June 2010 Archives

After writing my open letter to Ian Sacs last week, I got to thinking about what other open letters I would write to people in City Hall. I thought about what was important to me, and what i'd like to see changed in Hoboken.

This week are police patrols, and i'd like to preface my opinion with three points:

1. I fully respect and understand that I don't know the inner workings of a police department. I fully respect and understand that my opinion is, frankly, ignorant. But, I still think my opinion is valid to some degree and worthy of simple consideration rather than a quick dismissal from the file and rank to "someone who just doesn't understand the police force" - as often I hear online from the police or firemen who dismiss citizen criticism.

2. I'm not a police officer. I don't have experience in law enforcement. I'm a citizen, a taxpayer, and my taxes directly pay for our uniformed officers to do their job. So I think i'm well within my rights to make an observation, and suggestion about what i'd like to see in Hoboken.

3. I believe in my taxes going to pay for first responders (police, fire, EMT). But i'm also someone who is fiscally conservative. I think we need to look at national averages for pay scale and apply them to our police and fire departments in all ranks. Then, I also think we need less brass and more patrolmen. When police state that we don't have enough cops - I think we need to be more creative in looking to streamline our police.

Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to my point.

One of the things I have issue with in town are the amount of police that we have in cars. Yes, I think responding to a call is best served as quickly and as efficiently in a police car, but during the warmer months why don't we have more police on foot in our mile square town? Even in December 2009 I saw a police officer on the street and wrote about how much I liked it.

In a study of Kansas City police officers, they concluded that "60 percent of the time spent by a Kansas City patrol officer typically was noncommitted. In other words, officers spent a considerable amount of time waiting to respond to calls for service. And they spent about as much time on non-police related activities as they did on police-related mobile patrol."

This same study did present strong evidence that increase in mobile police patrols didn't have a significant effect upon crime or the feeling that the residents were any safer.

Which, I agree with.

I think we need more police on the street, on foot. I would do this:

Hoboken is already divided into six wards, make each ward a "zone".

Then assign one officer who patrols each ward a day for two 1 hour patrols from 8am to 8pm.

Six wards. Twelve patrols of six officers who patrol on foot. Yes, there will still be police cars doing their job, and if a call comes in where a foot patrol officer is located, they can be dispatched to the call, and may even be faster to respond versus a police car which is 14 blocks away in some instances.

Now you might be saying why.

In the Newark Foot Patrol Experiment, it said "Residents see their communities as safer and better places to live, and are more satisfied with police services". The report also wrote: "It should also be noted that close contact between police and the citizenry helps the former develop first-hand information about crime and possible criminal behavior. Such information systems are likely to have a positive long-term impact."

With all of the talk of Governor Christie looking to create a 2.5% cap on property tax increases, which would, in turn, effect police staffing and salaries. There's also the Hoboken Police Audit which calls to reduce the number of police in Hoboken.

Seems to me that if you want the public to support the police one good step is getting the police more involved with the public. Rather than sticking two police officers in patrol cars and doing loops around the city, there should be more police actually interacting with its citizens.

That's my opinion. Take it for what it's worth, Officer Falco.

Open Letter To Ian Sacs

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This is a letter I sent to Ian Sacs, the Director of Parking and Transportation, a few weeks ago. Actually I can't remember if he replied, but I don't remember him doing so. What are your thoughts on fixing parking along Washington Street?

"Hi Ian,

I just wanted to know two things:

1. Are we looking to perhaps replace the meters on Washington Street with smart meters (meters that you can use credit cards, etc) with like they have in NYC?

2. I was writing on Hoboken411 about the double parking situation and did some research. New Haven had an issue like us with parking and I wrote this:

"One solution is we should have smart meters on Washington Street, which use "Dynamic parking" (refers to a system in which parking fees rise and fall according to demand. For instance, during the busiest part of the day downtown, it might cost $2 to park for an hour. When there are fewer cars around, it might be only $1.) Smart pricing also frees up curb space by incentivizing long-term parkers to use off-street lots and garages.

