Tag Archives: #MakingLambertvilleBetter

🦊 The Long Twisted $7 Million History of Mayor D and Ely Field

Why would anyone want to be mayor? Well, for one, although it’s practically a volunteer job, it’s a job that’s swimming in money. Is that a “conflict of interest” if your business is construction? It’s a great way to make and use connections, and to direct business to those friends and connections. Even if everything is on “the up and up”, just imagine all the free meals and other “amenities”!!

Our former Mayor D 🦊 claims one of his accomplishments is that he “restored Ely Field”.

Seven million dollars is a conservative estimate for “restoration of Ely Field”, based on the numbers of outlays listed in the source articles (below). Where did that money come from?

The Mayor and council relied greatly on the Lambertville “Open Space” tax, approved at first only for acquiring the Buchanan property. But over and over they went “back to the well”; they revised Open Space to cover other purchases. There were referenda, and strangely the magic words “Ely Field” could insure approval of yet another extension to Open Space, the tax that in the Mayor’s own words, “…was supposed to end when the Buchanan property was paid for”. The gift that keeps on giving! The mayor who claims “we kept taxes down” is responsible for the largest ongoing tax increase in Lambertville History. $300,000 a year, by his own estimate in 2008. And with yearly increases in home assessments, the number keeps going up, and at this writing, in 2021 residents are still paying.

And yes, it wasn’t always the city taxpayers who footed the bill. The Mayor knew how to work the system. Sometimes “the State” stepped in with grants and inexpensive loans and/or forgiveness. But where do state funds come from? The money was spent. It doesn’t grow on trees. Not even on ancient, beautiful old trees. Millions of dollars. If you ever wonder why New Jersey taxes are the highest in the country, look at Ely Field. Because for the amount of money that has been poured into it, it should be made of gold.

(Some might claim offset from rateables or other sources of income for the City in this process, to which I say you could just as easily discover hidden and related costs, overruns, delays, and so on to add to my total.)



He sure didn’t do it alone—and what does “restoration” mean in this case? What’s the whole truth?
It’s a long and complicated story, one that’s difficult to piece together as a whole. Not unlike a popular movie from the 1970’s, and unfortunately ending like a children’s book. I’ve provided an overview with a timeline and sources.

“Ely Field”— Located on Lambertville’s Main Street, donated to the city by the Closson family, is thought by most to be part of the adjacent Lambertville Public School. It is in fact a separate park, once mostly an open field with volleyball/tennis/basketball courts, in recent decades it has become primarily the realm of Little League Baseball and Pop Warner-type football, which together require fences, dugout, goal posts and other constructions which circumscribe portions of the field.

It’s “preservation” or “restoration”—whatever this is—seems to have a lot more to do with the streets and land surrounding the field, than changes to the field itself. This is a tale of streets torn up, streams redirected into pipes, hillsides condemned, 129 homes built, millions and millions of dollars spent, the City burdened with debt, and one beautiful ancient tree destroyed. In the end, Ely Field was “restored”. Whatever that means. In the process Lambertville Got Way Bigger— “Better” is debatable—and we’re still paying for it.

After three years out of office, waging a guerrilla campaign against his successor in the guise of a largely anonymous “whistle blower” group, Mayor D now wants “another chance”. Really? To do what? Repair the parking lot at Ely Field?

Twenty-seven years of this is enough. No more.

Ely Field Restoration, how did it happen? Taking his cues from the movie “Chinatown” and the true story of Mulholland and the development of Southern California’s San Fernando Valley, former Mayor Delvecchio worked for twenty years to develop—which, by his actions, appears to be a synonym with “acquire”—the hillside above Lambertville and to cultivate “Ely Field” below it as his legacy. This, as in the movie, was all accomplished at the expense of others—especially local and state taxpayers.

Drainage – A big chunk of the expense of Ely’s restoration was in fact a long, large, and expensive drainage project. It required the upending of Main Street, the disruptive chopping of trees, modification to sidewalks and widening of Delaware Avenue, all to redirect water via new pipes from the hills above Lambertville and the lowlands behind Ely field and the Lambertville Elementary School, beneath Delaware Avenue, and from there, into the Delaware River.

The project began with some concerns about mismanagement. After a false start with one construction company in 1998, work was halted. The project gained steam with a different company in 2001.

