When the candidates for the 3rd Ward council seat in Weehawken, namely incumbent Robert Sosa and challenger John Hubbard, came to the offices of the Weehawken Reporter for a candidates’ forum, the two exchanged pleasantries and shook hands, the way most neighbors who live across the street from each other would regularly greet. Both Sosa and Hubbard call 47th Street in Weehawken their home.
However, when the questions began and the issues were discussed, the pleasant demeanor between the two candidates was tossed to the wayside. Hubbard questioned Sosa’s commitment to the neighborhood. Sosa stood by his record of public service to the township for more than 25 years.
The Third Ward includes the northern side of Columbia Terrace all the way to 51st Street. Of the three wards in town, it is the smallest in size, population and registered voters.
Here are some of the excerpts of their candidates’ forum.
Question 1: Please tell us what experience you have to hold this position and why you feel you are the best qualified candidate.
Hubbard: “For 13 years, I’ve held various positions, dealing multi-billion dollar transportation projects like the Light Rail at Kennedy Airport. I feel like I’m the common man who goes to work and comes home to a fine neighborhood. I have a vested interest in my neighborhood.”
Sosa: “I’ve lived in Weehawken for the last 37 years. I’ve been involved in many different forms of government, first as a commissioner in Weehawken, then as a councilman. I put my children through the Weehawken school system and now, my grandchildren go to Weehawken schools. I think I have my thumb on the pulse of Weehawken. I know it inside and out. It’s a great town and I’d like to continue to serve as a representative of the 3rd Ward.”
Hubbard: “There is one problem with the 3rd Ward, and the biggest concern I have is that we [have the most] crime. We’re last in getting any project done. We’re victims of overdevelopment and victims of having no access to the 3rd Ward from the waterfront.” [The only access to the waterfront from that ward is a long staircase down the hill, or driving.]
Sosa: “In reference to the 3rd Ward being [first] in crime, that’s just not true. [In terms of waterfront access], the WIN people want us to put an elevator from the base of the Palisades to Boulevard East and Pershing Road. But in order for that to happen, the state would have to determine that the area is a major transportation hub, turning it into a mini-Journal Square. I’m not going to allow that to happen.”
Question 2: Some people believe that there is a severe shortage of affordable housing in the town. What’s your opinion on affordable housing and should more become available?
Sosa: “I don’t know what people believe, but I know we have a lot of affordable housing in Weehawken, more than our fair share. Of the units slated for the [Roseland Properties] waterfront [development], 10 percent of those are slated for affordable housing and another 270 units are slated for senior citizen housing. That’s a big chunk of the units down there. We don’t have a shortage of affordable housing. We’re also going to take some of the money from the development and employ that money to better and revitalize Park Avenue. And we’re not going to kick people out of Park Avenue, like some WIN people are saying. Removing the residents there is not an option at all.” [Note: The affordable housing component is 15 percent of 1,244 units.]
Hubbard: “I do not feel that enough affordable housing has been provided in the town. The units for senior citizens [on the waterfront] are going to be very expensive. I think the neighborhood needs more affordable housing. You want to have people to be able to afford to buy a home in Weehawken and stay. That can’t happen now.”
Sosa: “Instead of campaigning door-to-door, John has been calling people on the phone. That’s not what I call getting in touch with the neighborhood. You have to get out there. You can’t run Weehawken from home, from your computer. You have to walk the streets. I bet John doesn’t know where Park Avenue is.”
Hubbard: “I’ve gone out and walked the neighborhood. Funny thing is, I live on the same block as you and I’ve seen you once. Ninety percent of the people don’t know who you are and the rest say you have done nothing. Take charge and start doing something for the community. No offense.”
Question 3: If you are elected, what are some of the things you would like to see implemented in the first 100 days of office, or re-election to office, in some cases?
