Polling for Dollars! (and VOTES)

9/23/2008 Update:

More Polling Underway This Week

hoboken-telephone-poll-survey-politics-hudson-county-hoboken-mayor-development.jpgThere is another telephone polling effort underway this week in Hoboken. Fingers are once again pointing to Mayor David Roberts and his allies for sponsoring it. It seems the poll he commissioned back in April didn’t turn out as well as he would have liked. Roberts came back with high negatives from the public, and that was before the budget blew up. (See details of the spring polling after the jump.)

Several Hoboken411 readers have written in about the new poll, and here’s what we’ve found out.

High-Rise Development and Politics

The poll runs about 15 to 20 minutes, with dozens of questions. It starts off by asking your opinion of several political figures in town. They ask first if you know who they are. If so they go further to ask if you have a favorable or unfavorable view of them. Then they ask who you would elect Mayor in 2009. Pretty standard stuff for a political poll, but then it gets really interesting.

Laying the groundwork for the ’09 election

This poll is similar to one performed in 2004 to help Dave Roberts and the HCDO prepare for the 2005 Mayoral election. What that polling told them was that people wanted parks. In response, the Roberts Team came up with “The Mayor’s Open Space Initiative” and sold the heck out of it. This included an illegal deal between Roberts and his pals at Ursa/Tarragon that was later thrown out of court. Four years later that parks plan remains unrealized, so “The Roberts Team” needs a new plan ahead of the election.


Two 40-story towers in the Northwest?

The poll takes the temperature of the public on development issues, including a question about whether you would support the construction of two 40-story office buildings in northwest Hoboken, a 25-story waterfront development, and high-rise towers in southwest Hoboken. Among the questions:

  • There is a candidate running for Mayor who supports the development of two 40-story high rises in the North end of town. Would you support this person?
  • Many cities have signature skylines. Would you support development to create a signature skyline for Hoboken?
  • Would you support high rise towers if they were green, brought in jobs, created open spaces and parks, and helped Hoboken’s economy?

Clearly that last questioned is designed to see which argument for high-rise development is most likely to work with the public.

See where these towers would go – and all previous updates after the jump…

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(Polling for Hoboken dollars, continued…)

Where would all these towers go exactly?

Of course, the pollsters don’t give you specifics. In fact, they won’t even tell you who they are doing the poll for. Did some digging and have filled in some of the blanks to float some plausible theories. First, the whole “Signature Skyline” line comes from our high-rise happy Mayor, who once said he would like to see the tallest building in New Jersey built in Hoboken.

Second, the most likely place someone would propose building two 40-story buildings in northwest Hoboken is on the several blocks of property north of the 14th Street viaduct and west of Willow owned by the Tedesco family of Academy Bus fame. The Tedescos also own blocks of land within the SW6 park/flood mitigation area proposal in the southwest part of town.


Academy has proposed building high-rise condos on their southwest property in the past. Could the Mayor be cooking up a plan to promote an Academy plan to build to 40-story towers in the northwest in exchange for some parkland in the southwest? Perhaps this poll is a test of what could be a key theme in the 2009 re-election bid of Roberts and/or members of the Roberts team (Cammarano, Ramos, LaBruno.)

And what about this 25-story tower?

Some have guessed this is a question about potential development over the NJ Transit rail yards. That would be met with hysterical laughter by those who know what NJ Transit is really cooking. Their plans for southern Hoboken may include a building three times that size. This question is not about NJ Transit.

But then where? There isn’t much waterfront land left to build on in Hoboken. The northern waterfront is largely built out (or governed by special zoning), the Union Dry Dock is not appropriate for high-rise construction, and the empty block south of the W hotel is supposed to rise 12-15 stories tops, right? It is… but what if they are re-thinking that plan?


Could this be “The W” all over again?

Originally the W hotel was supposed to be just as tall as the office buildings to the south and 333 River Street to the North. Then Applied Development came in with a last minute change to soar into the sky, championed by the Mayor. Is Dave Roberts preparing to do the same thing on a last minute change-order on the plans for the SJP office building currently in the planning stages? This seems to be the most likely scenario, and the Mayor and developer could say it is in the spirit of “design symmetry” that two 25 story buildings be built on the block.

Other questions in the survey:

  • What do you consider to be the most important issue? Parks and open space? Parking? Taxes? Development? The city budget?
  • Would you rather have the State handling the city’s finances or would you rather have the Mayor and Council making the financial decisions for Hoboken?
  • Do you attend council meetings?
  • Do you vote in local elections?
  • Have you participated in a community group?
  • Have you written letters to the editor?
  • Where do you get your news about Hoboken?

Of course, the pollsters were again told to ask about Hoboken411!

Did you get the poll? Share your experience in the comments section, and how you feel about some of the questions in the survey, and what we have been able to find out about them.

