Hoboken Ward 5 Councilman Phil Cohen Looks Back on 2021 Accomplishments

As we all prepare for tonight’s New Year’s celebration, Hoboken’s 5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen takes a look back on the city’s accomplishments over the past year in his latest newsletter:

Dear Neighbors,

Please accept my best New Year wishes for you and your family.

This past year we confronted a continuing pandemic and extraordinary fiscal challenges, yet came together, supported each other, and did great things together. With this Year in Review, I’d like to give some shoutouts and offer thanks to those who made great things possible. 

2021 – A Year in Review – A Year of Thanks

The Volunteers

First and foremost, let’s thank and acknowledge our incredible community volunteers! 

Hoboken Community Center stepped up and supported the work of the Hoboken Food Pantry. The Hoboken Community Center, in coordination with the City of Hoboken, provided needy families with 15,000 bags of groceries and boxes containing perishable USDA farm-to-table food, cooked meals, hygiene items, baby diapers, formula, and meals to 1,280 households. The Hoboken Food Pantry presently serves about 600-1000 residents each distribution. Just incredible.  

Hoboken CERT Team: The members of this all-volunteer organization of community members are trained in helping our community deal with disaster preparedness. Our CERT volunteers stepped up and worked the phones at City Hall for over 62 weeks, scheduling over 10,000 COVID test request calls and 6,000 information calls for our community. CERT team members also helped the Hoboken Food Pantry pack thousands of meals and in many other ways helped our community navigate the challenges of the COVID pandemic, then returned to their more routine role of supporting local events like the Arts & Music Festival, which successfully returned after a two-year hiatus.

The Hoboken Shelter was critical to our community this last year. The Hoboken Shelter houses 50 guests each night, serves over 500 meals daily, hosts 1,000 showers weekly, as well as provides support services including case management, counseling, job and life skills training, creative arts workshops, emergency homelessness prevention grants, and permanent supportive housing solutions to our homeless population, all of which were so critical in 2021.  

Hoboken Front Line Appreciation Group (FLAG) continued its important work in 2021. FLAG stepped up and supported both our senior population and our local restaurants. By delivering 1515 senior holiday gift bags, delivering over 1000 meals to seniors, and organizing fundraising events benefitting the Hoboken Community Center, American Legion Post 107, and Women Rising, FLAG’s leaders and volunteers delivered cheer, support, and lifted people’s spirits in 2021.

Hoboken’s Partners in the Fight Against COVID 

Every single healthcare worker at the Hoboken University Medical Center (HUMC) deserves our appreciation. To the Doctors, the Nurses, the Staff, and the Administration of HUMC, the people of Hoboken cannot thank each of you enough. 

The Hoboken Volunteer Ambulance Corp and their 150 volunteers represent the “front line of our front line workers” taking the daily calls and helping our families get first aid and life-saving intervention, so critical during the pandemic. Through this pandemic, they have been critical to our management of COVID in our community. 

Our COVID testing and vaccination partners continued working to provide the test capacity such that we can now offer over 4,500 COVID tests by appointment and COVID vaccines as needed for our community. Thanks to PromptMDMedicine ManRiverside Medical GroupHoboken Family Pharmacy, Better Life Pharmacy and the NJ Department of Health for helping our community manage the Delta and Omicron COVID surges that allowed our City to provide exceptional support during a trying year. You have all been indispensable partners to the City. 

We all need to pause and give thanks to Hoboken’s public safety teams for keeping us safe during the pandemic this year.  The leaders and members of Hoboken’s Police Department, Fire Department, and the Office of Emergency Management are our most essential, essential workers. Each of you has provided extraordinary service during the most challenging circumstances, protecting and serving our community with skill and professionalism every day. 

In March, President Joe Biden signed into law the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan which allocated $27.2 million to Hoboken over two years. Thank you to President BidenSenator BookerSenator MenendezGovernor MurphyCongressman SiresCounty Executive Tom DeGise and Mayor Ravi Bhalla for standing up for our community and partnering with us to deliver critical funds to our tenants, businesses, and not-for-profits – making a huge difference for Hoboken in 2021 and counter-balancing COVID’s profound impacts on our City’s decreased revenues and increased expenses resulting from the pandemic.

