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When Hoboken Reform started, we all we united under the idea of a "better" Hoboken. We didn't want Hoboken to become like Newport in Jersey City (and still don't), with high rise buildings dominating the Hoboken skyline. We didn't want corruption and back room deals by people who had connections in the city. We didn't want special rules for those who had a hand in someone's pocket.

When Dawn Zimmer, Rhavi Bhalli, Dave Mello, Peter Cunningham and Carol Marsh were swept into office, it was a signal that times are changing for the better. Many of their actions over the last two terms have been worthy of applause and there have been other actions which I have raised an eyebrow at the poor decisions that were made.

Many residents might have heard about a proposed development at 1300 Jefferson Street. Currently the site is an abandoned factory, and surrounding the lot isn't any residental space. Its almost as far to the border of Hoboken and we can get.

The proposal was to turn the site into mixed use development by the same developers who created Pilsener Haus and Biergarten. The majority of the story you can read here.

No one in reform wants high rises, but we do have high rise buildings of 12-14 stories in Hoboken. That's not unusual - and I think consideration needs to be looked into where we build larger buildings. There's currently a lot of pushback on the propose NJ Transit plan to build high rises along Observer Highway & the PATH station. There's also some pushback for a proposed 14 story tower at the Monroe Center.

That I understand, I can understand the resistance.

There's NOTHING in the part of town for the proposed mixed use development. Adding a 14 story tower, along with a rock climbing gym and bowling alley would be great for Hoboken. Imagine a Brooklyn Bowl style bowling alley - which has also a music stage too? Everyone wins here.

Last night the Zoning Board voted down the proposal 5-2 against even when faced with a large crowd of community activists who have been adamant about their fear of overdevelopment - and they were FOR the proposal.

We can all sit here and shrug our shoulders or do something about it. Post about it on your Facebook wall. Write your local councilperson. Ask Dawn Zimmer. Why is progress stalling in Hoboken? The community came together to bring reform to Hoboken and it worked. Change can happen, but it takes your voice to change that.

What's a Hoboken Roadway Patrol?

Basically it would be a law enforcement agency which has patrol jurisdiction over all Hoboken roadways (including any county roads within Hoboken's borders). The HRP would be a branch of the Division of Motor Vehicles in the Department of Public Works. Local police are primarily responsible for investigating and enforcing traffic laws - but having a HRP frees local police to focus on other tasks not related to the roadways. HRP officers enforce the New Jersey Vehicle Code, pursue fugitives spotted on the roadways or sidewalks and attend to all significant obstructions and accidents within their jurisdiction. HRP officers are responsible for investigating and disposing of car accidents, disabled vehicles, debris, and other impediments to the free flow of traffic. They are often the first responders at the scene of an accident (or obstruction), and in turn summon paramedics, firefighters or tow truck drivers.

The job of the HRP would be broken down (but not limited to) into the following main goals:

1. Setting up DUI/DWI checkpoints.
2. Combat speeding with speed traps.
3. Ticket for reckless driving.
4. Ticket for failing to yield right of way to pedestrians.
5. Ticket for disobeying traffic control signal or STOP sign.
6. Ticket for double parked cars.
7. Ticket for jaywalkers.
8. Ticket not using seat belt.
9. Failure to stop for a school bus or disobeying a school crossing guard.
10. Failure to yield to an emergency vehicle.

I think the reason why we have disorder in Hoboken is that people basically know that our police are busy with other tasks. When is the last time you saw a speed trap or a DWI checkpoint in Hoboken? When have you ever seen a cop pull someone over for blowing through a stop sign?

I have been here 20 years and I was once pulled over by a cop for speeding in 1995 on Observer Highway. They let us off with a warning. I don't recall ever hearing about anyone getting caught speeding in Hoboken - have you?

As for "who pays for all this" - its simple. First off, I would suggest that the HRP should not be designed as a 24x7 police department. I would suggest that these officers would work 8 hour days, and those hours can be staggered/shifted depending on the day. For example, wouldn't you like Hoboken to have that "extra patrol" of HRP when the bars are open at night - setting up checkpoints for drunk drivers and people speeding?

The goal of the HRP isn't about adding more cops. To me, that is pointless. What we need are police who have ONE job which is to focus on the roads and sidewalks. If there is an emergency or special event (like a parade day or city-wide festival) we can utilize these police for those situations rather than outsourcing from surrounding agencies.

Also i'd like to see HRP use Class 2 police officers, if possible. Plus it would be a good way to create a pool of "good officers" to choose from if openings become available within the Hoboken Police Department ranks, too.

