Hoboken council votes to usurp two rent control board appointments from Bhalla


The Hoboken City Council approved a measure allowing the governing body to appoint three regular members, as well as two alternates, to the rent leveling and stabilization board – taking two appointments away from the mayor – at Thursday’s special meeting.

6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino, the vice president of the board, expressed disappointment with Assistant Corporation Counsel Alyssa Bongiovanni’s legal opinion earlier in the week claiming the legislative action would be illegal.

Instead, she compared it to when then-Council President Dawn Zimmer led the governing body to take over the zoning board appointments in 2009.

“As it turns out, prior to this meeting, we were presented a preposterously, inaccurately … based on a completely flawed argument to claim exactly that [the ordinance is illegal]: I’m not surprised,” Giattino began.

“By moving the appointment authority for three of the seven ranking rent board members of the city council, we are merely enacting a more cooperative version of what former Council President Zimmer and the council majority did at the time that they passed the ordinance that moved the appointment authority of all zoning board members to the city council in 2009.”

Giattino also introduced a legal opinion from Jason Ryglicki, a partner at the North Bergen law firm Ryglicki & Gillman, P.C., that said the council had the ability to usurp rent control appointment power from the mayor.

” … The right of a Municipal Council to determine the procedure to appoint members to the rent control board, in Mayor-Council Municipalities is standard practice throughout the State, including, but not limited to: Atlantic City, Elizabeth, Irvington, Old Bridge, Passaic and Paterson,” he wrote.

“The Corporation Counsel and Mayor’s assertion Council’s proposed ordinance would somehow violate the Faulkner Act is contrary to a plain reading of the full terms of the Faulkner Act, current Case Law, Common Municipal practices, and the New Jersey Legislature’s clear intent to separate the powers between the executive and legislative branches of a Municipality.”

1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco called the service of Mike Lenz and Cheryl Fallick on the rent control board “exemplary” and was critical of Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s decision not to reappoint them.

” … And when we tried to work with the mayor, proactively, in a way that is becoming of elected officials, there was no conversation: it’s either the mayor’s way or take the highway – or Washington Street out of town,” DeFusco said.

“And that’s not the way this government can work. We cannot continue fighting in political wars when there’s absolute policy that needs to be made here.

Councilman-at-Large James Doyle, who ran for re-election on Bhalla’s ticket in November, scoffed at the notion that the seats were owed to Lenz and Fallick.

Like Giattino, 3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo reminded everyone of the parallels between now and 2009.

Councilwoman-at-Large Emily Jabbour, another recent running mate of Bhalla, said she had not heard about a new legal opinion being sought in this matter until the meeting began.

“I’m concerned because I did not receive any of the information that was referenced earlier by council president regarding the contradictory interpretation until I sat down at 7 o’clock tonight, which doesn’t allow me an opportunity to … digest whether or not these are in conflict of one another,” she said.

“What I do know is that corporation counsel is looking out on behalf of the city and that corporation counsel is employed by the city to do what’s best for our residents. I’m not sure who these attorneys are or what paid them … that’s a logical question to ask.”

Giattino interjected that Ryglicki and Gillman were not paid for their legal opinion in the matter.

The council approved the measure by a vote of 6-3, with Doyle, Jabbour and Councilwoman-at-Large Vanessa Falco voting no.

While the governing body was going to initially approve the measure as an emergency ordinance, they thought better of that, and therefore, they did not vote on the appointments of Lenz, Fallick, Warren Hall or Heath Urban.

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  1. This criminal action against Ravi must not stand! How can he use this board for future favors to elevate himself when he’s cheated like this? Maybe Nancy can do another story how Jen, Peter and Tiffanie are criminals for taking lollipops away from Ravi and his kids. This is serious!

    • Mayor Sacco has allegedly been trying to wet his beak in the Hoboken money pool for a while. His backing of Councilman DeFusco was troubling. Having his politically connected law firm provide free legal work to Council members is even more so. They took the legal work now how will they pay for it ?