Development – With drainage issues resolved, development became viable, enabling construction of 129 Townhomes on “Lambert’s Hill”. At one point the Mayor expected the high-end homes to contribute 25% to the City’s real estate tax revenue! But gambling relies on chance, and unfortunately, the home developer went bankrupt. The City was saddled with repairs to unfinished roads and sidewalks and legal efforts to recover expenses.

Condemnation – The drainage and Ely Field improvements consisted of many projects over roughly twenty years. In the end, the land above Ely Field was acquired through a “redevelopment” project and condemnation by the City which paid a controversial amount for the properties. The dollar figures accumulated over that time are staggering, roughly $7 Million*.

Almost as staggering, the number of times “improvements to parking at Ely Field” are listed as part of the projects, (long time residents will know that Ely Field parking issues are still a problem.)

“Fiinal” improvements to Ely Field, spearheaded by The Friends of Ely Park, are not listed here, as these occurred into 2019, after Del Vecchio had left office, but details of “the expensive fence” (as some call it), snack shack, improved bathrooms and artwork are available online . Was the skateboard ramp promised at one City meeting ever built? I don’t see that mentioned anywhere.

The Giving Tree – Sadly, I mark the end of the project with the destruction of one of the oldest and largest trees in Lambertville, the two-hundred plus year old London Planetree, which had the misfortune of being located at the Center Field used by the high priority Little League, and was chopped down with neither warning nor ceremony in 2014. Friends of Ely Park created a project to memorialize the tree in woodworking art, calling it “The Giviing Tree”. Ironically the name derives from the title of Shel Silverstein’s book about a boy who continuously, persistently, and selfishly over many years takes everything from the tree, until all that’s left is a stump.

The Truth is Out There

— Christo

The timeline below is an outline of the events, and may include other activities and projects from the same period. The information is all taken from public sources, which are linked, and may reflect inaccuracies on the part of those sources.


TIMELINE & SOURCES

1992Mayor Del Vecchio begins his first term as Mayor of Lambertville. (After living in town for 2 years.)

1997 Jan. David Delvecchio joins Joseph Jingoli & Son
In “Business Development” at Joseph Jingoli & Son, Inc. “JINGOLI is a nationally ranked contractor / construction manager with 95 years of experience servicing power, industrial, healthcare, gaming and educational clientele.”

https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-delvecchio-64aa9517b/
https://www.linkedin.com/company/joseph-jingoli-&-son-inc./

1998 – Ely Field/Delaware Avenue Drainage Project (pt. 1) – First Contractor starts and fails in beginning of drainage project, cannot complete a tunnel under Main Street. Work halted.

2001 – Ely Field Improvements, phase 1 to cost approx. $175,000, requires drainage, includes parking improvements.

https://archive.centraljersey.com/2001/04/18/rec-group-unveils-plans-for-ely-field/

2001 – 2002 – Ely Field/Delaware Avenue Drainage Project (pt. 2) “Contractor Carbo (sic) https://carbroconstructors.com/leadership/ awarded $4.7 MILLION to complete:

  • Delaware Ave. drainage from Ely Field to Delaware river.
  • Connaught Hill through the Delaware drain – State funds additional $300,000 to fund drainage.
  • Alexander Ave. runoff—Left to be completed: from Phillips Barber tie-in to Delaware Ave. drain.

https://archive.centraljersey.com/2002/04/17/delaware-avenue-drainage-project-nears-completion/

2004 – Referendum passes for “Open Space” tax, 2 cents for every $100 of assessed value”, for the sole purpose of preserving (acquiring) the Buchanan property behind Ely Field.

2005
February – City begins planning of Redevelopment of Connaught Hill (includes Buchanan properties).

https://archive.centraljersey.com/2005/02/23/tenants-vacant-lot-owners-concerned-about-condemnation/

June$400,000 DEP Grant goes toward $1.4 Million purchase of Buchanan property.

“The city also might be able to reduce the total to be raised by another $250,000. That’s the amount of a loan Green Acres made to the city, originally intended for improvements to Ely Field. The city now has asked permission to shift the money to the open space purchase, Mayor Del Vecchio said.”

In the meantime, Ely Field will not be left bereft of improvements. The city has received a $50,000 Livable Communities Grant from the DEP for the field’s improvements.

The funds could go toward “improved bathrooms, getting more playground equipment, a whole bunch of things,” Mayor Del Vecchio said.”

https://archive.centraljersey.com/2005/06/29/city-to-use-grant-for-land-buy/

2007 – July – 16.5 Acre Buchanan property purchased for $1.4 Million, (ONLY $575,000 from local taxpayers using “Open Space tax” after 3 “Green Acres” grants—paid for by state taxpayers et al.)

