Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla is claiming that a local soccer club owes the city over $76,000, to which the club president, also a former city director, claims politics are at play.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
” … As it stands currently, HCFC has an outstanding balance of over $76,000 for reserved field space between March and June of this year. According to City Code Ch. 58, organizations with outstanding balances cannot reserve field space in the future,” Bhalla wrote in a letter to Hoboken City Futbol Club parents today.
“Despite numerous attempts over the past several months by the City to contact the leadership of HCFC regarding this balance, the City has not received payment or any other response. Given these unique circumstances, and in an effort to avoid any disruption to the hundreds of families that participate in this organization, I directed our staff to allow the Spring season to proceed uninterrupted.”
Bhalla stressed that the HCFC is a private organization that operates separately and independently from the city’s division of recreation, as well as that they had not contacted the city to reserve field space for the fall season.
“Entities are not permitted to reserve space without having paid the rental fee, therefore the HCFC will not be eligible to reserve field space again until their outstanding balance and any amounts owed moving forward are paid, and the process in the Hoboken City Code has been satisfied,” the mayor added, as well as that the city will be seeking a vendor to operate a travel soccer program.
The HCFC President is Leo Pellegrini, who was the Hoboken Health and Human Services Director for 14 years until he resigned abruptly earlier this month.
At the city council meeting on the same day, the governing body voted for a $20,000 contract for Matthew Boxer, the State of New Jersey’s first comptroller who is now a partner at Lowenstein Sandler, to investigate the circumstances of Pellegrini’s departure.
Additionally, the council unanimously approved an $85,000 settlement for a vendor that Pellegrini allegedly entered into a unilateral contract with to provide an online dog registration platform.
In a response to HCFB parents obtained by HCV, Pellegrini said that Mama Johnson Field was renovated, as was every other park during his tenure with the city. He further stated that HCFC started over 20 years ago and is “one of the best travel soccer programs in the state.
“Unfortunately for the first time in Hoboken’s history politics is now involved in Hoboken Athletic[s]. As you know our registration process is for an entire year for example Fall 2022 – Spring 2023. The City has decided to charge for field space. However, the fees were collected before implementing this new policy,” he claimed.
“I had explained this to recreation that we are a local club providing a service and competition for Hoboken players. If the fee must be paid going forward we would budget accordingly. I don’t think it’s fair for this additional this Spring.”
He continued that circumstances had recently changed when the recreation department scheduled baseball at Sinatra Park on Saturdays two weeks before the season started, making deadlines and managing scheduled even more challenging.
“Managing the schedules and field space was also one of my areas of expertise. There are deadlines to meet and in the current environment I believe it will be very difficult to organize. I know these are challenging times for me but I will continue to put up a fight,” Pellegrini added.
When asked how much the non-profit lacrosse league paid for field space recently and if HCFB had paid for the fall season, city spokeswoman Marilyn Baer indicated that the lacrosse league was paid up while HCFB was not, without getting into the particulars.
“The non-profit Hoboken Lacrosse has successfully paid their invoice based on the rate for a non-profit organization, and usage of the field. The City has no public records that field space was paid for by the Hoboken City Futbol Club to the City of Hoboken for the fall season.”
According to the HCFB website, their primary training locations are 1600 Park Ave. and Sinatra Turf Fields, with uniforms about $200 person and team fees ranging from $975 to $1,400 annually.