Dear friends and neighbors:
Happy Monday and Happy Summer!  It has been a while since I’ve updated you on the many things happening in Hoboken.  But “summer’s here, and the time is right!”  Here are the topics I’ve included today.  I only saved E-Scooters for last because it is the longest update.  Grab a coffee or smoothie and read on:
  • Events Upcoming This Week: 
    • Symphony on the Waterfront (Tonight!)
    • Fuzzy Lemons at Shipyard Park (Tomorrow!)
    • La Liga Junior Tournament (This Weekend!)
  • Rebuild By Design Survey – Due 6/30
  • Harborside Dog Park – Change of Plans
  • 14th Street Intersection / Signal Improvements
  • Police Sidewalk Patrol PILOT
  • Hilton Hotel – Take Two
  • Hoboken’s First Special Improvement District
  • PATH Extra Capacity
  • Scooters – Catching up on all that is happening
  • Frank Raia Voter Bribery Trial
Symphony on the Waterfront
Tonight, 730 PM at Maxwell Park.  One of my favorite events of the summer.  Along the waterfront, with the view of NYC in the background, listen to beautiful music by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.  Along with classical music in the past they’ve even been known to throw in a little Jersey favorites like Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi!  Bring a blanket or lawn chair and join your neighbors on what will be a beautiful summer evening.
Fuzzy Lemons at Shipyard Park
Tuesday Night, 7-9 PM at Shipyard Park.  “Whether they’re singing about getting in trouble, jumping in puddles or smelling stinky feet, they will have kids and parents alike bouncing to the beat.  Parents will rock out to classic rock inspired songs, or sway to danceable grooves. The Lemons are known to include some covers in their set too.  This is one event not to be missed.”
La Liga Jr. International Championship Returns to Hoboken
June 28th – 30th at Sinatra Park Soccer Field, FREE.  The City of Hoboken will once again host the annual LaLiga Promises International Soccer Tournament. The tournament celebrates its 5th year with the best young professional clubs of LaLiga and other top international clubs in the Under 12-category and this year will include Hoboken FC!  16 international teams will be competing, in games that include 7 players on the field (including the goalkeeper) and last for 24 minutes total. Participating clubs include FC Barcelona, Valencia CF, Guadalajara, Atlético de Madrid, Villarreal CF, SL Benfica, Real Betis, Club America, Sevilla FC, RCD Espanyol, Inter, Liverpool FC, New York City FC, Real Madrid, Guangzhou R&F and Hoboken City FC.  Games will begin at 9 AM ET on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, finishing with the final match on Sunday at 1 PM ET. Tournament games will be broadcast live by Univision.  All fans will be admitted free of charge and are encouraged to support their favorite teams.
Cove Park / Rebuild By Design Survey
CALL TO ACTION – Due 6/30:  Calling all neighbors, especially those who send their kids to Elysian Charter and / or live near Harborside Park.  PLEASE FILL OUT THE REBUILD BY DESIGN SURVEY.  At the June 6th public meeting, AECOM further narrowed design ideas to two – Ridge and Meadow - for the future park that will be part of Rebuild By Design at 15th – 16th between Park Ave and the Waterfront. 
AECOM will be collecting feedback from the survey and incorporating into a final design.  You can see their entire presentation HERE from the 6/5 meeting.  Questions in the survey include: type of active space, location of dog park, type of edge of the park adjacent to the street, best use of the northern portion toward Weehawken, what type of boathouse, should there be bathrooms, and more.  There is also a last question where you can provide comments.  #MoreVoicesAreNeededAndBetter.
Harborside Dog Park – Change of Plans
I spoke with Director Gonzalez, head of the Department of Environmental Services (including parks) and she has agreed that the large wooden chips in the dog park did not work as well as hoped and that the City will be removing them shortly and will then re-seed the park.  Re-seeding will involve closing the park for about a week.  I will come back when I have more information regarding dates.
14th Street Intersection / Signal Improvements
Last month I sent you an update on the many pedestrian safety initiatives in the 2nd ward that are currently being undertaken.  Although not a lot of actual work done since then, I can tell you that the County is currently looking at the 14th street intersections from Willow to Hudson.  And I am told that the new signs for 15th and Garden are coming shortly.  More to come…
Hoboken Police Summer Patrol PILOT
Last week, Hoboken PD started a summer sidewalk patrol PILOT program.  The goal of this program is to have more active duty police officers walking our sidewalks in certain areas during heavy traffic periods.  In particular you will see these patrols on Washington Street, and the waterfront areas (and possibly other areas as well).  
Why is this happening?  Because you asked for it.  I have discussed with a number of you about how it would be great to see more police walking in our neighborhoods.  To help with bikes on the sidewalk (and now scooters) or with people being disorderly as two examples.  I have been speaking with Chief Ferrante about this for a while and am thrilled about this PILOT.  So if you see a Hoboken Police Officer walking down our sidewalk, make sure you say hello, thank him/her for their service, and maybe even buy them a cup of coffee!
