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‘No good deed goes unpunished’

Planning Board member ousted; parking rates changed

Gary Holtzman spoke at the council meeting during a roughly two hour hearing to have him removed from the Hoboken Planning Board.

At the City Council’s Nov. 7 meeting, they changed parking meter rates (see below), and took a vote to remove volunteer Planning Board member Gary Holtzman, after a hearing.

The lawyer list

Gary Holtzman has served as an unpaid volunteer on the seven-member Planning Board since 2011. The board votes on development projects and changes large and small.

The council had scheduled a hearing to discuss Holtzman after it was learned that over the summer, he had sent an email to developers, architects, and real estate professionals listing 16 attorneys whom applicants had used when appearing before the board.

Members of the council said they felt the email opened the city to potential risk and litigation. An applicant who didn’t use one of the “connected” land use attorneys on the list might feel he or she was at a disadvantage.

“I guess the saying is true that no good deed goes unpunished.” -Gary Holtzman

Holtzman said he’d sent out the list because Bob Matule, a local land-use attorney who often came before the board, was retiring and many people had asked for suggestions for a land use attorney.

He said he had not selected any of the attorneys himself and that all he did was put them in alphabetical order. He said he had no personal relationship with anyone on the list.

In the two-hour hearing, he said, “If I’m guilty of anything at all, it’s of trying to help applicants have a good experience dealing with the planning and zoning boards and to expedite and improve the process for everyone involved.”

He said he felt the hearing was called for political reasons. The members who ultimately voted for his removal are politically opposed to Mayor Ravi Bhalla.

Holtzman said, “My good faith effort to help people is being politicized and taken out of context by members of this council. I guess the saying is true that no good deed goes unpunished.”

Members of the council also brought up his language in board meetings and his current employment with Katerra, a construction company, for which he has worked for as a project tracker for the past five months.

Councilman Michael Russo asked him if he had “berated” an applicant’s attorney at a board meeting. Fisher asked if Holtzman recalled referring to any lawyers “clowns” during a public meeting of the board. Hotzman said he didn’t recall.

She then stated that public officials are held to standards for how they treat people before the board.

Russo claimed that the “position was created specifically for him,” at a company that does business in Hoboken. But Holtzman responded that currently, Katerra had no projects in town. He did confirm that the position was created for him.

Holtzman said that in hindsight, compiling the list of attorneys and emailing it was the result of a good intention but bad execution.

The council voted 6-2-1 to remove him.

“What was troublesome to me… was that this is a Planning Board member who should have known better,” said Fisher. “You’ve overstepped some lines that put the city at risk.”

Councilman Michael DeFusco abstained. Councilman Jim Doyle and Emily Jabbour voted against removing him.

“It makes me feel uncomfortable that it did feel like a predetermined outcome before we even got to today,” said Jabbour. “This is a volunteer role. We are all human. We make mistakes.”

Parking rates up

Visitors to Hoboken will soon see their meters go up after the Hoboken City Council passed a new resolution increasing the price of parking in the mile-square city.

In a 5-4 vote, the Hoboken council approved three ordinances, which would change the price of parking in municipal garages and implement “dynamic pricing” for parking meters in the city.

This was the same meeting in which the majority of the council voted to remove planning board member Gary Holtzman from his board seat.

Meter and garage changes

The city will “implement dynamic pricing for meters” based on factors such as parking demand, adjacent land uses, or peak periods throughout different areas of the city.

Some meters will see rate increases. The majority of meters placed in residential areas west of Washington Street will cost 50 cents for every 15 minutes, while the majority of meters along Washington Street from Observer Highway to Seventh Street, near the train station and on the waterfront, will cost 90 cents for every 15 minutes.

The city will also increase the price of parking in the municipal garages. Current rates are approximately “30 percent below market rate” for those who park in them long term, the city said.

The new rates for a monthly standard parking pass for residents at four municipal parking garages, Garage B, Garage D, Garage G, and Midtown, will increase from $235 to $250, $185 to $240, $160 to $200, $185 to $235, respectively. Garden Street garage remains the same at $200.

For those who park short-term in Garages B and D and the Midtown Garage, rates will generally decrease for those who only park for 30 minutes to an hour, but increase after two hours. For example, in Garage B, if a person parks for 30 minutes, they used to pay $4 but now they will pay only $3. But if they stay longer, the rate will rise.

According to the Director of Parking and Transportation Ryan Sharp, these changes are needed because on-street parking rates have not changed in Hoboken in over 10 years and street parking should only be 85 percent occupied, according to best practices.

He said changing the on-street price will mean more people will utilize the garages, which helps businesses and residents.

He also said this change will help decrease traffic in some of the city’s congested areas.

Sharp said the Parking Utility’s increased revenues will be reinvested into various initiatives by creating a town-wide Parking Benefit District. This would allow the city to direct the funds to streetscape improvements like improved lighting and signage, a new “Shop Hop” for business districts, and other initiatives.

Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com or comment online at hudsonreporter.com.

 

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