Mayor Bhalla and his Administration

Mayor Bhalla has shown extraordinary leadership throughout 2021. At the New Jersey League of Municipalities’ annual meetings in Atlantic City last month, Judith Persichilli, New Jersey’s Department of Health Commissioner, specifically singled out Hoboken as a model for how municipalities can successfully manage COVID’s challenges. Hoboken’s success in leading the way in managing COVID is a direct result of the Mayor’s single-minded focus on testing, vaccination, social distancing, education, and clear communications related to matters of public health during the pandemic. These have been the hallmarks of Mayor Bhalla’s first term.

In addition to providing extraordinary leadership, addressing the myriad challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Bhalla negotiated the successful resolution of the Monarch Litigation, forever stopping two 11-story towers from being built on our 15th Street piers and securing the piers for public use as part of our waterfront park. The Monarch settlement also procured 1.45 acres at 800 Monroe Street for a new resiliency park from Ironstate as well as $3.5 million for the City.  

Mayor Bhalla also made huge strides in bringing an end to the threatened privatization of Union Dry Dock, inking an agreement with New York Waterway and the State of New Jersey, which will allow the city to acquire the Union Dry Dock property for public open space, and connect our public waterfront park at long last. Mayor Bhalla also worked to bring back the Office of Constituent Services, which was so effective in supporting our community and will re-open in 2022, providing day-to-day assistance to Hoboken residents. 

Health and Human Services Director Leo Pellegrini was so immersed in the management of the pandemic in our City, it seemed as if he were everywhere. Whether it was administering a massive contact tracing program, coordinating thousands of COVID tests a week, helping nearly 100% of our seniors get vaccinated, or facilitating getting meals and COVID information delivered to seniors, Leo has done a great job. 

Transportation Director Ryan Sharp, on top of his many other responsibilities, oversaw the complex and multi-faceted introduction of a new Citi Bike program in May that had nearly 30,000 Hoboken Citi Bike trips registered in June alone!  With a total of 820 bikes and 29 bike share stations that many residents rely on for quick, affordable, eco-friendly transportation, Hoboken has embraced this new program. Director Sharp has worked on a series of Vision Zero improvements and increased public municipal bike parking capacity by 20%.

Community Development Director Chris Brown daily juggled the many, many competing demands of complex development projects and applications before the Zoning and Planning Boards while working on improving the quality of life for our residents. A major accomplishment this year was finalizing the North End Redevelopment Plan which will revitalize 30 acres of land in the 5th Ward — Hoboken’s historic industrial northwest.

Finance Director Linda Landolfi and Business Administrator Jason Freeman expertly managed the City’s budget and COVID funding in a complex and challenging fiscal environment.

Parks and Environmental Services Director Jennifer Gonzalez is always engaged thoughtfully and proactively in managing our parks and environmental services and more. Whenever I send constituents’ questions her way, Director Gonzalez engages and addresses each request. This year, she managed the expansion of Hoboken’s Compost program to a total of 12 different sites around the city, diverting 96,020 pounds of waste from landfills and saving taxpayers $75,000/year in fees. Director Gonzalez also helped secure over $551,000 in funds to clear the Weehawken Cove boat graveyard of vessels, as well as all of her work on the expansion of the Southwest Resiliency Park which doubles the existing Southwest park, while managing the oversight of the construction of the Northwest Resiliency Park with Chief Resiliency Officer Caleb Stratton.  This park – which will be the City’s largest  – is on track to open in the fall of next year. 

Communication Directors Vijay Chaudhuri and then Marilyn Baer (who succeeded him) did extraordinary work in 2021, issuing Nixle alerts and updates on behalf of Mayor Bhalla and managing updates for our Citywebsite, keeping our community updated on all things related to COVID testing, vaccinations, the rules of the road for our local businesses and house parties alike –  regulations that serve as the guardrails for our community negotiating life with COVID.

Our Activist Community

Thanks to the activists who helped make our community better in so many ways. Here’s to Bike Hoboken, the Fund for a Better Waterfront, and the Friends of Liberty State Park.  Also, cheers to the immigrant advocates and so many people in our community who passionately spoke out against Hudson County’s relationship with ICE (which you can read about here). Your voices were heard and made an impact on Hudson County’s welcome decision this year to terminate the County’s contract to house asylees and immigrants seeking a better life in America. 

