Independents Withdraw from Race
September 4, 2008
The Independent Coalition for a Better Edgewater has announced that Beatrice Robbio and Christina Zitis are withdrawing from the upcoming November election, and the ICBE will not be endorsing candidates this year. The group believes that the stranglehold the Merse-Christiansen Democrats have on the political process in Edgewater cannot be successfully challenged in a presidential election year. Because there is no officially recognized Independent Party in New Jersey, raising money for Independent campaigns depends on small individual contributions from private citizens. This has been effective in the past, and for the last nine years there have been from one to three Independents serving on the Edgewater Borough Council. However, this year, with the national race so passionately partisan, it is felt that voters will choose a complete slate of either Republicans or Democrats, and few will be interested in the particulars of Edgewater's local race.
"I am saddened that we cannot endorse candidates in this election," said ICBE president, Valory Bardinas. "However, the Independent Coalition for a Better Edgewater will take this as an opportunity to dedicate ourselves fully to our primary role of watchdog for the people of Edgewater. We will continue to expose the folly and mismanagement of the Merse-Christiansen-Ferriero administration, and we will continue our programs of informative community-oriented events."
Is the ICBE giving up politics? "Not on your life," Bardinas said. "Look for us on the ballot in 2009."
The Independent Coalition for a Better Edgewater
Fourth Year in a Row Edgewater Democrats Won't Sign "Clean Elections Pledge"
Edgewater, NJ, 22 September 2006--The Independent Candidates for Edgewater Borough Council today announced that for the fourth year in a row they have signed a "Clean Elections Pledge" and for the fourth year in a row, the Democrats have responded with...nothing.
"I don't know if they're afraid to debate or if they can't give up their special interest money addiction, or they just don't believe in campaigning truthfully, respectfully. We don't know, we sign the pledge, we send it to them, and then we don't hear a thing," said veteran Councilwoman Valory Bardinas, who is standing for re-election this year.
The Independent candidates' Elections Pledge originated in 2003 in an attempt to clean up Edgewater's elections and make them about the issues and an informed electorate, as opposed to a contest based on who can afford to stuff the voters' mailboxes with the most glossy brochures. The "Clean Elections Pledge" states that candidates agree to:
(1) Acknowledge that the current "pay-to-play" system in New Jersey is a problem, and that immediate action is needed to restore public confidence in elected officials. We will refuse any and all campaign contributions from real estate developers working in Edgewater; entities or individuals currently doing business with the Borough of Edgewater; and from any local, county or state political organization that accepted money from those same sources. Any such monies received from these sources will be returned immediately.
(2) Participate in three debates so that our residents have ample opportunity to meet the candidates, hear the issues, and make informed choices. Dates and locations for these debates to be determined by negotiations between the candidates and their representatives.
(3) Campaign in an honest and respectful manner. Candidates will discuss the challenges Edgewater faces and offer solutions. The candidates will not resort to negative, malicious, and unfounded attacks.
Former Councilwoman Mary Hogan, also running for election, stated, "This is really very simple. We want to campaign on the issues, not personal attacks. We want an honest transparent government, so no special interest money--none. And we would like our residents to be able to make engaged, informed choices, so we agree to debate three times--anytime, anywhere.
The "Clean Election Pledge" is important because the Democrats last debated in 1999. It is also important to the election process because the Independents, since their inception, have refused to take special interest money. The Democrats, on the other hand, over the last seven election cycles have taken more than $300,000 in contributions from developers who want favors, professionals who want Borough jobs, and various PACs that recycle money from often unidentified sources.
A perfect example of mysterious special interest money surfaced during a recent Council meeting when major developers before the Council claimed not to have made contributions, only to be shown evidence of how their checks to a political action committee were turned right around and sent to Edgewater Democratic Council candidates.
"For more than seven years, we have been trying to clean up Edgewater politics and make our elections about issues, not money and trading favors. The Democrats have had the majority for 26 years--they have all the power, all the money, all the visibility. We're just asking to debate the issues in an informed respectful manner. You have to wonder what they're afraid of," said Beatrice Robbio, Independent Councilwoman and Bardinas/Hogan Campaign Manager.
For more information:
Please call I.C.B.E at 201-313-9977 or
This was a shortish meeting in that it only lasted 5 (!) hours, though the council had to cheat by pushing Mayor/Council requests to the next meeting. Since it started at 6:00, it was over before midnight.
The meeting started with a number of police promotions so it was packed. For those who missed it, Joe Klimaszewski as promoted to captain, Dennis Ring was promoted to lieutenant, William Skidmore was promoted to detective lieutenant, and Thomas Breen and Donald R. Martin were promoted to sergeant.
There was a police presence after the ceremonies, too. Last meeting's "debate" irritated the mayor enough to have a police officer posted at every meeting. So, each meeting will be covered by a succession of bored cops working two-hour shifts. Some council members inquired whether this is a good use of police time. There are four police officers on the shift. One, who would otherwise be out patrolling, now has to cover meetings.