2008 – City tries to buy 1 lot of 1.082 acres at Jean Street at Music Mountain, referred to as “the McCann property”. (To be payed for by modifying the purpose of the “Open Space tax” in referendum).

https://archive.centraljersey.com/2008/03/26/city-wants-to-acquire-jean-tract/

“The point is, the last referendum was so specific it pertained only to the Buchanan property,” Mayor Del Vecchio said. “It was supposed to end when the Buchanan property was paid for.” – In other words, the Mayor changed a short-term “Open Space tax” in to a PERMANENT “Open Space Tax”, which residents continue to pay in 2021.

“The city collects about $300,000 a year from a 2-cent open space tax voters approved in 2004 for the purchase of the Buchanan property at $1.4 million.”

Lambertville voters agreed in 2008 to expand the purpose of the tax. The tax remains at 2 cents per $100 of assessed property value, but the voters approved the city’s use of the tax for maintenance of parks and open space as well as the purchase of the 1.082 acres of undeveloped land that is referred to as the McCann property.

https://archive.centraljersey.com/2009/11/11/lambertville-officials-seek-state-money-for-mccann-land-buy/

2010City plans, purchases North Union half acre lot from Allied Village Square for $200,000 using funds from City’s Open Space tax. (The tax at this time is halved to 1 cent per $100 of assessed property value, at the discretion of Council.) In a survey, residents suggest it be used as a dog park or an open space farm market, the Mayor states his preference of a public Bocci Ball Court. The unfinished site comes to be known as “Cherry Street Park”, used as a pay parking lot by the American Legion(?) during the annual Shad Festival.

https://archive.centraljersey.com/2010/08/26/question-should-city-buy-plot-2/

https://archive.centraljersey.com/2013/07/25/lambertville-north-union-project-open-space-buy-ready-to-go/

2012 – South Franklin Street Drainage Project
Lambertville city council unanimously approved borrowing $795,000 for the South Franklin Street drainage project and for improvements at Ely Field.

“The New Jersey Department of Transportation and the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission are giving the city $170,000 and $248,365 respectively for the projects on a reimbursement basis, according to Mayor David DelVecchio.”

“The bond ordinance council approved Monday will pay for construction and materials for drainage improvements to South Franklin Street, which DelVecchio said would help drainage problems on Main Street. The city will also repair the parking lot at Ely Field and install new light poles and fixtures for the field.”

https://www.lehighvalleylive.com/hunterdon-county/express-times/2012/07/post_18.html

2004 – 2012 Lambert’s HillConveniently for someone… this hill, formerly owned by the Closson family, could be DEVELOPED because drainage issues which would have made it impossible, have been (or will be) resolved and paid for by state and local taxpayers. Considered a jackpot by Del Vecchio, because the 129 homes “provide the city with 25 percent of its real estate tax revenue”. But then the developer went bankrupt, leaving unfinished roads and sidewalks, and the City had to help BAIL them out. At what cost? Unclear.

https://www.nj.com/mercer/2011/08/residents_of_lamberts_hill_dev.html

In 2012, Del Vecchio reluctantly turned over a “performance bond” check for $147,000 to the Lambert’s Hill homeowner’s association after the development was approved by the city Planning Board. (The photo is worth seeing.)

https://archive.centraljersey.com/2012/07/26/lambertville-lamberts-hill-can-finish-needed-projects/

2013 – City Condemns, pays $750,000 for “McCann tract” , agrees to pay $750,000 for land appraised at $410,000. The “McCann property” now consists of 2 lots for a total of 6.7 acres. Controversy over condemnation, appraisal, agreed price.

https://www.nj.com/hunterdon-county-democrat/2013/04/discussion_of_condemnation_for.html

City passes ordinance to pay for McCann property. “The ordinance covers $750,000 for the appraised value of the property, plus $15,000 for fees incurred for getting the ordinance ready for the council.”

https://archive.centraljersey.com/2013/06/27/lambertville-mccann-property-to-be-kept-as-open-space/

2014 – Huge London Planetree Felled, over 200 years old, cut down to clear Center Field for Little League Baseball at Ely. To be commemorated as lumber for artists.

https://friendsofelypark.org/wp-content/uploads/The-Giving-Tree-Project.pdf

🦊 Mayor D Endorsed by Booker?!

