Special City Council meeting to be held on Monday, Jan. 10
The city of Hoboken will hold a special council meeting on Monday evening at 8 p.m. at City Hall, 94 Washington St. Since the council failed to pass temporary budget appropriations at the Jan. 5 meeting. A special session was called after Mayor Dawn Zimmer received a letter from the state indicating that payroll cannot be distributed without approval from the council.
Contamination at Church Towers?
A Hoboken resident and attorney familiar with environmental issues, Richard Weinstein, became alarmed recently when he noticed a sign affixed to a fence near the Church Towers apartments that read: “Environmental Investigation/Cleanup in Progress at this Site.” He also saw children playing in the area.
A call to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) yielded this response from spokesman Lawrence Hajna: “The sign was posted in compliance with what’s known as the public notification rule…But this doesn’t seem to be a major contamination case. It’s a localized case involving underground storage tanks, which are very common.”
Under a state law that went into effect in 2008, those responsible for the monitoring or cleanups of contaminated sites must either post signs or distribute public notification letters informing local residents of whatever work is being done at the site.
Hanja said that years ago there had been underground fuel storage tanks that leaked oil. This led to soil and ground water contamination. The tanks have since been removed, he said.
Hajna said he did not have information regarding when the oil leaks were discovered, or when the tanks were removed. But he said, “an initial soil sampling was done in 2001.”
The main contaminants discovered were PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), chemical components of fuel products. The site is now subjected to ongoing periodic testing by the PMK Group, an environmental engineering firm, even though low levels of PAHs were found.
As for why the Church Towers resident believes the notification sign was posted recently, Hajna said, “That does not appear to be the case from the records that we have. [Church Towers] filed their public notification information in September of ’09 and it included a picture of the sign that was posted. The sign is dated as being posted on Sept. 2, 2009.”
Christie: Transfer tunnel $ to local infrastructure
HUDSON COUNTY AND BEYOND – Gov. Christopher Christie announced Thursday that he would rather have $8 billion in transportation funds, some of which would have helped build the cancelled Access to the Regions Core Tunnel, put toward aging infrastructure around the state and Hudson County.
Christie announced a five-year plan that would use cash contributions from the state’s General Fund and the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, bonding, and $1.8 billion to complete various projects. He would ask the Port Authority for some of the funding.
This plan would have the state spend $1.6 billion a year for transportation projects across the state, including $672 million for New Jersey Transit capital needs and $200 million a year on local government projects.
The $8.7 billion ARC Tunnel plan originally called for $2.7 billion contribution from New Jersey, with the federal contribution of $3 billion matched with an additional $3 billion from the Port Authority. It was cancelled around 10 weeks ago.
The projects include major roadways and bridges in or near Jersey City, Hoboken, and Secaucus, such as:
The Route 7 Wittpenn Bridge, which links Route 139 with Route 1&9 East and the New Jersey Turnpike Interchange 15W;
Route 139, which bridges the Holland Tunnel with Route 1&9, the I-78 New Jersey Turnpike extension, and local roadways of Jersey City and Hoboken;
And the Portway New Road, a proposed roadway that would connect St. Paul’s Avenue along the CSX railroad crossing over to New County Road, finally terminating at Secaucus Road in Jersey City.
“Most importantly, ensuring these critical transportation projects move forward will create thousands of Jersey jobs. By responsibly investing in projects over the next five years, we’re putting New Jerseyans to work now and in the future,” said Christie.
Christie said that these projects would allow the state to get on a “path towards fiscal health and proposing a sensible and responsible plan that prioritizes vital transportation projects,” but would still allow the taxpayers to carry the “already-heavy debt burden” of the state.
Christie said that over five years, 37 percent of the project would be paid “as you go,” with the rest through borrowing.
This plan will be the sixth reauthorization of the State’s Transportation Trust Fund, which is funded by state appropriations from the Motor Fuels Tax, the Petroleum Products Gross Receipts Tax, and Sales and Use Tax. There is no legal requirement for additional voter approval for his plan.
According to published reports, Christie has refused to consider raising New Jersey’s gas tax, which is one of the three lowest in the United States.
Community meetings regarding uptown parks to be held this week
On Jan. 10, from 7 to 9 p.m., the city will host a community meeting to solicit input on the design of two parks in northern Hoboken – 1600 Park and Hoboken Cove – at the Rue School gymnasium, 301 Garden St., not at the Wallace School as previously announced.
1600 Park is located north of 16th Street between Willow and Park Avenue, while Hoboken Cove is east of Park Avenue and north of the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway just north of the Hudson Tea building.
The two projects will be designed together.
Buddy the ‘Cake Boss’ to start new daily show this month in NYC
Fans of Hoboken baker Buddy Valastro, the “Cake Boss,” will be able to watch even more of his exploits later this month on TLC. According to the New York Daily News, he will launch a new show Jan. 24 in which he cooks Italian meals. The show will be filmed at a New York City studio rather than at his Hoboken bakery.
“Kitchen Boss” will run for a half hour and appear daily.
Senate passes bill requiring for-profit hospitals to open financial records
The New Jersey Senate has passed legislation that would require for-profit hospitals to disclose financial information to the public, which is already required of nonprofit hospitals.
The legislation, S1468, passed almost exclusively along party lines by a vote of 24 to 14. Only one Republican broke party lines to support the bill.
The legislation, sponsored by Senators Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), Sandra Cunningham (D-Hudson) and Robert Gordon D-Bergen), would require for-profit hospitals in New Jersey to disclose audited financial statements, investments and investors, compensation levels for executives, and payments made to affiliates.
According to the Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE), a union that represents 12,000 nurses and other health care workers in the Garden State, the legislation was drafted in response to concerns raised about whether public health care funds are diverted to finance excessive executive compensation, insider dealings with board members or affiliates, or excessive profits for owners of community hospitals.
At present, non-profit hospitals must disclose most of their financial information to the public through various state and federal reports, while for-profits can keep most of their information hidden, even if they receive public funds and taxpayer dollars through charity care, Medicare, and Medicaid payments.
“The boards of for-profit hospitals are accountable first and foremost to the owners and investors, where the core objective is increasing the wealth of investors, and public disclosure requirements are far more limited,” said HPAE President Ann Twomey in a statement. “With five for-profit companies now running local hospitals, it is more important than ever to be able to track how patient care dollars are being spent. We’ve already seen examples where partners take millions in profits and fees while laying off staff and cutting services; where owners make large and secret contributions to lobbying efforts and where companies conduct lucrative dealings with their own affiliates. We applaud the NJ Senate vote to begin to impose reasonable transparency and accountability requirements on for-profits.”
Last year the limited liability corporation known as MHA, LLC, a group of private investors, bought Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in Secaucus for $15 million, plus a $2 million reserve.
And HUMC Holdco, LLC, whose partners are part owner of the Bayonne Medical Center, is now in negotiations to purchase Hoboken University Medical Center.
The companion bill introduced in the State Assembly by Assemblywoman Connie Wagner, A1523, has not yet come up for a vote before the Assembly’s Health and Senior Services Committee.