  2. What’s better than rent controls? A tax on vacant lots and unoccupied housing. While rent controls make it less attractive to supply housing, a vacancy tax makes it less attractive NOT to supply housing! A vacancy tax of $X/week makes it $X/week more expensive NOT to get a tenant, and thereby REDUCES, by $X/week, the minimum rent that will persuade the owner to accept a tenant.

    Similarly, a vacancy tax on commercial property would reduce rents for job-creating enterprises.

    With a sufficiently heavy vacancy tax, evictions due to foreclosures would be consigned to the past, because the foreclosing bankers, in order to avoid the tax, would want to retain the current tenants or former owner-occupants as continuing tenants. Of course the existing stock of empty foreclosed homes would be immediately made available for rent, as it should have been all along — not just drip-fed to buyers over a period of years.

    Under a vacancy tax, squatters would not count as occupants, because they don’t officially exist. So the squatters (and the nuisances they cause) would be displaced by lawful tenants. The owners would get rent, the tenants would get accommodation, and the neighbors would get peace.

    A vacancy tax would be GOOD FOR REALTORS — who would get more rental-management fees for properties coming onto the rental market, plus commissions from any owners who decided to sell vacant properties.

    And the political trump card… Avoidance of the vacancy tax would initiate economic activity, which would expand the bases of other taxes, allowing their rates to be reduced, so that the rest of us get a tax cut!

  3. The council sure didn’t seem to mind playing politics when they kicked off Brian Assadourian from the NHSA so they could install their crony. Brian was doing a good job, but they chose someone else. That was their right, even though it’s pretty dumb to reward somebody who voted to make the Suez deal even worse. Was that a reward for their buddy? Or did they owe him something?

    Apparently choosing is only allowed by the council? That’s the only explanation for the shrill hysterics that Ravi dared to appoint his own choices, including someone who supported DeFusco for mayor. What a political animal Ravi is, crossing the aisle like that.

    Who paid for the “alternative” legal opinion? Who gives away a legal opinion for free? Was there some backroom brokering with JenTiffPeter? Who else do they owe favors to now?

    Trying to change the law solely to reward two cronies of TiffJenPeter is a mistake. What else will PeterJenTiff be willing to do to reward cronies and make backroom deals?

  4. As most people know political ops Michael Lenz and Cheryl Fallick were two of Councilwoman Giatttino’s omnipresent political workers when she ran and lost her bid to be the first Republican mayor of Hoboken in living memory. Keeping your campaign workers happy and in important board positions is just old Hudson County politics as usual.
    They would also be the first two to point to a freebie from a politically connect law firm usual gets paid back at taxpayer expense. Also of interest is that law firms connection to Mayor Sacco who was one of Councilman DeFusco’s major campaign supporters.

    Is the rumor true that Giattino was always set up to be a spoiler for DeFusco in the election to pull votes from Zimmer endorsed Bhalla ? Then there was the allegedly chance meeting that was reported on one of the Hoboken political blogs between DeFusco, Giaittino and Fallick who was on Team DeFusco along with Lenz BFF Soares at DeFrisco’s Steak House just before Giattino jumped into the race that gives the rumor a added ring of credibility.

  5. The Mile Square to Spare comment above is the first time anyone has had the gall to put in writing the Brian A. was doing a good job. IMHO a potted plant would do as well. Nice enough to look at, but not much to say.

    It’s underSTANdable the writer of the comment did not disclose their identity. If you can’t STANd the heat you get from making inane comments better stay out of the frying pan. We can sure see MStS can’t STANd Soares.

    MStS needles Soares on the Suez deal. Soares was as relevant on the Suez deal as Doyle is on anything now. Meaning not at all. That’s what being in the minority gets you. At North Hudson Soiares has been a strong voice for Hoboken. It’s good to have him back up there.

    As for Doyle’s point no one owns a seat, Doyle is right. But that is not the end of it. Ravi has a right to purge people who did not support him if he can. The council has a right not to consent to it. Ravi, Nancy and Stan shouting his motives are pure and the council’s are political is just silly.