Reactions- Wha? Why? Who cares?

Mayor D’s web site announces that Mayor D is endorsed by popular NJ Senator Cory Booker. The endorsement reads like it was written by D or one of his minions. There’s even a picture with the Senator’s arm around D’s back! (Not a great idea, given D’s health issues.)

The D Campaign must believe that Mayor D’s political allies, back-room deals, and connections to big money and big businesses and the “Democratic Machine” after 27 Years as a PROFESSIONAL POLITICIAN is something that the average Lambertville resident would like to see obfuscating the transparency of local government once again. How well does Booker know D? Well, you could ask…

How enthusiastic is the endorsement? You might want to read it from a Cory Booker source, just to be sure. If you Google “Cory Booker” and “endorses”, you’ll see lots of endorsements, but nothing about Mayor D. So let’s go direct to Senator Booker’s web site and search for Mayor D there.

Here’s what you get:


But there is a photo, right?

That’s right. There’s a photo of Mayor D with Sen. Booker from the Senator’s Twitter feed from August of 2016. (That would be, almost five years ago.) And let’s remember, that was back before D, as he claims, “became a better person” in ways, as yet, not revealed to the public. Does Cory know “the old D” or “the new D”? Or does he know the difference?

How well does Senator Booker really know Mayor D?

Does he know that Mayor D was a big proponent of using “inmate labor” to haul trash, to keep down costs of the City’s overworked, underfunded and mis-managed Public Works Department? -It’s not that CONVICT LABOR is a BAD THING, well maybe it is… Or that it’s a RACIST THING, well maybe it is… But it sure helped to keep our City Public Works expenses down!! And that’s a GOOD THING. Right?

The next time you see Mayor D, or Senator Booker, ask him what his feelings are about convict labor and the 13th Amendment, and if he supports it.


Meanwhile, you might consider how the strangest, ugliest, and most untruthful bits of information conveniently come out at the very end of a political campaign, when there is only a week or two left before the election to prove or disprove the controversy, lie, or accusation. (Residents know, there is no viable Republican candidate for Lambertville Mayor. The election is determined by the Primary.) I’m actually talking here about Mayor D’s latest (of way too many) campaign flyers, and what he suggests, implies, or states about his opponent, and about the current mayor. And this is how D runs. And how he helps his minions run. And how he ran the City. Usually some truth, but rarely the whole truth.

Like stating his total support for a marijuana dispensary—allegedly because the City voted overwhelmingly for legalization of marijuana. Did the residents vote overwhelmingly to have a large, traffic-producing, odorous complex on the canal path? No. A supposedly huge jackpot of tax money to bail out Mayor D’s previous gambles and legacy of debt? No. I don’t think they were voting for an Alcohol Distributor, already wealthy enough to silo the prime River Horse property for TEN YEARS, to cash in on our little town with the help of Mayor D. Was that what the referendum was for??

Just sayin’.

He is the 🦊 fox and your City is the henhouse. Do you really want him back??

— Christo

🦊 Mayor D and The City’s Unmanaged Green Can Program

Another of Mayor D’s so-called “accomplishments” – The Green Can Compost program, GREAT IDEA, which potentially brought income into the City, but instead cost the taxpayers. Once nominally in place, the program was essentially abandoned, running on auto-pilot with existing participants.

What was ignored, unmanaged, undone??

  • Promotion of and communication about the program (What was it? Half the city had no idea!!)
  • Additional applicants-The web page said people could participate, but no, you couldn’t.
  • Contamination issues – Plastic dog poop bags, cans, and bottles do not go into compost, and pedestrians kept dropping these and other items into the green cans sitting at the curb awaiting pickup.
  • Pickup schedules and non-pickup by Public Works – Was your restaurant pickup 3 days a week? 2 days? What if the truck never comes?
  • …and of course there were issues with the maintenance of the vehicle(s) used for pick-up.

—these issues were all un-budgeted and left to simmer and be solved “down the road” by the next administration. From the New Hope Gazette:

In addition to the parking concerns, there was alarming news about the city’s curbside compost program. The city lost its contract with the current compost collection company. Business administrator Alex Torpey secured a short term deal with Waste Management, so the collection on Mondays will remain uninterrupted.

Fahl asked Torpey to detail why the contract was terminated and Torpey said, “In our compost stream, there was a lot of material that can’t be in the compost, some actually that can’t be in the regular trash which included things like bleach containers, broken glass, a coffee pot, metal forks, a bag of ice melt … which ended up seeping into the entire load and contaminating everything.” The city has since posted photos to their Facebook page.

