Hoboken Mayor Bhalla, city council allies, backing BOE’s $241M school referendum


Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla and his top three allies on the city council are backing the board of education’s $241 million school referendum set for next month.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“A brand-new high school will be a transformative project for Hoboken, paving the way for an improved educational experience for our children and improving the quality of life of our residents with a much-needed pool and upgraded facilities,” Bhalla told HCV in an emailed statement.

“A new high school will also increase property values in our city, providing a win-win for all of our residents. I’m fully supportive of the Hoboken Public School District’s initiative and I encourage residents to consider the benefits of the plans.”

The referendum, set for January 25th, already has the full support of the school board, who have cited increasing enrollment as the main reason why the project is needed for the Mile Square City.

The project would be four stories tall and approximately 374,700 square feet with a 110 car spot garage underneath the school that will allow the first floor of the school to be elevated to comply with FEMA regulations.

The proposed Hoboken High School would have 27 general classrooms, 11 specialized learning rooms, and six self-contained special education rooms.

The hefty price tag would lead to an approximately $496 annual tax increase per household, according to preliminary data released thus far.

In a joint statement, Council members Emily Jabbour, Phil Cohen, and Jim Doyle said they are happy to support the BOE’s efforts to invest in children’s futures.

“We appreciate the opportunity to work with our Board of Education colleagues and Superintendent Dr. Johnson on this significant project. All the council members had a briefing on this project just after Thanksgiving, and we three all also attended the presentation made to the Planning Board on the 7th. It is clear that there is an increasing need for additional space and updated facilities in our thriving Hoboken Public School District,” they said.

“Accommodating growth and promoting excellence in our school district is a great thing for any community, and we support the Hoboken Board of Education’s efforts to invest in the future of our children’s education and create art and recreation facilities that will be enjoyed by generations of Hobokenites. We look forward to participating in the series of community meetings about this project over the next several weeks to hear feedback from residents.”

According to New Jersey Department of Education statistics from February, the district had 2,238 full-time students enrolled in K-12, including 313 full-time special education students.

While 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher said the project has “a lot of positives,” it is premature for anyone, especially the mayor, to come out in support without knowing all the facts yet.

“There are a lot of positives in the proposed high school. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to see the mayor offer his support so early before seeing the math and the impact to taxpayers – as usual, headlines matter more than the numbers,” she said.

“But I hope in the near future he will also commit to cutting taxes and spending at City Hall to provide relief to taxpayers to help absorb the cost of this new school.”

Council President Ruben Ramos declined to comment, stating he wanted to evaluate the full scope of the plan first.

The remaining four members of the city council did not return inquiries seeking comment.

The Hoboken BOE will meet tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Demarest School Auditorium, 158 4th Street, to discuss the project further, including the first opportunity for the public to weigh in on the matter.

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  1. Haha, no wonder Phil Cohen was so wishy-washy when he replied to my reply to his original mass email about this last week. I stated my case, and the most he would say was “well, let’s see the plan before we make up our minds”, etc.

    Oh well. I support him and the mayor on most things but not this one.

    Vote NO!

    • Phil, everyone should have known, he’s the biggest suck up. The man who was a charter member of Team Mason…
      If he’d stab her in the back, he’ll stab more of his friends as well.

      • I don’t know Phil personally, seems like an ok councilperson. That said, I don’t think there is any politician — mayor included — who I agree with 100% of the time.

        RE: Mason, everyone makes mistakes. She seem somewhat reasonable at the beginning, many people were fooled at first but eventually fled. I wouldn’t call that stabbing her in the back, though.

        • There are far to many unanswered questions to support this vague rushed plan.
          Not sure how Mayor Bhalla could honestly do so on it’s merits.
          The HBOE voted tonight to push it to a vote on 1/25/22 without answering or even acknowledging any of the publics real concerns.
          The only way to amend this very flawed plan is to vote it down and start again.

  2. No $241M school is going to improve the quality of the education that Hoboken High School students are receiving. Why not invest in teachers and the education methods that lead to better educated students who are prepared for college and the workforce? Want to know why most Hoboken parents don’t send their children to the current high school? Check out the abysmal stats on the current high school. Putting lipstick on the pig is not going to change the stats. Investing in teachers is far more reasonable than a $.25 billion boondoggle.

    Definitely vote NO!!

    • Bhalla, Menendez, Murphy and the rest of Hudson County’s goons love the idea of this union construction project. No better way to help fund a congressional race.
      The Wheels are in motion. Council President Russo, Salary increases, Removing Pay to Play laws…
      Welcome to the old days…

  3. The least expensive condo apartment cost considerably more than $500K so the tax for this new will start at at $496 and go up from there. That new tax will only cover the initial cost of the bond to just build the complex if it stays within budget , everything else will add to an additional tax increase. If this proposal truly does increase property values it will then increase the municipal taxes.

  4. And the $241,000,000 price tag would equate to roughly over $400,000 per pupil (assuming 600 students).

    And make it the 3rd MOST EXPENSIVE high school EVER built.

    • 3rd place isn’t that impressive. But where did you get 600 students from? The school only has 420 students. 330 from Hoboken and 90 from out of town. So on a per pupil basis this might be #1. Another Hoboken first.

      • The high school is empty now and has to import students from outside Hoboken from making it look like a ghost town. This boondoggle makes no sense. Which of course makes it a perfect vehicle to loot taxpayers.

  5. Dr. Johnson has put her head down and is pushing forward with the vote in January while not giving the facts need to the public to evaluate if this plan is the right for Hoboken.

    The democratic process is not easy but this alternative is just cynical and callus.