Fulop administration beings process of dissolving the Jersey City Parking Authority
Mayor Steven Fulop has directed the city Law Department to begin the process of dissolving the Jersey City Parking Authority. This week, the Fulop administration will present to the City Council a resolution to retain the law firm of Weiner Lesniak to investigate operations at the authority.
The dissolution of the city’s autonomous agencies and the absorption of their functions back into the city was a campaign promise Fulop made when running for mayor earlier this year. The mayor has long argued that getting rid of the city’s autonomous agencies will cut municipal costs, improve accountability, and streamline services.
The City Council recently approved a controversial measure introduced by the Fulop administration to merger the Jersey City Incinerator Authority, another autonomous agency, with the Department of Public Works.
By dissolving the Parking Authority, the mayor plans to move its functions into a traffic and parking division within the Jersey City Department of Public Safety. Under the plan, parking enforcement personnel would also be given additional ticketing abilities to enforce quality of life issues.
To dissolve the Parking Authority the city must first do a study as a way to inform the council how to proceed. This study must also be submitted to the state Local Finance Board. Any plan to dissolve the Parking Authority would also have to be formally approved by the City Council.
The administration wants to retain Weiner Lesniak to draft a detailed report on the operations and finances of the Parking Authority, including the services and functions provided; the number of employees, salaries, titles, and collective bargaining agreements; outstanding debt and assets, as well as areas of duplicative services with other city departments or agencies.
The resolution to retain Weiner Lesniak will be voted on at this week’s City Council meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 25 at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 280 Grove St.
Jersey City recovers $2.3M in taxes from developer
As a result of an ongoing audit of properties that have been given tax abatements in Jersey City, Mayor Steven Fulop announced last week that the city has recovered $2.3 million from a developer who allegedly had failed to make payments owed as part of their deal with the city.
According to a press release issued last week, the city recently demanded payment from EQR Lincoln Urban Renewal Entity, in connection with the Hudson Point and North Pier developments for excess profits generated on these tax abated properties.
Under New Jersey’s Long Term Exemption Law, developers who are awarded tax abatements are limited in what they can earn in profits. If they exceed that limit, the law requires the developer to share excess profits with the city. Each year, the city is supposed to review the developer’s annual audited financial statement and use a calculation set by the state law to determine the city’s share of excess profits. The city can then formally request its share of the excess profits. However, according to the Fulop administration, this was not done for several years in the case of EQR.
EQR was awarded a 20-year tax abatement in July 2000. For the first seven years, the city audit found that the developer had not generated any excess profits. However, beginning in 2007, EQR’s financial audit shows an excess profit, according to the Jersey City Tax Collector. Despite this, the city alleges that EQR did not voluntarily turn over to the city its fair share of excess profits. The tax money that was owed to the city from these excess profits was, according to Fulop, not collected for several years.
Jersey City only last year began an aggressive audit of its abated properties after community activists demanded that such an audit be taken. That initial limited audit by the city Tax Collector found that several abated properties were paying the city less in property taxes than they should.
The tax payments from those properties have since been adjusted and Fulop has promised to continue to audit abated properties on an ongoing basis. The city, Fulop said, will continue to go after other developers in violation of their abatement agreements.
It is unclear whether the alleged shortfall was discovered during Fulop’s watch or before he took office as mayor on July 1. According to Ward C City Councilman Richard Boggiano, he has seen documents related to the EQR audit and he said the audit was completed in February, during the tenure of former Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy.
An e-mail sent to city spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill on Friday was not answered by press time.
School staff, parents asking why armed security personnel entered public schools in Jersey City without notice
Armed private security guards recently entered several public schools in Jersey City with the consent of Superintendent of Schools Marcia Lyles, but without the knowledge of teachers and staff or school security personnel, according parents, school staff, and to a letter from the union that represents school security guards in Jersey City.
The school district has retained Strike Force Services, a security company, to do a “vulnerability assessment” of security in various school buildings. According to the Sept. 19 school board agenda, Strike Force will be paid $26,000 to do this study.
