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Spending millions

In early December 2007, the Hoboken City Council met to approve what might have seemed like a formality: spending millions of dollars in federal funds for the Sinatra walkway.

At the meeting, Peter Cammarano, then a council member who had worked as an attorney on Mr. Menendez’s 2006 Senate campaign, said the federal funds came about when “Sen. Lautenberg and congressman Menendez put an earmark into a piece of federal legislation that was the [Department of Transportation] bill. … The grant money was then available to the city to subsequently put in an application.”

Cammarano, who later became mayor, resigned from office last year just weeks after he was sworn into office and after his arrest on corruption charges. He has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.

By contrast, former Hoboken community development officer Fred Bado said in a phone interview that the city applied for the money first, then Congress came through with the funds. He said the city sought federal money because project developers had agreed to transfer the land to the city.

“Because it was going to be a public park, they asked if we would apply for public money to help with the development of that park, and the city agreed to attempt to do that,” he said.

He also suggested work on one section of the project to rehabilitate a pier on the waterfront might not have been as extensive without the federal money. Still, despite the absence of any city tax dollars involved, several council members voted against awarding the federally funded construction contracts.

One council member, quoted in a Jersey Journal newspaper article covering the meeting, said, “We could have taken the stance, ‘Hey, you were relieved of an obligation and you should try to ingratiate yourself to the community and making a contribution elsewhere.”