Anyhow, the meeting was mostly decorous. The mayor only told Councilwoman Bardinas that she was acting like a child once.
An individual from Malcolm Pirnie, the ferry project manager, testified in open session. The project is going more quickly than scheduled. Construction should conclude in September. While it would have been possible to have a boating season start July 3, due to logistical and liability concerns, the council cancelled the entire 2006 boating season. They are offering owners priority in the 2007 season as an inducement to keep them from going elsewhere. Still unknown is what happens after May 31, when the current boat storage arrangements expire.
The LOSAP issue came up. The borough brought in an expert who described alternatives for compensating volunteers for past service beyond the LOSAP cap. The borough is apparently going with a 457 plan, which was described as analogous to a 401K. The other alternative proposed, a non-qualified deferred annuity, would have produced taxable income to the volunteers in the year it was granted.
The event that will gain the most publicity is the council's decision to sue Ft. Lee over its traffic control practices. Not sure why the council felt the need to do this since it had been advised earlier in the meeting that the State is finally getting involved, albeit only on Rt 5.
Unilever and the municipal building came up in a number of contexts. First, the council approved spending $25K to have Schoor DePalma review the EPA's Quanta reports. They are also looking into whether Unilever environmental issues can be resolved at a faster pace than the EPA works (!). Additionally, the council postponed a vote on authorizing acquisition of the building while it awaits environmental reports. Councilwoman Robbio gave the mayor and council maps of contaminant plumes from Quanta that are under the building. While the EPA has not asserted jurisdiction, Superfund sites are defined by the extent of contamination. In short, the council wants to buy a piece of a Superfund site. The Borough Attorney advised the council that he would negotiate a prospective purchaser agreement with the EPA if necessary. In theory, this would protect the borough from liability. If they spread the contamination through construction or landscaping this protection vanishes.
Unilever also contributed one of the highlights of the evening. The mayor and a few council members who all happen to be Democrats toured the George Washington school building as a potential temporary location. Councilwoman Bardinas and Councilman Gallagher protested strongly about being excluded but the mayor kept reading from her report. At any rate, the mayor claims the 2nd and 3rd floors of the school are condemned and that it would take a $7 million investment for the building to pass code. A number of members of the public familiar with the building, including a former school board member, publicly disputed this assessment. This also poses the question of why the school board retains the building if it can't be used.
Regarding the current building, the mayor reported it will take 4 to 5 years to restore it. Since it allegedly can't be occupied during restoration (interestingly, the library was ), there is some urgency to obtaining different space.
Other matters of note, or at least that I took notice of.
Harvey Weber described communications with the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH). He said the Borough is addressing issues in its submission that were due to hastily assembling the application to meet a deadline. I have heard rumors that the situation is less rosy and that the borough may have its application denied. This would permit builder's remedy suits.
The council enacted an ordinance in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision allowing taking of residential property for private use. It would prohibit this in Edgewater; however, it would allow taking private property and transferring it to private owners for public use. So, if you own a parking lot home or business near the ferry, etc., watch out.
The council also enacted an ordinance restricting cellular antennas and towers to municipal property. Some members of the public had issues with the specified locations; however, the borough needs to make enough locations available to foreclose suits under federal law.
The Shadyside pumps will stay until September, if I heard correctly. They have been effective.
We heard a little about the borough's wi-fi initiative. As I understand this, it would cover the town and be the first such system in NJ.
Councilwoman Bardinas's motion to allow the public to speak before the council went into closed session failed 4-3. The mayor broke the tie. At some meetings, the public hasn't gotten a chance to speak until 11:00 pm or later.
A member of the public reiterated their opposition to combining the municipal building and police station relocations as having a negative impact on the police move. The mayor disagreed.
One member of the public conspicuous by his absence was Jack Bredin, who was celebrating his 45th wedding anniversary. Congratulations.
March 20, 2006
Gold Coast or Wild West?
In yet another shockingly ill-conceived move by the majority Council Democrats, people attending the Mayor & Council meeting Monday were startled to see an armed Police Officer stationed at the door. When one of our residents questioned Mayor Merse regarding this presence she said she had asked for the Officer to be there in case there were any "altercations".
Considering that it is the Dems who have verbally and physically threatened your Independent Council representatives relentlessly, this seemed like a bizarre action. What makes this even stranger is the fact that your M&C yesterday discussed the need for more Officers on the street protecting Edgewater residents. How are we accomplishing this? At the time of the meeting, we had only four Officers on the shift in all of Edgewater: two patrol cars on the streets with only ONE Officer in each, one Officer on the desk at the police station, and one at the Mayor & Council meeting.
Good allocation of resources by our Mayor? Councilwoman Rose seems to think so; she remarked that as Mayor "she can do anything she wants to". Ms. Rose clearly supports a Totalitarian regime over Democracy. How un-American.
I asked the Mayor if the Officer would be joining us in closed sessions, she said no. Councilman Gallagher then asked if that was because we were "safer" in closed sessions? Mayor Merse said she was because (quote): "I have a GUN".