During field visits to schools two weeks ago, Strike Force personnel were seen walking on school grounds while armed, according to school staff. In at least some cases Strike Force employees were wearing the visitor stickers people who are not part of the school community must wear, but were unescorted by school staff as they walked around school buildings.
“The members of Local 2262 want to express our concern regarding recent incidents that occurred last week in Jersey City public schools,” AFSCME Council 52 Executive Director Rick Gollin wrote in a Sept. 16 letter to Lyles. “We have received several accounts that unknown individuals entered school grounds and buildings without prior notification to school security personnel or other staff. In some cases, the individuals declined to state their names although they possessed [Jersey City Public School] badges. We are told some of the individuals were openly carrying firearms. The individuals were acting suspiciously, entering and looking around in areas on school property where unauthorized individuals have no business. We are [now] told that these individuals were working for a company called Strike Force Services hired and directed by [Jersey City Public Schools] to probe schools for security shortcomings…To actually direct strangers to enter schools in this way is dangerous.”
Several members of the Board of Education said at a Sept. 19 meeting that they, too, were unaware that armed Strike Force employees would be visiting school grounds.
A phone call and e-mail sent Thursday to Maryann Dickar, chief of staff to Superintendent Lyles, seeking comment had not been returned by Friday morning.
Several parents have commented to the Reporter and online that students and staff could have been endangered if school security had intervened in an attempt to disarm the Strike Force employees.
It is unclear how many or which specific schools Strike Force employees visited.
Washington Park Live Arts & Music Festival
The Hudson County Board of Freeholders support Washington Park Live Arts & Music Festival, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, from 10 a.m. to 6:30p.m., at Washington Park, Jersey City, New Jersey. Washington Park borders Jersey City Heights and Union City.
The first events will take place at 10 a.m.with O’Connell’s 5K run to cure Cystic Fibrosis. The 5K run will start at 2nd Street and Palisades Avenue. (www.facebook.com/OC.Run) Other scheduled fitness programs include Yoga in the Heights, Zumba Moves and Boot Camp. The following food vendors will be stationed throughout the park: Lizzmonade, Pizza Vita, Cinco de Mayo, IncrediBALLS, Chris’s Curbside Cravings & Amanda Bananas.
At 11:00 a.m. over 90 visual artists will participate at this festival showcasing their art. Music will be provided by Jonathan Fritz, Nu D’Lux, Beninghove’s Hangmen, Manouche Bag and RIVERVIEWJAZZ.ORG will bring Craig Handy & 2nd Line Smith New Orleans soul-jazz grooves to this event.
The Golden Door International Film Festival will showcase film shorts and film previews. The Donavan Ensemble, The New Jersey Symphony, The West Hudson Opera and the Hudson County Shakespeare Company will perform throughout the day.
Other performances include CUDA Break-dance off, Jersey City Heights FABLAB, Swap-O-Rama-Rama, and Mask Making by Distillery Gallery, Face Painting, and Storytelling by Story Haven and “Ask Granny” brought to you by the Hudson County Genealogical & Historical Society.
“I applaud the Washington Park Association for its commitment to maintaining, beautifying and developing Washington Park for the community,” said Freeholder Chairman Anthony L. Romano.
Author Edward Lazellari to appear Sunday at Tachair Bookshoppe
On Sunday, Sept. 22, at 7 p.m. Jersey City author Edward Lazellari will do a book reading at Tachair Bookshoppe. Lazellari will be reading from his book “The Lost Price,” which was released in Aug. The book is a sequal to his first novel “Awakenings.”
Free car seat inspections and education Saturday
Free car seat inspections and education will be available to residents of Hudson County on Saturday, Sept. 21, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Target parking lot (100 14th Street, Jersey City).
The event is part of “National Seat Check Saturday” and will include car seat inspections by Certified Child Passenger Safety technicians. Technicians will be on hand to teach parents and caregivers how to choose the right car seats for their children and how to install them correctly.
