Assemblyman Vincent Prieto, who was replaced as Assembly Speaker earlier this year, will resign his Assembly seat to become president and CEO of the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, the state agency that oversees the Meadowlands.
Recommended for the post by Gov. Phil Murphy, Prieto will assume his new duties at the NJSEA on Feb. 25, and will receive an annual salary of $225,000.
Prieto under law must step down from his assembly seat in the 32nd district that includes all of Secaucus, North Bergen and other towns outside Hudson County. It has not yet been determined who will be named to replace him in the interim, before a special election can be held later this year.
Yacht owners charged for insurance fraud
Following a four-month investigation by the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, Kerwin Rigaud, 46, of Jersey City, was charged on Feb. 8 with insurance fraud. Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez said the Insurance Fraud Unit had looked into allegations against Rigaud.
The allegations include fabricating claims and exaggerating damages from 2014 to the present in schemes to defraud multiple insurance companies of more than $200,000.
Rigaud, an accountant, has been charged with multiple insurance fraud violations related to his yacht, “Miss Behaving,” which he berths at Liberty Harbor Marina in Jersey City.
A celebration of spring
For the second year in the row, Barrow Mansion will host a celebration of spring known as Holi on March 3 and 4.
Holi is an ancient Hindu religious festival which has even become popular with non-Hindus throughout the world. The date varies from year to year, coming sometimes in March or even as early as February. The festival always celebrates the coming of spring.
The event will honor and include members of Jersey City’s South Asian community.
Traditional Mithilia and Madhubani art will be central to the exhibit.
This year’s event will strive to be more diverse and inclusive with varied artists also inspired by the theme of the Holi which is the spiritual and cultural celebration of renewal, resurrection, the triumph of the light over darkness with the coming of spring. The Holi is celebrated with joyful colors perfect for an exhibit of art, music and dance.”
So the show will also include a performance of dance and music by the renowned Tabla musician Anirban Roy Chowdhury on March 3 and a performance of dance and music by the Shenaaz Dance Academy on March 4.
The Holi, organizers point out, originated throughout South and East Asia as a festival signifying the victory of good over evil and the coming of spring. It is now celebrated worldwide.
The event will feature a group art show including artists, Shilpa Gowda, Bithika Adhikary, Nainee Shah, Cecilia Martinez, Maria Lupianez, Mahalaxmi Karn and more.
This year’s exhibit will be held on March 3, 12 noon to 10 p.m. and March 4, 12 noon to 8 p. m.
NJ Transit approves proposed alignment for light rail expansion into Bergen County
The Hudson-Bergen Light Rail’s (HBLR) expansion into Bergen County received a major boost this week, as NJ Transit has just approved the plan’s proposed alignment, per a press release.
The approval for the project’s Locally Preferred Alternative, detailed in its 2017 Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact statement, is mandatory in the federal environmental review process.
The route is a 10-mile, seven station extension from HBLR’s current Tonnelle Avenue terminus in North Bergen. It would include an additional North Bergen stop at 91st Street, and others in Ridgefield, Palisades Park, Leonia, all the way to the Englewood Hospital and Medical Center.
NJ Transit’s Board of Directors also authorized the route’s submission to the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority Board of Trustees for designation and inclusion in their Long-Range Regional Transportation Plan.
By choosing this route, NJ Transit will be able to begin design and engineering activities once they complete the Final Environmental Impact Statement, and the Federal Transit Administration grants a Record of Decision for the project.
Get free income tax preparation help
United Way of Hudson County is teaming with the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program and HOPES to prepare and file federal and state income taxes for locals. The service runs through April 13.
To be eligible, participants must have been New Jersey residents for all of last year. They must also have a Social Security number, work in New Jersey or New York (or have taxable income like pensions, IRA distributions, interest, or stock trades.), and not have an income from a rental property or a business with employees, inventory, a loss, or over $25,000 in total expenses.