It's no secret that the local Dems have an abysmal record of sponsoring rampant overdevelopment, raising taxes, promoting untenable traffic, proposing no residential parking solutions, engaging in pay-to-play campaign fundraising tactics, allowing our beloved Borough Hall to decay, and (ironically), allowing our fine Police Officers to continue to operate for years in a station that can at best be described as a shanty. But, guns at meetings? Armed guards called to stifle Democratic dialogue? Is this how the Dems choose to govern, Democracy at gunpoint? Do they realize that this is Edgewater, NJ and not Baghdad, Iraq?
Recently I heard residents describe the Council Democrats as "the gang that can't shoot straight". I wonder how they'll feel once they know that the Mayor claims to be personally armed.
At the very least, I hope they decline any invitation to go quail hunting...............................
Susan Loesser sends frequent email newsletters to interested people. We will post some of these newsletters here.
April 2, 2005
Hello Members and Friends This is a long, but very important message.
This past Tuesday night, Remedial Project Manager Richard Ho and Community Involvement Coordinator Natalie Loney from the EPA spoke to coalition members and friends about the Quanta Superfund site. Located between City Place and 115 River Road (where there is a daycare center), the Quanta site is a hotbed of pollutants, including coal tar (creosote) and arsenic. Mr. Ho and Ms. Loney answered many questions from the audience, including:
Can the EPA stop a proposed tennis court on top of the site?
--they can request that the developer not proceed. They have made that request. The Board of Adjustment makes the decision. The Board of Adjustment must take public opinion into consideration. See below.
Why is there no signage at the site?
--Every time the EPA puts up signs they disappear.
How long has this been a Superfund Site?
--it was proposed in 2001 and listed in 2002.
What is the EPA doing to clean it up?
--Studies are in process to determine the many factors involved, including the true extent of the pollution and the best way to proceed with cleanup.
Mr. Ho and Ms. Loney also informed us that K Hovnanian, who bought part of City Place, plans to build an addition to the project, which would reach right up to the present border of the known plume of pollutants. The EPA has reason to believe that the contamination has already spread beyond this point, and for this reason they oppose the development, but it is under DEP jurisdiction, and, amazingly, THE DEP HAS APPROVED IT.
Any structure bordering on the site would impede cleanup efforts, and would also endanger the health of people working and/or living there. In particular, when remediation of the site is actually begun, the surrounding areas will have to be closed off one section at a time as they work. The work will take longer and be more dangerous if there are structures in the way. Mr. Ho said that some of the residents living closest to the site will undoubtedly smell the residue. Property values might be negatively affected while the work proceeds.
Our Board of Adjustment will continue to hear more testimony on the tennis court THIS WEDNESDAY, APRIL 6, at 7:00 pm. They need to hear from the public about this issue. It is very important that those people who are now being impacted by the Quanta superfund site and who will be impacted by any further development in that area, attend this and further BOA meetings. Let our officials know that there is concern for health and safety.
PLEASE NOTE: WEDNESDAY APRIL 6, 7:00 PM, BORO HALL -- THE BOARD OF ADJUSTMENT MEETING to discuss the Quanta Site (Tennis Courts and all), and the proposed development at Octagon, for which the developer is seeking height and depth variances.
It is our Borough officials who approve or don't approve development plans. They are our public servants, and they are required to hear our views. If we are silent, we must share the blame for inappropriate development. The Mayor and Council meet on Monday evenings. Plans for a large development at Lever Brothers are going to be discussed this coming Monday, April 4, 7:00, Borough Hall. The public can speak at the beginning of the meeting on any topic, including the Superfund site. The Mayor and Council are always impressed by a large turnout at meetings. It is vitally important to the future of our town that we continue to speak out.
PLEASE NOTE: MONDAY APRIL 4, 7:00 PM, BORO HALL -- MAYOR AND COUNCIL MEETING to discuss affordable housing in the Vreeland Building, and the large proposed development and the possibility of a police station at the Lever Brothers property on the southern border of our 3-mile long town. (I know this is a long convoluted sentence, but it contains information you need to know!)
FROM THE BERGEN NEWS/SUN BULLETIN
To the Editor:
As one of two Independent Edgewater Borough councilmembers, I was startled by the article "Progress Report on the Ferry and Marina," in your July issue.
Apparently, Councilwoman Lois Fein was the only person interviewed by the anonymous author of the article. All of us on the council have worked long and hard to make sure that when ferry service comes to Edgewater it will have as little impact on our traffic, air pollution, and limited parking facilities as possible. I have personally studied the various reports from New York Waterways, the Port Authority, and our traffic and planning experts at great length. I have found problems that needed to be addressed from the beginning and have brought them to the council's attention. When Ms. Fein Characterizes this kind of diligent scrutiny as "resistance" and "an undercurrent of naysayers with negative and loud rhetoric," she is making a political statement and not a statement in the public interest.