Hilton Hotel Take Two
Last week, for the second time, the City Council approved the agreement to build a new Hilton Hotel behind the River St. Post Office along the waterfront (this time 9-0).  This will redefine the area that is currently a parking lot and bring a much needed, second hotel to Hoboken.  What happened the first time?  The neighboring property owner sued the City and the Developer and the judge gave an early indication that he had issue in particular that the community benefit package being offered was not compliant with the law concerning redevelopments.  In particular those being offered as payments to third parties.  In response, the Administration has now agreed with the Developer to keep the same amount of the community benefit, but restructured it so that $3.2M of it is put into an Escrow Account and can be used by the City after the hotel opens for a broad range of improvements generally tied to the new hotel. 
Hoboken’s First Special Improvement District
For the past 15 months, I have been the City Council representative on a Steering Committee that was assessing whether or not a Special Improvement District is feasible for Hoboken.  In addition to me and representatives from the Administration, this committee included about 15 commercial property and business owners including, as examples, the owner/landlords of Elysian Café/Amanda’s, Hoboken Business Center, Little City Books, LaIsla/Sparrow’s, Roig Art, Swift Interiors and representatives of SJ Properties, Pegasus Properties, Bijoux Properties, and others.  At the recommendation of our Steering Committee, the City Council approved 8-1 on first reading an ordinance which I sponsored establishing Hoboken’s first Special Improvement District to be called the Hoboken Business Alliance.  Second reading will be at the July 10th meeting. 
You can click here to read the Executive Summary of the Feasibility Study that was completed.  A partnership between our local government and commercial property and business owners, the Hoboken Business Alliance SID can be the driver behind economic development in Hoboken and address things like vacant stores on Washington Street and what is needed to attract more people to support our small businesses and commercial properties city-wide.  Much of what you read about the thriving parts of Jersey City relates to the many SID’s they have in different commercial areas.  Unlike JC though, Hoboken will just have one incorporating the entire city. 
I have been pushing for this for over two years and am incredibly excited that this is moving forward.  We are long overdue.  Please feel free to reach out if you have questions.  If you want to see our businesses thrive in Hoboken, than please tell your City Council representative to vote yes on second reading!  More to come…
Coming to Us – More Capacity on PATH
ICYMI, the Port Authority announced on Thursday its 3 year plan to expand capacity on all PATH lines.  Hoboken will mostly benefit from the improved signaling system that will allow more trains, more often increasing capacity by 20% to our Hoboken – WTC and Hoboken – 33rd street lines. 
E-Scooters – 34 Days In, 150 More To Go…
Since I last wrote about scooters a few weeks ago, I have ridden them about ten times.  Just the Lime ones, I have not yet tried the Ojo ones.  My opinion, for what it is worth is that if ridden responsibly, which I find is easy to do, I think they are practical… but scary.  I wear a helmet (once without when I was rushing and left it behind and will not repeat) and I am amazed by anyone who thinks it is a good idea not to wear one.  The biggest danger I feel relates to navigating across unsteady or dangerous surfaces which include potholes, cracks in the roadway, speed bumps, and yes the green elastomeric surface on Washington Street’s bike lanes.  Unlike a bike, the Lime scooters have small wheels and don’t provide the same level of grip to the road so if you are caught by surprise on any of these – or even if you aren’t surprised – you could be in for a major fall which then could lead to a collision.  What I most hear about in terms of “accidents” to date is people falling off the scooter.  I know I am an inch away from it happening to me.
A LOT of People Like Them
Lime reported last week that over 20,000 people have subscribed in Hoboken and that they logged almost 100,000 trips in Hoboken in the first month.  That is roughly 14 trips per scooter per day.  This is the highest uptake across all their markets.   Remember – we are only making $12,500 from them.  Back of the envelope with these usage numbers I estimate Lime is making around $2 million during the 6 month pilot off their 250 scooters.
Improving, But Our Pain Points Continue
Examples of irresponsible riding are everywhere, all the time.  You can’t miss them if you tried.  Just yesterday I saw twice, an hour apart, what looked like 8 yr. olds riding a Lime scooter on their own (following their parent ahead of them) with their arms raised high to reach the handles.  Oh, and they were riding on the sidewalk.  I continue to receive emails with videos and pictures of two and three people on the scooters, riding the wrong way down a street, or on the sidewalk.  Please keep sending them. 
That said, we are also seeing many more people using them responsibly. Chief Ferrante, whose police team has been out in force, has indicated they too are seeing both the complaints reduce and the behavior improving.  He cited at our City Council meeting that complaints subsided from 1500 the first day to 25 this week.  Additionally, he said so far there have only been 9 collisions this month which tracks similarly with bicycles. 