    Disclaimer: Ravi and Nancy often put their name on stuff. Stan less so. So I am only guessing that (except for All Hoboken which sounds like Amer) MStS and most of the rest on Nancy’s few remaining commentators are Stan. I do believe this. But don’t worry if I am wrong. It is not defamatory. Hypocrisy, arrogance, self-importance, and stupidity are not crimes.

    Not convinced Ravi, probably listening to Stan again, is the one politicizing the RCB? Not convinced the council majority has as at least part of it’s objective to get the RCB back to work? Note that Ravi only appointed the full members and left both alternates empty. Why? Perhaps because none of HIS cronies are willing to serve. HE’D RATHER LEAVE THOSE SEATS EMPTY THAN APPOINT FOLKS WHO HE WANTS TO GET EVEN WITH.

    The council is willing to appoint ALL of Ravi’s choices, yes the two new folks as alternates, and has appointed 5. Again, Ravi left the two alternates empty.

    It kind of makes you wonder if a RCB seat is such a big reward when Ravi can’t even give seats away. If Ravi is lying about that maybe he’s lying about everything.

      • Lenz and Soares have always been on the same side for decades trying to manipulate the political outcome in Hoboken that works out best for themselves. It would odd to assume that they went their separate ways when it came to DeFusco and Giattino.

    • Now that was a post even better than the posts of the Real Men of Hoboken. It contained all of the elements of “real man of Hoboken” blogging except it was considerably better written and amazingly even more stanophobic.

      Can it be there’s a new new more articulate real man (or real woman) stepping up to the plate to help the floundering “real men of Hoboken?” I hope you’re supplementing not replacing the original “real men’ group. Their incoherent buffoonery would be sorely missed.

      • Does LindaStan actually believe there’s a phobia of him/her/it?

        Well, their collective thirst for power sure burned down the fanatical bridge over at the dark, damp Cave. Sybil is crying no one likes her or reads her juvenile attacks on good people serving. She doesn’t get it. LindaStan should keep at it there and bore the living crap out of everyone with the endless self-serving Numberscruncher mumbo jumbo. Yes, Ravi should dictate, wheel and deal and have as many employment contracts as possible.

        Hey LindaStan, what political goodies did Ravi Bhalla trade for this time for those HDC votes?

        • This last ROL post is not only really manly, it’s actually written in coherent English. Can it be that illiteracy is not a trait essential to real manliness after all? I think TSTEI may have ushered in a new era of even greater manliness.

    • The above commenter certainly lays out an ostensibly cogent if factually challenged argument. Viewed through a different LENZe, however, it begs the question what personal stake the commenter has in this issue. There was once a highly enlightening interview on the Pat O’Melia show, for example, in which the host grilled a county employee on whether he got his job through doing the bidding of various county bosses, to which the employee (I believe his name was Michael something, I can’t recall precisely through the misty LENZe of time) replied along the lines of, “Well, a hack is someone who trades political favors for personal gain, and I’ve MOSTLY not done that.”

      And here we are, a decade later, hashing it out over rewarding core campaign operatives with board appointments. I don’t know about you, but through the LENZe of patronage, it certainly fits that same definition of “hack” that the county employee once said he’s “MOSTLY” not done.

      As for Soares, while it’s true that the political sands shifted in a way that quickly put him into the minority, the 10-year Suez contract extension was in 2001, when he still had plenty of juice on the council – at least enough to block his friend – the one who went on to become a county employee through other means of hackery – from getting hired as Parking Authority director, because Soares had the good sense to recognize that hiring their campaign manager for a job he was underqualified for would have looked like patronage and hackery through any LENZe. Why Soares didn’t apply that same good-government instinct to his vote for the Suez extension is anyone’s guess, but in 2001, it certainly wasn’t for lack of influence on the council.

      • When Anthony Soares was previously on the Sewerage Board thanks to a vote from Councilman Michael Russo he was supposed to in charge of letting the people know what they Authority was doing. Did anyone ever hear anything ?