Ms. Fein laments that the progress has not been as fast as she anticipated. But, as she herself points out, "the Democrats have a majority on he council." The experts chosen by the Democrats have delivered to her the bad news: Even if fast tracked, an Edgewater ferry will not be in operation before the fall of 2006. She should also bear in mind that this project was delayed while the Democratic council wasted precious time and huge amounts of taxpayers' money trying to evade the legally mandated process. The Democrats really have only themselves to blame.
Finally, I would like to remind Ms. Fein, and the other readers of the Residential, that a large segment of Edgewater voters (40%) came out opposed to the ferry for reasons of traffic, pollution, noise, and other perceived problems, all of which we councilmembers are addressing, in order to minimize the impact of ferry service in our small, one-road town.
It is not the fault of the two Independents on the council that Ms. Fein's dreams have not yet been realized. We are doing what needs to be done to represent and serve all the people of Edgewater.
Denis F. Gallagher
FROM THE CONNECTICUT POST
Misgivings Raised Over Developer
Friday, April 02, 2004
SHELTON - The Web site for Daibes Enterprises presents a glowing portfolio of the company's many developments, showcasing an array of high-rise luxury apartments and retail complexes built in the company's tiny hometown of Edgewater, N.J.
Until recently, not much was known about the developer of a $400 million megaplan to transform 100 acres of city-owned land in Shelton into a massive complex with retail, residential and office space.
But a troubling picture of Daibes Enterprises pieced together from interviews and newspaper accounts of the company's dealings has begun to emerge, prompting officials to question whether the company's proposal here should be re-evaluated.
Just ask residents in Daibes' hometown of Edgewater about its track record. Some most notably members of the Independent Coalition for a Better Edgewater are all too eager to complain about how the company's projects affected their town, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan.
"They've done a bunch of high-rise buildings perched on top of the Palisades," said Valory Bardinas, a co-founder of the grass-roots group. "They like to build high and dense."
Bardinas said she formed the group after attending meetings and "seeing how things are done in Edgewater. In Edgewater, it's pay to play."
Bardinas said Daibes "has influence" over elected officials. "They fund their campaigns and their projects get the green lights," she said.
In Shelton, Daibes Enterprises is looking at land in the city's downtown, where it proposes building 700 residential units and 140,000 square feet of retail and office space.
"We just want to make a few million dollars' investment," said Fred Daibes, who runs the firm with his brother, Joe. "We want to do what's right for the community."
Daibes said the grass-roots Edgewater group is made up of dissidents. "There are always those who don't want development and that's what's motivating some members of the group," he said.
Daibes said his company is the largest taxpayer in Edgewater, and their projects are "the talk of the state. We'd like to do the same thing for Shelton."
But some city officials, like Bill Papale Sr., aren't so quick to jump at the offer. "We would never hand over so much city land to anyone without doing some major research on the background and past history of the developers," said Papale, a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Alderman John Anglace, R-3, board president, said Daibes' proposal was "too monumental not to check them out."
Alderman Jack Finn, D-1, said he's done some research on Daibes and found newspaper articles about a $2,000 campaign contribution made by Daibes employees to disgraced Waterbury Mayor Phil Giordano.
He said the article reports that Daibes was linked to Worth Construction Co., the Bethel contractor awarded a $91 million contract on an upgrade of Waterbury's sewage treatment plant.
Worth was also the contractor on a Bridgeport public housing project that involved Bridgeport power broker Paul J. Pinto, whose architectural firm oversaw the work on that project, said Finn.
Pinto was convicted of funneling money from contractors to former Bridgeport Mayor Joseph P. Ganim, who is serving a nine-year federal sentence.
"I'm not saying there was any wrongdoing, but with names like Giordano and Pinto popping up, you better believe it raised a red flag," said Finn. He said Daibes officials were questioned by the FBI and IRS.
Fred Daibes didn't deny the contribution or connection to Worth and said "nothing ever came" of the questioning.
"I give lots of money in campaign contributions," he said, adding that he's made no contributions to any Shelton officials. "I haven't been asked, either," he said.
Daibes said he's been involved in the Shelton project for about six months. "I've walked the entire site," he said. "I'm sold on this project, but we won't go into a community unless they want us."
June 14, 2004
The ICBE-sponsored third annual Hidden Treasures Tour was a great success, both financially and in terms of outreach! We were listed in the New York Times, the magazine "Englewood" featured the tour, Channel 10 had us on television, the new website Lavacity.com also featured us. We even got a teeny weeny article in the Bergen News, Doug Hall's little local rag . We had visitors from as far away as Pennsylvania, and many new supporters and friends came to the party. I can tell you that our house and garden had a constant stream of visitors from 10:00 a.m. until 4 and I understand that this was true of all the homes on the tour. We've gotten phone calls and emails from all over expressing appreciation and looking forward to next year. This celebration of our town has become a joyous yearly event, and we are proud and happy to be its sponsor.
Of course the party at the Arndts was just wonderful, the magnificent house with the drop-dead views remains the perfect place for a party, and Patty and Barry's generosity and style remain one of the great gifts the Independent Coalition is grateful for. Jonny Rok provided a hot piano and a super voice, and we sang and danced and ate and drank and had a merry time.
