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  • Terry Pranses

Hoboken Yards ’19: Where is Transparency and Predictability at City Council?

On Wednesday, November 6th, the day after the election, many residents were short-changed on an opportunity to share their viewson the changing New Plan for the Hoboken Yards.

Until that day, the City website was showing the Council meeting with a “2ndreading” on an older version of the Plan, discussed and shelved at the October 2ndCouncil meeting. A second meeting would have meant a potential up or down vote.

However, many knew, although not shown on the City’s website, that an update of the Plan was in motion. If it went forward, the 11/6 meeting would have a “1streading”, meaning that any resident inputs would need to be made in the general public remarks section, not specific to this Ordinance, B-194.

There was also the likelihood, because the Community Development South Subcommittee had not met about proposed changes, that the item would be dropped from the Council agenda altogether. And that is what happened when Subcommittee Chair Mike DeFusco communicated the status to Council President Jen Giattino at roughly 4 PM on November 6th. Shortly after 5 PM, the Task Force sent a note about the revised agenda, with no B-194 item, to over 100 people. And that agenda is how the Council meeting began.

Within that City Council meeting, after many potential speakers had decided not to attend, or had even been sent away from the meeting, sponsors (as it is) Michael Russo and Mike DeFusco moved to reinstate the item into that night’s agenda. And that happened with a “yes” vote of 5 (M. DeFusco, J. Doyle, V. Falco, E. Jabbour and M. Russo). Those voting “no”, in order to keep the agenda the public expected,

were 3 (P. Cunningham, T. Fisher and J. Giattino), while 1, R. Ramos, perhaps reacting to the obvious chaos, abstained.

We thank Council members P. Cunningham, T. Fisher and J. Giattino for trying to keep to the agenda expected by the public.

For those wanting to see how this plays out:  shortly after 34 minutes in (7:36 PM on the timestamp)...

(The City's site for the archived videos do not, amazingly, include audio! It’s apparently a budget issue, but meanwhile those wanting to hear such videos must apparently risk hackers and all the other Facebook issues just to be informed.)  

Here’s a transcript of part of that interaction:

“I wanted to know: we’re moving [ordinance] back to 1st reading?,” 3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo asked Council President Jen Giattino.

“On December 4th,” she answered.

“Why aren’t we doing that tonight?,” Russo continued.

“It was removed from the agenda because members of the public were told that there would be a subcommittee meeting and they’d have a chance to speak about it again,” Giattino explained.

For more on how this played out, visit Hudson County View:

We are very disappointed that so many lost the opportunity to speak on the date of this 1streading. We’d like to tell concerned residents that these “process issues” will disappear, but certainly do not see that happening soon. So yes, unfortunately, you’ll need to show up to any meeting where some actions may be influenced, or Council votes taken.

In the near future, these are two important dates:

Monday evening, November 25th, 6-8 PM at Hoboken Terminal Waiting Room

This is hosted by the developers: LCOR and NJ Transit. It appears to be more of a modularized series of displays rather than the general discussion format used on October 15th. Whether or not the public can effectively raise its concerns in this setting remains to be seen.

Wednesday evening, December 4th, 7 PM: Hoboken City Hall, Council Chambers

Ordinance B-194 will be on the agenda for a “2ndreading” and a possible vote. The public may speak directly on this Ordinance prior to the vote or other Council action. Potentially amendments could be made to the Ordinance and put it back to a 1streading. Or, if Council support wavers, the sponsors could “remove” it or table it.

Let’s hope our City Council approaches both meetings with an open mind and sincere interest in improving the New Plan in line with public inputs!

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