Hamilton Street Business Advisory Board Members Picked By Township Council

Hamilton street discussion1

Deputy Mayor Brian Regan (D-At large) submitted the names for consideration as members of the new Hamilton Street Advisory Board.

All but one of the 11 members of the nascent Hamilton Street Advisory Board were named April 22 by the Township Council, although the final picks were not unanimous.

The 10 names were drawn from a list of 15 business owners and residents of the Hamilton Street business district. The district runs from about Franklin Boulevard to near the New Brunswick border.

Five of those named to the new board also served as trustees of the former Hamilton Street Business and Community Corporation, which was dissolved last year after it was found that the trustees had not held required elections in more than a decade.

Slots to be filled on the advisory board were four property owners, four business owners, two residents and one at-large person. The council decided to stagger the terms – 1-, 2- and 3-year durations – so all 11 members wouldn’t be up for re-appointment at the same time.

Those named to the advisory board and their initial terms of office are:

One-YearProperty Owner: Dean Adi
Business Owner: Michael Gianotto
At-Large: James Yeh
Resident: To be determined

Property Owner: Timothy Kelly
Business Owners: Vincent Pecce and Andrea Barratt
Resident: Pat Gianotto

Property Owners: Ed Chandler and Remi Onashile
Business Owner: Geneva Hall

Deputy Mayor Brian Regan – one of four members of an ad hoc committee which created the advisory board and picked its members – said only one person – Pat Gianotto – applied for the two residents’ slots. He said more outreach would be done to find a second resident willing to serve on the board.

Onashile, Pat Gianotto, Hall, Pecce and Yeh were veteran members of the former organization’s board of trustees. An investigation conducted late last year by township manager Bob Vornlocker showed that the trustees were not legitimately constituted because the body had not held an election in more than 10 years.

That meant that all actions taken by the board – including the hiring of former township Mayor and U.S. Congressman Michael Pappas as executive director, were void.

The corporation was formed in the mid-2000s after the Hamilton Street commercial area was designated a Special Improvement District. All businesses in the district contributed to a fund which amounted to about $80,000 a year. The money was targeted for renovations and other improvements to the district, as well as cultural and other events designed to raise the business district’s profile in the community.

As an SID, the district needs a District Management Corporation. That job was recently taken over by the Township Council and will be finalized next month after the expected passage on second reading of an amended ordinance establishing the terms for the advisory board members.

The new board will act in an advisory manner to the council when it serves as the DMC. All final decisions rest with the council.

Councilman James Vassanella (D-Ward 5) unsuccessfully tried to get a sixth former trustee on the advisory board. Vassanella wanted to replace Adi with Art Latanzio because, he said, of Latanzio’s long-term investment in the Hamilton Street area.

“His family has been involved in the town for many years,” Vassanella said. “He invested in Hamilton Street when others didn’t.”

Adi, he said, is a relative newcomer to the area, although he does own four properties on the street.

Adi has made a “sizable” investment in Hamilton Street, Vornlocker said.

“Mr. Adi comes as perhaps new blood,” he said.

That sat well with Councilman Carl R.A. Wright (D-Ward 4).

“That’s why I liked Mr. Adi, because he brings in new blood,” Wright said. “If he’s going to spend money on Hamilton Street, I’ve got to have him on board.”

When the council finally voted on that particular slot, only Vassanella voted for Latanzio.

Others who applied but were not picked for the board were Victor Fakondo, Rajeh Saadeh, Nicholas Kehayas and David Rubin.

The amendment to the advisory board ordinance introduced at the April 22 meeting simply established term lengths for the board members. It will be voted on next month, after which time the members will take their positions.

The board’s first task, Regan said, will be to create a set of bylaws and determine how it wishes to be governed.

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