Our Arts, Music, and Theatre Community 

So many musicians and vocalists performed and brought light and joy into our lives this year, bringing art, music, and much-missed live performances and art openings including the Waterfront Arts Gala, the Artist Studio Tour, the Art Walk, and the Summer Concert Series, as well as great performances at the Hoboken Arts & Music Festival and the return of Mile Square Theatre’s much-loved — and missed — productions.

Our Business Community

In the midst of a pandemic, our local business community adapted, created socially distant sidewalk sales, enjoyed our summer streets programs, and complied with many sets of COVID requirements, all the while providing critical services to our community, despite the many challenges presented. In its second year of existence, the Hoboken Business Alliance did a great job supporting Hoboken businesses and making our business district even more attractive and inviting. 

Thanks, too, to the vendors who brought the Hoboken Farmers’ Market to our residents, delivering farm-fresh produce in outdoor, socially-distanced settings for a second straight year, and thanks toMain Street Pops for creating successful and well-attended Artisan Markets, Holiday Markets and Art Gallery exhibitions.

American Legion Post 107

Thanks to Commander John Carey and the leadership of Hoboken’s American Legion Post 107, for their vision and hard work that has already created housing for 6 formerly homeless veterans in their reconstructed Post that had been destroyed by Superstorm Sandy.  December 7 marked the groundbreaking ceremony to expand the post and create 18 additional apartments for homeless veterans on land owned by the City of Hoboken.

Supporting Mayor Bhalla’s Agenda on the Council

As the “rookie” on the City Council in my second year, I learned much from my Council colleagues. While we disagree at times, we accomplished some major milestones this past year. Here are a few:

  • Delivered Taxpayers a 2.83% tax cut! Working with members of the Finance Committee (on which I serve) my Council Colleagues, along with Mayor Bhalla’s Finance Department (led by Finance Director Linda Landolfi and Business Administrator Jason Freeman) delivered a 2.83% tax cut for Hoboken residents in a balanced budget that includes water main replacements, repaving roads, Vision Zero upgrades, upgrades for City parks and acquiring additional open space.
  • Re-established the Office of Constituent Services. We passed an ordinance (that I co-sponsored) reinstituting the Office of Constituent Services which will open in 2022 to provide day-to-day assistance to Hoboken residents such as connecting food-insecure families to critical groceries from the Hoboken Food Pantry, assisting small business owners, and facilitating unemployment claims from the State for residents. 
  • Protected Hoboken’s Service Workers in landmark legislation. We passed an ordinance (that I co-sponsored) that was the first of its kind in New Jersey, protecting building service workers from being fired without prior notice when management changes hands.  We worked closely with the State’s largest service worker union, 32BJ-SEIU to craft this legislation and make our community a better place for Hoboken’s workers.
  • Approved a Thoughtful and Holistic Northwest Redevelopment Plan. We passed an ordinance adopting a redevelopment plan for Northwest Hoboken that is a blueprint to revitalize the historic industrial neighborhood of abandoned warehouses and vacant factories into a new neighborhood for our vibrant and growing community.
  • Authorized the Settlement of the Monarch Litigation. We passed a resolution authorizing the settlement of the Monarch Litigation with Ironstate that preserves public waterfront access on our 15th Street piers, forever eliminating the threat of two eleven-story residential buildings over the Hudson, as well as providing the City with 1.45 acres of new public open space at 8th and Monroe, while delivering $3.5 million to the City. 
  • Opposed the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission’s Proposed Gas-Fired Power Plant — Which was Later Abandoned by the State. We unanimously passed a resolution (that I co-sponsored) urging Governor Murphy to oppose the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission’s fracked gas-fired power plant. Governor Murphy later abandoned the project — a huge win for the State.
  • Urged the State to Divest from Fossil Fuel Investments. We passed a unanimous resolution (that I co-sponsored) calling on the State of New Jersey to divest from fossil fuel investments in the State’s pension plan within three years, 
  • Stood with the AAPI Community Against Hate. We passed a unanimous resolution(that I co-sponsored) standing with Hoboken’s Asian American and Pacific Islander community against hate, harassment, and violence, in the wake of horrific acts of violence against Atlanta’s Asian community in March.
  • Passed a Ranked Choice “Trigger Ordinance.” We unanimously passed an ordinance (that I co-sponsored) allowing voters to choose whether they would like the option of Ranked-Choice Voting to pick their elected leaders.  Ranked-Choice Voting allows voters to pick their 2nd, 3rd, 4th choices, etc., on election day, which will then create an “instant runoff” without the time, expense, or need for a second election day, guaranteeing that our leaders are elected with a majority of the votes. The Ordinance “triggers” a referendum to issue to Hoboken’s voters at such a time that Trenton allows municipalities to have Ranked-Choice Voting as an option.  Hoboken is the first community in the State to pass such an ordinance and we hope many will follow.

