Motorist who caused death of five-year-old and father sentenced to 37 years in prison
Scott Hahn, of Hamilton Township, was sentenced to 37 years in prison by a Hudson County Superior Court judge on May 23 for his responsibility in a 2016 NJ Turnpike car crash that resulted in the death of a 48-year-old an and his five-year-old daughter.
In March, a jury found Hahn guilty on all six counts related to the crash that took the lives of Bayonne resident Timothy O’Donnell, and his daughter Bridget, on Feb. 22, 2016. It took the panel less than a day to reach a verdict in a trial that lasted more than a week.
That day, Hahn hit O’Donnell’s vehicle from behind at a toll booth at Interchange 14C of the NJ Turnpike while traveling 53 miles per hour. The crash was so severe that Assistant Chief Prosecutor Leo Hernandez said during his opening statement that it sent the victim’s car into oncoming traffic and caused injuries to Timothy, including cracked ribs on both sides and the severing of several major arteries that led to his near immediate death. Bridget died a short time later en route to Jersey City Medical Center.
Her mother, Pam O’Donnell, has become an advocate for safe driving and has since launched the Catch You Later Foundation in honor of Timothy and Bridget.
Bayonne Bridge pedestrian and cycling path now open
The 12-foot-wide pedestrian and cycling path on the east side of the Bayonne Bridge is now open from 6 a.m. to midnight daily. The path spans approximately 8,400 feet from Trantor Place in Staten Island to Kennedy Boulevard in Bayonne.
The pedestrian and cycling path is the finishing touch on the $1.3 billion “Raise the Roadway” project, which began in May of 2013, and raises the bridge by 64 feet to height of 214 feet over the Kill Van Kull.
Raising the Bayonne Bridge along with the Harbor Deepening Project, completed in September of 2016, deepened the Kill Van Kull by 50 feet, and will allow for larger container ships to access the terminals at Port Newark, GCT Bayonne, and the Howland Hook Marine Terminal.
Harbor Station South could get up to 4,500 residential units
Twelve lots at Harbor Station South, the southwestern portion of the former Military Ocean Terminal, might be used to construct a 218-room hotel, 4,500 units of residential housing, 80,906 square feet of retail space, and a park, according to a legal notice issued in early May on behalf of the developer, Mahalaxmi Bayonne Urban Renewal. The principal is Jersey City-based real estate developer Raj Gupta. The developer is also seeking approval for a parking plan that would allow for off-site parking.
Few details are known about the development plans. In November of 2017, the Bayonne City Council granted the developer a 30-year tax abatement. Ten percent of the development’s gross annual income will be paid to the city for the first seven years, 11 percent after eight, and 12 for the final five years.
Veterans memorial damaged by out-of-control driver
The veterans’ memorial at Veteran’s Stadium was damaged by a driver who was later issued a summons for careless driving. Bricks and debris were left behind in the crash. Nonetheless, the memorial was honored by veterans with a wreath on May 22. The city plans to repair the memorial. No one was hurt in the crash.
Several residents win rain barrels
The Bayonne Water Guardians and the Passaic Valley Sewage Commission hosted a rain barrel workshop on May 22, giving away several barrels, which can prevent up to 1,400 gallons of water per year from getting into the sewage system. During times of precipitation, Bayonne’s sewage system overflows into surrounding natural waterways, bringing with the water harmful chemicals, oil, and untreated sewage. Rain barrels help catch water before it reaches the sewer.
Sweeney: $50 M for special ed, might ‘raise the cap’
NJ Spotlight published an exclusive interview with state Sen. President Steve Sweeney about school aid. About 200 school districts will experience cuts under Gov. Phil Murphy’s budget. For the 2020 budget, Sweeney said he plans to introduce an additional $50 million — $400 million over four years — for special education students needing “extraordinary aid,” where the cost to support the student exceeds $55,000 per year.
He also said, “I would be willing to raise the cap,” which would enable areas with underfunded school districts to raise property taxes over the current limit of two percent without asking voters first. Though Bayonne saw an increase in state funding last year, it’s still considered an underfunded district, which would mean that, under Sweeney’s plan, the Bayonne Board of Education would be allowed to raise more property tax revenue without a referendum. In the last 10 years, Bayonne has seen more than a 23.8 percent increase in property tax rates.
Far more clinging jellyfish in bays, rivers this year
The first clinging jellyfish in New Jersey was reported three years ago. On Thursday, researchers announced the invasive species’ population has ballooned, with an estimated tens of thousands of baby jellyfish (polyps) in Barnegat Bay and nearby rivers. Each jellyfish is about the size of a dime. Its sting is profoundly painful and can lead to hospitalization, according to the Asbury Park Press.
Protesters call on Murphy: no more youth prisons
On May 18, hundreds of protesters gathered in Newark in response to Gov. Phil Murphy’s announcement that the state will build a new youth prison. The move was at first a joint effort with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, but Baraka later amended his position.
Before the rally, Rev. Dr. Charles Boyer reminded the crowd that Murphy is the “governor who received 94 percent of the black vote.” Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter, a Democrat representing Bergen and Passaic counties, spoke about a bill that was introduced in the state Assembly on Thursday: it would earmark $100 million for the Juvenile Justice Commission every year.
Tax cuts for working poor remain unscathed
A three-year ramp-up of the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit was established last year by the Democratic-controlled Legislature. Gov. Murphy’s proposed state budget fully funds the next scheduled increase in the coming year, according to NJ Spotlight. The size of the average tax credit would be larger than $1,000 for the first time in the state’s history, thanks to increased funding approved by both Democrats and Republicans.
“Working poor” are defined as people who work for companies that do not compensate them with enough to meet basic expenses. The Earned Income Tax Credit was created in 1975 to share money from tax revenue with poor families at the end of the year.
NJ ranked last in nation for recession preparedness
One bit of good news from the latest Moody’s credit rating report is that New Jersey still has an A3 credit rating. But the state shares a last-in-the-nation rating with Illinois for its ability to withstand a recession. Twenty-six states were rated as moderately prepared; twenty-two were strongly prepared. The report says the culprit is the state’s lack of reserves and its pension system, which could be a point of contention as lawmakers prepare to send Gov. Murphy a spending bill for the next fiscal year.