Following legal opinion, Bhalla urges Hoboken council to table rent control measure


In light of a legal opinion issued by Hoboken Assistant Corporation Counsel Alyssa Bongiovanni, Mayor Ravi Bhalla is urging the council to table an “improper” measure that would allow them to appoint two more members to the rent leveling and stabilization board. 

Then Hoboken Mayor-elect Ravi Bhalla (center) speaking  at a city council meeting in December. 3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo (left) and Council President Ruben Ramos also pictured.
Then Hoboken Mayor-elect Ravi Bhalla (center) speaking at a city council meeting in December. 3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo (left) and Council President Ruben Ramos also pictured.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“… It is my opinion that the City Council does not have the power to appoint members to the Rent Control Board, but that said appointment power vests in the Mayor with the advice and consent of the Council,” Bongiovanni wrote in a March 6th opinion to the council.

“Thus, it is my opinion that the ordinance introduced at the February 21, 2018 meeting is invalid pursuant to the Faulkner Act.”

As Hudson County View reported, at the February 21st meeting, the council was set to vote on replacements for two veteran members of the rent control board: Michael Lenz, until recently the president of the governing body and a former councilman, and Cheryl Fallick.

At that meeting, the council approved five of the seven names on the agenda, with resolutions to replace Lenz and Fallick, who both supported 6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino’s mayoral run, with Heath Urban and Warren Hall, respectively, tabled.

During the same session, where four rent control board members spoke in favor of keeping Lenz and Fallick on the board, the council approved the first reading of the aforementioned ordinance – which would allow the council to appoint three full-time rent control board members and two alternates.

According to Bhalla, a lawyer by trade, state law is clear how rent control board appointments are supposed to work and the council cannot usurp the mayor’s power on this issue.

“State law is very clear about how appointments should be made to boards. Any decisions made by board members who are improperly appointed calls into question the validity of determinations made by the Rent Board,” Bhalla said in a statement.

“I hope that the Council will reconsider their actions and provide their advice and consent regarding the nominations of Mr. Hall and Mr. Urban, two highly qualified appointees who I know would serve our community well.”

In a letter from Bhalla to the council dated today, the mayor doubled down that he feels Hall, the executive director of MBS Housing for the Hoboken YMCA who supported 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco for mayor, and Urban, a Rutger law school graduate, are eminently qualified.

“To the extent that you don’t believe that you do not believe Mr. Hall and Mr. Urban are deserving of your advice and consent, I would further respectfully request that you place on the record reasons why you believe the candidates lack the qualifications to serve on the Rent Control Board,” Bhalla wrote.

As it stands today, Thursday’s agenda has Lenz and Fallick being reappointed as full-time board members, with Hall and Urban appointed as alternates.

In an email, Council President Ruben Ramos indicated that the governing body currently has no plans to change their agenda for later this week.

“I’m not surprised by this but Municipal Government 101 is anything that is created by Municipal Ordinance can be amended by Ordinance,” Ramos explained.

“Multiple municipalities in State of NJ currently appoint rent control board members as our Ordinance proposes. We crafted ours in similar fashion. We are not reinventing the wheel here because it already exists and functions in other municipalities.”

Ramos also pointed to other northern New Jersey municipalities such as Passaic acting in exactly the same way that Hoboken is regarding their rent control board.


Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with new information.

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  1. Um… Ravi Bhalla?

    Does it really surprise anyone that an attorney working for Mayor Ravi finds an appointment plan in use across the state doesn’t apply in Hoboken?

    Does it really surprise anyone that an attorney working for Mayor Ravi finds we have to do it Ravi’s way?

    Does it really surprise anyone that the chorus of former reformers sees nothing wrong with any of it?

    Sad. Sad. Sadder.

  2. Weak sauce by Ravi and his political contribution Corporation Counsel Office under Brian Aloia.

    In 2009, Dawn Zimmer led the City Council fighting to take over every single board seat of the Hoboken Zoning Board of Adjustment.

    This Corporation Counsel Office is green or worse, compromised. Take that weak sauce out of her and your boss Ravi with you!

  3. What is this rubbish about the council questioning the two candidates Ravi demands they be put on the record? Both are up for a vote to be alternates. They can learn the position as alternates. Did either one wish to bump off the experienced members? From what I hear no.

    This is just terrible politics being played by Ravi and his law department. In 2009, the City Council voted to remove the appointment powers of the mayor on all Hoboken Zoning Board positions.

    Do I need to tell you how Ravi Bhalla voted? Ravi the Hypocrite!!

  4. Fresh off of lying to the public about his second job where he will earn 60K in another law firm position plus untold sales commissions, here’s Ravi with another whopper. Who does this guy think he’s kidding. Of course it’s not legal for the council to appoint to any board. They have to finish the ordinance change first. Then it’s legal. Just like the zoning board in 2009.

    How much Hoboken taxpayer dollars were wasted with this stupid political operation? Morons!

  5. Ravi says, “State law is very clear about how appointments should be made to boards.” Well, if that’s the case either Ravi broke the law in 2009 when he voted to yank all the zoning board positions from the mayor to the council or his second job at the law firm of Lavery, Selvaggi, Abromovits & Cohen deserves their money back. This is some bad lawyering by Ravi!

    • Lenz, Soares, et al are not responsible for all bad things – just bad things masquerading as good things by claiming to be “reform” to use public service for self-service. Don’t come at me with the inevitable “but Ravi’s ‘side gig.'” Nothing comes close to their hypocrisy. Not even remotely.

      • Wait, I’m a bit confused. Ravi making tens of thousands up to a million with his second job at a Republic NJ politically connected law firm is not an issue to you.

        But we’re supposed to be worried about someone else with one board position paying nothing and another a 5K stipend?

        These Ravi Robot commenters are stupid.

      • Nothing comes to all the legal costs attached the name Stan Grossbard in politics
        From Carmelo Garcia to David Liebler…When Stan was mentioned Hoboken ended up in Court due to civil rights violations and wrongful terminations.

        $700,000 ( dropped on the backs of the city’s poorest residents )
        Plus legal fees

        Stan should stop talking, he’s cost this city enough

          • Now attacking Soares height we aren’t all Soares and we aren’t all stupid
            Funny how Nancy and Stan get so outraged when ravi or dawns religion was even mentioned
            Yet out of state pass of theirs obsess over him while going right to the guys disabilty
            Imagine if they attacked Nancy’s husband or Dawns health or Ravis religious dress ??

            Bhalla let’s bigots surround him

          • I have no idea whether the above comment is making the reference you seem to be suggesting, but if it is, isn’t Tony now aligned with some of the people involved with the original munchkin flyer? If so, seems a bit of a stretch to be crying foul here while giving it a pass elsewhere.

  6. Avoid the “Cave” known to re-direct her growing lists of enemies in Hoboken. Question Sybil and you will be directed to an unsecure site and could possibly be hacked.

  7. So you think Tony Soares is the only one who knows this stuff and has the b*lls to say so?

    And you think outing him for being short is an acceptable response on THIS site?

    Wrong on both counts.

  8. We all know the two personal assistants (aka chiefs of staff) ravi employs on tax dollars are reading this site — tell mayor two-job that it’s not okay to use his minions to attack a person who is shorter in stature. That’s not Democratic, it’s Trumpian to use differences to polarize. Ravi polarized to win the election with the racist flier that only he benefitted from — this is sadly par for the course