The presidents of Hoboken’s three charter schools, as well as five council members, are asking Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s administration to pump the brakes on the allocation of $3 million in givebacks stemming from the Hilton Hotel project.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“We are thrilled that the city of Hoboken was able to secure a $3 million community giveback. There is a current proposal to allocate these funds to the YMCA and the Hoboken Public Education Foundation,” a joint statement from the presidents of the Hoboken, Elysian and Hoboken Dual Language Charter Schools says.
“Unfortunately, under the current proposal, the public charters will not receive a portion of this grant. As representatives of Hoboken public charter school students, we look forward to a conversation about how monies earmarked for Hoboken public schools will be distributed fairly and equally to all public school children.”
The current proposal, which would be provided by KMS Development Partners as part from the city’s deal to bring a Hilton Hotel to the waterfront, does not include 973 chart schools students – about 35 percent of the public school population, according to statistics available from the State Department of Education.
While the details had not been formally announced yet by City Hall, the Hoboken Public Education Foundation made mention of their part of the deal in a mass email that went out on Saturday and both parties will be part of a press conference scheduled for tomorrow morning.
” … The Hoboken Public Education Foundation will be receiving a $1 million payment to create a permanent endowment to provide financial sustainability for our non-profit organization,” they wrote.
” … We wanted to build a volunteer organization that would allow our community to contribute private funds on a tax beneficial basis, something very common in the New Jersey suburbs and New York City, but completely absent in Hoboken.”
Some members of the city council, the five members of the Hilton Hotel subcommittee, agreed that it would be premature to allocate the funding to the HPEF and YMCA, given that the final details of the hotel plan had not been approved yet.
A joint press release sent by Council President Ruben Ramos, 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco, 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, 5th Ward Councilman Peter Cunningham and 6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino said revised plans for the hotel included adding 3 more floors (17 to 20) and increasing the square footage of the project by 20 percent.
Citing infrastructure concerns ranging from Washington Street improvements to affordable housing, the council majority also questions why there was no public process on where the $3 million will be allocated, even though both current choices are good ones.
“These are both great organizations that benefit the community, but given the size of the community benefit fee of $3 million, the subcommittee has questions about the narrow focus of these large contributions, the lack of any public process, the fact that the use of the funds will not be directed by any elected officials (mayor, school board or City Council), and that offsets to the myriad of near-term financial commitments to be paid by taxpayers were not considered,” they said in their statement.
“The subcommittee recommends broadening the scope of the $3 million while still including both HPEF and HCC as recipients by: supporting the education mandate but expand to include all public schools including charter schools; allocating a significant amount into the city’s Capital Fund and dedicate those funds specifically for planned infrastructure improvements and other large scale capital projects like the Multi Service Center, Northwest Park and the proposed HCC when their plans are finalized; and contributing to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund which has been underfunded for years.”
The subcommittee members continue that KMS should contribute an additional $75,000 towards a feasibility study for the Hoboken Community Center as soon as construction begins on the hotel, currently projected for early 2019, as opposed to after the project is completed.
The nine-member Hoboken City Council will vote on the hotel modifications at their October 17th meeting.
This evening, Bhalla told Hudson County View said that after rigorous negotiations with KMS today, the developer agreed to contribute an additional $300,000 towards the projects – $100,000 for each of the three charter schools.
“This is a major victory for public education in Hoboken. This took hours of teeth pulling, it wasn’t easy, but I’m proud I was able to secure an extra $300,000 in funding for charter schools,” the mayor stated.