New Haven had similar issues with parking as we do, you can read more here.

Donald Shoup, author of The High Cost of Free Parking, says: "His proposed solution, implemented in a number of cities around the country: charge the "right price" for parking - not too little (or free) and not too much so as to discourage people from coming downtown.

That could be done either by varying the price according to time of day, or by charging for length of stay, Shoup said. He said optimally, most parking spots would be full but there'd be enough open spaces to make finding a spot relatively easy.

Second, he proposed returning parking meter revenue to the neighborhoods that generate it, to pay for improvements neighbors and merchants want to see.

Then cities should remove or reduce off-street parking requirements, shrinking the amount of pavement surrounding urban buildings and facilitating the creation of more human-scaled development, he recommended."

--

The bottom line is that Washington Street is too easy for people to park there in the middle of the day, popping quarters into a meters all day and taking up space. Someone like me would gladly pay $1 to park for 15 minutes if I can get in & get out.

I know plenty of business owners who park on the street and keep feeding the meters all day long to park. They clog the streets from people like me or parents who just want to pick up their kids or someone who simply wants 15 minutes to do a quick pickup and get on their way."

Wanted your thoughts on that if you had a second. I mean, don't you think the issue on Washington Street is that we don't have enough quick turnover & that it is too cheap to park? I think we should be looking to raise the price to park along Washington Street, for people like me who may be in their car and want to pop-in and out to buy something. Sure, there's the argument for people who want to eat along Washington Street, but I think a) they can pay more to park there for an hour or b) They should look to use a public parking garage if that cost is too high (I mean $4 for 1 hour is still probably cheaper than a garage).

Sean"


Even after writing this I think a key issue is having enough parking garages. A perfect location for a multi-story garage would be on Observer between Washington and Hudson. That's a huge parking lot that if it was converted into a multi-story lot it could house a ton of people who drive into town looking for a quick place to park for downtown dining or shopping.

Learn To Lie

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Random weekend.

Let's just dive right in there and tell the tale of drama, intrigue and everything else.

Thursday night, the start of my three day weekend, i'm walking Rocco. I pass by Mulligan's bar, and two girls are outside the bar. I recognize them, Kira & Sarah they are bar regulars, who I often chat with, but don't "hang out with".

They stopped me...or better said, they stopped Rocco. Lots of petting for him and kisses and excitement from Rocco. The one girl, Kira, says "It's my birthday weekend! I'm turning 33. We are headed to the Zeppelin Beer Garden. There's going to be a bunch of people from here. Why don't you come along? It's Saturday at 4."

Why not?

Saturday rolls around and I head over to the Zeppelin. I don't know a soul going to the party, except Kira and her friend Sarah. I get there, order a drink and see them in a group sitting at the picnic long tables out in the back of the bar. I sit down, and start chatting with Kira & her friends. It was a good scene, everyone were "my kind of people" (which are the non-pretentious down-to-earth types).

Perfect example were two guys name Steve and Issac. Both are graphic artists, and they like street art. We talk about Banksy, Warhol and Basquiat. Issac has a skateboard and we talk about skateboarding, and my long-ago days where I was a teenage skate rat. It was beer fueled, but inspired chatting about those subjects that was a fun time to just...talk.

I meet other friends of Kira and the day turns into night. One of them is named Emma. Emma was a very gregarious, outgoing personality with a fun sense of humor. She was about 5'8, brown hair, hazel eyes and weighed about 235 pounds.

The reason why I mention her weight will be clear later.

Emma sits down next to me at about 8pm. We get to talking and she's funny. Clearly has a sense of humor, and who doesn't like that. While we are talking she says "So I heard you are single."

I didn't tell Emma this, but I know that Kira knows I am single. So Emma must have found out from Kira. No big deal.

I tell her that i'm single, and she's shocked by it. I thank her, and try to defray the issue. She continues on, saying how she's single and we should date each other.

I'm trying my best to just downplay that. Saying that's very nice of her, and i'm flattered, etc.

