UPDATED: Hoboken charter schools, council members ask Bhalla to reconsider $3M in hotel incentives


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. 

An artist’s rendering of the Hilton Hotel coming to Hoboken. Photo via Cooper Carry Associates.

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.

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  1. Giattino, Fisher, Ramos, Russo, Mello, DeFusco voted for the original 24 story redevelopment proposal, and the redevelopment agreement with 24 stories passed 9-0 in April 2017. Bhalla negotiated it down to 17 stories with no help from the Council. Its 20 stories now with a bunch of community give backs. 7 council members approved 24. Now they want to start a fight between the charter and public school communities over an endowment to a non-profit. This council sucks. They’ve all gotta go in 2019.

    • Hey “this council sucks” — redevelopment plans are frameworks, redevelopment agreements are the final and there’s no possible way for “givebacks” to be included in a plan, just an agreement. Ironically, this proposed hotel is 20 percent LARGER than the April 2017 plan which Bhalla and Doyle voted “no” to, claiming they wanted a 12 story boutique hotel. Height isn’t the only factor, density and bulk count too. So much for keeping to campaign promises!

  2. A pathetic token to the charter schools and the low and middle income residents get left out entirely while our infrastructure emergency is completely ignored. With $3.3 million that could be distributed fairly and appropriately across the community this mayor hands out a political pay-back to his supporters.

    I always thought this mayor was corrupt, but now I’m sure of it.

    • The deal was cut behind closed doors hidden with zero transparency. The objective is clear: divide and conquer to benefit Ravi Bhalla most. Everyone else are just pawns.

      Oh and those shady Stronger Foundations unions who are rumored behind the Ravi Terror Flyer getting him elected.

      Shady as all out.

  3. Wow, look at the Charter Schools trying to deny a benefit to the Hoboken Public Schools. Did the Public Schools protest when Elysian Charter made a deal to support the project where it is now housed? Where were the protests when Hola took away the Boys and Girls Club from the community? How about Hoboken Charter School using the Multi Service Center for classrooms after kicking out Hoboken Recreation programs? So the Hoboken Public Schools are offered an endowment opportunity and the entitled Charters are whining like babies. It’s sad when the “what about us” attitude stoops this low.

  4. The redevelopment package passed 9-0 on April 4, 2017, with “24 occupied stories.” Bhalla got it down to 17- 7 floors down. Now it is 20 occupied floors- 4 less than the Council approved. Additional square footage is not 20% either. Ground floor atrium set back has not changed so pedestrian sightlines have not changed. The council is getting less buildi g than they approved, $4.M in givebacks and still crying. Other than attacking tge mayor, name one council accomplishment. I dare you.

    • City Council has not approved any final agreement. They’ve pushed through the subcommittee and the public to add millions to the deal Ravi cut for his union friends and the obvious bribe to district parents and uptown “Y” users.

      Which obviously begs the question, how much profit is this deal really worth? We don’t know because Ravi was trying to hog the glory and headlines for himself costing seven figures and limiting the opportunity for community-wide benefit. Shame but that’s Ravi.

      Yeah, last year Ravi and Doyle rejected the hotel plan. Now Ravi expands it and declares himself a hero. Who’s surprised?

      Hoboken is being Ravied!

    • Bob McStupid – any chance you were working in the administration in 2017? Your recant of the details is uncanny, wrong but with a familiar spin.

      “According to the redevelopment plan, the hotel could have no more than 170,000 square feet, 24 stories…” said the Hudson Reporter article about the April 2017 plan. So the new plan at 205,000 square feet is how much bigger?

      simple google search… https://hudsonreporter.com/2017/04/23/post-office-hotel-a-step-closer/

  5. So, Ravi upped the bulk of the project by twenty percent after railing on and on about how the smaller and less bulky April 2017 redevelopment plan for the hotel was “grossly out of scale with the adjoining structures along the waterfront.” At that time, he also talked about a “boutique hotel” – a suggestion that would have been unlikely to lead to permanent union jobs amongst a private hotel’s workforce. Then, he negotiated a set of divisive givebacks by himself, without any input from the hotel ad hoc committee of the legislative body (our city’s redevelopment entity). Finally, he is putting out a PR campaign implying that the YMCA will be fully renovated with a few million. That ain’t happening! (Ravi can ask those construction unions that endorsed him how much a few million will get in renovations.) This whole hotel announcement is brazenly hypocritical, self-serving, twisted and undemocratic, but sadly that’s to be expected at this point from this administration.