Hoboken Planning Board Problems
Problems continue at the Hoboken Planning Board, but with new twists.
You might have seen this very article a year ago when the problems plaguing the Hoboken Planning Board were exposed (see original article after the break).
Today it has many of the same dysfunctions it had last year, along with some new twists. Last night was a good example. The board was supposed to convene at 7:00 pm to consider several items, including the Parks Ordinance referred their way by the City Council and the latest high-rise proposal for Maxwell Place.
In what’s become an all too familiar drill, there were only four members of the board in the room at 7pm. Five members are needed for a quorum. President Tom Mooney was absent (get well soon) due to continuing health issues. Vice President Nick DiTrizio was ready to preside along with Hank Forrest, Liz Falco and Joe Peluso. Board secretary Cathy DePalma tried to call other members to see if she could get them to show up so the meeting could begin.
Cammarano shows up, along with his conflicts
At 7:15 Councilman-at-Large Peter Cammarano came running in apologizing for being late. The meeting could have ended just as easily a few minutes later if not for the 7:18 arrival of new Hoboken Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Barnes, who brought the count of members up to 6 just in time for Cammarano to have to excuse himself from a discussion of a new Toll Brothers building at Maxwell Place. His wife is an attorney with a law firm that represents Toll. If Barnes hadn’t shown up Cammarano’s conflict would have made them lose the quorum of 5.
Cammarano’s other conflicts are listed below, but that may have been his last Planning Board meeting as the council’s designee. That’s because the City Council meets tonight to reorganize for the new fiscal year, including the election of a new President, Vice President, and Planning Board member. Will Cammarano get the nod for fourth year in spite of his conflicts, or will the council choose another member who could more regularly take action? We’ll find out tonight at City Hall at 7pm.
James Monaco Indicted, now off the Planning Board
Two other appointees of Mayor David Roberts have run afoul of the law during their terms and stepped aside from their board service. James Monaco, Senior and his son James Monaco, Junior were arrested last year in a statewide internet gambling sting. This February they were indicted on the following charges:
- Second degree Racketeering Conspiracy,
- Second degree Financial Facilitation of Criminal Activity (“Money Laundering”)
- Third degree Financial Facilitation of Criminal Activity, third degree Promoting Gambling
- Third degree Forgery
Monaco, Senior served on the Planning and ABC boards while Monaco, Junior served on the Zoning Board of Adjustment. Junior is also a computer teacher in the Hoboken School District. Junior’s ZBA term ended last year and he was not re-appointed. Senior stepped away from the Planning Board following his indictment. A few weeks ago the Mayor appointed Perry Belfiore to the Planning Board to take his place.
Perry Belfiore appointed, but doesn’t show up
Belfiore is a former member of the Board of Education who failed in his bid for the fifth ward council seat last year. Belfiore is also a member of the Hoboken Housing Authority board, where he is a close ally of Deputy Executive Director Carmelo Garcia. His appointment is seen as a “Thank You” for his work as campaign chair for the “Parents for Progressive Education” slate of school board candidates this spring. Despite Belfiore’s new position; he failed to attend the Planning Board meeting last night, joining other notable no-shows including the Mayor himself who is on the board but never shows.
Tonight the council chooses it’s designee for the next Planning Board year. Last year a split council voted 6-3 in favor of reappointing Cammarano over second ward councilwoman Beth Mason. A recap of that meeting is here.
Read more about the Planning Board troubles after the jump…
Not many people know what this planning board is, let alone what it’s actually supposed to do. For those that do, here’s a little synopsis of what’s been going on over the last few weeks.
The Hoboken Planning Board just can’t seem to muster up a quorum these days. They were supposed to hold a “Special Meeting” to designate the “NoHo Redevelopment Area” at 7pm on Thursday, but that meeting has been canceled due to “lack of quorum”. The regular Planning Board meeting scheduled for July 3rd has also been cancelled for “lack of quorum”.
At least people are getting word about this now, unlike the last two meetings where the public showed up and stood around for a half hour before they were told there would be no action on the items they had come to hear about. On June 11th the Planning Board tried to hold a hearing on NoHo, and couldn’t get enough eligible members to do anything more than open and close the meeting with no action. They couldn’t even do that much on June 18th, when the board attorney had to announce to a packed house they didn’t have enough members to open the meeting.
