Dear Hoboken City Council Members:
This process has certainly been a long one, and for those of us who are fairly new to the inner workings of City politics – it has also been quite eye opening. Through all the back and forth, however, for me there are really three simple takeaways, which I would summarize as follows:
1.) Legal does not always mean ethical. Perhaps the Story applicant has checked all the right boxes from a legal perspective, but for me this has, from the beginning, been about the utter lack of ethics and transparency on the part of the Story team. What began as a physical therapy center quickly morphed into a dispensary, which revealed the inclusion of the spouse of a major political figure and potential gubernatorial candidate as a business partner. Frankly, this truly stinks – and is representative of the kind of behavior many private citizens have worked quite hard to eliminate from the Hudson County political landscape.
Further, the very manner in which our own City Officials sought public approval for the sale of Cannabis in Hoboken was, in hindsight, far from transparent. True, more than 70 percent of the public voted in favor of Cannabis distribution – — but the public was simply not given the full story. As a member of the public noted at the Blue Violets hearing, why didn’t our officials state we were effectively voting to approve six or more dispensaries inside one square mile? Going forward, I would ask that the public receive better and more complete information when significant public policy decisions are being considered.
2.) “We need the money,” which is something Councilman Quintero stated way back at the beginning of the summer – and I applaud him for his candor. The questions now become – -“how MUCH do we need, why do we need it and, perhaps most critically in this case, do we really believe that these dispensaries are going to cover enough of our financial goals and sins to make it worth the potential disruption to our neighborhood?” In short, is the juice worth the squeeze? If we are to believe some of the numbers that Story has put forward (and frankly I do not) there will not be enough money to cover the bumps outs let alone any meaningful infrastructure upgrades for the larger community. If, as I suspect, the applicant is again sandbagging us and is actually planning on much larger revenue and, hence, foot traffic, the neighborhood could get overrun, which leads me to….
3.) “Do we really believe that the business will get shut down if the traffic exceeds the neighborhood’s ability to absorb it?” I posed this question to the Planning Board, having curated it from comments Councilman Cohen made in summarizing his thoughts on the Blue Violets application, which were that we should open, see and adjust to market conditions. When I raised this point at the 11/1 Planning Board meeting, it became clear that the possibility of overflow had not been adequately considered and one member suggested approving the application with conditions attached, which was shot down. The Board Chair noted that the applicant needed to reach out to the community to establish more credibility. The Lead Counsel suggested that the public serve as watchdogs and “take pictures” as needed. Another “solution,” which appeared to reach consensus, was to have the Story business operators monitor results for six months and then come back to tell us how things are going….. Really? These guys? Clearly, a morning after strategy had not been considered, and before voting on this application I would ask that this Council, which is entrusted with looking out for the best interests of the public, think this all the way through the execution phase.
For clarity, we have terrific public safety officials in place throughout our city – but we need to set them up for success, and insist on accurate data and protocols from the applicant. The Story team has misled us from the start of this process, and their numbers fall well short of those being shared by other applicants in less heavily trafficked neighborhoods.
I ask that the Council consider these factors, all of them, as it votes on this issue and, for the good of our neighborhood, reject the Story application. Thank you….and to all a good night…..
5th Ward Resident