  6. Lots of insider comments that don’t make a lot of sense to me. Are these board seats paying positions? If not, what is the reward? The mayor doesn’t want two people that didn’t or don’t support him for whatever reason and the council does because they say they are the best choices.

    No one on the council had a bad thing to say about the council picks or the mayor’s picks. Does the mayor have bad things to say about the council picks? If so, he can say what his objection is. Maybe they are valid. If not, can’t he suggest a compromise? It seems like a lot of time on a stupid little thing. Can we move onto something else, please?

    • The two longtime serving RLB board members suffer one inherent problem. They supported good government candidate Jen Giattino not Ravi.

      The RLB seats pay nothing. The NHSA seat paid health benefits and a 5K annual stipend. It now only pays the stipend. It’s a council vote but Ravi wanted to reward a friend with another five-year term. He took the first opportunity to retaliate when it went to a former NHSA member who also didn’t support him for mayor.

      Ravi isn’t moving on. He’s likely preparing a veto end of the week. He’s got another deal going with Michael Russo for a new spanking PILOT at Church Towers. The RLB could be part of the plan.

    • @Lewis&Clark raises a really great point about how idiotic it is for the Council to be wasting it’s time trying to reward Fallick and Lenz with an appointment that doesn’t even pay. Surely their time would be better spent creating paid positions for them. Cheryl Fallick is such a perfect fit for tenant advocate that it’s almost as if the position was created for her. And Mike Lenz would be an ideal BA.

      Why is the Council wasting it’s time changing the law to deliver these two piddly non paying Board positions to Lenz and Fallick instead of changing the law to deliver the paid positions they have earned through their years of politricking.

      Just pass an Ordinance making the Council the appointing authority for Tenant advocate and BA. I’m sure some NB lawyer will give an unsigned letter attesting to it’s legality.

  7. That makes a lot of sense Tit. Political influence is a valuable commodity. Gravitas is also in high demand.

    Of course so is credibility.

    You would earn some if you explained how these two Scallywags used their rent board positions for some nefarious political purpose.

    • Fallick has been attempting for years to tout her self-appointed standing in the renter community as a political force to be reckoned with, and it’s never gotten her anywhere. Can’t fault her for trying, though.

      • At the council meeting where her non reappointment came up I saw a lot of long time tenant anger at the mayor and support for the great job she was doing on the rent Board. Is this what you mean?

        • No, I mean all the times she purported to be representing and, by extension, implicitly mobilizing the tenant community in elections in which her candidate got annihilated. Most recently when she was campaigning for Giattino, but also in previous elections when she was campaigning against Giattino.

          • So FP, the above is your explanation of why the council majority is supporting her for reappointment? Seems a little far-fetched.

            I’ll go with Cheryl just doing a great job. And Ravi’s dismissal of her being political payback. Simple.

          • Speaking of political payback, is there any truth to the rumor that she came onto this site and posted an apparently comprehensive list of all who had endorsed Bhalla on Facebook, both public officials and private citizens, as a means of shaming them? “Naming names”?

            If true, that seems like a brand of McCarthyism that is unbecoming of any public official and certainly stands as evidence of her prioritizing her role as a political operative far above her role as a renter advocate. Pretty disgraceful.

        • Your do understand that service on the rent control board is not a tenant advocacy position don’t you? Advocates are by definition not objective and objectivity is the most basic core obligation of board members. It certainly would be inappropriate to put an advocate for the abolition of rent control on the board don’t you think even if they claim they will follow the law even if they disagree with it? But it seems to me that if a self described tenant advocate is on the board, objectivity and balance would require putting a self described landlord on the board as well.

          The reference to long time renters is pretty revealing. Do you believe that “long time renters” are some kind of entitled class as opposed to other renters with theoretically the same legal rights? Do you think a small group of “long time renters” has the right to dictate the membership of the board set up to fairly and objectively apply the law to themselves even when the law is not on the side of the”long term tenants?”