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Mayor Bhalla Appoints Environmental Services Department Director

Hoboken Mayor Ravinder S. Bhalla announced on Tuesday the appointment of Jennifer Gonzalez to lead the Environmental Services department as its Director. Gonzalez currently serves as the City’s Chief Sustainability Officer and a Principal Planner.

Gonzalez will oversee City parks, public property, and sanitation, as well as storm water and drinking water infrastructure projects. The Department is currently run by Leo Pellegrini, who is also the Director of the Health and Human Services Department. Pellegrini will continue in his role as HHS Director. Ms. Gonzalez will continue in her role as the City’s Chief Sustainability Officer.

“Jennifer Gonzalez has a proven track record of great vision and excellent results, and I know she will continue to build on her successes,” said Bhalla. “I also want to thank Director Pellegrini for his tireless work of pulling double duty as the Director of two departments for five years. I believe this adjustment will allow all departments to work more efficiently.”

“I am both humbled and excited for the opportunity to continue my service to Hoboken as the Director of Environmental Services,” said Gonzalez. “I look forward to improving our parks and public spaces by incorporating asset management technology and philanthropy, while increasing the fiscal and environmental sustainability of municipal operations.”

Gonzalez will serve as Acting Director until her confirmation before the City Council. Her confirmation can take place as early as July 11, at the discretion of the Council President. Otherwise, the confirmation vote will be put on the agenda for the August 1 Council meeting. Because an existing salaried employee has been appointed, the impact on the City budget is minimal.

About Jennifer Gonzalez:

As the Chief Sustainability Officer and a Principal Planner, Gonzalez advances capital projects in areas including rainfall flood mitigation, energy, drinking water, natural resources, and composting. She manages the Northwest Resiliency Park design process and priority upgrades in Hoboken’s aging drinking water system.

Before joining the City of Hoboken in 2016, Gonzalez was a Principal Planner with the consulting firm Louis Berger, where she helped to develop the Hoboken Green Infrastructure Strategic Plan and post-Hurricane Sandy resiliency plans for communities throughout New York. She also served as an Environmental Planner with the County of Passaic, New Jersey.

Gonzalez earned her M.A. in Environmental Policy from Lehigh University. She is certified by the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), a licensed professional planner (PP) in the state of New Jersey, and a Certified Floodplain Manager (CFM).

Mayor Bhalla Announces Open Office Hours

Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla announced his next open office hours will take place on Thursday, July 19 from 6-8 p.m. in the Large Programming Room on the lower level of the Hoboken Public Library (500 Park Ave).

Residents are encouraged to attend if they wish to speak face-to-face with the mayor about city issues.

“My first open office hours was a great success, and I want to keep my door open for residents,” said Bhalla. “I’m also excited that this time, I’ll be joined by our new Chief of Constituent Affairs, Caroline Caulfield.”

“In my first month as Chief of Constituent Affairs, I’ve loved assisting new residents and long-time Hobokenites with daily issues and working on larger projects to improve the quality of life for residents of the Hoboken Housing Authority,” said Caulfield. “I’m looking forward to continuing this work and hearing from our residents at the Mayor’s open office hours on July 19th!”

City Seeks Public Input on Southwest Park Sculpture

The City of Hoboken would like your input on the future of a sculpture in Southwest Park. Please share your opinion in the survey here.

The illustrations prepared by Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners show the design steps that were taken to build Southwest Park, and possible steps regarding placement of a sculpture in the park. In addition, the survey provides a comment space to suggest other improvements to the lawn area as well.  

A public meeting was held on Thursday, June 28, at Southwest Park during which options for a sculpture to be placed on the lawn of Southwest Park were presented.

The survey will open until Monday, August 13 at 4:00 p.m.

Hoboken Fire Department Seeking Diverse Class of New Recruits

The Hoboken Fire Department invites everyone interested in serving the public to apply to be a Hoboken Firefighter by taking the New Jersey Civil Service Commission Entry Level Firefighter Examination. Applications are open now through Friday, August 31, 2018. Apply online here.

“I hope to have a diverse group of applicants, including military veterans, women, minorities, and members of the LGBTQ community.” said Provisional Fire Chief Brian Crimmins. “A fire department that best represents the community can best serve the community.”

“I echo Chief Crimmins’s sentiments on the importance of recruiting diverse applicants for service as firefighters in Hoboken’s Fire Department,” said Hoboken Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla. “I commend him for his commitment to making the department as strong and inclusive as possible, and I look forward to welcoming a new class of firefighters committed to protecting the community.”

Information about veterans preference and equal employment opportunity is available on the Civil Service Commission website, along with the exam application. Candidates must be under the age of 35 as of the closing date of the examination to qualify. Benefits include paid vacation, a rotating work schedule, and health benefits.