Thanks to The People of Hoboken

Most importantly, thanks to the residents of the 5th Ward and the people of Hoboken. My second year on the City Council has been as challenging and rewarding as the first. I enjoyed reconnecting with many of you as I door-knocked through the year’s campaign season.  

Thanks to so many of you for subscribing to and reading my newsletter, and for sending me your regular, important, thoughtful questions. I appreciate your invaluable feedback. I am energized to serve the City with a new City Council, including re-elected Councilmembers Emily Jabbour and Jim Doyle, and newcomer Joe Quintero, as Mayor Bhalla begins his second term tomorrow. 

It is an honor to serve you.

* * *

COVID-19 Updates 

The daily rate of positive tests in Hoboken is dramatically on the rise. The transmission rate for NJ had been below 1.0 for several months, reflecting that for each person who gets COVID, it is spread to less than one other person. Then, with the spike of the Delta variant, New Jersey’s transmission rate had been at or above 1.0 for some time before dipping back below 1.0 once more. But now with the Omicron variant, New Jersey’s transmission rate has leaped to 1.76

As of December 30th, over 6.4 million New Jerseyans have been fully vaccinated with over 13.4 million doses administered in New Jersey. As of December 27th, Hoboken’s positive test results total 7,322 cases confirmed since the start of the pandemic. In my last newsletter, there were 6,280 positive cases — representing more than 1,000 new cases in Hoboken in just a few weeks.  Please stay vigilant, practice social distancing when necessary, wash your hands, and stay safe. 

In July, we celebrated an extended stretch of 60 days of having no COVID patients at Hoboken University Medical Center (HUMC). Unfortunately, HUMC again has been hospitalizing COVID patients.   Eight COVID patients are now admitted at HUMC, including four Hoboken residents. Seven of the eight patients are unvaccinated. If you have any reason to believe you have been exposed to COVID, please quarantine and then schedule an appointment for a COVID test 5-7 days after potential exposure for those who are fully vaccinated and immediately after for those who are unvaccinated. To find out when you should get tested, click here.

New Mask Mandate for Indoor Facilities 

To help curb the spread of the Omicron variant, starting this past Wednesday morning, Mayor Bhalla and the Office of Emergency Management instated a new face mask requirement at all indoor facilities of public accommodation. Residents and visitors older than 2 years of age will be required to wear a mask or face covering in all public buildings and commercial establishments, except while actively eating or drinking. This mandate applies to all indoor public areas including, but not limited to restaurants, bars, gymnasiums, dance studios, recreation facilities, retail stores, cafes, supermarkets, places of worship, commercial establishments, salons, barbershops, banks, healthcare facilities, and hotels. By implementing this measure, we will create a safer environment for our most vulnerable residents in public places, while ensuring our businesses can remain open. 

You can read more about the City’s mask mandate here.

COVID and Travel 

The CDC has issued travel recommendations for both vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers. All travelers leaving the State should check with the travel destination and transportation carrier (i.e., airline, cruise ship) to see if there are additional health and safety protocols or requirements, such as proof of a negative COVID-19 test within days of departure. Travelers should also check with their employers, schools, and other entities that may have quarantine policies

The CDC recommends delaying your travel until you are fully vaccinated.

Domestic Travel 

The CDC advises that unvaccinated individuals should get tested 1-3 days before their trip, 3-5 days after travel, and stay home and self-quarantine for 7 days after domestic travel. Vaccinated New Jersey residents are no longer required to quarantine when traveling domestically outside the stateFor more information, click here for the CDC’s guidance for domestic travel.

International Travel 

The CDC requires all air passengers arriving in the US from a foreign country to get tested for COVID-19 no more than 1 day before their flight departs and present their negative result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 before boarding the flight. For more details on international travel from the CDC clickhere.

