Hoboken council narrowly approves $180k rec soccer contract despite public outcry


The Hoboken City Council narrowly approved a $180,000 youth recreation soccer contract despite a public outcry at last night’s marathon meeting.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

The resolution before the governing body was a $180,000, one-year agreement with Lyndhurst-based Athletes Connection Towards Success, charging $75 per resident, to accomodate a maximum of 1,200 players between ages five through 14 in the fall.

Several spoke out against the measure, which claims it would save the city $87,000 and have a net cost of just $3,000, asserting that the Hoboken Youth Soccer League never got a fair chance.

“What is said to unfold here tonight is a great disservice to our establishment and to soccer in Hoboken. It is an act that lacks ethics, fairness, and justice,” said Matteo Percontino, a HYSL founder.

“I strongly ask you to reconsider the decision to hand over the recreation program to an outside organization … we have carried out an outstanding program until now.”

HYSL Director Dominic Lucivero took umbrage with certain aspects of Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s letter to parents that went out shortly before the meeting, specifically the point that he mentioned their group did not submit a request for proposals.

“I resent the fact, and I’m sorry, but the administration came out and put that little blurb there because they had to justify it, but I still say this: why did you not let us know and why did you not reach out to the parents and say ‘hey, is this how we should spend this money? Is this the proper way to spend the money?” he questioned, receiving applause at the end of his remarks.

No one spoke in favor of the new vendor during public comment and prior to the vote, 3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo, wanted Environmental Services Director Jennifer Gonzalez – who oversees the recreation department – to answer some questions.

“There was no point of contention, it was a direction given to us that we had to either RFP a service or bring the service in house,” she began before Russo jumped in.

” … So there’s a charge of $28,000 that the City of Hoboken incurred and paid directly to that organization for referees, field managers, and score keepers?” he asked.

Gonzalez said that was correct for 2022, to which Russo eventually suggested having those workers paid by the city, to which Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia said was an option, though it wasn’t deemed to be the most effective option by the administration.

Upon further questioning, the director also indicated that the recreation department had five full-time employees, though said she’d have to look up how many seasonal employees they have.

Russo said that the history and legacy of this league should not be ignored or erased, which this resolution would effectively do, a sentiment echoed by 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos.

“As Dom said, those families dedicated their time, that’s what helped create soccer field at Sinatra, that’s what helped grow the sport in our city, to go from 200 kids playing – when I played 300 were playing – to 1,200 kids playing,” Ramos recalled.

” … I have scars, we used to call ’em strawberries … strawberries on my hips today from sliding on those fields and said ‘as long as I’m here, my kids are never gonna have these scars that I have’ and the other kids I grew up with have here.”

6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino agreed with Russo’s suggestion to hire referees, and other workers needed to make the league work, as seasonal employees and questioned if the administration really done their best to work towards the best outcome here.

“We’re talking about staying within the letter of the law, and these are the four corners, you find creative ways, the city finds creative ways to do lots of things,” she began.

“We had a no-bid contract for over $1.5 million for an architect on a project that the city council hadn’t even approved on a property that we don’t even own: and we can’t figure this out?”

She was referring to Nastasi Architects, who received the contract to design a municipal complex at the Poggi Press site, a plan that was just recently scrapped for good.

1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco said he originally planned to abstain on the vote for the soccer contract, but feared that would leave 1,200 kids without a soccer program this fall.

Still, he said he couldn’t support the measure without getting further clarity on what’s going on, specifically asking what Bhalla meant when he wrote “there were certain financial irregularities related to the previous operations of the Recreation Division, most pertinently within our soccer programming.”

Business Administrator Jason Freeman said this was not a matter that could be discussed in public session.

“Councilman, unfortunately I cannot speak to the financial irregularities in open session, they’re related to an ongoing investigation and I can’t speak about them publicly,” he said.

Giattino questioned how Bhalla could mention the subject in a letter to parents, but yet they couldn’t discuss it in public session.

Councilman-at-Large Jim Doyle said there is a big difference between acknowledging the existence of an investigation versus having a public conversation about it.

Eventually, 5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen said he would be supporting the agreement, though also suggested potentially lowering the cost per child if that would make some of his colleagues feel more comfortable.

Freeman later said they could lower the cost per child from $75 to $40, which was enough to convince DeFusco to vote in favor for a 5-4 passage just before 11 p.m.

Russo, Ramos, Giattino, and 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher voted no.

Afterwards, former Hoboken Health and Human Services Director Leo Pellegrini, who resigned abruptly last month before stepping away from the Hoboken City Futbol Club (a new league was founded), spoke exclusively with HCV about the agreement.

“My concern with the RFP, because no one was really paying attention to the RFP, the RFP had two estimates … actually two options: for $150 [per child] is the first option and the second option was $115, so the $150 made sense,” he explained.

“Because you calculate 1,200 participants times 150, equals the 180 [thousand], and that’s what was gonna get paid to the vendor, which is … three times the amount that originally was paid for soccer.”

He also said that according to the RFP, whether it was an error or not, the total number of participants comes out to 396. As far as the mayor’s letter is concerned, he said he isn’t going to let political fodder prevent him from speaking his mind.

“The shots have been taken already, so I’m not concerned about that, I’m working on that behind the scenes, I don’t want to discuss that, but I’m not gonna hide under a rock, either. If I have something to say, I’m a lifelong resident, I have a lot of accomplishments here in Hoboken, so I’m not gonna hide.”

Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /home/hcvcp/public_html/wp-content/themes/Hudson County View/includes/wp_booster/td_block.php on line 353


  1. As we all have seen Mayor Bhalla does not like people who have opinions other than his own.
    Paying twice as much to trash a system that was not broken is the Ravi way.

  2. This really was poorly handled, and those who voted in favor of spending more money, while essentially tearing out a portion of the City’s legacy, should be held accountable at election time. Think about all the self serving surveys we receive – and last night we found ourselves backed into a corner with a 5:30 letter from the Mayor, having virtually no time to consider our options Awful . Props to the Warriors who showed up to support the program they helped build, and a shout out to Councilmen Ramos and Russo for their comments and outrage.

    Bob Conrad

  3. Maybe if Gonzales focused on trash, and the mayor kept Leo
    We’d have soccer and Gonzales could focus on cleaning the disgusting streets

    Hoboken looks like a 3rd world slum

  4. One of the more telling comments made was from Councilwoman Jen Giattino, “We had a no-bid contract for over $1.5 million for an architect on a project that the city council hadn’t even approved on a property that we don’t even own: and we can’t figure this out?”
    Begs them the question as to how many more of these “no-bid” contracts the city issued. Clearly, when this administration wants to do something, it finds a way. Seems like they wanted the Hoboken soccer folks out so found a way to do so. Shameful.

  5. Would really like to know why we never hear from the new rec director hired a year ago at 110k on this and where are the new summer programs for kids that are promised each year. Nothing new for teens, no arts, no swim. Why pay so much and not announce anything for summer? That’s what a rec director does. Is she around for summer at all? Where IS she for that salary?