Monthly Archives: July 2009

Trenton to receive millions for South Warren & Market improvements

TRENTON, NJ – The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission has approved a $5,309,800 grant reallocation to the City of Trenton for improvements to South Warren Street and Market Streets.

The grant is from the Commission’s $40 million Compact Authorized Investment (CAI) program, which provides funding to local municipalities for transportation-related improvement projects within the Commission’s Pennsylvania/New Jersey river-region jurisdiction. The goal of the grant program is to ease congestion and improve traffic conditions on and around the Commission’s bridges and approach roadways.

“The commission created this grant program to fund needed transportation improvements in local communities that host our bridges,” said Frank G. McCartney, Executive Director of the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission. “This project developed by Trenton is designed to improve pedestrian safety, reduce congestion and improve traffic flow for area residents.”

The grant would be used to finance the Market and South Warren Streets Boulevard Project. The undertaking would consist of pedestrian-friendly streetscape improvements on Warren Street from the Lafayette Square Marriott to the Route 1 and on Market Street from Route 29 to Mercer Street. Under the city’s plans, the intersection of Warren and Market streets would be reconstructed and a roundabout would be constructed at the intersection of Livingston and Warren Streets. Traffic signals along Warren and Market streets would be reviewed and retimed to allow for more efficient progression of traffic along these routes.

The grant is a reallocation of an earlier $5,309,800 award that the Commission approved in September 2005.  The original grant was to be used to reconstruct South Warren Street through the Justice Center parking lot to the Commission’s Lower Trenton Toll-Supported Bridge. But the city abandoned that project in the fall of last year.

Trenton officials say the newer boulevard project, which has been in development for a number of years, could be completed sooner than the previous project.

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Musings on the aftermath of “Corruption Thursday”

Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano’s decision – at least for now – to remain in office despite the corruption charges he faces in connection with “Corruption Thursday” comes as no surprise.

This rising star of the Democratic Party – a newly-minted Hoboken mayor in his early 30s, rich, powerful, and set as the protégé of Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s personal friend and adviser, Angelo Genova – certainly has the most to lose among those netted in this shocker of an FBI investigation.

For Trentonians who don’t think they know this Cammarano guy, it should be remembered that Mr. Cammarano was in court with Mr. Genova during the Santiago residency affair.

Mr. Genova and Mr. Cammarano unsuccessfully defended Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer in the case, which saw the two high-powered attorneys argue that Mayor Palmer, by virtue of his office, has the right to suspend ordained conditions of employment at will.

Turning to the shockwaves of Mr. Cammarano’s fall from grace, and that of the rest of his co-defendants, it can be said with assurance that his arrest certainly damages Gov. Corzine’s chances of reelection, similary to the resignation of state Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Joe Doria.

While Gov. Corzine has not been linked to any of the actual corruption, the fall of Mr. Cammarano and Mr. Doria will only reinforce just how bad corruption is in this state to the public, who will be forced to consider just how ineffective Gov. Corzine has been in dealing with the issue.

Add to that Republic Chris Christie’s demonstrated effectiveness in fighting graft, and you have a recipe for Democratic disaster in this year’s election.

It’s no wonder people are wondering aloud about replacing Jon’s name on the ticket with that of Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

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Mayors of ‘Boken, Secaucus, and others nabbed in FBI sweep

A far-reaching FBI probe swept up more than 30 people this morning including Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano, Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell, Jersey City Council President Mariano Vega and Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini, The Star-Ledger reported.

The probe apparently originated with an FBI and IRS investigation into money transfers being made between Syrian Jewish communities in Brooklyn and New Jersey, where some morning raids targeted Ocean County synagogues and Jewish schools, according to the report.

Also arrested this morning was Ocean Township Mayor Daniel Van Pelt, a sitting assemblyman who was one of the few Republicans swept up in the wave of arrests.

The Trenton offices of Joseph Doria, the sitting commissioner of the state Department of Community Affairs and a former 12-term assemblyman, state senator, and speaker of the state Assembly were also raided, as was his home.

Mayor Cammarano, who works at the political powerhouse law firm of Genova, Burns & Vernoia in Newark, helped defend Mayor Douglas H. Palmer during the lawsuit over former Police Director Joseph Santiago’s residency.

In regards to the arrest of a Hoboken Housing Authority officer last week due to bribery Mr. Cammarano said, “This Administration has a clear-cut, zero tolerance policy against any violation of the public trust and I am calling for Housing Authority Commissioner Claveria to resign his position with the Hoboken Housing Authority immediately.”

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Christie picks Guadagno

Republican candidate for governor Chris Christie has tapped Monmouth County Sheriff Kim Guadagno as his running mate and Lieutenant Governor candidate for the 2009 election.