She continues on, saying how cute I am and then is more persistent. Finally she says, "Straight up - tell me the TRUTH, why wouldn't you date me?"

OK everyone. I have been writing this blog for a while and if by now you don't realize this about me, here's a little tidbit. I tell the truth. Far, far, far too often I tell the truth especially when it wasn't asked for. No, I don't go running up to random strangers to insult them or go out of my way to really make my friends feel bad by the wrongly placed comment. But my mouth always gets me into trouble because i'm terrible at lying. Lying takes too much work. You have to think of a good lie and then you have to remember it days or weeks later. Nah, not for me, I will just tell the truth rather than lie.

So lets recap. We have Emma who is giving me the full court press. Up until this point we had been chatting for a good 25 minutes, one on one, and most of the conversation had been about why I should be dating her. She also told me about how she was on weight watchers and lost 35 pounds, too. So at one point of time, she was 265 pounds. I encouraged her and told her about how I often go to the gym and how I, too, have issues with diet and food.

OK. So back to the "Straight up - be honest, why wouldn't you date me?"

I reply back, "Straight up?"

She says, "Yep. Tell me why. I want you to be honest."

What do you do? Sure, in a perfect world I could have a perfect answer here that doesn't hurt anyone's feelings. But it was 8pm on Saturday after 4 hours of drinking. I have a girl who is clearly interested in me...but I'm not.

My goal wasn't to hurt her feelings, but she told me to be honest.

This is what I told her: "I think you have a a great personality, nice eyes, but for me, the weight would be an issue."

That was about as gentle as I could say it.

And, I will save my friends the emails about how you NEVER say ANYTHING to a girl about her weight. I fully recognize and understand how this is a big issue. It's not like she was 20 pounds overweight and i'm saying to her, "You are ENORMOUS!" This girl is clearly about 100 pounds overweight and knows i'm single - so what do you say? I could gently be like "Well, you just aren't my type..." and stay vague with that one. Yes, in many ways I feel somewhat bad about saying what I said, but she ASKED me.

I know that I should have handled the whole situation better. One of my greatest faults is that I very honest & I always speak my mind...and having a few extra beers in me didn't help this situation. My thought process really wasn't about being cruel, it was just she asked me for an honest opinion...and I was, well, honest. In retrospect, I should have just lied or deflected.

Her reaction to my comments were, well, unexpected.

She wasn't angry or ran away crying. She told me she knows she is overweight, and working on it. Even going so far as to tell me she should date her NOW while she's overweight to get the "best thing ever" when she is skinny again. I encouraged her to keep working at the weight & exercise goals - telling her that I, too, struggle with eating right and exercising four days a week.

We talked for another 20 minutes, and even after I told her I wasn't interested she STILL was hitting on me. I showed Emma streaming video from my iPhone which was connected to cameras in my apartment using VueZone. I saw that Rocco was up, and sitting in the middle of my family room. I looked at my watch and I have left him from 4pm to 8:45pm, so I knew that it might be a good thing to get back and walk him in the next hour. She suggested that WE go back to my apartment and walk Rocco.

Ahem.

Anyhow, I told Emma thanks but no thanks and said my goodbyes to her and others in the birthday party. I told Kira that if they leave the party at the beer Garden that I would see her at Mulligan's later. I left the bar and took a cab to Hoboken.

I get home, and take Rocco for a walk. Up to this point, I would say that I wasn't stone cold sober but wasn't raging drunk. I was in a good place and since it was only 9:30pm, I figure that I will have a few drinks.

I would normally walk Rocco home at this point, but I looked in Mulligan's and it was fairly dead. There were a few bar stools open, and I brought Rocco into the bar, even if he is underage. :)

Of course in 99% of other bars I wouldn't bring a dog into a bar. But I know all the bartenders and the owner, and they have told me multiple times that Rocco was always welcome in the bar. Up until this point I never really had Rocco in the bar for longer than 10 minutes. But screw it - he can hang with me at the bar.

