In an editorial, Joshua Sotomayor-Einstein says that Hoboken has again shown “disregard for open and honest government” by not having a required referendum.
Mayor Bhalla’s refusal to conduct the legally required referendum over its use of $18 million in Open Space Fund tax monies in its plan to lease the Union Dry Dock back to its former owner, NY Waterway, is demonstrable proof of Bhalla’s disregard for open and honest government.
Just as importantly, Bhalla’s corporate handout displays the dangerous nexus of big business and machine politicians who scratch each other’s backs at the expense of the public.
On March 21, the attorney representing the Fund for A Better Waterfront sent the Bhalla administration a letter specifying the legal requirements of the legislation that authorized the creation of the Open Space Fund.
These requirements include a mandatory public referendum if property procured with Open Space Funds were leased to a commercial entity. The Bhalla Administration’s response has been an infantile ‘we don’t have to,’ with no further explanation.
Far away from Bhalla world, on planet Earth, lay the facts that Bhalla’s plan for the Union Dry Dock never passed the smell test to begin with.
Knowing that behind closed doors, NJ transportation industry insiders have said that eventually NJ Transit would step in and eminent domain the land from Hoboken to lease it to NY Waterway, Bhalla decided to take the property from NY Waterway anyway for a total of $18 million and then to “temporarily” lease it back to them for less than the rent of many apartments in Hoboken.
Rather than budget for efforts to make the city more affordable, say by lessening the cost of living rises that are his tax increases, Mayor Bhalla decided to give a private corporation $18 million of taxpayer money for a park that will likely never be built.
Now the Bhalla administration refuses, with no explanation, to meet the statutory requirements of the law and hold a public referendum. Hoboken deserves better.