Rick Shaftan
|
March 26, 2017
Once again, you can always count on Al to make completely ridiculous statements for gullible fools to think are real. No one takes him seriously. Peter Weiss R.I.P.
Broken window, broken trust
Attack on Hudson Pride becomes a concern for more than property
by Al Sullivan
Reporter staff writer
Mar 26, 2017 | 435 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MORE THAN BROKEN GLASS – The breaking of the front window at Hudson Pride Connections comes at a time of increased uncertainty.
MORE THAN BROKEN GLASS – The breaking of the front window at Hudson Pride Connections comes at a time of increased uncertainty.
slideshow

More than a pane of glass was shattered on Monday, March 20, when someone smashed in the front window of Hudson Pride Connection in Jersey City. Glass can be fixed, said Michael Billy, an LGBT activist and member of the center’s board. But fear, generated by the attack, is harder to repair. Although the motive is unclear, the smashing of the front window of the Jones Street office is being investigated as a possible “bias incident,” local officials said. Billy said the staff is working with local and state authorities to find the culprit, and provide additional security. But he went on to say that the real wound is to the perception of safety, noting that this center had been a resource for the LGBTQ community for more than 24 years, a haven where people come for information, for counseling, and for connections. While no one was hurt, the incident has increased the tension many people feel in the community. “My first reaction is anger,” said Clara (not her real name), a transgender woman from Jersey City. “The Center has helped me so much. It’s like an attack on family.” Hudson Pride provides a number of key services to the LGBTQ community, including physical and mental. The center operates on the second floor of a building just south of the Journal Square Campus for Hudson Community College, and the PATH rail and bus transportation center. Police responded to the site at about 10:40 a.m. on the report of a broken window and were met by the center’s deputy director. The alarm company altered the center of motion detector activity on the front porch prior to the arrival of the staff, who discovered the window bashed in. Nothing was stolen, however. Jonathan Lucas, chairperson for the center, said he has received numerous calls from clients. “As to be expected, they are afraid and concerned,” Lucas said. “There is fear and doubt from not knowing, and this can become a distraction from what we’re here to do.” The center’s reaction involved a certain level of what he described as safe-care. “Our biggest priority is to make sure that we’re safe and the people who come here feel safe,” he said. “I understand people are scared,” said Billy. “Especially kids. This happened at 10:40 a.m., a time when we usually have our youth program there.” This also comes after an earlier incident at Garden State Equality was attacked elsewhere in New Jersey. “Those were adults,” Billy said. “But these are kids.” Police don’t know if this was bias “The local police are amazing,” he said. “They are very proactive.” Law enforcement has come up with a number of non-bias suspects also, he said, from a disgruntled client or employee to a drug addict. While it could have been a burglary, Lucas said that was unlikely, since they didn’t take anything even though there were computers and other devices within easy reach. “Someone didn’t throw a brick through the window, they kicked it out, there seems to be a lot of anger in that,” he said. The department said they would increase patrols and make their presence very visible, Lucas said. “Meanwhile, we have to revisit our security and procedures.” This would include reporting anything that might provide clues, developing procedures as to what to do and not to do, and how to be safe. “We need to do things to make sure people feel physically safe here,” he said. Until the vandalism is solved, questions will remain about why the center might have become a target. “Jersey City is a very loving community and very supportive, so we can’t paint Jersey City and Hudson County with this,” he said. “But we don’t want to make this the new normal. This is an unusual event. We want to be smart, but we want to live our lives and not be afraid.” Incidents like these can destroy trust, he said, and the center’s mission is to maintain open conversations with clients and building trust. “People feel good coming here, and their need to protect the center is heartwarming,” he said, noting that the best thing the community can do is to revert to the New York City watchwords, “If you see something, say something.” While the center can always use donations to pay for upgrading security, the main thing is to remain strong and stand up to hate. “We need to call it out and confront it, but in a safe way,” he said. Hub of activity While the center is a hub of activity, much of what it does is outreach, going into the community to look for people who might be in need of its services, such as HIV prevention, helping people who have already contracted HIV, and helping others keep from getting ill. “We look for people who are likely to be exposed and provide information that will limit the risk.” The center provides information and referrals to community groups that can provide help as well. “We do follow up to make sure they stay on regimen if they are in treatment,” he said. The center has support groups that allow clients to talk to like-minded people. There is also outreach for transgender people, women of color and others, gay or straight. “We also have youth programs, some funded by grants,” he said. These programs offer a variety of support for the most vulnerable, under educated, under employed and even homeless. The center hosts a prom for youth involved in these programs. “We partnered with the police department, who attended the prom,” he said. “This for youth all over, not just Jersey City. Making the most of a diverse city “We’re no stranger to bias crimes,” Billy said, although he pointed out that recent history has been very positive in Jersey City where there has been an outpouring of support.
