In an email distributed to Hoboken residents late Thursday afternoon, Mayor Bhalla called for inclusion, civility, and respect for shared values, commented on recent incidents of racism and intolerance, and discussed death threats he had received in Hoboken.
Here is his unedited statement:
“I’ll get straight to it. I write today to raise an admittedly unpleasant topic, but one that I think needs to be raised as we all work together to make Hoboken a better place to live, work, and raise a family.
As you may have heard, my friends, neighbors, and colleagues were sent several unsolicited and unwanted packages to our homes that contained racially charged, sexually explicit, and threatening messages [from local resident Matt Majer], all connected to local politics. And, last year, my family opened the mail to read multiple death threats that had been made against us. These threats were investigated by law enforcement who continue to diligently pursue the person(s) who made them.
^ Death threat documented and submitted by the City of Hoboken. It is still under investigation.
Let me be clear. Hoboken is a welcoming, inclusive community. Over the years we have all worked in concrete ways to ensure that remains true. Together we define what it means to live in Hoboken, and together we continue to visibly remain true to our highest ideals as a community and nation.
Because Hoboken is so welcoming, I believe remaining silent when we fall short of our ideals is not an option. I write to share this information as means of public education and to make clear that here in Hoboken, we will both hold perpetrators accountable and work to immediately reaffirm that inclusion, civility, and respect are shared values. Political discourse in our nation is often deeply divisive, one side will not talk to the other and even demonize “the other side”, but it does not have to be that way.
I believe in Hoboken we have shown that when it matters, we find ways to talk to each other, even with those with whom we often disagree and ultimately move forward together.
I’ll close by asking us all to show faith in our neighbors and our potential when we work together. Disagreement on issues of importance is what it means to live in a democracy, but when it is all said and done, when an election or debate is over, we should always come together as one community, one Hoboken.
Thank you for hearing me, as I always say, in Hoboken, the best is yet to come.
Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla”
Mayor Bhalla was referring to a harassment case that several Hoboken residents were involved in — based on their participation in a 2022 bond referendum. In February 2022, a $251 million bond referendum was proposed to expand Hoboken High School. While it was defeated, six supporters received threatening letters and packages at their homes by local resident Matt Majer, who plead guilty. Some of these supporters were public servants — including Hoboken Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla and Council President Emily Jabbour. Others were private citizens, including Amardeep Singh Bhalla, Nancy Pincus, and Kim Gerlach.
A resolution was reached in the case in September 2023. Hoboken resident Matt Majerd sent packages anonymously to all six victims’ homes, containing racially charged, threatening, sexually suggestive, and/or highly offensive messages.
He pled guilty to harassment of Kim Gerlach and allocated to committing the same acts to Mayor Bhalla, Council President Emily Jabbour, and Nancy Pincus. Mr. Majer’s guilty plea was sufficient for Phil Cohen and Amardeep Singh Bhalla, the other two victims, to forego the allocution in their cases.
Majer pled guilty to one count of harassment and was entered into a 12-month conditional dismissal program.
The other case continues to be investigated.
About the New Anti-Stalking Law
In the State of New Jersey, a new bill was passed unanimously by the New Jersey legislature this summer. The bill, S-1517, addresses stalking, tightening up previous laws that left dangerous loopholes for victims. The law was signed by Governor Phil Murphy in July 2023 and will take effect on January 1st, 2024.
The purpose of S-1517 is to make it easier for victims of stalking to get restraining orders against the alleged perpetrator, regardless of whether a relationship exists or if a criminal conviction has been made. Previously, a stalking victim could only get a restraining order if there was a prior relationship between the parties, or if there had already been a criminal conviction in the case.
This closes what many called the ‘stranger stalking’ loophole. New Jersey resident Michele Albano’s daughter was stalked for months by a man with whom she had no relationship. The situation was a catalyst for the advocacy that resulted in this bill.
The bill also updates the Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act of 2015 by renaming it the Victim’s Assistance and Survivor Protection Act and expanding the list of acts that qualify a victim to receive a restraining order. Now, stalking and cyber-harassment are included. We covered it in more detail here.