City Council 8/8/2007 – Recap
Another long night for the Hoboken City Council, with flooding, parks funding, and Astroturf taking up the bulk of the time, with a side order of professional services contracts.
Here’s Part 1 of how it went down.
Caucus Talk: More Flooding
North Hudson Sewerage Authority chief Fred Pocci appeared in front of the council once again just 12 hours after a high-tide deluge flooded the city again. Pocci’s comments won’t be seen on Channel 78 because the Mayor and Council don’t air the “Caucus” meetings on the Public Access channel, even though a lot of important discussions happen during the 6pm session.
Pocci reiterated that the NHSA has designed a multi-pump ejector system to alleviate the high-tide flooding problem, but again said NJ Transit continues to balk on doing its part. Pocci told the council this week’s $10 million dollar NJ Transit pledge press release is not enough to get the job done. They need 20 to 25 million from NJ Transit to fix the lines on Observer Highway that are key to making the proposed NHSA ejector pumps actually work.
See More Below!
Quid Pro Quo for NJ Transit?
The recurring theme is that NJ Transit is holding back what it should be paying to fix the flooding so it can bargain with Hoboken for permission to build several high-rise buildings as part of its Rail Yard Redevelopment Plan. There is also the sense around City Hall that Mayor David Roberts is complicit with this.
There was also some concern that the NHSA pump plan may not be enough to solve the problem. Pocci said a larger, more expensive system was considered, but they decided to go with a less comprehensive and cheaper plan.
One resident said he parked his car near the corner of Park and Newark, and the floods deposited raw sewage in his vehicle. He called City Hall for answers and got nowhere. 2nd ward councilwoman Beth Mason expressed concern about the health problems that raw sewage in the streets may cause.
4th ward councilwoman Dawn Zimmer said no development should be allowed in the areas effected by flooding as long as this problem continues. 5th ward councilman Peter Cunningham echoed that concern and said it should also include a stop to building in the “Western Edge” redevelopment area (although the cash crunch facing developer Tarragon may take care of that). Pocci said large new buildings can actually help with flash floods because they must be built with storm water retention systems. Meanwhile, more towers equals more people using toilets that tax the already overburdened sewer system regardless if it’s raining.
Somebody needs a Ward Map
Speaking of flooding, did you notice the mistakes in the Jersey Journal article? Under the headline “Hoboken 4th Ward roars: Oh no, not another flood!” is a picture of a flooded Park Avenue between Observer and Newark including the Archstone building. Under that is a picture of people cleaning the mess the flood left behind on Newark between Park and Garden. The Journal also quotes people in the “4th Ward” including residents of Newark and Garden, Counter-Fit Printing at Newark and Park, and “A Newark Street Café Owner” we all know was the owner of Legal Beans. The problem: NONE of those people, places and businesses are in the 4th ward! They are all several blocks east in the 1st ward! Jersey Journal gets an “A” for effort but an “F” for geography on this one.
Amending Open Space Tax Referendum
The next big issue the council tackled was Dawn Zimmer and Peter Cunningham’s effort to amend the “Open Space Tax” referendum that will be on the ballot in November. The council agreed to suspend the rules and take this resolution (#17 on the agenda) first to allow members of the public to speak on it and get home before 11pm. Back in June the old council reluctantly decided to put this new tax for open space funding on the ballot for voters to decide, but not before former 4th ward councilman Chris Campos inserted the words “and maintenance” into the language of the resolution. This meant the money from the tax would not be used solely for acquisition and construction of new parks, but also for maintenance of older ones.
After four or five public speakers on the issue both pro and con, the council began its debate. Cunningham took the lead on stating the case for why the tax should be used to secure bonding for new park space. He noted there is a lot of talk about buying land for parks — including the Henkel/Cognos site in his ward – but little action.
