Hoboken council narrowly approves new parklet ban, which Bhalla quickly vetoes


The Hoboken City Council narrowly approved a new parklet ban at last night’s meeting, though Mayor Ravi Bhalla wasted little time in vetoing the decision.

Screenshot via Facebook Live.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“As the advocate for Hoboken’s business community, the Hoboken Business Alliance strongly disagrees with calls to ban parklets in the outdoor dining laws of our city,” Hoboken Business Alliance Executive Director Roxanne Earley said during public comment.

“A world class outdoor dining experience is more than the lifeline that helped businesses survive and recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic or record increases to operating costs, but an expectation of customers and prospective entrepreneurs when choosing where to visit and to locate.”

She continued that a survey by the National Restaurant Association indicated that 84 percent of patrons wants to see outdoor dining continue, as well as that this measure does not cite any data to indicate that halting new parklets will help with rodent infestations.

Her position was to be expected, given that the HBA came out against the measure, sponsored by 6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino, on Monday.

The ordinance, which grandfathers in existing parklets and still permits streeteries, cleared first reading without many members of the public voicing an opinion earlier this month.

Rose Marie Markle, who was been outspoken about the rat crisis at several council meetings, expectedly completely disagreed with the HBA’s point of view, noting that the business owners who came out against the ban would likely never use parklets any way.

” … While Moose Saloon and Birch have been open for years without a parklet or streetery, GTK is [a] takeout and delivery service, so no need for a parklet. Streeteries work just as well. Schmitty’s also has no parklet: they have taken their neighbors into consideration by not putting one in,” she argued.

“I also believe that Fat Taco has a parklet, so this [ordinance] doesn’t affect any of them, which makes me wonder why they, along with the business alliance, no one is considering the residents of Hoboken and they’re [the council] posing something that is such a help to the residents that live here.”

She speculated that they must have friends who plan on opening restaurants and want to include a parklet, which has been documented to be breeding ground for rats in certain instances.

While the council recently passed measures to crack down on rats by implementing containerized garbage and outdoor dining rules, Markle says those are yet to yield any results and that City Hall itself is not following the rules.

The remaining public commenters were largely split on the issue, with a couple of business owners speaking out against the local legislation and a couple residents speaking out against it before all nine council members weighed in prior to the vote.

“I don’t think any council person up here is anti-business: during COVID, i worked with [1st Ward] Councilman [Mike] DeFusco to actually bring parklets and streeteries to Hoboken. I served on the Hoboken Relief Fund as a co-chair along with [5th Ward] Councilman [Phil] Cohen to support businesses,” Giattino stated.

“If you look at my Instagram, my Facebook page, it’s all about business in Hoboken. So saying that we are anti-business is slightly offensive. I extended the outdoor cafe hours … But just like COVID was a huge problem in Hoboken, COVID is a huge problem in Hoboken. I wish that the business alliance had spoken with all the businesses who removed the parklets … Every single restaurant that removed their parklet who I spoke to, the issue was rodents.”

She continued that while a moratorium may be well intentioned, parklets need to be abandoned until the rodent problem is solved definitively and then it can be revisited.

Councilman-at-Large Joe Quintero saw it another way, stating that is parklets are truly a major rodent attraction, the existing ones will still remain.

“All this is doing is creating two classes of restaurants for Hoboken: there’s gonna be those who have the ability to have outdoor dining, just the business itself is going to be more valuable than one that doesn’t have that opportunity down the road,” he asserted.

“Yeah, Councilwoman Giattino said this doesn’t have to be a forever thing, but let’s say that today this passes in Hoboken, I hope it doesn’t. When we revisit this later, we’re gonna get the same group of people with a bunch of other reasons, like parking, as to why we shouldn’t bring parklets back.”

He also said that while parklets were indeed implemented as a COVID-19 preventative measure, the city has opted to keep them since residents and visitors alike love them, as well as that an ordinance to ban all parklets “would be more honest.”

