Washington Street Construction -- A Haphazard and Dangerous Mess

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For the past few weeks my phone has been ringing off the hook about the construction on Washington Street and how haphazard and dangerous the process has become. We were promised an organized rollout, but the Zimmer administration’s handling of this vital project has raised concern throughout the community. Take a look at some of these disturbing photos taken recently on Washington Street.

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We can’t live like this for the next year, which is how long it will take at the current pace.  Businesses are suffering, quality of life is being disrupted, and alarming changes are being made that will permanently alter the face of Washington Street. We have recently learned that 22 mature trees along the sidewalk are slated to be cut down, and last week we witnessed the destruction of a historic bluestone sidewalk in front of City Hall, forever altering our city’s unique character.

In response I have requested an emergency Council Meeting to discuss these concerns and look for a solution that will repair Washington Street without harming our city’s historic features or our environment. I’ve submitted an official request to Council President Jennifer Giattino asking that the meeting be scheduled immediately given the urgent nature of the subject, and that it be open to public comment about the construction. The residents of Hoboken deserve an opportunity to voice their concerns and frustrations with this bungled project.

Vanessa Falco joins defusco's council slate

I'm thrilled to welcome Vanessa Falco as the final member of our team. As the mother of two public school students, I know Vanessa will represent our young families and push for expanded municipal activities, like summer camp and a broader range of cultural, tech and athletic programs for our children to supplement our school system.

-Mike DeFusco

DeFusco calls for full disclosure of Bhalla law firm's business relationship with Suez Water

Councilman and Mayoral candidate Mike DeFusco is calling for a full public disclosure of Councilman and fellow candidate Ravi Bhalla's business dealings with Suez Water, the city's water provider, with whom the Zimmer Administration has negotiated a new contract proposal that will have a major impact on residents for decades to come. Bhalla is a partner at the law firm of Florio, Perrucci, Steinhardt & Fader, which has received payments of at least $130,000 in lobbying fees from Suez as recently as 2015 according to publicly available records (Source: NJ Law Journal). Despite this publicly documented information, Bhalla denied at an August 2nd, 2017 City Council meeting that the firm has continued business dealings with Suez, and further claimed that the firm only negotiated the original agreement between the City and Suez in the 1990s. 

Suez is listed as a client on the FPSF website as of the time of this release. This raises serious questions as to whether Bhalla is attempting to conceal his law firm's dealings with Suez at a time when the City of Hoboken is actively negotiating with the company. 

 

Mike DeFusco is calling on Ravi Bhalla to disclose the full nature of his law firm's relationship with Suez, including how much the company paid Bhalla's firm in legal fees and lobbying fees since he has been a partner. Additionally, DeFusco is calling for Bhalla to recuse himself from all negotiations and any votes related to Suez as long as this conflict exists, and for an investigation into whether Bhalla was present or involved in the city's previous negotiations with Suez. 

"Councilman Bhalla's failure to disclose that Suez Water was a client of his law firm while the City was negotiating with them on a decades-long agreement worth tens of millions of taxpayer dollars is the antithesis of transparent government. Ravi was asked directly at the 8/2/17 Council meeting whether his firm still represents Suez and he said "no", but the truth is, his firm received $130,000 in lobbying fees from the water provider as recently as 2015. Negotiations between Hoboken and Suez started in 2014, so we need to know the full extent of Ravi's business relationship with Suez and determine whether or not he was involved in the city's negotiations given this apparent conflict of interest. It's about time he decides if he wants to represent the taxpayers or his own private business interests." 

Bhalla's law firm is one of the most prolific public contractors in the state, with $3.8 million in government contracts in 2016.  Bhalla has faced numerous ethics complaints during his time on the Hoboken City Council, including failing to disclose mandatory public information on government contracts, and a case under active review by the Local Finance Board regarding his vote for a city contract for an attorney with whom he personally held shared business interests.

 

MIKE DeFUSCO’S PLAN FOR A BETTER HOBOKEN

GET BACK TO BASICS:

Reallocate city resources to fix potholes, repave streets and keep our sidewalks clean.

