Four years ago I began this journey because I wanted to contribute more to my community and felt that I could help make a difference in the challenges Hoboken faced including our aging infrastructure, the effects of our significant population growth, and the pressures of development and rising home prices. Little did I know that I would need and use all of my 20+ years of professional, financial and community experience every day, on every issue, to ask the right questions, to get the right answers, and to ensure that Hoboken residents and taxpayers always get the best outcome.
My June 27th kick off announcement included the highlights of the long track record we have accomplished together and that we all should be so proud of ranging from signing a new Suez water contract that saves taxpayers $30M and puts an end to water main breaks to advocating for our most vulnerable and longer standing residents to executing on a pedestrian safety plan for the 2nd Ward and more. Engaging with, informing and advocating for you has driven these successes along with a City Council and administration, despite what you may hear otherwise, who work well together to make good decisions for Hoboken.
As we look ahead to the next four years, many of the same challenges remain and I am ready to roll up my sleeves again to:
- Work even harder to keep taxes low which includes cutting waste and excess spending, managing our debt, striking better economic deals with our partners, getting more services from Hudson County and growing our tax base carefully. And as Chair of the Finance, Revenue and Infrastructure subcommittee for the past four years, we have achieved all of these but will still need to keep this focus going forward.
- Get better economic outcomes for Hoboken. Best shown by example:
- SUEZ: original 2017 proposal - residents pay 15% higher water rates to fund $30M for necessary water system upgrades while Suez keeps $70M+ of our water revenues over 15 yrs. With my advocacy: Suez only gets $45M so that all $30M of system upgrades can be funded with no increase in rates.
- LIME: original proposal - Hoboken gets $12,500, Lime to make ~$1.5M during the pilot program. With my advocacy for a new contract, although still not enough to cover the significant enforcement costs, Hoboken now gets over $100K.
- SMART CITIES: original proposal - Hoboken trades 100% of advertising / data rights in exchange for large kiosks and free city wide wi-fi. With my advocacy, a financial advisor was hired and recommended we scrap that deal given the significant economic value that Hoboken was going to give away. Administration has since not prioritized this project.
- Continue to fight to complete our waterfront. This started for me in 2011 when I led the public effort to fight against the proposed Monarch project. This is an historic moment in time for Hoboken where we are so close to ensuring the best possible public access and enjoyment of our entire waterfront. Last week the City Council approved 9-0 to allow the mayor to acquire the former UDD site. And 9 years later, the Monarch settlement agreement is now on track to be completed in 2020.
- Make Vision Zero a reality. This time around we need to embrace this project, to act on the recommendations and to create a culture of safety in Hoboken where our "entire system is responsible for safety" because our lives depend on it. And although not ever implemented, let’s start by using what was then the equivalent of a Vision Zero program, the 2010 Hoboken Bicycle and Pedestrian, as a guide for action immediately.
- Ensure that all future development addresses our community needs and makes sense for Hoboken. This is one of the most difficult issues to navigate if you don't have the proper tools and skills and we are at a critical moment in time given the amount of development pressure our city faces. I have worked tirelessly to bring much needed financial and real estate expertise into all of our redevelopment negotiations so that Hoboken never again is the underdog in these discussions. The $3M+ of community benefits in the proposed Hilton Hotel are an example of what you can achieve when you have the right financial tools.
- Do more to expand transportation alternatives so that we can stave off the growth of cars coming into, driving around and staying in Hoboken. Don't worry, this isn't at all to say that we need to get rid of cars. I drive one. I like to drive one. But the biggest issues I hear from you - congestion, traffic, parking and pedestrian safety - can be tied to the growth in cars and car services. So as we see our population grow, lets expand the free Hop again, figure out if and how eScooters and other micro-mobility sources can work safely in Hoboken (or not), advocate for more 126 buses, build a new light rail station in NW Hoboken, increase the price for resident parking permits, build more bike infrastructure and require lower parking ratios for newer buildings, especially those near transportation hubs.
- Keep our local stores open for business. No one likes to see empty storefronts. With the support of our Business Administrator, I have driven the effort to create a Special Improvement District for Hoboken like those in the economic flourishing areas of neighboring Jersey City. After 18 months of steering committee meetings, the City Council approved this in July and, last week, voted 9-0 to appoint me to its Board. We will need one more City Council vote to get it funded, operating and advocating for our businesses but we are closer than ever to restoring our main street.