The AARP Foundation will be offering walk-in filings Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
The Foundation is located at 855 Bergen Ave. in Jersey City
HOPES will be offering filings Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., by appointment only.
HOPES has locations in the Hoboken area, including 532 Jackson St., Unit 1B and 300 Bloomfield St.
Call (201) 468-8805 for more assistance and information.
PA approves $364M Holland Tunnel upgrade
The Port Authority Board of New York and New Jersey approved a major rehabilitation and resiliency project for the Holland Tunnel to repair and restore critical mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems caused by Superstorm Sandy, and to install protective measures to mitigate future flooding in the facility.
The $364.2 million project includes repairs and replacement of systems damaged by latent salt resulting from the Oct. 29, 2012 storm, which filled the tunnel with 30 million gallons of water and resulted in flooding up to 9 feet above the North Tube roadway.
As part of the project, repair and replacement will be done to the tunnel’s power cables, fire detection system, voice communication system, lighting, pump room equipment, and repairs to concrete, drum rings, curbs, ceilings and wall tiles. The project includes improved lighting to enhance driver visibility in the tunnel. Approximately 84 percent of the project cost is projected to be reimbursed by federal funds.
In addition to repairs to tunnel systems, the project also includes resiliency measures to increase the stop log height at the doorways of the ventilation buildings in New York and New Jersey to meet current FEMA design flood elevation standards.
Work on the project is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2019 and take approximately five years to complete. The work must be staged during limited overnight hours to minimize disruption to travelers. Full single-tube closings are expected for 48 months. It is anticipated that one tube will be closed at a time, with traffic diverted to the Lincoln Tunnel during the closure.
Trump administration deals ‘serious jeopardy’ to Gateway Tunnel project
Federal transportation officials have assigned the Gateway rail tunnel and other components of the massive infrastructure project a new rating that further jeopardizes the chances of winning grant money from Washington.
A story on Politico.com says the Federal Transit Administration sent an annual funding report to Congress on Monday for its Capital Investment Grants Program that assigned a “Medium-Low“ rating to the proposed $13 billion Hudson River tunnel, the second-lowest on a five-point scale. It was the first time the grant application had received a formal rating. The FTA also reduced the rating of the Portal Bridge North project from “Medium-High“ to “Medium-Low.” That bridge replacement that would fix one of the single-greatest bottlenecks on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor line.
Those involved in the Gateway Program said the change was likely to put chances of receiving federal funding under the New Starts program in serious jeopardy.
The Trump administration rejected an Obama-era agreement to cover half the cost of the broader $30 billion Gateway Program, which calls for constructing two new tubes connecting New Jersey to midtown Manhattan and repairing the existing tunnel that is now falling apart. The White House has also proposed ending the New Starts program, but Congress has so far protected the funding source.
“In case it wasn’t clear before, President Trump today tried to land another death blow to Gateway by having his Federal Transit Administration (FTA) vindictively and inexplicably downgrade the project in order to cut off critical federal funding,” Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said in a statement on Monday.
In the case of the Portal Bridge project, which previously received a rating in February 2017 and was estimated to cost $1.6 billion, the FTA is taking the position that the amount of committed or budgeted funding from other sources had fallen from 57 percent to 21 percent of the total cost. The FTA said that is a primary reason the rating was reduced. The new ratings were issued in November and, according to a person familiar with the Gateway application, did not factor in any information received in October, when new details had become available.
John D. Porcari, the interim executive director of Gateway Program Development Corp., said the ratings fail to take into account the commitments from New York and New Jersey. The states have agreed to split half the cost of the tunnel project, putting up $5.5 billion, though they’ll need federal loans in order to do so. The grant application asks the federal government to cover the remaining costs.
Porcari said the Portal Bridge application, in which local agencies would also cover about half the total cost, “has only been improved with each updated submittal” since the first rating was issued. He noted early construction work has been underway for several months.