The Hidden Treasures Committee, consisting of Joy Aviles (chair), Valory Bardinas, Mary Hogan, Chris Zitis, and yours truly thanks all who opened their homes and/or gardens; all who contributed food and continue to spoil our taste buds; we thank all who volunteered in various and much needed ways to make the Third Annual Hidden Treasures Tour such a wonderful day.
As Valory says, what makes the Independent Coalition for a Better Edgewater so special is that we all really like each other and enjoy each other's company. We work together and play together and continue to do our best to make Edgewater a better place. Let's hear it for us!
Last week's Mayor and Council Meeting was overstuffed with bad guys. The Mayor's notorious ferry committee was there in force -- I guess because of the issue of making the grand cove marina site an "area in need of redevelopment." This was assuming that the Grand Cove marina was part of an existing redevelopment plan. But Jack Bredin and Donald Kopzcynski repeatedly and publicly voiced their well-researched opinion that properties to the East or West of River Road have never been in a redevelopment plan.
The attorneys representing the mayor and council for the Marina and the Ferry realized, after being shamed by Donald and Jack into studying the matter, oh my gosh, there really wasn't any record of any action taken in the past that would have put properties along River Road in an already existing redevelopment plan.Donald and Jack were vilified by the Mayor, Neda, Dale, and Lois, not to mention the illustrious Ferry committee. And if Dale's rules severely limiting public participation had been in effect we would never had the chance to hear this in public and they would have rammed this right through. And if they had rammed the resolution through they could have avoided the bidding process for contracts, and the Ferry Terminal at the Grand Cove Marina would become another example of "Pay to Play."
As it is now, thanks to Jack and Donald, and thanks to the law allowing the public's input in municipal meetings, the Planning Board will have to start over if they want to form a new "area of redevelopment." They will have to do it right, without illegal shortcuts, and they will have to put the project out for bids.
The council voted unanimously to have a public referendum put on the November ballot, regarding ferry service in Edgewater. Several of the council members wanted to have the referendum site-specific (i.e. "ferry service at the Grand Cove marina," but they were outvoted, and the wording will be "ferry service at the grand cove marina and/or other locations in Edgewater."
Here's a little true story: Valory encountered David Jordan, Neda's running mate, out in the lobby during a break. He and his wife had repeatedly called anyone who got up to speak against the system "nasty." Valory said, "I'd rather be with the nasty people than the crooks." Jordan said, Oh, come on, everyone is a little crooked." Valory: "Not me." Jordan: "I think everyone has a little crooked in them." I guess that says a lot about Edgewater politics as usual. Vote independent!!!!!
The last two meetings of the Mayor and Council were interesting. There has been heated discussion on both a redevelopment zone and the infamous "Dale's Rules."
First, on the issue of "an area in need of redevelopment." In 1995 the Planning Board identified an area in need of redevelopment along the River Road corridor. River Road is a County road, and the County demanded that the road be straightened and widened from Rt. 5 to the south end of the borough in order to permit any new development to the east of the road.
This was fine as far as it went. And it went only as far as the road, because, as Jack Bredin and Donald Kopczynsky have repeatedly pointed out, for properties to the east of the road to be included in an "area in need of redevelopment," every resident in town had to be notified (not once but twice, and in legally specified ways). In addition, the town was required to hold a public hearing, at which every citizen would have the opportunity to comment.
None of that was done; therefore, by default, the 1995 ordinance only refers to the work to be done realigning the road itself. In order to qualify for federal and other funding the council majority has zoned the area to allow ferry service and has taken the position that the old 1995 ordinance which enabled the widening of River Road is in effect and includes property to the east of the road. In fact the ordinance was never in effect because there were no public notifications or hearings.
Because of the persuasive arguments by Jack and Donald that this would be illegal and would subject the borough to lawsuits, town attorney Bob Regan has been directed to research this matter and come up with his opinion.
And now for the suspense. Mr. Regan will announce his legal opinion at the next council meeting on Tuesday, September2nd. Please come. This should prove very interesting.
On to Dale's Rules: The first of the last two council meetings went long into the night, and although the public did get a chance to comment (unfavorably) on Dale's Proposed Rules For the Businesslike Conduct at Public Meetings, the council did not. So it was put off until the next (latest) council meeting. This time Dale spoke about his yearning for a more genteel council atmosphere, spoke about his fond memories of how business is conducted in the business community, and advocated some simple solutions: Have "committee" meetings of a few council members to iron out any wrinkles in proposed ordinances or resolutions, then present them to the council and the public already washed and pressed (you can choose box or hanger). Limit public discussion on everything. Limit dissenting council discussion on everything. Preserve order at all costs.
Dale was reminded that the Borough Council is not a business, but in fact a public municipality, and as such has to abide by certain pesky rules and regs, including the sunshine law. He was asked (by Mary) if he had attended the recommended course in municipal government for newly elected public officials last fall. He declined to answer. Negative comments by Denis and Mary were fast and furious. Mayor Christiansen had left by then, Lois was absent, and Neda was wielding the gavel. Nothing was decided. Probably to be continued on Tuesday at 7:00 pm (day after Labor Day).