Mayor Bhalla Suspends Suez Water Project, Calls Impact “Unacceptable”

Leading up to last weekend’s construction project, we anticipated some challenges with traffic. Despite the best efforts of the Hoboken Police Department, what occurred was unacceptable and spoke to how unprepared other stakeholders were in implementing their traffic control procedures.

As I stated on Monday, I gave Suez Water until 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning to present to me a new plan that would prevent the traffic problems that occurred last weekend, including credible assurances that other jurisdictions would perform their duties in directing traffic.

The plan they presented me with this morning was unacceptable and left me with no confidence that preparations are in place for a responsible traffic control plan this weekend, leading up to the Independence Day holiday.

Accordingly, I have directed that this project be shut down, effective immediately and until further notice. Because of this decision, the exit from and entry to Hoboken from Jersey Avenue will be now open over the weekend, and residents will have all exit and entry roads in the southwest area of Hoboken available for their use this holiday weekend.

My first priority as Mayor is to the safety and well-being of the residents of Hoboken. Until Suez can credibly establish that they are taking our concerns seriously, this project will be placed on hold. Due to the nature of this project, the delays caused will have no negative impact on Hoboken’s water service.

Mayor Bhalla Signs Executive Order to Fund Public Art

In a surprise announcement at the Waterfront Arts Gala on Monday evening, Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla signed an executive order to help fund public art installations throughout the city.
 
The order declares that all city bond ordinances shall be drafted to include a provision dedicating one percent towards public art installations. This is meant to revitalize neighborhoods, promote economic prosperity, and improve the physical and psychological well-being of residents.
 
“Art is a fundamental part of improving quality of life, but it’s too often an afterthought,” said Bhalla. “My Administration is committed to not only keep public arts projects funded, but on the forefront of my agenda as Mayor. I’m also proud to say Hoboken is one of the first municipalities in our state to adopt a ‘percent for art’ policy, and I encourage other municipalities to also invest in the arts.”
 
The first implementation of the order will be an interactive sculpture at Southwest Park, which will be financed by the next bond ordinance. A community meeting on the sculpture will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 28 at the Southwest Park Terrance.
 
Based on the amount the City bonds on an annual basis, the effect is significant. For context, had this executive order been in place in 2017, the City would have allocated nearly $200,000 towards the public arts trust.
 
The executive order was signed during the inaugural Waterfront Arts Gala, which raised funds for Hoboken’s Cultural Affairs department. The brand-new event was a stellar success thanks to organizing by Cultural Affairs Administrator Geri Fallo. Ticket sales and donations from the sold-out event brought in more than $15,000 for the Cultural Affairs department. The department does not receive funding from the city’s budget and relies on fundraisers, such as the Gala, to finance year-round cultural and arts events.

Statement from Mayor Bhalla on Weekend Traffic Issues

On Saturday, I became aware of serious traffic issues in southwest Hoboken, as a result an underground water meter improvement project by Suez Water. I was extremely frustrated, as I know many of you were, with the congestion.

First, I would like to commend the Hoboken Police Department for going above and beyond in mitigating the traffic issues to the best of their abilities. Unfortunately, other jurisdictions fell far short on their obligations to public safety, which caused the incredibly frustrating backups.

First thing Monday morning, I met with all of Hoboken’s internal stakeholders, including Business Administrator Stephen Marks, City Construction Manager Peter Balnius, City Engineer Kimberli Craft, Transportation and Parking Director Ryan Sharp, OEM Coordinator Sgt. William Montanez, Sgt. Christopher LaBruno, Lt. James Marnell, Deputy Chief of Staff Jason Freeman, and Communications Manager Santiago Melli-Huber.

Our goal was to address the future impact of this project, which is scheduled to take place over the next several weekends. What happened this past weekend is simply not acceptable, and I made that clear to Suez Water in no uncertain terms.

To that end, I’ve given Suez by Wednesday at 9 a.m. to present to me a traffic management plan that will ease the pain for Hoboken residents and visitors. If their plan is not acceptable, I am prepared to shut down their project to protect the safety and welfare of Hoboken residents. 

My ultimate priority is the safety and well-being of Hoboken residents and I will do everything in my power to make sure that what happened this past weekend, does not happen again.  If there are any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out to my office.

City Seeks Input for Temporary Dog Run

The City of Hoboken is conducting a public survey in order to understand the need for a temporary dog run at 1500 Harborside Park, Hoboken NJ. This area will be redesigned in the near future, but the city is considering building a temporary dog park on the Western portion of the Harborside Park.

Currently dogs are not allowed in this park. However, people regularly bring their dogs in, and the surface of the park is getting worn down. The temporary dog park will provide another option for dog owners and make the area more aesthetically pleasing.