More taxes? I don't think so. I would surmise that by using Class 2 police for 8 hour shifts and to focus on ticketing reckless drivers or pedestrians would pay for most of the costs. I think there would be an initial upfront cost, which we already are paying for since we have six Harley Davidson bikes that are barely used by the police. Also, I think in warmer weather you can have HRP cops (in tandem) who can patrol using bicycles like they do in other parts of the country. Also i'd like to see cops utilize body-mounted cameras to record activities by the drivers that can be used in courts.

What you do you think?

Open Letter To City Hall

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Ian Sachs was kind enough to reply to my open letter the other day. If you haven't read his response, please see the website Mile Square View here.

It seems that my open letters are getting some attention, so here's another idea I have for City Hall.

One thing i'd like to see in City Hall is an online ticket system. At "Corporation X" we used BMC Remedy - in our office before creating our own proprietary one.

The job of a ticketing system is simple, you create a ticket and can use those tickets to follow up on open issues. For example:

1. When is the Boys and Girls club swimming pool opening?
2. There's a street light that is out - can you open a ticket with PSE&G? Can you keep this ticket open to follow up?
3. There's a pothole on 6th and Garden.
4. Revaluation Project - where do we stand on the tax maps?


One resident can open a ticket, and everyone can reference that ticket, online, for the answers and updates from City Hall? A master ticket can be created, and sub tickets created off the master ticket for sub-projects - for example the Reval Project has multiple issues that need to fall into place, like tax maps - we can create a sub-ticket for each issue and follow them.

Even more bold would be the ability to create tickets online by residents for requests. If there was an existing ticket open, the new ticket be consolidated into the old ticket.

This would provide more transparency, accountability and open city government. You can create metrics from those tickets, keep track on who OWNS the ticket in city hall, and the time it takes to complete. Those metrics can be measured and we can see who in city hall is going the extra mile to get work completed.

Why wouldn't City Hall look into creating an online ticket system for their residents?

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.

As a dog owner, I start to see certain aspects of our city in a new light. One of them is our parks. We have such few open space, and are lucky to have quite a few dog parks in our town. Sadly, they are often in various states of disrepair.

Our city is cash strapped. It is very hard to justify expenditures to renovate and restore our dog parks. Heck, it's very hard to even get new gravel.

Over the last two months I, and others, have been emailing Mayor Zimmer, Councilperson Cunningham, and Director Pope to ask for new gravel to be put down at our dog parks. It cost $13,000 just to re-gravel all our dog parks.

Also the design of many of these parks are in poor shape. They don't have proper drainage, which leads to runoff of dirt, gravel and dog waste into our streets and sidewalks. Hoboken411 had a nice article about the dog run at Elysian Park and their issues.

Here's my ideas for fixing the situation:

1. A dog license in Hoboken is $10.00 if spayed/neutered (proof required) or $14.00 if NOT spayed/neutered per year. That's peanuts. One drink at The W Hotel bar costs more than that. I'd just increase the license to $15 / $20, with the idea that the extra money is going towards capital improvements of our dog runs, rather than taking from the taxpayers to fund it.

2. We have to get it easier to license our dogs. As of now, dog owners have to mail the application, rabies certificate and spay/neuter proof to 124 Grand Street. In Pennsylvania, you can do this all online at http://www.padoglicense.com/, which was designed and maintained by http://www.epaymentnow.com/. How hard can this be? Have the newly installed Environmental Services Director, Jennifer Wenson Maier, contact this site and find out how much it would cost to set up a similar website in Hoboken or possibly Hudson county.

3. We need better enforcement of dog licenses in town. We need police to patrol our city parks and check dogs for licenses. Where's the incentive to GET a dog license if there are no repercussions for not having one?

4. Councilperson Cunningham, who founded the HDA, mentioned about doing advertising at the dog parks. I agree with that, and think it's a great idea. We need to approach local businesses (perhaps start a non-profit fund that is tax deductible?) for donations towards the restoration of dog parks. Also we can encourage dog owners to donate to this fund while they register their dogs online for the dog licenses.

5. We need to actively seek loans and grants that can be used towards the restoration of our dog runs.

6. We need to possibly seek out new locations for dog runs. I agree with Hoboken411 who mentioned that there was a great spot by City Hall that would be a good spot for a new dog run (again, funded by dog licenses and donations, not taxpayers).

Right now, from what I understand Director Pope was told to re-gravel the dog runs. But I hope to work with City Hall with finding a way to renovate and restore these runs for better drainage and general repairs that wouldn't affect our taxpayers and can be funded by dog licenses. In a town of 40,000 residents how many dogs do you think are here? I would hazard at least 1,000 dogs. Even if we get 50% of those people to lawfully license their dog, that's about $10,000 a year we could raise just with licenses alone, not including business donations & advertisement.

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