City Council 12/6/2006 – Recap

Miss the meeting? Here’s the recap!

questionmarks11.gif The Hoboken City Council went “spanning the world” by beginning it’s meeting talking about the plight of those who live in the projects, and ended over four hours later talking about the plight of those who live in a troubled and over-priced luxury high-rise. Hoboken really has it all!

If they make progress on getting the Council meetings onto Cablevision within the next decade, I may have to consider switching away from DirecTV.

Read the full recap, including votes on the Water Music Project and 916 Garden Automated Garage Retrofit, below.

Hoboken Housing Authority:

The Interim Executive Director of the Hoboken Housing Authority came to the meeting to update the council on the progress turning around the troubled agency. He was called there to answer to a poorly constructed and confusing council resolution that was drawn up to both congratulate and condemn the agency for the work it has done so far. Robert DiVincent explained he has been able to get some things done in a short time, including repairing leaky roofs, and repairing the basketball court. He admitted much still needs to be done, and that contractors are being lined up to do it as part of a ten million dollar capital project plan. Council members Ruben Ramos, Terry LaBruno, and Chris Campos complained about conditions such as vomit, blood and urine splashed walls and broken locks that allow drug activity in hallways. Councilman Michael Russo complained that the HHA buildings in his ward do not receive the same attention as those in the 4th ward, which is the powerbase of Ramos, Campos, and LaBruno. The resolution was pulled following the nearly hour-long rant back and forth between the council and DiVincent.

Water Music Project:

The Hoboken/Jersey City arts community was out in force to support this project. They were well prepared and on point with their arguments, and easily swayed the City Council to support the changes to the Northwest Redevelopment Zone Ordinance that would allow this 11 story Arts Center/Condo Tower near the Shop Rite. The Planning Board sent up a recommendation to cut some of the height of the building, Council members Nino Giacchi and Michael Russo said they were inclined to agree with the Planning Board on that issue, but would not vote against the project over one floor of the building. (plus, they didn’t have the votes) It passed unanimously.

Automated Garage:

A top executive of the Unitronics firm that entered the only bid to retrofit the 916 Garden automated garage had a plane to catch back to Israel, so the council decided to take on this issue out of order during the regular meeting. It was explained that the city would not pay the 1.974 million dollars for the project until after it was completed to their satisfaction (which means they will probably push the expenditure into the 2008 fiscal year budget.) Parking Utility Director John Corea told the council when the retrofit is complete there will be no further need for Robotics software, and that the new software and design by Unitronics will be owned by the city. One city resident said the council should close the garage and sell it rather than retrofit it. He said he was there when the plan to build a robotic parking facility was proposed, said it was a bad idea then, and that throwing another 2 million dollars at it now is also a bad thing to do. The Council decided to go with Unitronics in the hope that the garage will no longer be an issue for them by spring.

City Meetings on TV:

The resolution to have the Mayor begin working to air City Council meetings on cable passed after members of the public made comments about how it should be implemented. A number of people spoke on the issue, with one resident saying she had experience with other municipalities where this is done. She implored the city to air the council meetings live and unedited, and repeat them several times during the week of the meeting. It was also suggested that Zoning and Planning board meetings be aired live, along with subcommittee meetings of the City Council. There was some suspicion about how the Mayor would handle the negotiations with Cablevision, and whether he would try to hire a “consultant” to deal with the issue which shouldn’t cost the city any money. City attorney Joe Sherman indicated Cablevision’s franchise agreement with the city was up for negotiation, and welcomed all input about how the city should get this done.

Archstone Residents Speak Out:

At the end of the meeting, some residents of 77 Park clearly and intelligently explained their plight to the City Council, and asked for their help. The council said they would do what they could, but that the building had a 30-year exemption from City rent control laws, so they would likely have to go through the courts. The council indicated they would be happy to follow up on any violations or unsavory conditions (mold, rodents) in the building. Councilwoman Terry Castellano indicated she was in contact with the Archstone managers about the issue. The irony was not lost on the council that they started the meeting talking about problems in the projects, where the minimum rent is $25, and ended talking about a luxury building with penthouses that rent for several thousand dollars a month.

The next scheduled meeting of the Council is December 20th, but if the State Division of Local Finance Services approves the proposed 52 million dollar bond for St. Mary Hospital, the Mayor may call for a special meeting sometime next week.