Well, suffice to say, Rocco was a big hit. I sat at the entrance of the bar, and every girl or guy who likes dogs would walk in and immediately bend over to pet or play with Rocco. I sat there drinking, and made sure he didn't trip anyone up. While I am sitting there for about an hour, meeting various people I get a text message from Kira at 11:15pm:

"Did u say 2 my friend that u didn't wanna talk 2 her cause she's a bigger girl?"

Now I told you the story as I remember it. Emma and I easily talked for about 40 minutes at the Beer Garden. Now living in Hoboken one of the things that comes with living here and having multiple random friends is the key word: DRAMA.

DRAMA: Everything is exaggerated and misunderstood by outside observers.

Now Kira wasn't next to Emma or myself listening to our conversation. It appears that Emma said something to Kira about our conversation and that's the text message I get and boy...isn't that just drama 101.

One thing I have learned about Drama is that responding on text messages or email or chats are a bad idea. You lose so much when you try to defend your actions over those mediums and anytime this happens you have one goal: talk to the person who is offended in person.

So I reply back that I would rather talk to her about this rather than text about it.

The night goes on, and at about midnight at the bar, there's one really cute girl who is digging my dog. She's tall, blonde and pretty. Yes, yes, and yes. We chat a bit, and she's giving me good natured grief about bringing a dog into the bar - and i'm telling her how I never did it before. But then get on to the subject that "everything happens for a reason" and one thing leads to another...and we have a date this week. More on THAT for another day.

I still have to talk about Kira in person about what happened.

Learn from me, people. Learn to lie. It will save you much grief.

Clam Broth House: First Impression

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I was there today for lunch.

I had the clam chowder & roast beef sandwich.

My friend had the wings & steak bruschetta.

The chowder was average. Eh. Could have been from a can for all I know. The roast beef was, well, roast beef on a toasted roll. No sides. Just roast beef. Roll. That's it. For $12.

Now folks, I know this isn't SUBWAY. I'm not expecting my $5 footlong. But I was, well, expecting something MORE. How about fries? How about chips? Nope. Nada. How about maybe swiss cheese on the Roast Beef? Nope. Just roast beef on a toasted roll. My opinion? Tasted like they took pre-sliced roast beef out of the cooler, microwaved it and slapped on a toasted roll.

The wings we good, not great. Not amazing. Good. I would order those again. They had a nice kick afterwards and were meaty wings.

The steak bruschetta was very good from what I was told. I didn't have that myself, but as my friend told me he would "absolutely order that again".

I'll go back and try more things. So far, I am underwhelmed. Also adding insult to injury were these two key things:

1. When we sat at the bar, we weren't acknowledged for a good 6 minutes. It was lunch and there were 8 guys at the bar. One bartender. I worked behind the sticks, and I guar-an-tee you that I wasn't the fastest bartender, but I at least made eye contact with people and would say "Hi, I will be with you in a minute" if I was busy. Nothing. I was like she didn't care we were there until finally we are looking at each other and muttering that she came over to us. Again - 8 people at the bar. It's not like she had tables and a bunch of orders flying in. Gotta get better at that.

2. We closed our check without looking at the bill - just handed our cards and had her run it. The bill was $34 each. We tipped her, walked out and while walking away we did the math in our heads and realized there was NO CHANCE we just ate $76 dollars worth of food. We walked back and asked the bartender for the itemized bill. She looked it up and OOPS - she ran our cards on the wrong bill. What. The. Fuck. She voided it and re-ran our bills and it was $23 each.

I understand the "new business kinks" that need to be worked out, but that's just pathetic. In all my years as a bartender and a waiter, I KNOW that I haven't seen such crappy service by someone behind the bar - ever.

This place won't be in business for very long if it keeps up.

Also another last issue I have is with the prices on the dinner menu. I'm all for paying good money for good food. I go out to NYC restaurants and will pay NYC prices. But if Danny Tattoli wants to have people in Hoboken pay $28 for a filet mignon, it better be something comparable to New York City. I mean, I take the PATH to Christopher Street, eat at Wolfgang's or Raoul's and pay $6-10 more for one of the best steaks in 100 miles.

