The Hoboken City Council approved the 1st reading of an ordinance that would allow the city to acquire the Union Dry Dock property through eminent domain, though the catch is that the second reading won’t occur until after the municipal elections.
While this was the first reading of the ordinance, which typically has no discussion from the public or the council, Councilman-at-Large Ravi Bhalla, a mayoral candidate, expressed his opinion that this was an urgent matter and therefore would be against pushing it until after the November 7th municipal elections.
“If it’s not heard expeditiously, it could adversely impact some city interests, so that’s why we’re hearing it on first hearing tonight,” began Bhalla.
“My concern is if we presumptively, tonight, wait for six weeks to hear it, as something that we originally thought, was deemed an urgent matter, that could somehow undercut our position in ways that I don’t know and I’m concerned about.”
Council President Jen Giattino, also seeking the mayor’s seat, quipped back that Mayor Dawn Zimmer told her in a private meeting that this was not an urgent matter.
“I’m not the mayor so,” Bhalla said before getting cut off by Giattino.
“I’m telling you what my conversation was: I spoke to the mayor today at 4:15 and she asked me to either table this or vote for it tonight, if I tabled it to please move it to subcommittee,” she exclaimed.
“Okay, well I’m not the mayor, we have different positions on a variety of issues. What I’m telling you is this was brought to city council because of unknowns that are still unknown. And that was the reason behind moving forward today,” Bhalla responded, with both council member speaking over the other during the tense exchange.
After the short back and forth, Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia said the council had the option of taking a separate vote as to when the second hearing of the ordinance would take place, causing some confusion.
At that point, 3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo still wanted to know who actually declared the eminent domain an urgent issue, leading to some more verbal sparring between Bhalla and Giattino.
“Council president asked me on Thursday or Friday,” Bhalla started.
“Friday,” Giattino responded immediately.
“Friday to explain, within a few minutes, why it’s an urgent matter and we should not pull it and so I provided a written explanation as to why it was an urgent matter. Council president agreed with me, she agreed to keep it on the agenda, the mayor also chimed in …,” Bhalla continued.
“No I didn’t agree, I said I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt,” Giattino stated.
“Welcome to silly season everyone!,” Russo gleefully chimed in.
Russo, who said early on that he was voting no regardless, thought it was imperative to take a vote last night.
After several more minutes of commotion, Aloia clarified how the vote would go and what a yes or no vote would mean.
“You challenged that [moving second reading to November 13th] to a point of order, she said she’s not changing her mind, now the council’s gonna vote. If you vote yes, you agree with council president. If you vote no, then the ordinance, if it passes, will be heard in the normal course,” he explained.
Giattino’s motion to have the second reading heard on November 13th passed by a vote of 6-3, with Russo, Bhalla and Councilman-at-Large James Doyle voting no.
The first reading of the ordinance itself passed 8-1, with only Russo voting no.
Mayor Dawn Zimmer recently advocated using eminent domain to acquire the Union Dry Dock, though she received push back from 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco, another mayoral candidate, and the Fund for a Better Waterfront.