Hubbard: “I would work to scale back the development along the waterfront so I don’t lose the view. I keep asking questions, like ‘What happens once the view is taken away?’ ‘Who’s the one who’s going to give me back my money?’ That’s not going to happen. We need to do something about the development right away. I’d also like to see a stronger police presence in the neighborhood, so we’re not first in crime.”
Sosa: “Obviously, John once again doesn’t know what he’s talking about. How does he know if the views are going to be blocked? He never came to a single meeting or volunteered in the community. The one meeting he did show up for, he was 50 minutes late. You need to have participation in Weehawken. You need to get involved. John never got involved. In the two years he’s lived here, he never even voted. He registered to vote in town on March 1, 2002. I think what I’d like to see done in the first 100 days is what we did in the last 100 days and the 100 days before that and before that. The development is going to bring jobs to Weehawken, to people in need. We’ve already saved the views. It’s down on paper.”
Hubbard: “The development is only going to bring minimum-wage jobs, not good paying jobs. It’s going to lead to higher taxes like what’s going on in other waterfront development towns like Edgewater and West New York. The development has to be scaled down to a reasonable matter.”
Sosa: “There will be no extra police needed at the waterfront, no extra fire personnel needed. It’s going to bring low-paying jobs? What did Lincoln Harbor bring? Are the people who work for PaineWebber getting low pay? It’s going to bring qualified jobs, good professional jobs. In an urban area like ours, we need those jobs.”
Question 4: How do you feel the town’s public safety department, namely police and the North Hudson Regional fire department, is serving the town? Do you have any ideas to improve their performance?
Sosa: “I think they’re doing a fantastic job, a great job. The proof is in the pudding. Crime is down and we have more police officers on the force than ever before. We instituted a walking patrol and a bicycle patrol for our police. If he was in touch with the people, he’d know that people are happy with their police protection. All you know is what other people tell you. You have to be in touch with the residents better.”
Hubbard: “I also believe that they’re doing a fine job. But basically, their hands are tied. There are too many patronage jobs. Officers should be able to advance on their merit with no strings attached.”
Question 5: Easily the biggest issue and most controversial topic around town is the Roseland Properties’ Port Imperial South development along the waterfront. What is your view on this development project and your views on other possible development in town?
Hubbard: “Our development has been pushed through without anyone knowing the real facts. It is a private enclave. It even says so in their advertisements and on their website. They do not want us down there. Once the wall of homes is put up, there will no longer be public access. It will feel private and excludes the rest of the neighborhood.”
Sosa: “The development will become just as much a part of the community as those who live up on the Bluffs. There will be so much access there. There will not be a wall of homes. He does not see that. I will see that there is access.”
Hubbard: “Everything that has been put out in their own literature calls it an exclusive private enclave. I know what it’s like down the shore when you want to go fishing on a beach and you’re told it’s a private beach. We don’t want to see it privatized down there.”
Sosa: “It’s not a private development. It’s going to mean jobs for the entire township and it’s much needed. It’s going to lead to more revitalization throughout the town and I’m going to make sure that it happens.” Profiles
Name: Robert Sosa
Ticket: Weehawken and You
Occupation: Financial planner and life insurance
Marital Status: Wife, Desiree
Children: Michelle (34), Lisette (33), Janelle (28), Kristen (25); seven grandchildren
Educational Background: American College of Financial Planning
Previous Political Experience: 1977-82, Board of Commissioners, Township of Weehawken, 1986-1990, Councilman, Township of Weehawken; 1996-2002, 3rd Ward Councilman, Township of Weehawken. County Committeeman since 1976.
Years Residing in Weehawken: 37 years
Name: John Hubbard
Ticket: WIN (Weehawken Initiative Now)
Occupation: Mechanical Design Engineer
Marital Status: Patricia Quinones-Hubbard
Children: Ashley, Gary and Amanda
Educational Background: College
Previous Political Experience: Leadership positions on major transportation projects
Years Residing in Weehawken: 3 years