I will try it a few more times and write a final review in a bit. But right now...i'm on the fence. I think one thing they can do fast for the bar menu is add fries when you order a sandwich. 99% of all restaurants at least give you a side to nosh on with your sandwich. Nothing at CBH except beef & bread for $12.

Kia Soul Commercial: Black Sheep

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Owning a Tivo I rarely watch commercials anymore. But this is what you need to do - make CREATIVE and INTERESTING commercials to grab the attention of the viewer - and they will watch. Excellent job by the team at Kia's ad agency David & Goliath.

Thinking Of Getting Rid Of My Car

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One of the biggest things of being American is car ownership. People love their cars. It is an extension of themselves, in many ways. From the neo-hippies in their Prius, to the muscle-car guido in their Ford Mustang to the yuppie driving the Range Rover. Everyone loves the freedom and fun that their car brings them.

When I first moved up to Hoboken, I didn't have a car. Now, this was back in the mid-90's, and it was a bit of a pain in the ass to get back to Philly. I basically had two choices. One, I could take the train. Two, I could rent a car.

Taking a train then was the days before the Acela. It was usually around $125 round trip from 34th Street / Penn Station to Philadelphia's 30th Street Station, taking the Keystone or NE Regional train. I remember lots of nights waiting for the PATH at Newark Station and really hating not owning a car.

Then, I tried renting cars. At the time we had Hertz in town, up by 14th Street in Hoboken, and I would usually rent a car Saturday morning and want to return it on Sunday. The problem with renting a car, was that every car rental place is CLOSED on Sunday. I hated that. I know why they were closed Sunday and it wasn't because they want to keep the Lord's day sacred - they want to jab the consumers with having to rent their cars an extra day. It would steam me when I would get back to Hoboken by 6pm and then have to wake up before work, the next day, and drop the car back off at the rental place. Was a royal pain in the ass.

Then Zip Car came along. They have parking spots all over Hoboken. There's one parking garage two blocks from my apartment. With my Corporation X discount fee I only pay $25 a year membership to Zip Car, and then weekday hourly rates for a Mazda 3 from $11 or weekend hourly rates of $13 (BMW 328i as $15 weekdays or $17 weekends). With a Zip Car you just park it where you found it, without the hassle of going to the rental counter to check your car back in or paying for extra days. If I have a car for 26 hours, I pay the daily fee plus two extra hours of use, which would be $115 + 26, or $141 for the Mazda.

Sure, it isn't *my* car. But lets break down what I pay for my car a month.

First, I own my car. I bought it in 1999 for $7,000. I pay some maintenance costs over the years, like oil or new tires. The car A/C doesn't work anymore, which was a real pain last weekend when I drove my cousin and her fiancée to our family reunion.

Second, I pay $185 a month for my parking spot across the street from my building.

Third, I pay about $90 a month on insurance for my car & condo.

Fourth, each long drive costs me about $25 in gas.

So, what are we looking at? $300 a month, or $3600 a year just on that alone.

I could drive the Zip Car BMW for 20 days a year or the Mazda 3 31 days before I spent $3600.

I use my car maybe 4-5 times a year to travel outside of Hoboken. Then another 4-5 times a year I may use it if I want to go to the mall or watch a movie or something. My car gets to the point where the security and clock drain the battery down to empty and I have to carry out a battery jump charger to restart my car. Every year I spend about $100 and buy a new car battery from the auto center.

But there is that sense of "freedom" that I enjoy. Also, I would hate to be dependent upon the "Rental Gods" and hope that around the holidays that I get the car I want to drive vs everyone who uses Zip Car to rent the car on Thanksgiving or Christmas weekend. I know me - I know if I thought about a quick trip to the food store or Home Depot or seeing a movie I would "think" about that $11 weekday charge versus paying (in my mind) $0 for my car (when, technically I am paying $300 a month for the car).

Maybe it is time for me to seriously consider getting rid of my car.

Do you have Zip Car? How do YOU like it? Leave a comment below or email me!

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This page is an archive of entries from June 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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