INVEST IN OUR QUALITY OF LIFE:

Create a quality of life department, a joint operation between environmental services and the Hoboken PD, to respond to noise violations, vagrancy, panhandling, dog waste and other daily nuisances.

STAND UP FOR TAXPAYERS:

Keep residential taxes stable while expanding the commercial tax base by encouraging innovative uses like urban wineries, coffee roasters, co-working spaces and culinary incubators.

THINK BIG ON EDUCATION:

Plan a new public high school complex north of 14th Street so that families can stay in Hoboken.

UNSNARL TRAFFIC:

Return Observer Highway to four lanes of traffic, with three lanes out during the morning rush and three lanes inbound in the afternoon. Address traffic caused in and around Paterson Plank Road by the Light Rail, a promise made by the current administration a decade ago.

ELIMINATE BACK DOOR PARKING TAXES:

Stop quota-driven parking tickets used to plug deficiencies in the city budget. Focus on safety and traffic flow, instead of interfering with people going about their day-to-day lives. Invest all revenue from valid parking violations directly into improving parking and transportation.

GET WASHINGTON STREET BACK ON THE MAP:

Cut the prohibitive costs and red tape that are chasing businesses out of Hoboken. Encourage an even more vibrant restaurant scene and help mom and pop shops, makers and creative enterprises thrive.

KEEP POLITICS OUT OF PROFESSIONAL CONTRACTS:

Slash the current administration’s reliance on politically connected contracts, producing better services while eliminating cost overruns.

STAY GREEN:

Continue the push towards a more resilient and green future by developing responsible public-private partnerships to build out park space and protect against flooding. Take a neighborhood approach to planning to ensure Hoboken stays charming and unique.

PRESERVE THE PAST:

Stop the demolition of historic brownstones by expanding the historic district and fight against residential displacement caused by the current administration’s overbearing flood ordinance on streets that rarely flood, like Bloomfield, Garden, and Park.

IMAGINE THE FUTURE:

Advance plans to encourage a regional tech hub developed in conjunction with Stevens Institute of Technology, adaptively repurpose parts of the train terminal into a world-class European market and rebuild the crumbling multi-service center.

DEFUSCO FILES PETITIONS TO RUN FOR HOBOKEN MAYOR

Today councilman and mayoral candidate Mike DeFusco filed petitions to officially place his name on the ballot for the November 7th election.

"This is an important day not just for our campaign, but also for Hoboken.  Election Day is 100 days from today and that's when we'll have the opportunity to bring new ideas and new energy to City Hall," DeFusco stated.  "I'm humbled and proud to have submitted 564 signed nominating petitions for Mayor today, showing the tremendous support our campaign has received so far from throughout our city. We will be continuing to collect petitions up to the deadline in September, each one a personal conversation about the future of Hoboken.  It's time for new leadership and a progressive agenda that will allow Hoboken to thrive, and based on the response I've seen from Hoboken voters so far, I'm confident we'll make it happen."

DEFUSCO STATEMENT ON GIATTINO COUNCIL SLATE

Councilman and mayoral candidate Mike DeFusco released the following statement on Councilwoman Jen Giattino’s announcement of her Council ticket:

“Councilwoman Giattino says she wants to take a ‘fresh look’ at our local government, but her selection of Zoning Board Chair Jim Aibel as a running mate shows that she’s truly interested in the same status quo approach that has led to a stagnant business atmosphere and lack of investment in our community under the current administration. Jim Aibel has consistently voted no on land use projects that would bring needed community amenities to Hoboken. He voted against a project that will soon house a Gravity Vault rock climbing gym and West Elm retail showroom on 15th Street, against 600 Harrison Street which is adding units  to our affordable housing inventory, and against a building that now houses Elysian Charter School. Aibel’s vote against a building that would have provided free space for the non-profit Big Brothers and Big Sisters helped stop this project from moving forward, denying our community a needed addition. I first ran for Council because these kind of shortsighted planning decisions have been slowing our city’s progress and preventing our community from reaching its full potential, and now I’m running for Mayor for the same reason -- to bring new energy and new ideas to Hoboken, not the same tired, status quo approach.”