_____________
“We had a sense of security and happiness and hope. We need to keep that intact.” – Michael Billy
____________
“This has been quite a year that includes the tragedy in Orlando, the election, and the rise in anti-Semitic and biased crimes across the county,” he said. “The biggest challenge will be convincing people that it will be all right. And it will be all right. We will thrive. It is hard to remember this in these uncertain times. And we do have to look out for ourselves.” He said the last few years have seen significant progress that included marriage equity and Barack Obama being elected president. “We had a sense of security and happiness and hope,” Billy said. “We need to keep that intact.” While not everybody in the local community agrees on everything, the differences are small. “We are strong, and it is what we have in common that brings us together,” Billy said, noting that the local community is not powerless. “What we do here in Jersey City makes a difference,” he said. “Everybody empowered and engaged. The best way to make difference is to continue to be active here at home.” He said the center has always operated on the belief that what is a problem for the gay community is a problem for everybody. “This is not just a random city or a small town, we’re one of the most diversity cities in the country, and if we can make this work on our home ground, we can be part of something very special,” Billy said. Although the center also needs donations, people can help in many other ways, volunteering, or holding cocktail events to raise money. “It’s important for everybody to be involved,” he said. “Jersey City will not be defined by the intolerance permeating the country,” said Councilwoman Osborne. “Our arms are wide open and we will match hate with love, ten-fold.” Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.
Comments
(0)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet
A done deal
City to transfer land to LSC, but questions remain
by Al Sullivan
Reporter staff writer
Mar 26, 2017 | 244 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
IN THE HOT SEAT – The City Council endured more than four hours of public comment before finally voting to approve the transfer of city owned land for construction of a new high tech village
IN THE HOT SEAT – The City Council endured more than four hours of public comment before finally voting to approve the transfer of city owned land for construction of a new high tech village
slideshow

High praise clashed with warnings of doom and gloom in front of the City Council on March 22 when true believers in the tech village plans by Liberty Science Center dueled with skeptics. Both sides attempted to sway council members prior to the final adoption of an amended ordinance authorizing a land swap for the project. During the four-hour marathon public hearing, Councilmen Richard Boggiano and Michael Yun frequently clashed with fellow council members and the city clerk in their attempt to raise questions about the viability of the project. Both men, along with Councilman Chris Gadsden, voted against transferring city land needed to make the project possible. The ordinance authorizes the city to hand over about 12 to 17 acres to the Jersey City Redevelopment Authority, which in turn will give the land to the Liberty Science Center for the construction of a new $280 million project that will feature a biotech lab, a coding lab, a technology business incubator, and a K-12 STEM-focused school, as well as a scholar’s village with residences for visiting scientists. LSC President and Executive Director Paul Hoffman continued to lay out his vision of a technical nirvana. The high tech campus would include a school, a hotel, and residential housing, as well as facilities for startup tech companies. His speech drew applause from about 60 supporters, many of whom were either employed by LSC or who volunteer there. Many of the critics were teachers, members of the teachers’ union, or citizens concerned about taxes. Many of the critics, including Boggiano and Yun, raised questions about changing details about the project, such as how many acres the city is actually turning over to LSC, how much the land is actually worth, and how the city could get paid for the land, if ever. City Counsel Jeremy Ferrell said the idea of the expansion came as a result of a conversation between Mayor Steven Fulop and Hoffman just after Fulop became mayor in 2013. This is part of the Fulop’s vision to make Jersey City into a hub of technology, similar to plans he had proposed for an arts district in Journal Square. Facts change from day to day In a four-hour standoff between supporters and critics, facts about the project seemed to change from moment to moment, undergoing a kind of rhetorical sleight of hand. Boggiano pointed out that the number of acres had shrunk, from the originally proposed 20 acres in 2015 to 16 or 17 earlier this year, to what Hoffman said was a mere 13 acres by the time of the public hearing. The price tag for the project, Boggiano also noted, also shrank. At the core of the critic’s complaints was the actual value of the land, which Boggiano and Yun claim may be worth as much as $5 million per acre based on assessments of similar tracts adjacent to it. Both wanted an appraisal made before the council handed the land over to the Jersey City Redevelopment Authority, the independent body that is charged with negotiating the final details of the transfer with LSC. A number of critics were wary of the JCRA since it is less directly accountable to the public than the council is. Councilwoman Candice Osborne, who is a big proponent of the project (“I’m a techy,” she said) claimed that the council had