Maintain the historic character of Hoboken. Watching our historic properties be demolished is watching Hoboken’s history vanish before our eyes. The last two years I led the advocacy to substantially increase the funding for our Historic Preservation Commission from their shoe string budget so they could take on projects like producing necessary “design guidelines” and “This Place Matters” to better protect our historic landscape.
- Make our parks as clean, inviting, safe and accessible as they can be. Creating a park conservancy will hopefully bring much needed, new focus and resources to our parks. I have spoken with the City about this in the past and am excited that Elysian Park will be one of the first parks in this program.
- Complete Rebuild By Design to make Hoboken resilient to the devastating effects of hurricanes and storm surges. I have been working on this important project for five years and we have 3ish more to go with construction starting in 2020. Our hearts go out to the residents of the Bahamas after the ravaging impact of Hurricane Dorian last week. A level of devastation not previously seen, and a painful reminder that we need to complete RBD as soon as possible.
- Continue expanding capacity in our sewers to minimize the flooding effects from significant rain events. This is happening through all the resiliency infrastructure we are adding in our parks, on our streets and to our new buildings to collect storm water to delay its entrance into our sewer system. I have worked with the NHSA to also provide information to residents on what they can do in their homes to help mitigate the risk.
- Collaborate with the Board of Education and other local schools to ensure that their real estate and facilities needs are addressed before it’s too late given the massive growth in young children in our community, the related enrollment growth in our district schools in particular (40% in eight years), and the more families that want to stay longer in Hoboken. Whether it’s helping them find a location to build a new school or to build flexible/swing space for students while a new school gets rebuilt - we need to find and reserve this space now before it’s too late! We never get to say "let’s take those 10 acres by the highway and build a new..." I don't want to manufacture a crisis, but...
- Build more active space that our growing population of all ages can use for recreation – whether soccer fields, a pool, pickle-ball courts, waterfront activities, a new senior center, dog parks, an uptown library and/or other activities, we need to find this space because again, we never get to say "let's take those 10 acres by the highway and build a new..." Given our land constraints, I have always pushed to include active space like when both the NW and Harborside parks were originally proposed with only passive uses... I have also been and will continue to be a big proponent of the City partnering to restore the uptown "Y" (click here for their survey looking for input on the restoration).
- Ensure that the commercial development and a municipal/public parking garage are built in the North End. Commercial development is critical to diversify our tax base and stimulate our local economy. Notwithstanding the points above, for the uptown commercial areas to be viable, they need public parking for visitors. I have helped drive these discussions on the North Community Development Council subcommittee for four years and hope you can join for our next public meeting on 9/24 at 630 pm at Wallace to discuss the next steps (more to come).
- Celebrate and protect the diverse fabric of our very special Hoboken community – to borrow one of my favorite phrases from Hoboken’s Mustard Seed School “You Are Who You Learn With.” The very definition of the value of diversity. In particular, every day we need to make sure there is room for those with less in our city that has more through enforcing our rent control laws, improving the conditions for those who live in our Housing Authority, ensuring safe transportation for our seniors, and building more affordable housing. I recently led the effort to secure a new transport bus for our seniors after seeing the awful conditions of the current ones. And I have been on the affordable housing subcommittee since I was elected and although we made some amazing steps, we still have so much more we need to do.
- Work collaboratively and always support what is best for Hoboken. Notwithstanding any rhetoric you may hear to the contrary, the mayor and the City Council have gotten a lot done together. The Mayor entrusts me with leading many of the complicated issues like negotiating the financial terms of the new Suez contract, strategizing about Union Dry Dock and development, and leading the effort with our local businesses to establish a Special Improvement District for Hoboken. But we don’t agree 100% of the time and I will always question what’s best for Hoboken. Ideally, and I don’t fault him for this, he wants to have a team that will rubber stamp his agenda. Apparently the 9-0 votes supporting his agenda 83% of the time by the City Council since he took office isn’t enough.
As your neighbor, I believe Hoboken residents and taxpayers deserve a representative who will always be working and advocating for them. Who listens and engages. Who will be transparent and informative on all issues. Who has the interest, commitment and experience to tackle all the big and small issues that Hoboken residents are facing today and in the future. Who strives to be a uniting community leader, not a dividing one. Who is not a rubber stamp, but will ask tough questions and always vote Hoboken first. And who believes more voices gives us the best chance for the best outcome.
As your council representative today, if you re-elect me, I promise to continue to be that advocate for you.