If there’s one thing I know about Hoboken, it’s that we are a resilient city. Several years ago, we stood together to rebuild after Superstorm Sandy, and today we’re doing just that in our response to COVID-19. I know we’ll remain #HobokenStrong as we get through this pandemic.

To keep you updated, here are some highlights of some important updates over the past few weeks. As always, to stay up to date through our regular alerts, please subscribe at hobokennj.gov/alerts.

Business Recovery Plan

I’m pleased to share that last week, we introduced a plan to allow our small businesses to maximize outdoor space with expanded sidewalk cafes, shared spaces, and open streets to safely accommodate customers. When Governor Murphy eventually allows business to gradually re-open, we are committed to ensuring they can provide enough outdoor space to allow for as much social distancing as possible, taking into account an anticipated reduction in indoor capacity. With Hoboken  the fourth densest municipality in the entire country, we need to think outside the box to proactively maximize the space that we currently have.

Take a look at NBC’s coverage of our business recovery plan:

Saving the Office of Constituent Services

A critical, frontline response to COVID-19 has come from our Office of Constituent Services, led by Caroline Caulfield and Migdalia Pagan Milano. Together they’ve assisted over 1,000 residents in need during the pandemic. This includes helping residents with unemployment, coordinating over 200 volunteers to pack meals for seniors, and more. That’s why I’m extremely disappointed that the City Council introduced an ordinance to abolish this office, which would jeopardize the City’s efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I hope you take time to read the passionate plea from Monsignor Michael Andreano from Saints Peter and Paul, who said it best: “Such an action would be an abomination, negatively affecting our citizens of Hoboken most in need and most vulnerable. The voice of the poor, low-income tenants, those with disabilities, senior citizens, etc, have as their instrument, Ms. Caulfied through the aforementioned office.”

I ask residents to please contact Councilmembers DeFusco, Falco, Russo and Ramos, who have sponsored the ordinance or actively expressed support in eliminating the office.

Hoboken Relief Fund – $100,000 raised in one night!

I’m happy to share that our Hoboken Relief Fund, established to benefit small businesses and individuals who have been hit hard due to COVID-19, raised over $100,000 at its first “love local” concert! I’m extremely grateful to all of the performers, to Council President Jen Giattino, Phil Cohen, Geri Fallo and all the board members and organizers who helped us achieve this first milestone.

If you missed the concert, click here to view it on facebook. It’s not too late help, click here to make a donation for the fund. If you’d like to help us with a community-based fundraiser for the fund, please feel free to send me an email.

Keeping our seniors safe

We continue to take proactive measures to keep our most vulnerable population safe. We served over 68,000 meals to our seniors to help save them trips to the supermarket, and took the initiative to test nearly 400 seniors for COVID-19 by going door-to-door, thanks to our partnership with Prompt MD and Dr. Javed Islam.

Expanding COVID-19 and antibody testing

One major reason that Hoboken has risen to the challenge as it relates to our COVID-19 response is thanks to our robust testing. I’m extremely appreciative to Dr. Brahmbhatt and Riverside Medical for continuing to provide COVID-19 testing to Hoboken residents. We were one of the first cities in the entire state to provide testing to any resident, regardless of symptoms, along with results within 15 minutes. The rapid results are a major benefit to our city, as it eliminates periods of uncertainty and delays in contact tracing until a positive test is confirmed. We have been ahead of the curve, and our robust testing is one major reason why. As a reminder, if you need a test, please call 201-420-5621 to our hotline Monday through Saturday, 9 am until 5 pm.

We also opened up our antibody testing site today, with over 750 residents scheduled to be tested, and nearly 5,000 residents signed up online. To help fill the demand, we added two additional testing dates in June. If you are a Hoboken resident, you can sign up for an antibody test by visiting http://www.hobokennj.gov/antibody. If you don’t have health insurance, the City will pay for the cost of your test. Thank you to Dr. Javed Islam from Prompt MD and Keith Barksdale from Power Analytics for helping make this possible for our residents.

Open Streets for social distancing

In a city as dense as Hoboken, social distancing can be a challenge, especially for families. That’s why we introduced for the first time, pilot “open streets” on residential streets, Jefferson Street and Adams Street over the past two weekends. This provides a comfortable and socially distant environment to enjoy the fresh air outdoors, and I’m glad to see hundreds of residents enjoy it. Although there can be improvements, overall I believe the program has been a success and we’ll look to replicate this on various streets in the weeks to come.

In addition to emailing me, please do not hesitate to contact Caroline from our Office of Constituent Services should you need assistance on any City or COVID-19 related matter, at ccaulfield@hobokennj.gov.

Sincerely,

Ravi S. Bhalla