 

Jim Aibel Zoning Board Votes Cited:
Gravity Vault / West Elm = 1420 Willow -- December 22, 2015
Elysian Charter School = 1415 Park -- August 21, 2012
Big Brother Big Sisters = 1417 Adams -- May 16, 2017
Affordable Housing = 600 Harrison -- May 5, 2015

DeFusco Calls for Full Compliance with Election Laws

Councilman Mike DeFusco, a candidate for Hoboken Mayor, is calling on his fellow candidates to publicly release their donors and expenditures before the September 5th filing deadline in order to exercise transparency and provide voters with the information they deserve. DeFusco is also calling on all candidates to comply with New Jersey State Election Law by filing the required Candidate Certificate of Organization (D-1 Form), which is required to be filed by anyone running for office or exploring a run for office who has spent more than $500 on his or her campaign. Any campaign spending above that threshold by a candidate who has not filed a D-1 Form is illegal. Potential candidates Councilwoman Jen Giattino and Freeholder Anthony Romano have both failed to file a D-1 Form with the state and have publicly stated that they will not release any campaign finance information until October, less than a month before Election Day. 

"Hoboken voters deserve to know who is funding each of the campaigns for mayor, which is why I am proud to have released our full list of donors showing a broad coalition of residents, business leaders, labor unions and more," said DeFusco. "It is disheartening to see some candidates refusing to comply with the spirit of transparency by hiding their donors and expenses from the voters, and even more troubling to see candidates raising and spending money without even filing their official Certificate of Organization with the state, a violation of election law. I am calling on all candidates to voluntarily release their donors and comply with all applicable election law, because Hoboken voters deserve transparency as they make this crucial decision for our city's future."

Romano's apparent failure to file the D-1 form is particularly troubling given that he is considering running for both Freeholder and Mayor at the same time, raising questions about whether funds donated to his Freeholder campaign are being used for his mayoral campaign, which would constitute an ELEC violation. Currently, Romano's most recent filing for his Freeholder campaign shows a balance of negative ($3,407.81), along with an outstanding personal loan from Romano to his campaign of $113,900. 

"Hoboken has seen candidates for office skirting transparency and pay-to-play laws in the past and now is not the time to return to this kind of irresponsible practice," said DeFusco. "Every candidate for mayor should be eager to meet these important requirements and to give the residents of our city the transparency they need, and I see no reason why any of us should not be willing to hold ourselves to a higher standard." 

DEFUSCO STATEMENT ON PROPOSED SUEZ CONTRACT

Councilman Mike DeFusco, a candidate for Hoboken Mayor, released the following statement regarding the proposed contract between the city and Suez Water announced today by Mayor Zimmer:

"Mayor Zimmer has had nine years in office to reach this agreement and announcing it now shortly before an election to succeed her as Mayor is troubling, especially given that if approved this contact would be in effect for decades. The proposed agreement deserves serious scrutiny from both the Council and the community to ensure that it's the best possible deal for the city. It's particularly concerning that the contract would include an annual rate increase of at least 2%, which would amount to yet another hidden tax on Hoboken residents that many will struggle to afford." 

DEFUSCO IS "SHOCKED, STUNNED"

DeFusco 'Shocked, Stunned' that Politically Connected Lawyer Bhalla Selects Politically Connected Lawyer as Running Mate

Photo credit: Hudson County View

Photo credit: Hudson County View

Councilman Mike DeFusco, a candidate for Hoboken Mayor, released the following statement in reaction to the announcement by fellow Councilman and mayoral candidate Ravi Bhalla of his Council slate:

"It was difficult to contain my shock at hearing that Ravi Bhalla, a politically connected insider lawyer at one of New Jersey's most powerful law firms, made the stunning choice to select a fellow political establishment attorney in John P. Allen for his Council slate. Who could have ever guessed that a lawyer like Ravi, whose law firm was paid over $3.8 million in government contracts in 2016, would decide to run with a lawyer whose firm was also paid over $3.8 million in government contacts? A truly inspired, outside-the-box pick."

"In all seriousness, this is just the latest example of a candidate for Mayor in Ravi Bhalla who claims to represent reform, but who in reality is a pay-to-play lawyer more interested in the next government contract than in delivering for the people. That's who Ravi Bhalla is and this selection of a fellow insider attorney is just the latest proof."