awarded an $18.9 million contract to EIC Associates to finally begin construction. The council went with a “base bid” which means a bare-bones version of the park originally promised. The fishing pier and the sand volleyball court are gone from the plan, so the illustrations of what the park is supposed to look like are wrong. The council was told they could add those things later if money were to be found to pay for it, but at this point the project has taken so long to get off the ground that there is only enough cash from the Port Authority left to build a very basic version of the original concept. Thanks Dave.
A Park on the Henkel Cognos Site ?
A resolution calling for the preservation of the site of the former Henkel/Cognos plant in the fifth ward for open space or ball fields sparked a lively discussion. HobokenParks.org founder Leah Healey called on the council to do something stronger than simply directing the Mayor to look into acquiring the site because developers are swooping over it like vultures, and the city may lose it’s chance to act. The site was originally slated for ball fields and a new high school to be paid for by the state Schools Construction Corporation, which ran out of money before they could get to Hoboken. The School District is still interested in building a new school there, but there is no money for it. The City Attorney said they believe the site would be protected by the fact it is zoned for industrial use, but Ms. Healey said a developer could still put in an application for luxury condos with the variance happy Zoning Board.
5th ward council candidate Perry Belfiore – a former school board member — said the board of ed was “pie in the sky” if they thought they would ever get money from the state for a school there, and he urged the city council to act decisively and exercise it’s power to acquire the property. He pointed out that the administration dropped the ball twice on this, and said they were deluding themselves and the council.
The other candidate in the 5th ward runoff also rose to spoke. Peter Cunningham echoed the sentiments of Healey and Belfiore to move quickly on the issue, but criticized the timing of the resolution, calling it political just six days before the runoff. He complained that his “opposition was taking credit” for the Henkel action. This angered several members of the council, including Michael Russo who said no matter the timing the council needed to get the process moving. The resolution passed.
Western Edge Redevelopment
A resolution designating the “Western Edge” as an “area in need of redevelopment” was not entertained by the council. They said they were not given the information in time to consider it. This is the area west of the ShopRite dominated by properties owned by Ursa/Tarragon, which wants to build high rise condo buildings there. Leah Healy also informed the council that Ursa was buying up property in the NoHo area just as Mayor Roberts was calling for a redevelopment zone there. She called the timing into question, and essentially told the council it didn’t look kosher, but more like another Roberts backroom deal with his favorite developer/campaign contributor.
Neumann Leather Redevelopment
The caucus began with a presentation from the Neumann Leather Tenants Association, who are working to preserve the existing artists and artisans on the property following Mayor Roberts’ move to redevelop the industrial site for more tax revenue. The NLTA has brought in a group called Artspace that specializes in this kind of project. They met with representatives of owners of the property, as well as developer Trammel Crow Residential. TCR has an option to buy the Neumann property. The NLTA is also working with the Observer Highway Redevelopment Advisory Committee, which is charged with advising on redevelopment of Neumann and the Municipal Garage site.
Joe Sherman Not Fired
Remember the big splash Mayor Roberts made by “firing” city attorney Joe Sherman? Well, he is still getting paid six months later, but is not actually coming to Hoboken to work. New attorney Steve Kleinman told the council Sherman has begun working on some ongoing cases from afar, assisting him in his duties. Councilman Peter Cammarano said the city should just “cut the cord” with Sherman, not give him access to files and cases. Kleinman said the resolution of the Sherman issue will be very professional and will resolve outstanding legal issues. Cammarano and Russo were not convinced.
Pay to Play Violations
Charges and counter-charges flew as a member of the group People For Open Government rose to inform the council that they had identified a number of violations to the city’s Pay-to-Play laws in the state election law enforcement commission filings made by some candidates for council. The law restricts campaign contributions from designated redevelopers and city contractors. Donations from a principal of Applied Development, and a law firm that works for the city were identified as violations that needed to be remedied by a deadline this week, or moved on for prosecution. The city attorney indicated he received POG’s allegations and was investigating. This opened the POG member, James Castiglione, to an angry barrage from Council members Russo and Castellano, and Cammarano, who were upset that POG did not criticize redeveloper Frank “Pupie” Raia’s financing of his own campaign in the third ward. Castiglione asked for specifics of their charges, and said POG would look into an allegation, but that none had been found in their ELEC investigation.
Dog Poop Update
An ordinance designed to put more teeth into the city’s dog waste law passed on first reading, and will be the subject of a public hearing at the next meeting. The ordinance raises the maximum fine for dog waste violations to $2000 and includes a “repeat offender” fine. Names of the offenders could also be posted on the city’s website.
However, as students from All Saints pointed out at the last meeting, there seems to be no enforcement of the law, since only one dog waste ticket has been issued this year, and it was dismissed. The city ordinance could say someone who doesn’t clean up after their dog faces penalty of death, but it wouldn’t matter if the city never enforces it.
Next City Council Meeting: June 20th at 7pm, with the caucus at 6pm. It will be the last meeting for second ward councilman Richard DelBoccio and fifth ward councilman Michael Cricco, who are retiring. Whether it will also be the last meeting for fourth ward councilman Chris Campos and sixth ward councilman Nino Giacchi is up to the voters on June 12th.