COVID Testing Updates

To get the most current Hoboken COVID testing schedule click here

Free Testing for Hoboken Residents and Business Employees:

601 Jackson Street (Administered by Medicine Man)

Date: Monday to Friday

Time: 9am – 4pm Monday, 9am – 7pm Tuesday, 2 – 8pm Wed/Thurs, 9am – 3pm Friday

Location: 601 Jackson Street 

Type of testing: PCR

Who: Hoboken residents, Hoboken business employees

Link for appointments: http://www.hobokennj.gov/testing

605 Jackson Street (Administered by PromptMD)

Date: Wednesday, Thursday 

Time: 8 am – 1 pm

Location: 605 Jackson Street 

Type of testing: PCR

Who: Hoboken residents, Hoboken business employees

Link for appointments: https://www.hobokennj.gov/testing

605 Jackson Street (Administered by Riverside)

Date: Tuesday

Time: 9 am – 2 pm 

Location: 605 Jackson Street 

Type of testing: Rapid (15 Minute), PCR

Who: Hoboken residents, Hoboken business employees

Link for appointments: https://www.hobokennj.gov/testing

City MD

City MD at 231 Washington Street also offers COVID-19 tests. You can walk in without an appointment and get tested during regular hours. 

COVID Vaccination News 

As of December 30th, nearly 100% of our seniors (65 and older) have received their first dose, and nearly 100% of our seniors are fully vaccinated. Thanks to our seniors for stepping up and protecting themselves and our community!

94% of Hoboken residents 12 and older have been provided with at least one dose, and 81% are fully vaccinated

90% of Hoboken residents 18 and older have been provided with at least one dose, and 78% are fully vaccinated

Nearly 100% of Hoboken residents 30 and older have been provided with at least one dose, and 88% are fully vaccinated.

81% of all Hoboken residents have been provided with at least one dose, and 70% are fully vaccinated.

Mayor Bhalla and the Hoboken Health Department continue collaborating with local providers to offer a free COVID-19 vaccine and booster clinic this week for Hoboken residents and employees of Hoboken businesses at the following location and times:

Walk-in Vaccination Clinics

Where: 605 Jackson Street 

Who: Hoboken residents, Hoboken business employees, Hoboken students

Day: Monday, Tuesday

Time: 10 am – 1 pm (Monday boosters only), 4 pm – 7 pm (Tuesday)

Vaccine Offered: Pediatric Pfizer, and Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J boosters

Ages: 5-11 (Pfizer Pediatric), 18+ (booster) 

Administered By: Medicine Man Pharmacy and Compounding

Link for Appointment: https://www.hobokennj.gov/vaccine

 

Where: 605 Jackson Street 

Who: Hoboken residents, Hoboken business employees, Hoboken students

Day: Monday and Thursday 

Time: 4 pm – 7 pm 

Vaccine Offered: Pediatric Pfizer and Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J boosters

Ages: 5-11 (Pfizer Pediatric), 18+ (booster) 

Administered By: Hoboken Family Pharmacy

Link for Appointment: https://www.hobokennj.gov/vaccine

 

To get current Hoboken information on the City’s vaccination and clinic schedules click here as new information is posted daily. 

Better Life Pharmacy (1000 Washington Street), Hoboken Family Pharmacy (307 1st Street), and Medicine Man Pharmacy and Compounding (511 Washington Street) are also providing the vaccine at their locations during regular business hours. 

If you are a Hoboken resident and would like a copy of your vaccination record, please contact LMedeiros@hobokennj.gov. Vaccination records are also accessible for all New Jersey residents through the Docket app

CVS pharmacies in Hoboken Downtown, Midtown, and Uptown locations also supply the COVID-19 vaccine. Walgreens pharmacies in Hoboken Downtown and its two Uptown locations are also supplying the COVID-19 vaccine. You can also receive the vaccine at the County’s vaccination center in Kearny. Click here to make an appointment. 

If you have any questions or concerns, or if I can be of assistance to you or your family, please do not hesitate to contact me at HobokenPhil@gmail.com. You can always follow me on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram.

Phil Cohen

Hoboken City Councilman

Hoboken, New Jersey

HobokenPhil@gmail.com

(862) 234-9053

P.S. You can learn more about me and my ideas for Hoboken (as well as read this newsletter and my prior newsletters) on my website philcohen.org.