the power to zone the land for whatever value it wanted, as parking lot or a high rise. But critics point out that the council gives up its authority over the land once it gives the property to the JCRA. Dave Donnelly, executive director of the JCRA, said an appraisal of the property will be made just prior to when the JCRA turns over the land to LSC. This figure will determine what the LSC will owe the city if and when it actually can afford to pay it. Many critics claim the LSC will not likely actually see a profit from the growth of the project, and will not likely ever pay the city back for the assessed value of the land. Since the council has no real idea of how much the land of worth, signing it over to the JCRA is basically signing a blank check. Boggiano, Yun, and many of the critics questioned how the LSC will generate its revenue, and whether or not LSC will deed over portions of the land to private developers who in turn will seek additional tax abatements to cover the cost of developing elements such as the hotel or the residential development. How will the city get paid back? Osborne argued that the LSC is investing $78 million of donations that would otherwise be used for the existing center. But Boggiano said LSC needed the land transfer in order to approach donors to raise that money. LSC’s operating budget is separate from the money raised for this project, city officials said. Critics are wary of the for profit/nonprofit partnerships that might eventually emerge out of the new high tech village, and wonder if enough revenue would ever be generated to pay the city for the land. Revenues for LSC comes from donations, but also rather pricey ticket prices, parking fees and a contract with private vendors for gift stand inside the facility. Hoffman said attendance has risen and that well over 600,000 people come to the center annually, many from outside the county. Indeed, LSC is a destination for many school trips from districts throughout the state. More than 83 percent of Jersey City students come to the center each year, making schools one of LSC’s biggest customers. Can LSC oversee such a big development? Critics also raised questions about the changing conditions of the contract. Originally, Donnelly claimed the land was worthless, then revised the ordinance to say the LSC center would pay back the assessed value of the land after its other financial obligations are met, and would eventually share in future revenues. But at the night of the hearing, supporters changed their tune again, suggesting that the land gift was an investment in the future. Former Mayor Gerry McCann, who helped found LSC, said the land and repayment was less important than the eventual outcome. He said his administration had sold land along the waterfront where Newport is now for very little as well as deeded over property for Liberty State Park at very low price. Critics, such as Bruce Alston, were also concerned about the ability of LSC to actually oversee the construction of a project of this size, noting that until recently, the center had lost money and at one point came near to closing. Although always envisioned as a center of scientific study, LSC has had a bumpy ride, opening in the 1980s without even having basic wiring for computer terminals, work that had to be done later. Hoffman admitted that LSC had had issues prior to his turning things around in 2011, but has since become a revenue-producing non-profit. Will there be a brain drain from local schools? While employees and volunteers from LSC paraded up to the microphone to speak about the vision of LSC and its ability to bring needed tech innovation and education to Jersey City, critics such as former Schools Trustee Ellen Simon and teachers’ union president Ron Greco questioned the impact of the proposed 500-seat K to 12 school included in the project. Although one of the last minute adjustments to the ordinance stated that the school would be “a regular public school” to appease concerns of Councilman Chris Gadsden, Gadsden and others were concerned that nobody involved with the project actually met with the Jersey City Board of Education or its superintendent of schools to discuss this. Many feared a brain drain from local schools if the school at LSC became a charter. But this would also have a negative financial impact on the school district, since funding for the new school’s operations would come from the district. Simon and Alston pointed out the district would have little or no control over how the money is spent. Simon also said this would drain money from a district that may soon lose state aid, and that previous abatements the council has passed has reduced local tax support for the schools. Board of Education Trustee Lorenzo Richardson said local schools are overcrowded, and suggested that if the city wanted to establish a new school on that site, it should donate the land to the Board of Education for construction of a new school. Karee Skarten, a resident, suggested the city might lease the land to LSC, and would receive payment for use of the land. Resident Daniel Sicardi, a frequent critic of the city’s redevelopment and in particular actions taken by the JCRA, said the project is not in the best interests of the city, despite claims otherwise. Mia Scanga, another frequent critic of the administration, also supported the concept of leasing the land to generate a steady stream of income to the city. Could be a center of innovation Not everybody who supported the project was employed at LSC, but many of these had their own agenda. Friends of Liberty State Park President Sam Pesin said he was wary of more commercial use of the property and its potential encroachment on the park.