Also read about last spring’s poll below.

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Have you been fielding calls from pollsters who want to ask you questions about issues and politicians in and around Hoboken? The Hoboken411 inbox has been flooded with tales of these inquisitive callers, who are asking about politicians, development, and other issues we talk about here every day. In fact, they are even asking voters about how they use Hoboken411!!

Who ordered these polls and what do they mean for the future of Hoboken?


From what we’ve gathered so far from people who have been called, there may in fact be two polls being run simultaneously. Whether or not the two polls come from the same source or two different sources is unclear.

Poll #1 – Who should be our next Mayor?

The first poll involves questions regarding politicians in town and public opinion about them. It seems to be primarily a poll that seeks information the big political bosses will need to decide who to run for Mayor and Council in 2009, though it also includes some questions in the “push poll” style designed to smear political opponents. This poll has most likely been sanctioned by the Hudson County Democratic Organization with the full knowledge of Mayor David Roberts.

We first got word this poll was in the works from Hoboken411 poster “upyurs,” who warned that the Mayor was going to make a big push to polish up his reputation this month ahead of the polling. That’s why he showed up to the City Council meeting to give a speech about all the great things that are going on in Hoboken and bought a full-page ad in the Hoboken Reporter touting the same. Roberts is trying to skew the poll to make it seem like people think he is doing a better job than he actually is.

Why would he skew his own poll?

Because the poll is not really Dave’s poll. It’s a poll that the big bosses of the HCDO put together to decide whether Roberts is the horse they should ride into another election or whether he is so unpopular that the time has come for a change to protect their cash flow. Believe it or not, we are only about thirteen months away from the 2009 Mayoral election.

You may not be thinking of this, but the people who run the Hudson County machine are. Why? Because hundreds of millions of tax dollars are at stake. They need a poll to know who is most likely to protect their investment. Different people tell 411 they asked who the poll was for, and they are given different answers.

So, what are they asking people?


Hoboken411 poster “ajm” says the pollster asked for general opinions on several politicians, including Congressman Albio Sires, State Senator Brian Stack, Mayor Roberts, failed HCDO assembly candidate Carol Marsh, and current council members Beth Mason, Peter Cammarano and Mike Russo.

The pollster also asked “Who would you vote for in a Mayoral election?” again offering the names of Roberts, Mason, Cammarano, Russo and others. Here’s where it gets funky, and clear that the poll is coming from the HCDO and Roberts.

The pollster asks:

Assuming the following statements were true, would you be more likely or less likely to vote for Dave Roberts?

  • “During Roberts administration property values have increased over 140%”
  • “Roberts helped create over 1800 parking spaces”
  • “Roberts brought the Clearview Cinema to Hoboken”
  • “Roberts acquired 1600 Park Ave for open space”

This is the way the political spinmeisters kill two birds with one stone. They are simultaneously testing the value of these statements with those who may know better while placing spin in the minds of potential voters who don’t know any better. This also works in the opposite way to test messages that can be used against potential opponents.

HCDO Pollster takes aim at Mason

“ajm” says one question was also asked specifically about the second ward councilwoman:

Assuming the following statements were true, would you be more or less likely to vote for Beth Mason:

  • “If Beth Mason filed lawsuits against the city and wanted taxpayer money to be used to pay for her legal fees.”

This is spin about Mason’s lawsuits over city violations of the Open Public Records Act that Peter Cammarano has been using against her. Instead of focusing on the information the administration is hiding, Cammarano tells people that Mason is trying to “cash in” with her suits. This is a truly absurd to anyone familiar with the law. However, judging by the NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission’s investigation of Cammarano, the young attorney’s understanding of the law seems to be greatly exaggerated.

Do these polling tactics work?

Ajm says “I was openly laughing at the questions. I explained to him how all of the questions were loaded. When I explained that the movie theater is was promised over a year ago and still wasn’t started, he was shocked.” Ajm continues, “When he noticed that the trend was that I wouldn’t vote for Roberts anyway, he noted that most people were responding that way.” When ajm asked the caller who commissioned the survey, he replied, “Uh, I think Dave Roberts.”

Different answers lead to different questions

The way these polls operate the pollster will ask different questions depending on the answers they are getting for the early questions. This may explain why different Hoboken411 users have been getting slightly different questions. One writes in that the operator said the poll was “on behalf of the City of Hoboken” with “lots of questions about demographics and who I’d vote for Mayor.” This writer says the names of the current council members were listed (Mason, Cammarano, Russo, etc), along with Frank “Pupie” Raia, Marsh, and Roberts.

They are paying people to ask about Hoboken411

The political machine is also wants to know how you use Hoboken411. I’m told the pollsters are asking people if they have an Internet connection, and if so “How often (if ever) do you visit the Hoboken411 website.” Thanks for the free advertising, guys! Post your reactions to that tidbit of information below in the comments section!

