O’Donnell slams tax breaks for big developers

Council members and supporters gather at fundraiser

Bayonne will elect city council members and a mayor in three months, on May 8. Both tickets are officially set, with Matt Klimansky announcing that he will run for the Third Ward council seat on mayoral candidate Jason O’Donnell’s ticket. His Third Ward opponent, Gary La Pelusa, and the other four sitting city council members are all running for second terms on Mayor James Davis’s ticket.
His announcement came soon after a Feb. 1 fundraiser at the Chandelier Restaurant for the Jason O’Donnell campaign.
“He’s in the audience, but I want to put him on the spot,” said O’Donnell of Klimansky, an Iraq War veteran, former Board of Education trustee, Eagle Scout, and now a manager at a finance firm. Klimansky grew up in Bayonne, where he lives with his wife and daughter.
Klimansky’s press release echoes the O’Donnell campaign’s central message critical of the Davis administration’s development policy that uses Payments In lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) agreements to incentivize real estate development.
“I believe that if you see a problem then you need to work to fix it,” said Klimansky in the press release. “And I can’t sit back and watch the current Administration and the current Council continue to give away our city’s future with tax breaks to rich developers that will hurt my family and every other taxpayer in Bayonne for years to come.”


A theme of a city “plundered by out-of-town interests” was dominant in speeches at the event. Projects should use local union labor, and more PILOT (Payments In Lieu of Taxes) revenue should be allotted to the school district, candidates said. “If we don’t act now, what will be left for our children?” O’Donnell said. “How will we provide for our seniors?”
Davis, in October, standing just feet from where O’Donnell mourned the so-called plunder, touted the city’s newcomers, from small businesses on Broadway to chain stores on the city’s outskirts. Most of the developments that receive PILOTs are on the former Military Ocean Terminal Base and nearby light rail stations. The city council and the mayor have argued that PILOTs are necessary to encourage development, evidenced by the fact that most large development properties had laid vacant for extended periods of time.
“I’m here because I’m tired of high taxes, of dirty streets, of hearing police sirens at all hours of the night,” said Dan Ward, Bayonne High School Social Studies Director, running for At-Large City Council member. He called the Davis administration “derelict in its duties” to the school district for not sharing more PILOT revenue with the district. Right now, Ward was quick to point out, the city shares five percent with the school district, while Jersey City shares 10.

Bayonne will elect city council members and a mayor in three months, on May 8.


Clean streets, safe streets

Not all the talk was about development policies. Ward, for instance, said he’s “tired” of picking up garbage on his street. On crime, Sharma Montgomery, an Air Force veteran, said, “I have to worry about raising a fifth generation of Montgomeries in Bayonne. We are not addressing issues of crime right now, today. The bottom line is I can’t sit on the sidelines.” Similar sentiments were shared by Melissa Enriquez-Rada, who is running for At-Large City Council on O’Donnell’s ticket.
Kevin Kuhl, proprietor of Kuhl’s Tavern on the East Side, is running for Second Ward City Council. “We have to clean up the streets, especially on the East Side,” he said. “People don’t take pride in their property anymore. We might have to start forcing homeowners to clean up their property and in front of their house.”

Rory Pasquariello can be reached at roryp@hudsonreporter.com.