Torpey mentioned this, along with the market for regular recycling, as a “wake up call,” and indicated the city is in conversation with other municipalities and farms and hoped that a permanent solution could be “really local,” mentioning that Princeton borough’s composting initiative had trucks hauling compost all the way to Delaware.

— Read on www.newhopefreepress.com/2019/06/21/parking-concerns-dominate-lambertville-june-governing-body-meeting/

Think long and hard before you put another fox back into the henhouse. A mayor of 27 years doesn’t need another chance to show us what he can do. We have some notion of what he can do. If you don’t, read about it. The truth is out there.

—Christo

🙄 “Making Lambertville Better” & “Stopping Over-Development” are only Acceptable if Achieved by LU & Former/Incoming Councilman Stegman

LU’s Supposed “Survey” about Closson Farm Leads you to Oppose It

Lambertville Mayor Julia Fahl, proposes that the City purchase the Closson Property and protect it before it becomes another tract of houses and condos on one of the last remaining open spaces in Lambertville. Her proposal includes purchase using existing funds and partners to limit the taxpayer cost to .63/household/year. (That’s cents.) Housing conversion estimates of the idyllic and historic farm vary from 12 units (current zoning) to 28 units (with variances). The property is currently on the market and could be purchased by a developer at any time. (See the City’s FAQ.)

Self-proclaimed “watchdog group” and 1st Amendment advocates “Lambertville United” apparently think this is a bad ideaespecially if it is done before former Council Person Steve Stegman returns to his seat on the Council. Stegman you may recall, after many years on Council, and serving as Council President, resigned “to spend more time with his family” when the Fahl administration’s budget work revealed years of mismanagement, incompetence, and hidden costs in City budgets resulting in a crushing debt burden for at least the next ten years. (Many details available on the City web site.) With the endorsement and support of LU, Stegman, and his conveniently-named running mate, Benedetta Lambert, won election, returning the fox to the henhouse starting in 2021.

In mid-November, the “watchdog group” distributed a “survey” requesting feedback on “the Mayor’s Closson Farm” proposal.

I have screenshotted the entire survey (LU Closson Survey Questions) if you would rather not subject yourself to the trackers associated with it.

As in previous “surveys” from the Stegman, er, LU group, the very leading questions are intended to rile and misinform people about an issue, as opposed to actually getting feedback. Please read the City’s FAQ first.

For example the first real question in the survey begins with:

“In the past, all City of Lambertville purchases blah, blah were put to a vote through public referendum…”

REALLY? ALL? IS THAT TRUE? I’m not sure that is really true. Are we talking about the hills above Ely Field? Maybe this just doesn’t seem right due to the way it is phrased, because:

“Voters in November 2008 approved, by almost a 3-1 margin, extending the city’s open space tax, in part to purchase the McCann tract.”—NJ.com, (see link following)

BUT that referendum was not specifically on the purchase of the tract, it was about extending the tax.

The City condemned the hillside above Ely field, so technically the City didn’t purchase it, the city was obligated to pay market value, and you might recall there was a big controversy because the City paid way more than market value…another of Dave and Steve’s expensive adventures requiring a Google search to reveal the details: <https://www.nj.com/hunterdon-county-democrat/2013/04/discussion_of_condemnation_for.html>

But was there a referendum about every other purchase?

Nevertheless, the “survey” doesn’t let me say, “You idiots, the Clossons aren’t going to wait for your stupid referendum, time is clearly of the essence!”

And the next question leads with assuming higher taxes, bonds, and debt, and uses the term “redevelopment” without mentioning “open space” or “historic preservation” or even suggesting that there are some creative options for buying the property. (Again, I suggest you read the FAQ—the truth is out there.)

Someone needs to ask LU to be honest about what they really want, because when you offer them something that—based on their anonymous public statements, press releases, and lawn signs all over town—it seems we all could agree on, their concerns appear to be way more about personalities than issues or facts. It would be good to get clear on that.

But, uh, oh yeah, they don’t have any names on their web site. You can’t actually talk to anyone from LU. They’re not a public non-profit. They’re a secret society. Darn.

If you’d like to participate in the City’s public discussion of the topic, where speakers are required to reveal their identities, the meeting is Monday evening…

https://www.lambertvillenj.org/component/dpcalendar/event/2011

Peace out,

— Christo