I hope to see you at the meeting. Have a safe and pleasant holiday weekend.
This just in: One of Edgewater's freshman councilpeople, Dale Ludwig, has just proposed a bunch of ideas to the Borough Clerk for running council meetings. Obviously not familiar with the Sunshine Laws of the State of New Jersey (probably because he didn't attend the yearly series of classes for newly elected municipal officials last fall), Councilkid Ludwig has proposed, among other things:
Well, it goes on. If you are as incensed as I am, please attend the next mayor and council meeting on Monday August 11th and speak out, before they take that right away from you.
Don't forget, before Valory was elected as the first Independent Councilperson in Edgewater, closed door meetings were the rule. Back-room midnight hirings were commonplace. Decisions were made without public knowledge or input. We've come a long way. Let's not lose our hard-won victory for citizens' right to know.
Tuesday night at the "special regular" council meeting, the place was packedwith citizens on all sides of the ferry siting issue. The Port Authority's hirelings were there to discuss why Grand Cove remains at the top of their list. Everyone wanted to speak, but by the time the Mayor's agenda allowed the public to speak, it was after 10:00, the mayor himself had left, the borough attorney had left, and Lois Fein, who just hates to stay up late, had left as well. Councilwoman Rose was running the meeting, and only diehards were there to address what was left of the council. It was distressing to see our local government continue to abuse the Sunshine Laws and to disrespect its citizens.
Gil Hawkins, President of the Hudson River Fisherman's Association, and representing the Hudson Riverkeeper, the Hackensack Riverkeeper, and the New York/New Jersey Baykeeper, spoke eloquently about these groups' dedicated opposition to a ferry at the Promenade site because of the toxic materials under the river there that a ferry would disturb and send out into the tides and currents. Until the superfund site is cleaned up, and until the toxic site next door is cleaned up (I guess that would be a sub-super site) these environmental groups will continue to vehemently oppose any ferry landing there. It's strange to me that this site, with its severe toxicity problems, as well as it's proximity to the existing Weehawken ferry, is the number two choice of the Port Authority.
What I don't understand is why the Binghamton site is totally ignored by the council and the Port Authority. Here's a large, derelict mall in the center of town, with an existing dock, three driveways, a large space for buses to turn around, a large population of people living across the street at Avalon and just up the road at the mariners projects, and dying businesses that would be revitalized by a ferry terminal. What plans do the Powers That Be (PTB) have for this space? When CVS applied to come in there the Planning Board did everything possible to get rid of them, finally rejecting their plans as a traffic hazard (a drive-through window INSIDE the parking lot). Now that we have a gigantic traffic hazard up the street at Le Jardin, do any of the PTBs do anything about that?
But I digress. During the first hour or so, while the house was still packed, Valory, who was sitting on the left, was looking out at the door when Iris Borman, who was seated on the right, said, "What are you looking at?" Valory said, "Are you talking to me?" and she said "Yeah, you want to take it outside?" The audience had a good laugh over that, and it was a break in the tedium, which wasn't Iris's intention.
The council, in its wisdom, and allegedly because of its need to get a move on, voted to explore the Grand Cove marina site further. An hour later, When we were allowed to speak Mimi Tausner asked the remnant council why, if they were in a hurry to get the ferry in place, they couldn't explore more than one site at a time? Of course there was no answer, because, if you want my opinion (and you're gonna get it), they've already chosen the Grand Cove marina, and all this is just window dressing.
Barry Arndt spoke forcefully about the "park" on the corner of Vreeland and Undercliff -- especially about the fact that there's a five-foot drop-off with no fence.
Denis spoke about the cars parked illegally in the Vreeland Building since at least as far back as June 1 when they were first noticed. These are new cars that change regularly. It's obviously some kind of car dealer's storage space. John Candelmo has been notified, but has not been able to stop this illegal use. Is it because Fred Daibes owns the building and John Candelmo's wife owns 1750 shares of Mariner's Bank?
Valory spoke of her disappointment about not being able to address the professionals from the Port Authority, and about the manipulation of the agenda so that the public did not have a right to speak before 10:00, reminding the council that this was in violation of the Sunshine Law.
I spoke, protesting the lateness of the hour, and asking why not consider the Binghamton for the ferry.
The budget, which was supposed to be the main thing on the agenda, was canned. No one had the heart for it by 10:50.
And that's NOT all, folks,
Last week's council meetings were full of sound and fury, especially from John Schwartz, Lois Fein's husband, who was miffed that Valory exposed his financial connection to Fred Daibes and his wife's resulting conflict of interest. It seems that John is the exclusive real estate agent at a development called Daibes Park on Daibes Lane (I'm not kidding) in Cresskill. This was then reported in the Bergen Record as well as the Mayor's statement that he had divested himself of the stock he owned at Mariner's (Daibes') Bank (I'll have the articles up on the website in the next few days).
