Jersey City DPW director reportedly resigns over gas grill
Insiders connected with the office of Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop said that Michael Razzoli, director of the Department of Public Works, will likely resign as a result of alleged improprieties linked to the alleged use of public services for private use.
Razzoli, who also serves as a fire subcode official, allegedly installed a gas line that led to his office in the new municipal building, for apparent personal use.
It's been widely reported that he had a grill installed on the balcony or deck connected to his office. “Gas grills are not allowed on decks,” said one source close to the investigation.
One source disputed the gas grill story, saying that reports on that aspect of the investigation were not accurate.
A city official said the Razzoli has already been asked to resign as DPW superintendent, but official city spokespeople will not comment on the matter.
“The mayor has asked for him to resign and he’s gone,” said a source close to Mayor Steven Fulop.
The gas line was allegedly installed at the new East Linden Avenue facility apparently for private use and was discovered reportedly when engineers were reviewing the plans prior to the official opening of the facility.
This has prompted insiders to take a closer look at Razzoli’s performance, looking for other possible infractions.
Razzoli was making about $177,000 as director and has requested to be restored to his own position as subcode official.
“That’s not going to happen,” one source said. “How can we reinstate him if he [allegedly] violated the law when he installed the gas line?”
Razzoli was a close ally to some of Fulop’s key people in last year’s political campaign and his departure would mark the second close associate to be removed from a position.
Last week, Fulop ordered demotion of Police Chief Robert Cowan.
Insiders said that removal of Razzoli and Cowan show just how serious the administration is about reforming operations.
“We’re running a very modern and efficient operation in Jersey City, and this shows that even people close to Fulop aren’t going to be allowed to operate business as usual,” one source said.
Split ambulance contract in Jersey City?
Officials from Jersey City Medical Center said the proposal to split the city ambulance contract would create more problems that it would solve, and asked the City Council to select one service for the whole city.
The request for proposals that was reissued last week provides two options, one that would allow one ambulance company to service the entire city. Under the second option, the city would be split in two, giving the northern part of the city to one company – most likely McCabe Ambulance, and the southern portion of the city of the second, Jersey City Medical Center.
Last December, Mayor Steven Fulop asked the city council to award the contract to McCabe Ambulance – which is backed by CarePoint Health, owner of Christ Hospital in Jersey City.
Jersey City Medical Center currently holds the contract and was the only other bidder.
Bogged down by questions about the process, and no response from the state, the city opted to reissue the bid request.
The new RFP does not have a revenue sharing proposal that JCMC had found questionable. McCabe had offered to repay the city $2.6 million for use of city firefighters as first responders. JCMC said it would provide its own first responders.
In a letter sent to the city two weeks ago, CarePoint encouraged the city to split the contract and give both ambulance companies part of the city.
But JCMC said this would be a bad idea for several reasons.
“Like most citizens, community groups, businesses and many elected officials I feel splitting the city into zones covered by different ambulance services would not provide the best service to the people of Jersey City and could be potentially dangerous,” said Mark Rabson, spokesperson for JCMC. “We are proud of our excellent long-term reputation of serving all of the residents, commuters, and visitors to our Jersey City community and remain committed to continuing to serve the entire city as its EMS provider well into the future.”
Rabson said JCMC may also be interested in expanding its ambulance service to other parts of Hudson County. JCMC already operate paramedic units county wide, and is the trauma center for the county.
Although he did not specifically mention it, Bayonne may be a possible area for expansion with the new mayor and city council reviewing its current contracts. McCabe Ambulance currently services Bayonne, but at a fee to the city of $800,000 a year.
New Hyatt gets tax abatement
The City Council approved a 20-year tax abatement for the construction of a new Hyatt hotel on the Jersey City waterfront.
Under the agreement with the city, Concord Hospitality, based in North Carolina, would pay $816,526 in annual payments as well as a onetime payment of $286,526 to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
The project is estimated to cost $40 million and would replace the nearly 100-year-old building at 1 Exchange Place.
The 253-room hotel would bring in about $800,000 in hotel taxes to the city.
A number of residents spoke out against the project saying that development on Exchange Place did not need an abatement.
But City Council President Ronaldo Lavarro said the project would generate jobs and bring in business to Jersey City, and not have the negative impacts sometimes associated with residential development.
Friends of the Loew’s start petition drive
New York Yankee great Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over until it’s over,” and this much may be said of the city’s plans to award a management contract to AEG Live for operations at the Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theatre. A petition drive has been started to support The Friends of the Loew’s, a volunteer group, to continue operations it has done since 2004.
The city’s move to replace the management was bolstered by a June 11 court ruling that determined that Friends of the Loew’s does not have a valid lease – a decision FOL says it intends to appeal.
The petition located at Change.org called "Upload the Friends of Loew's Lease to maintain Loew's Jersey Theatre as a true arts center serving our community and region," hopes to sway Mayor Steve Fulop into continuing the ongoing relationship.
Colin Egan, president of FOL, said the city has failed to live up to promises it made back in 2004, contributing to the inability of FOL to make the theater fully operational.
“We can’t even bring the balcony up to code,” Egan said. “And that accounts for half of the seats we would need for a major act to consider using us as a venue.”
In an agreement expected to be voted on by the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency (JCRA), AEG Live has agreed to pay $350,000 annually to rent to the city over 30 years and put $3.5 million into renovating the 85-year-old theater.