‘Tower of jello:’ Hoboken veteran post commander slams Bhalla over stalled Western Edge project


Hoboken American Legion Post 107 Commander John Carey called Mayor Ravi Bhalla “a tower of jello” over the stalled Western Edge project that would include 18 units for veterans.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“I had hoped it wouldn’t come to this I had waited a long time and hoped that this too shall pass, but I can’t wait any longer. The American Legion Post 107 is deeply indebted to the City of Hoboken and the residents who supported our efforts to take all the homeless veterans off the streets,” Carey said at last night’s city council meeting.

“It took a mighty harmful action for us to a joint lawsuit with affiliates of Pegasus Partners against the city. That harmful action took place last year when Mayor Bhalla, a tower of jello, bowed to the demands of Mayor Stack who interfered with the redevelopment process and unreasonably prevented two projects on the Western Edge from moving forward.”

He then pointed to Council President Mike Russo and said that this would not have occurred while his father, Anthony Russo, was mayor (he served between 1993 and 2001).

Carey also played a video from U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-11) expressing her support for Post 107, who broke ground at their 308 2nd Ave. location in December.

In July 2020, the Hoboken City Council approved a plan that Bhalla had advocated for, which included $3 million in community givebacks that included a pool, affordable housing units, and flood mitigation infrastructure.

This came days after they reached a settlement with Fair Share Housing since the project didn’t initially include an affordable housing component.

The following month, the city executed a redevelopment agreement with Pegasus Partners, through their LLC Just Block 112, that would allow them to build a maximum height of 208 feet and a residential complex with 357 units – including 37 affordable units, wth 18 earmarked for veterans.

This past summer, Bhalla released a statement that indicated Pegasus had agreed to reduce the Western Edge height to 145 feet, but the developer shot back that they hadn’t committed to anything of the sort, as HCV first reported.

As a result, Bhalla’s office threatened to rescind the agreement, and while that never happened, the council voted to lower the height in July 2021.

The Western Edge developers, which includes Mark Villamar, the finance officer for Post 107, filed suit at the end of October, alleging that Hoboken allowed Union City to interfere with the project. The litigation is still pending.

City spokeswoman Marilyn Baer said that Bhalla’s commitment to housing homeless veterans remains strong.

“Any insinuation that Mayor Bhalla has wavered on his support for Post 107’s mission to house additional homeless veterans is unfortunately misguided,” she said in an email.

“As a councilman and then as mayor, he worked diligently to help secure vouchers and provide city resources to help complete the successful first phase of the project, as well as facilitated the transfer of over a million dollars worth of city property to Post 107 to eventually house even more homeless veterans. The mayor is hopeful that the litigation regarding the Western Edge will be settled in short order, so the second phase of the project can begin soon.”

She also said that the mayor looks forward to working with Carey and other post members to see the project through.

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