“There’s always danger on the road, every time you leave your home,” said Marissa Fisher, a trauma nurse at Jersey City Medical Center and Injury Prevention Coordinator for the hospital’s trauma division.
Motor vehicle crashes are still a leading killer of children 13 and under. Fisher reminds parents that “Children depend on you to keep them safe.”
Furthermore, she added, even if kids are in the right seat, sometimes they’re not buckled in properly. And even worse, some aren’t buckled in at all: In 2011, 36 percent of children under 13 in cars, SUVs, vans and pickups who died in crashes weren’t restrained at the time of the crashes.
Certified Child Passenger Safety technicians teach families how to correctly secure their child and give families the information they need to correct mistakes when using car seats, booster seats, and seat belts.
NHTSA recommends keeping children rear-facing as long as possible up to the top height or weight allowed by their particular seats. It’s the best way to keep kids safe in cars. Once a child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, he/she is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness. After outgrowing the car seats, children should be placed in booster seats until they’re big enough to use seat belts safely. The safest place for kids under 13 is in the back seat of the car.
For more information on car seat and child car safety, as well as how to find other car seat check events, go to safercar.gov/parents.
PSE&G to offer STEM grants
To further strengthen its commitment to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs, the PSE&G Foundation will award $160,000 in grants to afterschool, summer, and youth development programs that develop or enhance educational opportunities in the STEM fields.
The Foundation will award funding to organizations serving youth in PSE&G's electric and gas service territory in New Jersey. Applications must be completed and submitted by Monday, Oct. 21, 2013 by 5 p.m. All applicants will receive notification about funding decisions in late November.
A national assessment conducted in 2011 by the U.S. Department of Education found that less than one-third of eighth graders in the United States show proficiency in math and science. This is a problem, as jobs amongst those who excel in STEM subjects are among the best the economy offers. And as issues such as climate change, energy independence, and national security demand comprehensive and technical solutions, the need for people with knowledge in these areas is growing at a fast clip.
Applicants may apply directly through PSEG's online application. To apply, visit www.pseg.com/info/community/education/education.jsp.
Baby fair at Jersey City Medical Center
Jersey City Medical Center will hold a free baby fair to showcase the services available at the hospital for new and expectant families. The event is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 28 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the hospital, located at 355 Grand St.
Numerous activities and exhibits will be available, including “Grandparenting 101 for the New Millennium,” a class that will be taught by Joseph Scott, the hospital’s president and CEO, and Rita Smith, chief nursing officer and senior vice president of patient care service. Other courses will cover preparing for pregnancy, birth and pediatric care, and a new “daddy boot camp,” which will cover feeding, bathing and diaper changing for the new father.
Additionally, there will be a supervised children’s area for those big brothers/big sisters to be, prizes and raffles, and tours of the hospital’s newly-renovated maternity unit. The unit now features showers in all labor rooms and labor tubs in two of the rooms, prenatal yoga and massage services, and makeovers for the new moms to be.
Earlier this month, Jersey City Medical Center began taking the next step towards its new Baby Friendly Designation with the beginning of “couplet care” in its Mother/Baby Unit. The couplet care model offers families continuity of care, communication and education provided for mother and baby by the same Registered Nurse instead of one RN for the newborn and another nurse for the mother. This new model also offers rooming-in, whereby newborns remain in the room with their mothers throughout their stay and a majority of newborn care is rendered at bedside. This provides an opportunity for educating the mother in the care of her newborn. In addition, the hospital’s pediatricians are now doing assessments of infants at the new mothers’ bedside.
Last month, Jersey City Medical Center began the incorporation of the "First Golden Hour" on Labor and Delivery that provides mothers and their partners the opportunity to enjoy the first hour after birth uninterrupted for family bonding and skin-to-skin contact to promote newborn transition and initiation of successful breastfeeding.
For more information on the Baby Fair, contact Teresa Brennan Turi at (201) 915-2466.