Opposition from Giacchi and Cammarano
6th ward councilman Nino Giacchi said he was against the proposed changes because it would allow existing parks like those in his ward to fall into disrepair if maintenance funds are not made available. He said no new parks will be coming to the 6th ward if this tax is passed, even though 6th ward taxpayers will have to pay like everyone else.
Councilman-at-Large Peter Cammarano said Cunningham and Zimmer wanted to change the wording so they could focus the new tax revenue “laser like” on acquisition because most of the available land is in the 4th and 5th wards. Cammarano said this was unfair to the other wards.
Councilwoman Mason answered that charge by asking people in the room to put there hands up if they visit Pier A park and Church Square Park. Nearly every hand in the room went up, including those on the council. Mason then pointed out that not everyone in the room lives in the 1st and 6th wards, but we live in a mile square city where new parks benefit everyone in Hoboken.
Another Vote Against The Children?
3rd Ward Councilman Michael Russo suggested the voters decide between the version of the Park Tax approved in June and the changes suggested by Cunningham and Zimmer. This would give the taxpayers the option to choose the wording of one over the other, or dump them both. City Attorney Steven Kleinman indicated that may not be possible under the statute and that only one version would probably be allowed. Zimmer countered Russo by repeating the line he used weeks earlier regarding the vote to establish the Western Edge Redevelopment Area for Tarragon/Ursa. She said “A vote against this is a vote against the children.” The crowd responded with a mix of cheers and groans, much as they did when Russo first said it.
Council President Theresa Castellano then treated the crowd to a list of all the parks in Hoboken, totaling over 1.4 million square feet, adding that was a lot of parkland and she would campaign against the Park Tax. Sensing imminent defeat, the resolution was pulled from the agenda by the sponsors so it may be reconsidered later.
End of Part 1 – Part 2 coming soon!
Here’s a quick preview of tonight’s Hoboken City Council Meeting. The bulk of the debate will likely be about all the Professional Services Contracts that Mayor Dave Roberts pulled off the agenda at a July 25th Special Meeting.
Ordinances: Public Hearing and Final Vote
One ordinance to be considered tonight wold make the intersection of 4th and River “No Turn On Red”. Another ordinance issues more Handicapped Parking areas at 1302 Washington, 1207 Willow, 115 Bloomfield, 1006 Garden.
Professional Services Resolutions
The Mayor wants the council to award contracts to the following professional services firms that responded to the city’s “Request for Quotations”. You can see all the proposals on the “We The People Reports” website. Check it out!
- Litigation/Workers Compensation Counsel: Florio & Kenny in an amount not to exceed $100,000.00.
- Litigation/Labor Counsel: Scarinci & Hollenbeck in an amount not to exceed $250,000.00.
- Labor Counsel: David F. Corrigan in an amount not to exceed $125,000.00.
- Rent Control Litigation Counsel: Ravinder Balla in an amount not to exceed $40,000.00.
- Redevelopment Counsel: Ansell Zaro Grimm & Aaron in an amount not to exceed $75,000.00.
- Litigation Counsel: John J. Collins in an amount not to exceed $75,000.00.
- Auditors: Garbarini & Co. P.C. in an amount not to exceed $97,500.00.
- Engineers: Remington & Vernick in an amount not to exceed $50,000.00.
- Planners: Vandor & Vandor in an amount not to exceed $75,000.00.
- Parking Consultant: Bier Associates in an amount not to exceed $40,000.00.
- Downtown Transit Oriented Plan Contract: Heyer, Gruel & Associates in an amount not to exceed $60,000.00.
The council will also vote on the introduction of an ordinance to authorize the City of Hoboken to “Exceed the Municipal Budget Cost Of Living Allowance”. Apparently this will widen the envelope for how much the city can spend. The council will also be given the annual “Debt Statement” from CFO George DeStefano.
As always, the Mayor and Council reserve the right to place more items on the agenda, and the Council is likely to hear from people unhappy with what is happening at Church Square Park. The Caucus begins at 6pm, followed by the regular meeting at City Hall at 7pm.