Here’s the Original Preview from 12/05/2006:

gavel.gifThe Hoboken City Council meets tonight, with a few items missing from the anticipated agenda. As always, the council holds a caucus to talk about the items at 6pm, followed by the regular voting meeting at 7pm.

Discussed tonight will be various items. The Waterhouse Project will supposedly have dozens of artists there to support it, City Council meetings on TV, an expensive park upgrade, Rail Yard redevelopment and more! The Hospital bond will not be on the agenda.

52 million dollar hospital bond:

This is not on the agenda, because the city apparently needs approval from the State Local Finance Board before they move forward. That state board won’t meet until next week. If they vote to approve, the Mayor may call for a special meeting of the City Council for the Second Reading and Public Hearing on the bonding. Otherwise, it would probably get pushed to the December 20th regular meeting. Read more about this issue HERE.

11 story building at 10th and Madison:

The Watermusic Project can only move forward if the City Council approves several amendments to the ordinance that lays out the plan for the Northwest Redevelopment Zone. While most people support the idea behind the project, there will certainly be people who oppose the 112 foot height, which will dwarf other buildings in the area.

Church Square Park Gazebo Contract:

A $109,000 contract may be awarded to a Cliffside Park contractor to restore the gazebo in Church Sqaure Park (maybe this is why there’s so much crime near there?) For this money you would think they are installing a kitchen and bathroom there.

City Council on cable?

In response to a citizen’s request to have the City Council meetings televised, the Council will consider a resolution directing the Mayor to look into having the meetings air on Cablevision. As you well know flipping through the channels, there are local government access channels that just sit there unused.

Rail Terminal and Yard Redevelopment:

This item will be removed from the City Council agenda tonight because the Planning Board did not have a chance to vote on it last night. The Planning Board heard complaints from residents that the city did not make the documents related to the redevelopment study available for review when they said they would, putting the legal aspect of the process in jeopardy. The Planning Board will take the issue up next year. New Jersey Transit is working with their own developer (LCOR) to put together a plan to build towers over the terminal and rail yards. Read more HERE.

Fiscal 2007 Budget:

It’s now December, SIX MONTHS into the fiscal year, and the City of Hoboken still doesn’t have an adopted budget. That means more “Temporary Emergency Appropriations” and continuation once again of the Public Hearing on the proposed budget that should have been adopted months ago.

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Friday, December 8, 2006 8:39 am

I think that saying a lot of residents of HHA pay $25 is wrong. Those that do are the truly disadvantaged and disabled. But, I agree that more should be done by the residents. Installing locks and cameras will be successful if the residents respect them and only open doors when needed. Often, the doors are propped open and anyone can enter. The doors were replaced with locks about 5 years ago, it’s behavior that needs to modified not just locks replaced.

Friday, December 8, 2006 7:52 am

I find it amazin’ how Campos Ramos and now LaBruno keep going on and on about how they are doing sooooo much to fix the problems in the projects and NOTHING gets done.
The have millions of dollars from the Feds to get the work done and years to do it and again NOTHING gets done.

Roberts put Ramos and Campos on the HHA board for years sat on their hands during the Washington years and did NOTHING.

Now even after two street murders and all they can do is play politics with these peoples lives and the safty of the people of Hoboken.

Thursday, December 7, 2006 11:45 pm

can the State Local Finance Board REALLY allow a municipality to issue 52M in debt when it doesn’t even have an adopted budget HALF WAY through it’s fiscal year? If it does, then Corzine squarely falls into the Democratic scum/ machine category of allowing “business as usual” to go on….

fwiw, NYC manages to get a budget (now at $52B-B-B) passed on time EVERY year. Woe is we!

Thursday, December 7, 2006 10:32 pm

Well put, estevens! It’s good to know that there are project residents who are trying to turn things around. I, too, wish them success in their efforts!

Thursday, December 7, 2006 5:05 pm

I just about fell out of my seat when DiVincent stated that MANY of the projects’ residents pay the minimum rent of $25. Twenty-five dollars! Perhaps someone might be brave enough to suggest to the residents that (1) you get what you pay for and (2) if they truly appreciated what a GIFT they have been given, they would be washing windows and tending to flower gardens rather than pissing in their elevators. Living on the lower end of the economic scale doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t treat your neighbors and home with respect and decency. Perhaps the blame for the episodes of lawlessness in the area should be assigned to the thoughtless architects who designed the projects. When the buildings look like a prison, the residents behave like convicts.

That said, I’ve met residents from the area who are really trying to turn things around in their neighborhood and I wish them success in their efforts.

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