A second poll on NJ Transit Redevelopment


Mayor Dave Roberts is widely believed to have made a handshake deal to allow some of the tallest buildings in New Jersey to be built over the NJ Transit Rail Yards. His comments promoting railroad redevelopment and high-rise towers the likes of which would make the W seem tiny has many people concerned. 411 poster “Hobo91” says a caller phoned with about 30 questions about developing the Hoboken Terminal:

“It started off with specifics about the train station and terminal. He asked for a ratings of 1-5 (five being more favorable).”:

  • Are you in favor of development around the train terminal?
  • Would you like big name retailers? Office space? Condos? Rentals? Senior housing? Low-income housing? Would you like a green common area?

From there the topic changed to development in general.

  • What are your most favorable areas of development currently in Hoboken?
  • What are your least favorable?
  • Going forward are you in favor of more development in Hoboken?
  • Would you be in favor of more development if it brought your taxes down?
  • Do you own in Hoboken?
  • Do you make more then $50k a year?

Who is doing this, and why?

“Hobo91” asked who was behind the survey, and the caller replied that he “wasn’t sure” and guessed it was “the town” which “sounded like B.S.” While it’s possible this poll could be connected with the HCDO/Roberts poll sources who have dealt with polling in the past say it is more likely to have been commissioned by NJ Transit or its designated developer LCOR, or hand-picked planning and architectural firm FXFOWLE.

It’s possible that the pollsters are looking to take the true temperature of Hoboken, but it’s also possible they are looking to gather polling data they can twist to serve their arguments for a massive project. It may be a while before we can tell which one it is, but make no mistake that a massive rail yard project would mean tens of millions in annual payments in lieu of taxes to support the political machine, which is all the machine is ever truly looking out for.

Did you get a call? Have a reaction to these polls? Please post your thoughts and experiences in the comments section. If you are shy email them to me at Hoboken411@gmail.com (especially if they asked if you have an internet connection!)

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008 3:25 pm

sigh….greentea…re post 38: No, not because 1907 is ancient times….duh…, but because there was a congestion situation and technological advancement that could resolve it. The situation is not relevant to the NJ Transit Development project (although lackeys for the NJ Transit Development try to pretend that there is). The scenario of the early 1900s is not in any way comparable to redevelopment of today. Grand Central Depot was designed to bring trains into Manhattan. Grand Central Terminal was the replacement building. There was an advancement in our transportation system technology at that time….now, let me think….what was it? Oh yeah, electric trains. Because of the development of electric trains they could move the tracks underground freeing up space above ground. NJ Transit tries to draw the same trajectory saying that tracks were removed and look at all the beautiful development on Park Avenue. However, this is ridiculously disingenuous. The tracks were where the street is now. A more apt comparison to the NJ Development project in Hoboken would be the renovation of Grand Central Terminal in 1994 and that redevelopment, although necessary, was not undertaken when NYC was bankrupt. I certainly did not oppose the renovation of the Hoboken Terminal and, buy and large, it’s complete. As far as the West Side Yards development, I believe, that many citizens of NYC opposed that development, particularly the unnecessary stadium. However, that is just my recollection, I did not follow it closely; I don’t think that there was any sort of referendum… Read more »

Wednesday, September 24, 2008 2:47 pm

[quote comment=”107396″]
[quote comment=”107382″]There is nothing wrong with redevelopment… [/quote]

Other than it exempts the property from existing zoning laws, allows properties to be seized through eminent domain and exempts the property from taxes only to be replaced by back room PILOT deals which raise everyone else’s taxes….[/quote]

You forgot to mention the heap of campaign contributions to the incumbent politicos that set it up. There may be a sound way to redevelop, but it doesn’t work that way in Hoboken.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008 1:44 pm

38: Because 1907 is pretty much ancient times, right? If the past is so irrelevant, than why insist on preserving historic buildings? Obviously the point of costume’s post was to illustrate the beneficial aspects of redevelopment, and the passage of time doesn’t render the salient lessons obsolete in a similar situation for the present.

But if you still can’t accept that, then consider the extant massive railyard in Manhattan. There were several proposals for the redevelopment of the West Side Yards area (including the doomed Jets Stadium idea) and people like you and Sheldon Silver, self-appointed champion of people like you, made such a fuss about it that nothing has happened. And tell me honestly that the suggestions for revitalizing that whole neighborhood are worse than keeping that place the way it is.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008 11:31 am

Costume: So you’re comparing 1907 with today? uh-huh…

Wednesday, September 24, 2008 10:41 am

[quote comment=”107499″][quote comment=”107382″]People like you that want an end to all redevelopment have created the urban sprawl that I find even worse.[/quote]

I think costume means suburban sprawl?[/quote]

I apologize. You are correct.

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