“Toll Brothers doesn’t need the money,” Ms. Sloan said. “I don’t know why anyone would be covering that cost. The question is: How did it happen and why?”
‘Sole cost and expense’
Hoboken’s planning board approved the project in March 2003, leaving no doubt in a resolution that the more than 800-unit luxury development had to include access to the Hudson River with a public park and walkway, city records show.
Within weeks of the approval, Hoboken Mayor Dave Roberts wrote to Mr. Menendez asking for federal funding, but made no mention of any involvement by private developers, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Washington Times.
“This project will construct the final section of North Sinatra Drive and create a single scenic roadway/pedestrian promenade along the entire length of Hoboken’s historic Hudson River waterfront area,” Mr. Roberts wrote.
Mr. Roberts, reached by phone, initially agreed to discuss the project, noting that it recently won a “smart growth” award from a New Jersey advocacy group. Asked about his role in securing federal funding, Mr. Roberts said he would have to research the issue and did not return repeated phone messages.
Within months of Mr. Roberts’ letter, the mayor also signed an agreement with developers to eventually transfer the park and walkway portion of the project to the city. Under terms of that agreement, the developer would - “at its sole cost and expense” - construct a public access walkway and build a waterfront park, records show.
Still, the agreement did nothing to keep the federal earmark from sailing through Congress as Hoboken officials pushed for funding. In a standard appropriations request, later reviewed by Mr. Menendez’s office, officials stated “no” to a question asking whether the project had already received any other sources of funding.
While Congress was poised to set aside money for the walkway, PT Maxwell, a developer of the Maxwell project, hired a lobbying firm in September 2004 that employed Michael Hutton, a longtime congressional aide and former chief of staff to Mr. Menendez.
Mr. Hutton and other lobbyists at Bockorny Petrizzo Inc. contacted the House and Senate on federal transportation funding, among other issues. The firm was paid more than $300,000 in lobbying fees.
Mr. Hutton did not return phone and e-mail messages seeking comment, while an aide in Mr. Menendez’s office said the former staffer’s lobbying doesn’t change the fact that the congressional office wasn’t apprised of the developer’s agreement to build the walkway.
When Mr. Hutton left Bockorny Petrizzo and started his own lobbying firm, PT Maxwell switched from Bockorny Petrizzo to Mr. Hutton’s new firm, Hutton Strategies, which received more than $200,000 in lobbying fees from early 2007 until the relationship ended in June 2008.
The name of the Maxwell Place development - where one-bedroom condos start at nearly $500,000 and town homes at $1.7 million - pays homage to the old coffee factory that occupied the property for a half-century.
As early as 1999, city officials said, they would try to push for grant funding, according to one of the earlier developers of the Maxwell site, Daniel Gans. He said it made sense to secure public funds for the walkway because projects up and down the Hudson riverfront also had received taxpayer funding.View Entire Story
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Jim McElhatton is an investigative reporter for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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