John is so cute when he's mad.
All Lois had to say about it was that she did not have a conflict of interest. But we think she does, seeing that her husband stands to gain financially from a developer who comes before her for permits, variances, and other dispensations in her capacity as Planning Board member.
Another council meeting coming up on Monday June 16. This is a work session, but please note that the only difference between a work session and a regular session is that the council cannot take any action (i.e. vote). The public is allowed to speak and is given the opportunity to witness the shenanigans that go on.
Monday's council meeting covered many topics, and I'm only going to write about a few of them so your eyes won't glaze over.
Perhaps the most important, and egregious, thing that happened was that the mayor announced he had decided to choose the firm of DeCotis, Fitzpatrick, Cole & Wisler as "Special Counsel to Effectuate Ferry Service" without putting the job out for bidding or consulting with his council (well, maybe he consulted with Lois and Neda). This is the same firm that contributed $2000 to Lois and Dale's campaign. This is also a firm that has been employed by the Port Authority. And, Mr. DeCotis is also special counsel to Governor McGreevey. When asked what kind of cap they would put on their fees, their spokesperson suggested $100,000. In a "Pay-to-Play" world, this seems to say, spend $2000, get $100,000. Mayor Christiansen has announced his candidacy for State Assembly. Do we think he'll get a campaign contribution from this firm? Then what will their cap be?
What bothered many of us also was that the firm had ALREADY researched the proposed contract with the Port Authority, on the anticipation of being hired by the council. And, because the mayor had the votes (Lois, Neda, Dale, and hizzoner) it took the council just 20 minutes to deliberate, and then vote to accept the preliminary contract with the Port Authority, on the recommendation of this brand new counsel.
Andrew Rosenman, Ewa Herbst, Jack Bredin, and Donald Kopczynsky pointed out some of the many flaws in the contract, and some of them were also addressed by the council members. Some of the flaws were corrected. Others weren't.
Several people in the public spoke about the ferry, and most of them asked why we weren't pursuing shuttle bus service to Weehawken. Donald said, "Why not try it out? It looks like you're afraid it would work." Denis brought up the existing ferry shuttles to and from Fort Lee, and the mayor insists that he's looking into it.
Valory pointed out that a year ago the council voted unanimously not to have a ferry at the grand Cove marina and that now it appears to be the first choice.
Let me Quote Mayor Christiansen on ferry siting: "I would not be in favor of any site that would cost the Edgewater taxpayers ANY money." We'll see, won't we?
Lois Fein: "Sometimes in life we've got to take a risk."
Bryan again: "Time is of the essence." And truly, it is, because in this contract that was agreed on Monday night, the Port Authority can take over the entire ferry project if Edgewater drags its feet. This makes due deliberation, as Denis pointed out, even more difficult.
Mary brought up the recent expose in the Record concerning the Mariner's Bank and Bryan's interest in the bank. Fred Daibes is the major developer in Edgewater and also the major shareholder in Mariner's Bank. The mayor and several planning board members own shares in mariner's bank. It is therefore a financial conflict of interest for any of them to be deliberating, making decisions and/or voting on any business with Mr. Daibes, since they are investors in his bank. The mayor was rather strident in his indignation that any one would think there was even a whiff of conflict.
Denis brought up the fact that the wife of the construction code official, John Candelmo, is also a shareholder in mariner's bank, and that Mr. Candelmo has oversight on Mr. Daibes' developments, including Portside Gorge. It is up to Mr. Candelmo as the construction code official to make sure the developer does not cut any corners and meets all borough requirements. As the spouse of an investor in Mr. Daibes' bank, Mr. Candelmo is easily in a compromised position. Bryan jumped to Mr. Candelmo's defense, calling him beyond reproach and a man of great ethics and integrity. It was touching.
Finally, the council agreed to donate $250 to a County-wide plan for homeless shelters. However, Denis asked why not make it $350, since that is what Bryan, Neda, and Lois had decided to spend on an ad congratulating Fred Daibes on his being named Fort Lee's "Man of the Year." Shamed, the council majority changed the amount to $350.
There was all sorts of entertainment at the last mayor and council meeting, which I'll relate below. But first, the most important thing that happened, and it wasn't funny, was that Edgewater's affordable housing rules were crushed under the feet of our local developers with the grinning assistance of the majority of the council.
On-site affordable housing requirements, voted in last year, were voted out last Monday. Mssrs. Demetrakis and Daibes asked for and got a "Developers' Agreement" to "rehab" 18 units of existing railroad apartments on lower Undercliff to satisfy their COAH requirements (anyone not familiar by now with the background of this is referred to our website). The scheme is to make these apartments condominiums, so that these people can "get out of poverty" by purchasing their homes. Not to worry about getting a mortgage, by the way, Mr. Demetrakis owns the bank that will be offering them.
Many of the people now living in these apartments are either "section 8," low income, or otherwise not qualified to purchase "affordables." What will happen to them? This question goes unanswered by Councilmembers Fein, Ludwig, and Rose, the mayor, and the developers. This is shameful.
