Madison Street to be reopened to alleviate traffic congestion
Following the Aug. 14 community meeting to discuss traffic and pedestrian safety in Southwest Hoboken, the city plans to reopen Madison Street behind the firehouse at Observer Highway and Newark Street to vehicular traffic as part of a Southwest Hoboken Access Improvement Plan.
The plan was first publicly announced and presented at the community meeting.
“Based on the positive feedback we received,” said Mayor Dawn Zimmer, “we will be moving ahead with a pilot plan to reopen Madison Street to help alleviate the pressure at Jackson Street and ease traffic congestion getting into Hoboken overall.”
The street was closed to traffic with barriers several decades ago but it legally remains a through street. The city is finalizing plans to conditionally open the street within a month and monitor changes to traffic patterns.
The principle challenge is that the short stretch of Madison Street leaves very little room for queued vehicles, which could back up onto Newark Street. To test this, the city will enact a three-phase pilot plan to evaluate traffic at each step before considering more changes.
Council opponents demand Zimmer disclose alleged legal deal with Bhalla; Zimmer calls charges ‘bogus’
Four Hoboken City Council members have called upon Mayor Dawn Zimmer to make public “any and all private business dealings” between herself, her husband Stanley Grossbard, and Councilman Ravi Bhalla, who is also an attorney. According to a document disseminated to the press two weeks ago, Zimmer and her husband were personally represented by Bhalla in a recent legal case.
According to documents sent to the Reporter, Zimmer and her husband were named as defendants in a complaint on behalf of plaintiff Branch Services, Inc. The suit, which was settled June 29, sought the collection of $3,278 for services for work that the plaintiff had allegedly performed for them, including attempts at remediation for water and leakage damages.
A counterclaim had also been filed, according to the documents, seeking compensatory damages from Branch Services, Inc. for allegedly causing damage during the remediation.
The documents include a letter apparently from Zimmer’s husband explaining the matter to Bhalla, and saying, “Feel free to charge if real work is involved.”
Bhalla typically votes in favor of Zimmer’s initiatives, as do four other members of the council.
Last week, the mayor’s four opponents on the council issued a press release asking that the dealings be made known.
The four council members said in a press release such representation by Bhalla, if true, would violate state and local ethics laws.
State ethics law says, “No local government officer or employee shall undertake any employment or service, whether compensated or not, which might reasonably be expected to prejudice his independence of judgment in the exercise of his official duties.”
On Friday, Mayor Zimmer responded, “The claims made by my political opponents, all of whom face ethical questions of their own, are wrong on the facts and wrong on the law. I can completely understand why these four council members would fabricate a bogus charge so they can distract from the fact that they just voted against improving Washington Street, Observer Boulevard, and Sinatra Drive, projects which would improve the quality of life, safety and economic development for our city.” (See related story, page 3.)
The release also connects the alleged legal relationship between Zimmer and Bhalla to the June 20 City Council meeting when Bhalla invoked attorney-client privilege when questioned by other council members about a resolution submitted by the mayor to appoint a new Hoboken Housing Authority Commissioner to a vacant seat.
The four council members – Beth Mason, Tim Occhipinti, Theresa Castellano and Michael Russo – said Bhalla, who cast the deciding vote to appoint Greg Lincoln to the seat, appeared to have information regarding the HHA vacancy five days before the state Department of Community Affairs sent a letter to the other council members informing them of the vacancy. Lincoln had been an unsuccessful candidate for City Council supported by both Zimmer and Bhalla.
Alluding in the release to the “private business association” between Zimmer and Bhalla, Mason said the city should undertake an immediate review of all council matters since the date Bhalla allegedly began working on the mayor’s private legal matter to determine whether laws were violated or whether actions taken by the council could be subject to legal challenges because of Bhalla’s decision not to disclose his alleged representation of the mayor or to recuse himself to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.
Mason asked, “How can the council president have a financial relationship with the mayor and not think it is worth mentioning? He has now put the taxpayers at risk for more potential litigation against the city.”
Zimmer is up for re-election in 2013. Bhalla ran on her ticket during the last election.
Petitions to move municipal election filed with city clerk
A petition signed by approximately 1,800 residents was delivered on Wednesday to the Hoboken City Clerk's office by the Vote Yes For November citizens’ committee, according to a release from the group. If certified by the clerk, the petitions will enable Hoboken voters in the Nov. 6 general election to decide whether future municipal elections will be held in November rather than in May.
The next scheduled local election would be for mayor and three council members in May 2013, with a possible runoff in June. If the referendum question is approved, the election would be moved to November 2013. Voters will also be asked to decide whether to eliminate the runoff and instead allow the candidate with the most votes to assume office.
Proponents of the date change say it will save the city $100,000 per election, and increase participation by scheduling municipal elections during the higher-turnout general election.
The Board of Education has already voted to move its elections to Tuesday, Nov. 6.
Opponents of the initiative have objected because it will allow the current office holders to remain in office another six months.
Kids First changes Hoboken Board of Education election ticket
Kids First has changed their Board of Education election ticket for the upcoming November election, according to a release. Kids First has added Tom Kleupfel, a founding member of the Elysian Charter School, after current board member Theresa Minutillo made the decision not to run.
Kids First is allied with Mayor Dawn Zimmer. Three seats are in contention in the election.