The biggest pain point seems to be along the waterfront where we see the most reckless driving.  Here I personally feel like many of those abusing the scooters are not from Hoboken – this is solely based on my prior political canvassing along the waterfront where we found that most were from out of town and often out of the country.  Should E-Scooters be allowed on the waterfront?  The definitions in the E-Scooter state legislation say they basically can’t be on sidewalks, but can be on bike paths.  The Waterfront doesn’t follow the definition of “sidewalk”.  And the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway legislation says that bikes are allowed on it but only at the speed of pedestrians and local municipalities can require that cyclists dismount and walk their bikes.  There is a lot there but the laws are being interpreted by Director Sharp that E-Scooters are allowed on the walkway.  He is working to reduce the speeds there through geofencing (see below).
Adding to Our Economy
Have you heard of a “Lime Juicer”?  These are people who are charging the Lime scooters when they run out of battery.  Like Uber drivers, they are independent and many are Hoboken neighbors and local businesses.  My understanding is the scooters take 4-5 hours to charge, and Lime pays about $4-5 per charge.  Assuming each of our fleet of 250 gets charged twice per day, Lime is paying approximately $60-70K into our local economy each month or $400-500K throughout the PILOT (remember Hoboken only gets $12,500 and pays the full price of enforcement).  Even some of our local business are being used as hubs to supplement their own revenues.
Back to Safety - What Has Been / Is Being Done
What I can tell you is that this situation is fluid and the City continues to work with Lime and Ojo to find ways to improve safety.  A few recommendations that I have made recently that are being considered / implemented:
  • “Geofencing” the waterfront similar to what Lime did in Chicago where the geofence would slow the scooters down if they went beyond the border.  Parking and Transportation Director Ryan Sharp is reviewing this as a possibility now.
  • Return the end time back to the 10:00pm that the City approved.  The City Council’s original approval of the PILOT was predicated on this based upon concerns about safety and specifically the scooters being ridden at night, and by drunk people.  The City changed this to 11pm without telling the Council, but has agreed to put up at the next meeting an amendment to the contract back to 10pm.
  • Reduce the maximum speed to 12mph like Paris has done.  Director Sharp indicated that this would be less safe on our streets than the current 18mph, but will be discussing this further with Chief Ferrante. 
  • Demand more economics from Lime.  Council President Giattino and I met with the Mayor and recommended that he improve the deal with Lime so that Hoboken would be more fairly compensated to cover the increased costs of enforcement and education.
  • I co-sponsored along with Councilman Defusco an amendment to our ordinance (that passed 9-0 at the last meeting) with input from Police Chief Ferrante that adds the following:
    • Requirement that all riders read the state and local laws prior to riding;
    • Prohibits E-Scooters in public parks unless operated on a bicycle path or roadway through the park;
    • Fine structure as follows, note all listed offenses require a court appearance which is often more of a penalty than the fine itself:  If the offense is for riding on a sidewalk, failing to obey traffic control devices, riding in any direction other than the direction permitted for vehicular traffic, or carrying more persons at one time than the number for which the vehicle is equipped, the penalty for the first offense shall be $20.00; the penalty for the second offense shall be $100.00; the penalty for the third offense shall be $500.00; and upon the fourth offense, the individual shall be suspended for a period of one (1) year from any City-sponsored rideshare program.
What more can be done and when?
We need more to be done now.  Not wait until November.  In Nashville, Mayor Briley announced this week that he is terminating the many e-scooter contracts there for 4,000 scooters and asking the City Council to approve a new RFP to bring in fewer providers with fewer e-scooters.  He said that they will not re-instate the program unless there is a public process and safety and education issues are properly addressed.  Including the cost of enforcement. 
I would like Mayor Bhalla to do something similar here.  I don’t think we need to terminate the program, but I do think we need to reset it.  We need a do over that deletes all existing users (including me), starts fresh with proper education, gives Hoboken a better economic split that will allow us to allocate enough enforcement resources to ensuring safety, and one that specifically will keep those under 18 off the scooters. 
The Mayor is recommending the use of a non-binding referendum to determine if we should keep an e-scooter program.  But this wouldn’t be until November and I think that is too little too late.  I am not in support and the simplest reason is that a referendum with one ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question doesn’t tell us anything about such a complex topic as this.  And one can only imagine how much the scooter companies will spend on lobbying for people to vote in favor.  Remember how much money they are at risk losing if it is terminated.  A better and sooner path is to have a public process that includes a survey and public meetings to really collect the right feedback.   
Today is purportedly the last day of the Frank Raia Voter Bribery trial.  If Raia does not strike a last minute deal, then closing statements will be made and the jury will deliberate and ultimately decide his fate.  I will write more after the decision, but for now, just know this is an important moment for Hoboken.  And hopefully the real beginning to the end of paid for votes in our town.  If you haven’t read any of the news coverage, just google Frank Raia and click “news”
As always, please forward this to everyone you think may be interested in this information.  And please feel free to reach out to me at any time via email or at 201/208-1674.  Have a great first official week of summer! I will be at Hoboken Family Alliance Bike Camp all week in the mornings helping children with special needs learn to ride a bike.  This is my second year doing it and I can say it is one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had.  I am grateful everyday to live in such a special community. 
Thank you,