_____________
“We need to strike while the iron is hot.” – Matt Schapiro.
____________
Attorney John Fhroling also supported the project, calling it “something special” for Jersey City. Those who spoke in support of the project said it would become the anchor of a new hub of innovation, and would provide local kids with mentoring and other opportunities in an area of technological study that is needed. “We need to strike while the iron is hot,” said Matt Schapiro. “We may only get one chance to do this. We need this. And this will also preserve the land from other development.” Council members who supported the move said they were doing so as an investment in the future. “This is for our kids,” said Council member Joyce Watterman. Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.
Comments
(0)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet
Tracking abandoned homes
Council moves to join county-wide program registering foreclosed properties
by Hannington Dia
Reporter Staff Writer
Mar 26, 2017 | 238 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Secaucus Mayor and Town Council performs the Pledge of Allegiance before their March 14 meeting.
The Secaucus Mayor and Town Council performs the Pledge of Allegiance before their March 14 meeting.
slideshow

Secaucus took a step towards joining Hudson County’s efforts to track properties in foreclosure and provide services to their owners at the Town Council meeting on March 14. “The Hudson County Division of Housing and Development is working to create a countywide registration of foreclosed and vacant properties,” Town Attorney Keri Ann Eglentowicz explained.
_____________
“This is for the health and safety of all residents in neighborhoods with foreclosed properties.” – Keri Ann Eglentowicz
____________
The council introduced the “Abandoned Real Property” ordinance, which would require the “registration and maintenance of certain real property by mortagees,” in addition to “providing for penalties and enforcement, as well as the regulation, limitation, and reduction of registerable real property within the Town Of Secaucus.” The ordinance would be part of a shared-services agreement with the county. “This is for the health and safety of all residents in neighborhoods with foreclosed properties,” Eglentowicz said, “to prevent blight, to make it available for property maintenance officers to know where they are. The main benefits are that the county will be able to identify households and provide housing resources to those that may need them in foreclosure.” Secaucus will also begin creating a centralized list of foreclosed properties in the town for property maintenance and code officials. “We’re searching to find out who owns these properties,” said Mayor Michael Gonnelli, “and you find out they’re in for a foreclosure, and it’s really tough to get them to clean them up. So this is going to be a big help to us.” A public hearing for the ordinance will be April 11. Firefighter parking, fining texting drivers The town also passed an ordinance for a $399,000 bid to purchase land at 148 Centre Ave. near Secaucus Engine No 3 for off-street parking spaces for firefighters. “Right now, they currently park on the street,” Gonnelli said. “It’s a nightmare with the number of calls we received. Engine 1 has a parking lot and Engine 2 has a parking lot, so if we solve this problem, we solve a lot of problems. We’re starting on negotiations.” April is National Distracted Driver Month, and the council also adopted a resolution for the “U Drive, U Text, U Pay” campaign next month. The town will apply for grant funding to conduct the campaign from April 1 through April 21. Secaucus Police officers will conduct speed enforcement patrols targeting distracted drivers. They will implement both fixed checkpoints and roving patrols, according to the resolution. According to the New Jersey Department of Transportation, distracted driving was responsible for up 42 percent of crashes causing fatal and serious injurious in the state from 2008 to 2012. “We’re following up on that continuously, just to make sure people don’t drive and text,” Gonnelli said later to the Secaucus Reporter. “It’s really serious when they do that. It’s an issue everywhere. Doesn’t matter where you are.” Hannington Dia can be reached at hd@hudsonreporter.com
Comments
(0)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet
BLANCHARD, ANN
Mar 26, 2017 | 28 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A funeral mass was offered March 25 at St. Anne's Church, Jersey City, for Ann Blanchard, 89, a lifelong resident of Jersey City. She passed away March 20. Ann was a retired lunch aide for PS No. 27 Alfred Zampella School, Jersey City. Ann loved spending time with friends and family especially her grandchildren. Ann was the wife of 69 years to William Blanchard; mother of William, Michael (Ret. JCFD), Paul and Thomas Blanchard; sister of Bunny Juchniewicz and Josephine St. Clair. Also survived by many grandchildren. Services arranged by the Riotto Funeral Home, Jersey City.
Comments
(0)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet