DeMarco steps down as Business Administrator
Bayonne City Business Administrator Joseph DeMarco announced that he is stepping down from his position with the city to manage Mayor James Davis’s re-election campaign, effective December 18. Bayonne Chief Financial Officer Terrence Malloy will take over as Business Administrator.
DeMarco, originally from Jersey City, managed Davis’s 2014 mayoral campaign after three years as Business Administrator in West New York and two terms on the Bernardsville Town Council, where he now lives. He received his juris doctor from the Fordham University School of Law, B.A. from Boston College, and graduated from Saint Peter’s Prep in Jersey City.
“Joe DeMarco has been an instrumental part of my administration since the beginning and his hard work and dedication to moving Bayonne forward has been essential to the renaissance we’re now seeing in our city,” said Mayor Davis. “With this decision Joe will be able to devote his full time and attention to running the campaign, avoiding any potential conflicts and keeping politics and government separate, as they should be. There is no one else I would rather have running this operation and I look forward to working with Joe and our entire team over the next six months to make sure we keep Bayonne on the path toward a bright future.”
Davis will run against Jason O’Donnell, a former Democratic Assemblyman and Bayonne firefighter, in the mayoral election in June.
Liberty Humane Society returns lowest bid for Bayonne Animal Control contract
The Animal Control contract between the City of Bayonne and New Jersey Animal Control and Rescue (NJACR) expired on November 30, and bids for the next contract are in, with Liberty Humane Society (LHS) entering the lowest bid. The Bayonne City Council will vote on the next animal control contract at the Dec. 13 meeting.
The Bayonne City Council voted at a July 2016 meeting to put the contract out for bid, pitting the two major animal control players in the county against one another. LHS is the animal control and sheltering provider for Hoboken and the sheltering provider for Jersey City. NJACR has won contracts in North Bergen, Union City, Guttenberg, Bayonne, and Harrison.
LHS was originally awarded Bayonne’s animal control contract in 2014. In December of 2015, the city switched to New Jersey Animal Control and Rescue (NJACR), with city officials citing concerns about LHS’s ability to address nuisance wildlife. Disgruntled citizens held protests outside city hall over alleged animal abuse.
The city’s Request for Proposals dictated a two-year, $90,000 maximum animal control contract, and outlines eleven new requirements. Liberty Humane Society entered a bid for $84,900, while NJACR entered a bid for $87,500.
The next step in light rail expansion
The expansion of the Hudson Bergen Light Rail line from West Side Avenue to Route 440 received final state approval on Friday.
“As Jersey City continues to grow into the largest city in New Jersey, we have worked to ensure that our local transportation systems can sustain and enhance this growth,” said Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop. “I thank NJ Transit for advancing the process in extending the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail to Route 440 in order to support the future growth of Jersey City’s West Side neighborhood. This expansion will improve connectivity for projects such as Bayfront and New Jersey City University’s new West Campus, and we look forward to working with NJ Transit to further the success of projects such as these, and this important neighborhood.”
County Executive Tom DeGise, who was one of the leading advocates for the project, appeared before the NJ Transit board to urge the board to approve the funding.
“This means it has cleared the next hurdle,” DeGise said. “The project is estimated to cost about $220 million. This will be a combination of NJ Transit and federal money. The developer is also expected to kick something in.”
DeGise said NJ Transit’s portion will need to be matched by federal funding before the project can start construction.
“But this is an important step, and something we’ve pushed for years.”
Demolition of old bridge piers (columns) that once supported the old lower level of the Bayonne Bridge has been completed in Bergen Point. Demolition is taking place this week between 1st Street and the Kill Van Kull. The piers that are being demolished supported the old version of the Bayonne Bridge.
Crews will be erecting new piers and roadway segments this week between 4th Street and Juliette Street. Work on building footings will proceed between West 1st Street and West 2nd Street.
At the 14A toll plaza, renovation continues on the existing toll plaza building. The toll plaza also has a new sign structure as of December 7. This week, traffic from Port Jersey Boulevard to the toll plaza and from the toll plaza to Port Jersey Boulevard will increase to two travel lanes in each direction over the new connector bridge.
Construction is complete on the ramps between the toll plaza and the Hudson County Extension, where installation of signs will continue.
Street-level sidewalk and curb replacement continues on Avenue C and Kennedy Boulevard. Night-time, single-lane closures this week will take place on the Hudson County Extensionfrom 8p.m. to 5a.m., Monday through Friday for sign installation.
At the northern end of Avenue E by the new roundabout, roadway construction continues from 52nd Street to 51st Street. This week, northbound Avenue E will be reduced to a single lane at 52nd Street, Monday through Friday, for roadway construction.
New ramp construction continues on southbound Route 440 at the Pulaski Street intersection while traffic signal construction continues along Route 440. In the ramp area east of Route 440, road construction continues on the new connector ramps, while roadway widening work continues on Port Jersey Boulevard.
Bayonne rent up 6.6 percent, NJ rents rise faster than inflation
New data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the cost of rental housing in NJ has been rising faster than inflation and is taking a greater portion of income than ever. Statewide, the median rent — $1,213 per month — was 1.3 percent higher in 2012 through 2016 compared with the previous four-year period.
According to the Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey released this week, Hudson County’s median rent increased 5.3 percent. In Bayonne, rent increased 6.6 percent, from a median $1,087 rent in 2007-2011 to $1,158 in 2012-2016. The median rent rose by 10 percent or more in more than 100 municipalities.
The ACS data also shows that NJ has added more rental units and that rental units’ share of all housing has increased. The data do not indicate what proportion of rental housing is affordable.
Firefighters rescue victim from second-floor of burning building
Two Bayonne firefighters rescued a resident from a two-alarm burning building in the early morning hours of Saturday, Dec. 9 on East 50th Street, according to Bayonne Fire Chief Keith Weaver. Four occupants of the building were displaced and are being assisted by the Red Cross.
The firefighters saved the trapped occupant by entering through a second-story window using a ground ladder, then exited out of the same window.
Firefighters used two hose lines to extinguish the fire on the second floor of the building and prevented the fire from spreading to an attached building. One firefighter suffered a minor injury and was treated at a local medical facility and released. The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but is not considered suspicious at this time.
“I would like to commend the firefighters at the scene for a job well done,” said Chief Weaver. “Their quick actions prevented the fire from extending to an attached building next door. Also, under difficult conditions consisting of heavy fire and smoke on the second floor of the building, they rescued one of the home’s occupants.”
Liberty Science Center planetarium is the now the largest in Western Hemisphere
When the new planetarium at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City opens this Saturday, December 9, it will be the largest in the Western Hemisphere and the fourth largest in the world. Formerly, the largest planetarium in the hemisphere was the Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan.
Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Manhattan planetarium, told the New York Times that the new planetarium has advantages due to greater transportation access for NJ school groups. If the new facility has a top-of-the-line projector, he added, “That’s great.” Paul Hoffman, president and CEO of the Liberty Science Center responded that his planetarium has 10 projectors.
The LSC planetarium boasts 88 million pixels and an 89-foot diameterscreen that can project 280 trillion color possibilities. At least 250,000 school children are expected to visit the planetarium annually.
The center, officially the Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium, is named after a former high school teacher who donated $5 million for its construction.
Montclair HS Football wins 2017 State Championship
The Montclair High School football team won the 2017 NJSIAA State Championship last week in the North 1 Group 5 category. The Montclair Dispatch says Montclair took home the trophy after defeating Union City, with a final score of 35-14.
Donate clothes for adults, boys, girls as part of domestic violence drive
Allstate agency owners from across New Jersey are coming together to host a supply drive to benefit the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence (NJCEDV). The donations will support the nonprofit’s mission to provide services to help end domestic violence and financial abuse throughout the state.
Now through Dec. 11, the public can participate by donating new winter coats, hats, gloves and scarves for women, boys and girls. A complete list of most-needed supplies can be found here: bit.ly/AllstateFoundationTrenton. Through their volunteer efforts, each participating Allstate agency owner will secure a $1,000 Allstate Foundation Helping Hands grant. The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) will accept the grants and distribute the funding to local domestic violence nonprofits. The dates of the donation drives align with the 16 days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign, which NNEDV supports.
The following Hudson County Allstate locations are collecting items:
4914 Kennedy Blvd., West New York
315 Broadway, Bayonne
1317 Paterson Plank Road, Secaucus
Contact Natalie Terchek at 312-558-1770 for more information.
Activists attempt to derail new plan for marina on south side of LSP
With less than one month left before Gov. Christopher Christie’s term expires, local community activists hope to derail a plan that would privatize the southern portion of Liberty State Park and construct a new luxury marina where deteriorating jetties currently exist.
Tipped by someone that the plan is being discussed by state officials without adequate notice to the public, Sam Pesin, president of Friends of Liberty State Park, is looking to drum up enough opposition to keep Christie from getting the plan approved before he leaves office in mid-January.
Mayor Steven Fulop joined other public officials and environmental activists at a rally near the picnic area on Saturday, Dec. 2 to highlight the threat and to send a message to Christie to drop the plans.
“Every other year, someone gets the idea that they can develop Liberty State Park,” he said, making reference to 2016 plans for redevelopment, and alluding to previous plans that posed a number of changes. The 2016 plan, never enacted, would have also shifted oversight of the park from the state’s forestry department to the Meadowlands Commission, which could have reduced the public’s influence over what changes are made.
Fulop also issued a warning to potential developers that the city would continue to pursue legal and political options long after Christie leaves office.
NJ construction company submits Amazon headquarters proposal
DT Allen, a Midland Park, N.J.-based contracting company that owns land in Secaucus, submitted an entry for HQ2 by Secaucus Junction in October, making Secaucus the second Hudson County location to vie for Amazon’s mega development behind Bayonne. Hundreds of municipalities throughout U.S. and Canada have submitted proposals, while Gov. Christie has officially recommended Newark.
Titled “A Vision For 15X,” the plan — if chosen — looks to transform 105 acres, from the Secaucus Junction NJ Transit Station to the Hackensack River, into a mixed use, transit-oriented Amazon Global Headquarters Village development.
However, Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli and other city representatives said that they’re against the proposal as it stands, because it would include some corporate housing, adding to the town’s population. But they say they would not be against a plan that brings Amazon to the town, in general.
In an October letter to Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, County Executive Tom DeGise endorsed the proposal, saying that “Hudson County’s unique landscape, culture, and facilities present an exciting opportunity for Amazon to create a new headquarters which will fulfill Amazon’s soaring ambitions.”
The plan’s name stems from the site’s proximity to Exit 15X on the New Jersey Turnpike. Uses would include retail, hotels, restaurants, parks, and even a publicly accessible marina.
NJ Transit pays reputed mobster for land on Hoboken’s border
According to reports, NJ Transit paid $6.13 million to the family of a reputed mobster in a settlement for land the agency wanted for a tunnel project cancelled in 2010.
The settlement was with Township of Washington resident Carmine “Papa Smurf” Franco over the value of a 1.89 acre piece of land on the border of Hoboken and Weehawken, which was condemned by NJ Transit for the ARC tunnel project and canceled by Gov. Chris Christie in October 2010.
NJ Transit’s board approved the settlement with M &C Franco & Co. in August.
NJ Transit and the Franco family disputed over the property’s value in court since 2010. In 2012, a Hudson County jury valued the land at $8.15 million. However, a state appellate court gave NJ Transit a victory in 2016 after the agency appealed the verdict.
The three-judge-panel ruled that the higher value wasn’t appropriate because it depended on the landowner winning approvals from two municipalities to change zoning to allow residential development on the property.
According to reports, Franco was sentenced to a year in prison on racketeering charges in 2014 and released on June 11, 2015.
Courthouse arrests of immigrants rising
Arrests of undocumented immigrants inside NJ courthouses have risen sharply this year, a survey by the immigration nonprofit Make the Road New Jersey shows. Advocates and lawyers surveyed who work in the court system report that many immigrants are afraid to be witnesses in criminal cases because they fear arrest by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in the courthouses, Matt Katz writes for NJ Spotlight. A spokesperson for ICE said the rise in sanctuary cities across the country has prompted the increase in arrests at courthouses.
Commission says cuts to benefits needed to fix NJ pension system
Cuts in health benefits for state and local government employees are needed to repair the state pension system, a commission created by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says. In releasing the final report of the NJ Pension and Health Benefit Study Commission on Dec. 6, Christie said he hoped the incoming Democratic governor, Phil Murphy, would act on the panel’s recommendation to cut health benefits by $4 billion a year, reports The Record. Christie said that in his last month in office he would be willing to work on legislation to cut the health benefits.
Bill would ban secrecy in sexual harassment settlements
Nondisclosure agreements in workplace sexual harassment cases would be illegal under a bill introduced by State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen County) last week. Advocates for sexual harassment victims say they welcome the legislation, according to The Record. But lawyers who represent employers say the bill would make companies less likely to settle sexual harassment cases.
Legislation to disband NJSPCA hits snag in Trenton
After a state report concluded that the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was failing to protect the state’s animals, State Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Union County) introduced legislation to disband the agency that is responsible for enforcing the state’s animal cruelty laws. But the measure will face hurdles in Trenton before the legislative session ends in January, reports NJ Spotlight.