The survey will be opened until end of day July 13th.

The City has also compiled the results of a recent dog run survey for a dog run at 2nd and Hudson. Those results are visible in the below graphics.

Community Invited to Meetings on Northwest Resiliency Park Design and Southwest Park Sculpture

Residents are invited to attend a community meeting to discuss further development of the Northwest Resiliency Park concept design, pictured below, on June 27, 2018 from 7pm to 9pm at the Wallace School Cafeteria, 1100 Willow Avenue (enter on 11th Street between Willow Avenue and Clinton Street). At this meeting, the design team will provide an update on the concept design progress and traffic study, as well as gather community feedback on certain design features.

The City of Hoboken is also seeking public input to guide next steps for providing an interactive sculpture on the Hoboken Southwest Park lawn.  A community meeting will be held from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on June 28, 2018 at the Southwest Park Terrace. In the event of rain, the meeting will be held at the Multi Service Center. The purpose of this meeting is to gather feedback from residents on how and whether to proceed with an interactive sculpture on the Hoboken Southwest Park lawn.  No formal action will be taken.

On April 9, 2018, community members joined the project team at the Wallace School to review the proposed concept design for the Northwest Resiliency Park. The design team used community feedback from this meeting to improve the concept design, which was presented to and approved by the City Council at their public meeting on April 18, 2018.

The concept design was developed through a community planning process, which is summarized in the Design Alternatives and Analysis Report, available at: www.hobokennj.gov/nwpark.

For more information on the concept design and community planning process for the Northwest Resiliency Park, visit: www.hobokennj.gov/nwpark.

Hoboken Southwest Park opened to the public in September 2017, simultaneously providing much needed open space to the underserved southwest corner of the City and functioning as a detention system capable of capturing 200,000 gallons of stormwater. Southwest Park was awarded the Jersey Water Works’ One Water Award in 2017, as well as the United States Green Building Council New Jersey Chapter Award for Innovation and Sustainability Best Practices Award in 2018, both in the Public Projects category.

Mayor Bhalla Launches Homelessness Task Force

Hoboken Mayor Ravinder S. Bhalla announced Thursday the formation of a task force to tackle homelessness in Hoboken, focusing on addressing the factors that cause homelessness. The task force will present its plans to the public later this summer.

“It’s simply not enough to feed and house a person one night at a time,” said Bhalla. “We need to look at giving people the resources they need to stay off the streets long-term. That means access to proper mental and physical health care, education and job training, access to good-paying jobs, affordable housing, and more.”

The task force, which is committed to developing comprehensive strategies for Hoboken’s homeless community and ensuring the quality of life for Hoboken residents, is comprised of:

  • Chief of Staff John Allen
  • Deputy Chief of Staff Jason Freeman
  • Constituent Affairs Chief Caroline Caulfield
  • Community Development Director Brandy Forbes
  • Health and Human Services Director Leo Pellegrini
  • Police Chief Ken Ferrante
  • Lieutenant John Orrico
  • and Principal Planner Chris Brown

The task force will be partnering with the following local organizations:

  • Hoboken Faith Community
  • The Hoboken Shelter
  • Hudson County Housing and Community Development
  • CarePoint Health
  • United Way of Hudson County
  • and Hudson Pride Center

“We are grateful that the City of Hoboken will be expending such significant energy and resources towards the challenge of homelessness in Hoboken,” said Rabbi Robert Scheinberg of the United Synagogue of Hoboken and chair of the Hoboken Clergy Coalition. “Homelessness in Hoboken has a wide variety of causes and should be addressed through a wide variety of initiatives and through collaborations with many partner organizations, in support of our goals of compassionately helping people to move off of the streets into safer environments, and giving them the various kinds of support they need to live independently.”

“CarePoint is honored to work with the City of Hoboken as part of the homelessness task force and we commend Mayor Bhalla for his leadership on this issue,” said Randy Minniear, Executive Vice President for External Affairs for CarePoint Health.  “Our team currently works with The Hoboken Shelter to provide regular health screenings for their residents, and we view this as an opportunity to expand on that outreach and develop a comprehensive strategy to find real solutions to address homelessness in our community.”

“Hudson Pride Center is proud to join the Hoboken Homelessness Task Force,” said Hudson Pride Center CEO Michael Billy. “The LGBTQ+ Community, especially our youth, face homelessness at an alarming rate. Additionally, our homeless community members have a difficult time finding shelters that both accept and respect gender identity or gender sexuality. We will be joining the task force to ensure those issues are addressed. We understand the importance of task forces like this and how they become instrumental in informing the city’s next steps for preventing and ending homelessness in Hoboken.”

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