This Tuesday, May 8, Hoboken residents will determine who will represent their ward on the City Council for the next four years.
All residents live in one of the city’s six wards. If you do not know which ward you reside in or where you should vote, call the city clerk’s office at (201) 420-2073 or the Hudson County Clerk’s Office at (201) 795-6112. There will be 17 voting locations, with polls open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
If voters do not wish to support any of the candidates on the ballot, they are invited to write in a person’s name whom they feel will better represent their interests.
Last week, two community-based organizations, the People for Open Government (POG) and Hoboken’s Quality of Life Coalition (QLC), sponsored public forums with the candidates, giving residents a chance to pose questions.
The first forum was held on Monday night, with all eight candidates appearing from the 2nd, 5th and 6th wards, although 6th Ward candidate Thomas Foley came late. The second event took place Tuesday, with the 1st, 3rd and 4th wards represented by seven candidates. Fourth Ward candidate Freddie Frazier did not attend.
Both events were moderated by Bob Bowdon, a Hoboken resident who has worked for the past six years at Bloomberg News, where he has interviewed an array of celebrities. He has lived in Hoboken for 17 years. The two forums will likely be aired on public access channel 78 this weekend.
Differences and dog poop
There was a marked difference between the two forums: Monday’s was relatively congenial, while Tuesday’s was often not.
Many of the candidates, particularly the newer ones, reverted back to autobiographical talking points and highlighted past accomplishments rather than providing a concrete stance on the issues affecting their ward. Some of the hot-button topics were parking, affordable housing, development, property tax reevaluation, and quality-of-life issues such as better enforcement of pooper-scooper laws.
2nd, 5th and 6th Ward candidates weigh in
On the issue of parking, all three 5th Ward Candidates weighed in. The 5th Ward is the northwest section of town.
Perry Belfiore suggested the construction of a municipal complex on 16th Street, near the Weehawken border and viaducts. The city has been wanting to build a new municipal complex for some time, ever since they planned to sell the municipal garage on Observer Highway to a developer.
Belfiore’s complex would combine a municipal garage, police headquarters, and maybe a firehouse as well as four stories of public parking on top of the structure. The public parking would pay for the construction of the rest of the building.
Regarding parking, candidate Peter Cunningham chose instead to target developers, requiring that the builders force each condo owner to park in the spot designated to them as opposed to the current situation in which many who live in condos park on the street in order to avoid paying as much as $300 per month for the space in their condo.
Candidate Scott Delea said the city needs to invest in a comprehensive plan to improve Hoboken’s parking situation, adding that according to a study, two thirds of Hoboken households have a car, but only one third use it to go to work during the day. He said residents need a better taxi service and a jitney service to transport them from one part of town to another.
When asked whether overdevelopment was responsible for the recent flooding, 6th Ward candidate William Noonan began by saying that a moratorium on the construction of new buildings in Hoboken would be necessary until the city has a comprehensive plan and an understanding of the impact that future development would have on the city’s infrastructure. Noonan added that all current development projects should not be interrupted.
One of Noonan’s two opponents, candidate Thomas Foley, disagreed, saying that the flooding was not “necessarily” caused by new construction. He disagreed with the moratorium on new construction.
The ward’s incumbent councilman, Angelo Giacchi, said that both development and Mother Nature were contributing factors to the recent floods. According to Giacchi, future floods can be avoided or minimized if the city takes advantage of new technology, alluding to the current joint venture between the city, New Jersey Transit, and the North Hudson Sewerage Authority to install a storm weather ejector system to pump water into the Hudson once the floodgates along the waterfront have closed because of the high tides. Giacchi also opposed a citywide moratorium on new construction.
In the 2nd Ward, which is the northeast part of town, both candidates weighed in on the issue of a tax reassessment for Hoboken residents, which could mean significant increases for some, particularly those who own buildings. It could also mean possible decreases for some condo owners due to the change in the market since the last assessment.
Second Ward candidate Richard Tremitiedi said that to the best of his knowledge, the last reassessment took place in 1988. Tremitiedi supported the reassessment, which he believed it would come in the next three years. He said it was fair for all involved, and would be a long time coming.
Mason agreed that a reassessment was coming. However, she was more cautious of the impact it would have on homeowners, many of whom she said were elderly who might not be able to handle a drastic increase in their taxes if their home was assessed at much more than it used to be. Mason and Tremitiedi both alluded to a gradual increase of tax.
The 1st, 3rd and 4th Ward candidates weigh in
One hot-button issue discussed during Tuesday evening’s forum was the possibility of regionalizing Hoboken’s police and fire departments, combining them with other public safety departments in Hudson County to save costs.
First Ward Councilwoman Theresa Castellano, whose husband is a Hoboken police officer, strongly opposed regionalization, warning that in her mind, costs should never be weighed against public safety. Castellano asked how residents could expect an agency located in another area of the county to arrive in Hoboken more quickly than one stationed in town, adding that the city needs to stop overspending the budget, not cut on public safety.
Her opponent Ron Rosenberg, on the other hand, said that there was a place for regionalization, particularly when it comes to dealing with massive emergencies. Rosenberg referred to the attack on 9-11 as an example. In 1999, five North Hudson municipalities regionalized their fire services – West New York, Guttenberg, Union City, North Bergen, and Weehawken.
Several of the other candidates also weighed in on the issue, such as 4th Ward Councilman Christopher Campos, who rejected the idea of regionalization, saying that in his mind regionalization would compromise the safety and security of Hoboken residents, and safety is non-negotiable.
Fourth Ward candidate Anthony Mussara, who is a strong opponent of the construction of condominiums in Hoboken, also expressed his concern with regionalizing the police and fire departments, saying that the city’s police and fire departments are doing a superb job and that if there’s any cut, it shouldn’t be to Hoboken’s public safety department.
Another candidate running in the 4th Ward is Dawn Zimmer, who complimented the police earlier in the evening, added that she was open to regionalization as a way to save on taxes. Zimmer at first said that regionalizing the county’s public safety departments might actually improve the safety and response by bringing in other towns to help with funding for Hoboken. However, after speaking with Hoboken’s fire chief later in the week, Zimmer changed her position on the issue, saying that from what she learned from the chief, she now believes regionalization would have a negative impact on the city and opposed it.
Another issue that was discussed was the proposed community center/swimming pool that was to be built on 11th Street between Monroe and Madison streets by the URSA Tarragon Development Group this year; however, ground has not yet been broken on the site.
Third Ward Councilman Michael Russo said that due to a prior conflict of interest involving his mother, who had formerly worked for the company, he had been previously prevented from voting on the issue and pressing it at City Hall. Russo ultimately blamed Mayor David Roberts for the pool not being installed, and pledged that if re-elected, he will make sure Hoboken residents receive their pool.
3rd Ward candidate Frank Raia, who acknowledged at the meeting that he was one of the owners of the site in question, along with URSA Tarragon, questioned the council’s concern over the site, saying that not one councilmember has come and spoken with him about the future of the site. Raia added after the meeting that it was not just the administration’s responsibility to ensure that the site was built, but that of the City Council as well. Raia concluded by saying that he was in favor of a swimming pool and community center on the site.
According to city spokesman William Campbell, construction on the project has not yet begun due to a legal challenge over the designation of a developer prior to the plan being completed. Campbell acknowledged that prior to the lawsuit, the project was scheduled to be completed some time in 2007. Currently, the city has not yet set a new timeframe for the construction of the project.
Michael Mullins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.