During the announcement, which was made by video via the candidate’s social networking sites, Mr. Christie said “Times are tough and the issues are too serious not to be tackling our state’s problems head on. We just cannot afford to do it any other way. That’s why you’ll see Kim and I all across the state of New Jersey whether it’s on their front porches or in diners, talking directly to you, the people of New Jersey about your problems and your concerns.”

The two running mates have a Monday campaign schedule that includes an announcement event in Asbury Park.

Later, the two will make a stop at The Reo Diner in Woodbridge.

The day’s final stop is at a front yard meet and greet at the home of Garfield Councilwoman Tana Raymond, a Democrat.

The sitting governor, Democrat Jon S. Corzine, has yet to announce his pick for lieutenant governor yet.

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Deadly force was justified

Official police accounts of the circumstances that resulted in the shooting death of Lonnie Newton Wednesday night mean Trenton police were certainly justified in using deadly force in response to the imminent threat Mr. Newton posed to him and his fellow officers on Stuyvesant Avenue.

Mr. Newton, who reportedly discarded a now missing handgun during a footchase, repeatedly threatened Trenton police officers with a large kitchen knife and slashed another officer on the leg.

Later he advanced on Officer Yem Delgado, still brandishing the knife, immediately prior to Officer Delgado’s decision to open fire on the Trenton resident. Officer Delgado’s aim was true – all three rounds he squeezed off struck the suspect, killing Mr. Newton, according to The Times of Trenton.

I actually had the good fortune of meeting Officer Delgado one night while walking through the Mill Hill section of the city, where he was posted following an incident in which several city kids spray-painted gang-related graffiti throughout the neighborhood.

Officer Delgado, who said he was slightly tired after working several double shifts in a row, seemed like a well-meaning, competent officer, so it is unfortunate to think that he was forced into taking the life of another this week.

Then again, it is good to know that Trenton has a group of police officers who are always vigilant and always cognizant of the rules governing their profession, such as when it acceptable to use deadly force.

For the rest of us, this incident is a reminder that it is never acceptable to threaten anyone with physical violence, and especially not an armed police officer.

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Stage set for water appeal

Judge Linda S. Feinberg may have sided with the City of Trenton in court on Monday but the battle over the city’s planned $80 million sale of Trenton Water Works infrastructure is far from over.

The Monday ruling, like Judge Feinberg’s original ruling earlier this year, leaves open a host of issues that could be the subject of a lengthy appeal process that may take the city well into 2010.

Perhaps the most serious issue in the ruling is its failure to seriously consider whether or not state law governing water utility sales truly prohibits citizens from circulating petitions and protesting sale ordinances.

The New Jersey Supreme Court overturned Judge Feinberg on a similar issue in 2007 when they ruled that all ordinances are subject to protest petition and referendum actions after Judge Feinberg initially invalidated a petition that sought to put a police department reorganization ordinance to a public vote.

In their ruling the Supreme Court justices said quite explicitly that any and all ordinances should be subject to referendum, in a decision that would seem to place ordinances memorializing the sale of water utilities in the category of measures subject to protest.

In addition to this, issues over whether or not the water system set to be sold serves more than 5 percent of Trenton residents and technical questions that need answering remain unaddressed.

There are roughly 18 days remaining for the filing of a timely appeal notice, which would kick off a process that takes up to two years to resolve under normal circumstances.

The city, however, could request an expedited schedule.

But even then any Appellate Division proceedings could take nine months or more to be resolved.

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Water fight back in court today

The Trenton Water Works battle will resume today when Mercer County Superior Court Judge Linda S. Feinberg hears arguments in court.

Based on today’s proceedings she will decide whether to reverse an earlier decision invalidating a citizens’ petition that sought to put Trenton’s $80 million sale of water works infrastructure to a public vote.

Citizens argue that their petition was valid because the infrastructure sale was subject to protest referendum since the infrastructure in question provides service to many city residents.

Also, they have taken the position that the Faulkner Act, the state statute that outlines Trenton’s form of government, does not expressly prohibit the protest of ordinances memorializing water utility sales as the other side has argued.

Lawyers for the city and New Jersey American Water Co., a foreign-owned private water company known as “The Wal-Mart of Water” because of massive size, poor service and frequent rate hikes, argue that the sale involves infrastructure that does not serve city residents and is therefore not subject to referendum.

Although both sides made use of water utility experts to argue their positions, none of those experts will be in court today since both sides agreed to holding a hearing based on previously submitted paper testimony.

City and water company lawyers plan on arguing that the citizen expert’s conclusion that the water system being sold provides pressure to 58 percent of city residents represents misuse of data contained in a report on separating the city system from piping and towers in the surrounding suburbs.

Citizens’ lawyer Jim Manahan, however, argues that the expert report’s conclusion that the system serves 58 of city residents is valid and means the sale is subject to referendum. In court papers he has also argued that nowhere in state law is there a prohibition on a citizens’ protest of a water utility sale, as city lawyers have argued.

Judge Feinberg said she plans on providing an oral opinion to the parties Wednesday morning.

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