Hoboken council addresses a number of initiatives at special meeting

Sinatra Drive carless Sundays, July fireworks, e-scooters, and ethics discussed

The Hoboken City Council held a special meeting on July 18 to vote on several resolutions.
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The Hoboken City Council held a special meeting on July 18 to vote on several resolutions.

During a special meeting on July 18, the Hoboken City Council passed resolutions, which will close Sinatra Drive to cars on Sunday in July and August, bring back fireworks for the 4th of July, and request a new contract with e-scooter providers to get more money.

The council also introduced an ordinance that would update the city’s ethics laws to prohibit more public property from being used for campaigning.

No cars on Sundays

The council voted unanimously to shut down Sinatra Drive to vehicular traffic on Sunday in July and August to allow people more space to enjoy the city’s waterfront.

The closing of Sinatra Drive dates back to at least 1998 when the council passed a measure closing the street on Sunday during summer months.

According to the new resolution, sponsored by Councilwoman Emily Jabbour and Council President Jen Giattino, the street closure will be coordinated with Hoboken Police and Fire Departments as well as Stevens Institute of Technology.

It also provides that if there is heavy traffic or an emergency the street can be reopened.

Only two Sundays in August will be affected. The ordinance specifically excludes Aug. 18. That’s  student move-in day at Stevens Institute of Technology.

Although the resolution does not stipulate hours the street will be closed or if residents will still be permitted to park, Jabbour explained in a follow-up interview that this will be used as a test run for future car-free summer Sundays next year.

As such, on Aug. 11 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sinatra Drive will be closed from Newark Street to Fourth Street and there will be parking restrictions in place. On Aug. 25, Sinatra Drive from Fourth Street to 11th Street will be closed during the same hours and there will also be parking restrictions. She said that while this is the plan, logistics are still being finalized.

She said the intention is to also have different types of programming during the day to bring people out to enjoy the extra room to ride their bikes or play or just enjoy the waterfront

Pyrotechnic displays

The council unanimously approved a resolution which aims to bring back a fireworks display to Hoboken for Independence Day.

The city used to have fireworks years ago but stopped the celebration when Macy’s decided to have fireworks along the Hudson River.

Now that they have moved back to the East River, Hoboken may once again have its own pyrotechnic display, depending on funding.

According to a representative of the Police Department, the 4th of July celebration used to cost the city roughly $150,000 from a law enforcement perspective alone. That does not include the cost of fireworks or cleanup following the celebration.

Councilman Michael DeFusco, who sponsored the resolution, said the goal is to engage Macy’s, Jersey City, New York City and other public and private sponsors to bring the fireworks back at minimal or no cost to the city.

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher said this is the type of event which the proposed Special Improvement District could help sponsor.

Ethics code updates

In a 7-2 vote, the council introduced an ordinance that would update the city’s ethics ordinance to prohibit politicking on public property.

The ordinance, sponsored by DeFusco and Fisher, will bar any public official from using the city’s Nixel alert system, phones, fax machines, computers, and other city property to promote political agendas.

“Politics should never be permitted to run out of City Hall, which is why it’s concerning that our current law allows for city-owned computers, phones, and other taxpayer-funded services to be used for personal and political gain,” said DeFusco. “The law …prevents anyone, including myself, from using City Hall resources for anything other than official city business.  Those who work for the taxpayers should be focused on providing the best possible services for all of Hoboken, not advancing their political careers.”

DeFusco said Mayor Ravi Bhalla has used the city’s Nixle alert system to “take cheap political shots” calling it a “misuse of taxpayer dollars.”

Spokesperson for Mayor Ravi Bhalla and his slate, Rob Horowitz said, “Mayor Bhalla is open to working with the council on real comprehensive ethics reform that addresses the major political corruption challenges facing our city. But Councilman DeFusco’s new proposal is a transparent attempt to deflect attention from the fact that Frank Raia, one of his largest political contributors, was just found guilty of a large-scale voter fraud scheme, in which hard cold cash was traded for votes, and that his former campaign manager was at the heart of the scheme. Stamping out voter fraud and ensuring the integrity of elections is the number one ethical issue in Hoboken. Any truly comprehensive proposal must address it.”

DeFusco’s former campaign manager Ryan Yacco, the founder and co-owner of the former Bluewater Operations, testified in the Raia trial that he performed payroll services for Raia’s One Hoboken campaign and the Let the People Decide PAC in 2013 which paid $50 checks to voters who voted for Raia via mail-in ballots.

While Yacco was DeFusco’s campaign manager for his 2017 mayoral campaign, Catilin Mota of Vision Media Marketing Inc. who is DeFusco’s campaign spokeswoman, announced that David Gracin serves as the campaign manager for DeFusco’s 2019 city council re-election.

Renegotiating e-scooters

The council unanimously passed a resolution asking the mayor to renegotiate contracts with the city’s e-scooter vendors to provide more money to cover the cost of enforcement and education services the city has undertaken as a result of the e-scooter pilot.

It also requests that a new contract include safety and education plans.

According to the city, under the current contract, which was negotiated by the mayor and approved by the council, the city has received roughly $15,000 for the pilot.

Deputy Chief of Staff Jason Freeman said the mayor is already working on renegotiating the contract.

Councilman Peter Cunningham asked if during the negotiations the city could add indemnification language to protect Hoboken property owners from litigation should someone injure himself or herself due to a scooter parked on the sidewalk, noting that the city has broad indemnification but property owners currently do not.

Chief of Staff John Allen said he would look into it and get back to the council.

For updates on this and other stories keep checking www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.