Giattino responded that she initially considered getting rid of all parklets citywide, but she said there was not enough support on the council to do that so this is the compromise.

Cohen largely echoed the sentiment of Quintero before adding that the parklet cleaning ordinance that he co-sponsored last month comes with $2,000 fines for businesses that don’t comply and another 30 days is allowed for changes to be implemented.

1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco, who looked like he could be the deciding vote, said he believed both sides were well intentioned, but he would be supporting the measure.

“Unintended consequence: rats live underneath them [parklets] and not just a few rats, they are home to nests, home to vermin, they’re hard to clean, and I think the ordinance that was passed two or three meeting ago requiring sanitation standards and construction standards is much needed and was much needed,” he began.

” … This my ask, and I’ve asked the sponsors of this on the phone today: would we consider a compromise here that puts a moratorium, a five-month moratorium, on this ordinance, that way we get it into the hopper, but it gives the administration an opportunity to enforce the current ordinance for cleanliness and for construction standards.”

DeFusco ultimately said he would support the ordinance up for second reading as long as the ordinance he proposed could be introduced during new business.

3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo and 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos both said they would prefer to see parklets banned completely, with the latter exclaiming that this situation “is a governmental failure.”

When the smoke settled, the ordinance was approved 5-4, with Quintero, Cohen, Council President Emily Jabbour, and Councilman-at-Large Jim Doyle voting no.

During new business, the ordinance DeFusco suggested was seconded by Cohen and was approved unanimously (9-0) on first reading.

In his veto statement, Bhalla indicated that the HBA brought up valid concerns and that the didn’t this this measure would solve the rat problem.

“In my opinion, the ordinance does not effectively address the issue is aims to resolve and simultaneously hurts the business community, to the detriment of our broader Hoboken community,” he wrote.

Giattino declined to comment on the veto, but the co-sponsor of the measure, 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, said an email survey she conducted had 424 respondents and about 81 percent of them said they agreed with no new parklets.

“The politics on this is palpable: 81 percent of residents surveyed don’t want new parklets and Mayor Bhalla once again goes against the will of our residents.”

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  1. 81% of Hoboken when asked DO NOT WANT STREET EATERIES.
    Ravi Bhalla doesn’t care what the people of Hoboken want.
    The people of Hoboken sent a resounding message when they voted down the Bhalla backed inappropriately grand and expensive HS tax increase.

    On November 7 the voters should another message and vote against Bhalla’s City Council operatives.

  2. 1. The Hoboken rat population exploded when the City allowed these outdoor dinning rooms.
    2. BTW these privately owned ugly resturant/bar shabby street sheds are in no way shape or form related to actual parks.

  3. The City needs the money from these street eateries and parklets. One of the candidates at a recent debate said the annual amount received is $600k. Seems about the right amount to fully fund the new (and, IMHO, totally unnecessary) positions created by this administration. It is clear that neither Mayor Bhalla nor his rubber-stamp Council Members care enough about the residents of Hoboken to reduce or eliminate these eateries. Time to vote out the rubber stamps and elect new Council Members on November 7.

  4. Let’s send the Bhalla Cabal a message – -we don’t like the way we are being treated. Vote out Cohen for starters – and see what tomorrow brings.

  5. The Mayor “profits” from Parklets. He has given away public streets to bars which pay his private law firm fees to register with the city and file for government benefits. He then gets political donations from the owners, which includes his Chief of Staff John Allen who has traded favors in exchange for ownership interests in a range of local bars. Cannot wait to see the public disclosure of how much Cannibus money is flowing into the pockets of the Bhalla Administration and his rubber stamp council coalition.

  6. The fact that it was mentioned a few times at the meeting, does anyone want to venture a guess as to what Ravinder Bhalla connected restaurant that would told him they need an into the extension to open.
    Connecting them to Bhalla’s political funds would be informative.