Some of this was unavoidable, and some of it is due to Councilman Peter Cammarano’s legal conflicts.
What is the deal?
There are supposed to be 9 permanent members and 2 alternates on the Planning Board. In order to have a meeting, there needs to be 5 members present for a quorum. In order to vote on the agenda items, there needs to be 5 members present who do not have a conflict that forces them to recuse themselves.
6 members of the Planning Board are “Class IV” members, meaning they are citizens appointed by the Mayor to serve 4-year terms. The single “Class III” member is a councilperson elected by the City Council to a 1-year term. Also serving a 1-year term is the “Class II” member, who must be a municipal official chosen by the Mayor. The “Class I” board member is the Mayor, or in his absence “the Mayor’s designee” may attend and vote as directed by the Mayor.
The 2 alternate members serve 2-year terms, but may only vote if a “Class IV” member is absent or disqualified. With 11 members, we should be able to get at least 5 people to a meeting that are eligible to vote, right? Well…
Where is everybody?
First of all, Mayor David Roberts never attends Planning Board Meetings, so his chair is always empty. Roberts also hasn’t filled one of the vacant Class IV seats, so that makes two regular vacancies caused by the Mayor. Good job, Dave!
The Chairman of the Planning Board is Thomas Mooney, a very well respected World War II veteran. Serving since 1969, Mr. Mooney is believed to be one of the longest-serving Planning Board members in New Jersey. Mr. Mooney has not been feeling well lately (bad bout of pneumonia), and has been unable to attend meetings. Hoboken411 sends best wishes for a swift recovery.
When Mr. Mooney is unable to attend meetings, James Monaco, Sr. serves as chairman. His son, James Monaco, Jr. is a member of the Zoning Board who was recently indicted in a statewide Internet Gambling crackdown. Longtime members Nicholas DeTrizio and Joyce Tyrell rarely miss meetings.
Alternate member Hank Forrest is often “present”, but has recently been on an Asian vacation. Elizabeth Falco is the Vice Principal of the Brandt Middle School, but let’s just say she won’t be getting any “Perfect Attendance” awards for her service on the Planning Board.
Does Peter Have a Problem?
Then there is Councilman Cammarano, whose second term as the City Council’s member on the Planning Board is about to come to a close. Until recently, Cammarano has taken his marching orders from Mayor Roberts to support developer-driven plans for high-rise redevelopment zones. Recently he broke from Roberts, but continues to support the redevelopment plans pushed by high-rise developers.
Cammarano has a conflict of interest problem which first came to light when he recused himself from votes on the New Jersey Transit Rail Yard Redevelopment Zone. The Councilman-at-Large was given legal advice that he should not vote on the zone because the politically well connected New Jersey law firm he works for works for NJ Transit. Peter’s problem? The Rail Yard Redevelopment Zone is not the only one in Hoboken that includes NJ Transit land.
The Conflicts of Mr. Cammarano
Now people are asking why Cammarano didn’t recuse himself from all of the discussions on the Southwest and NoHo redevelopment zones. Why? Because NJ Transit owns property in those redevelopment areas as well. This information was clearly noted in the planning studies.
Cammarano’s conflicts may not stop there. His law firm represents other clients that may find their business in front of the Planning Board. PSE&G is listed as a client, and just like NJ Transit, PSE&G owns property in the proposed NoHo Redevelopment Area. Developer DR Horton is on the client list, along with the Building Contractors Association of New Jersey. (Remember how building contractors showed up to a Southwest Redevelopment meeting with green “Vote Yes” buttons on?) The Planning Board also decides applications for cellular phone towers in Hoboken, and Cammarano’s firm lists Verizon as a client. A full list of clients is not available, so there may be other potential conflicts.
Cammarano’s 2nd term on the Planning Board ends June 30th. The new City Council picks their next Planning Board representative on July 1st. In the meantime, the next two Planning Board meetings are canceled due to “lack of quorum”.
Hope that sheds a little light on what the reasons are behind what has been happening at the planning meetings.