On a lighter note, Coalition member Barry Ranahan was ejected from the meeting by the mayor, for what he called "disruptive behavior." Barry will now be addressed as Persona Non Grata, a title laid upon him by Mayor Christiensen.
At one point in the meeting, Denis reported on a recent article in the Record showing that Edgewater's taxes were rising at a faster rate than any other town but one in Bergen County. This got Neda so mad she began pounding her fist on the dais and yelling "No No No!"
Then there was a planning board meeting this Monday, in which a resolution was passed to amend our master plan in order to enable ferry service. At this meeting, town planner Burgis and his current assistant presented their evaluation on the impact of ferry service and the planning that they feel needs to go into it. During the presentation, Lois Fein said something like, "remember, no parking." At which point Mr. Burgis's assistant said, "what? How can you plan this with no parking?" And Lois said, "No parking, no parking," at which point our assistant town planner actually put her hands to her head, and said "No parking is counter productive," as Lois continued to try to silence her by repeating "No, NO, NO ." It went back and forth for a while, but it was clear that the people in the planner's office were dumbfounded that the planning board thinks we can have a ferry with no parking. To be continued.
That's all for now, folks,
Well, you had to be there. We all had a good laugh Monday night at the Mayor and Council meeting. Those of you who missed it just won't get the true flavor from this report. Next time, don't spend your money on an action film. Come to Boro Hall where the action is free.
The evening started off with Edgewater's own maestro, Franco Bertacci, berating Councilwoman Mary Hogan outside Boro Hall before the meeting. The maestro, owner/operator of the local Lyric Orchestra, stepped up to the microphone when the meeting was opened to the public to denounce "a certain former councilwoman" for spreading rumor and innuendo about his commitment to the children of this town. The history of these remarks is that, two weeks ago, Valory asked the council what was happening with the Lyric Orchestra, to which the council had given some $7000 to produce an event to raise money for a children's program, which Mr. B had said he hoped would be "Peter and the Wolf." No one on the council could actually answer Valory's questions, but Neda Rose offered up the information that there was an acoustic problem with the community center (which we all know) and that a venue was being sought and she was sure something was in the works.
Monday night, taking a break from castigating Valory, the Maestro let us in on a great deal he had been able to secure. We would have Geraldo Rivera (also Edgewater's own) narrate "Peter and the Wolf"! Rivera had agreed without reservation! This was fantastic, and plans were in the works . . . except for one problem: Now that we might be going to war, Geraldo really couldn't commit, because at any moment he might be called on to go to Iraq. So there went Peter and his wolf. Mr. B., "to be completely honest," just wouldn't want to expend the effort without someone of the calibre of Geraldo Rivera. HOWEVER, he was fully willing, ready, and able to do a small musical entertainment and education event at EVG. And the people who have been maligning him and spreading innuendo about his integrity had better stop, because he was just back from touring Europe. All over Europe, in fact, for months and months, and he didn't need Edgewater and its innuendo. (I am not making this up. He said that repeatedly.)
Several members of the council asked him questions, and said that this was the first they had heard of any of his plans, and that they felt fiscally responsible and did have to ask where taxpayers' money was going. At one point, as Mary Hogan began to speak, Mr. B told her to shut up. He said it low and quick, but it was heard in the audience. Neda Rose and Lois Fein defended the secrecy of the maestro's creative efforts (I guess the Geraldo deal was very sensitive until it fell through). In the end, he stormed out into the night.
But then John Schwartz got up and berated the council for being childish and argumentative and said he was ashamed of them. That was just before he challenged another member of the audience to a fist fight and went stomping in and out of the room with his dukes up.
What a town!
The Planning Board Meeting on Monday was long but interesting. The Danro property was once more on the agenda. The owners of this property were issued permits over 20 years ago, began work on a gigantic project, and then abandoned it, due to economic downturns in the 80s. They're back now, and have been told their earlier permits have expired. So they're suing the Planning Board and the town because they want to develop the property with these original permits. Despite this, they have come before the board with new applications that they say take into account our steep slope requirements as well as other restrictions. Their new proposal is smaller than a highrise -- it's a series of 35 "townhouses" (pretty large townhouses -- each 35 feet tall) -- but it has many problems, and both the board and the audience objected to quite a few of them. For instance, while this property is adjacent to Caribbean House, the plans do not call for an entrance at that intersection, which is about to have a traffic light. Instead, they want to have their own entrance, with no turn-off lane, to the south. Then there's the matter of their private road being so narrow that emergency vehicles would have no turn-around room, garbage trucks would have to back out, and people backing out of their driveways would be at risk of accidents. There would be a mere 15-foot setback from River Road, and a mere 15-foot distance from the townhouses to the Von Dohln home to the south. This proposal will undoubtedly be modified.
The last thing the Planning Board did on Monday night was to vote to have the town planner, Joseph Burgis, look into ways that our master plan could be modified to accommodate ferry service. Stay tuned on that one.
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