Council battles over Housing Authority candidate Disagreements on appointments dominate thin agenda

The City Council met last Wednesday with very few items to consider on an agenda shortened by state intervention.

The major discussion was over an appointment to the seven-member Hoboken Housing Authority Board.

The unpaid board oversees the city’s housing projects in the southwest part of town. There is one gubernatorial appointee, one mayoral appointee, and five members appointed by the City Council.

Board Chairman Angel Alicea’s term expired in May, and his reappointment resolution had finally made its way to the council at the previous meeting.

But the resolution’s sponsor, Councilman-at-Large Ruben Ramos, put the matter on hold for two weeks in deference to new members of the council – 2nd Ward Councilwoman Beth Mason, 4th Ward Councilwoman Dawn Zimmer, and 5th Ward Councilman Peter Cunningham – who were not familiar with Alicea’s qualifications.

The delay allowed them to review Alicea’s resume, as well as a person to be reappointed to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, for last week’s meeting.
Another candidate
But before the council met this past Wednesday, Hoboken resident Hector Claveria saw the council meeting on television and was interested in volunteering his services for the position.

Claveria is a young executive with financial and efficiency experience, and he has family in the projects. He approached Zimmer, and she sponsored a resolution to appoint him to the board.

The problems started to arise when the council was handed his resume just minutes before the meeting, with most of the members learning about the new candidate for the first time Wednesday.

Members of the public came to the microphone to speak in favor of Alicea, who was first appointed to the board in 1987. He also was one of the Housing Authority board members integral in exposing the questionable actions of former Executive Director Troy Washington.

Resident Margie Biart said she can call Alicea “24/7,” and fellow Housing Authority board member Perry Belfiore acknowledged Alicea as a “combatant in the war” against Washington.

The council first had to vote to allow Zimmer’s nomination, which was highly criticized for being in conflict with a platform of “transparency” that she and other new members of the council had previously championed.

In fact, 2nd Ward Councilwoman Beth Mason sponsored a resolution that was passed at the previous meeting to make sure the city advertises open board positions so the public can apply for them. The “Citizen Service Act” will go into effect shortly.

The council first voted on Alicea’s reappointment, but that vote failed 4-5.

Mason, Zimmer, Cunningham, 3rd Ward Councilman Michael Russo, and 1st Ward Councilwoman Theresa Castellano voted against the reappointment. Russo is also a member of the Housing Authority board, having been appointed last December by a 7-2 council vote. (At the time, only Zimmer and Cunningham voted against him).

When the vote for Claveria came up, it also lost 4-5, with Mason, Ramos, Councilman-At-Large Peter Cammarano, Councilwoman-At-Large Terry LaBruno, and Council President Nino Giacchi voting against.

Mason, who voted against both candidates, said after the meeting that she wasn’t prepared to vote on a candidate who was presented to her at the last minute, and she also wasn’t sure Alicea was the best candidate.

The position on the board remains unfilled, although Alicea chaired the meeting on Thursday (see story) under the legal recommendation of City Attorney Steven Kleinman. His seat is a “hold-over” until further action is taken at the next council meeting.

After the meeting, Zimmer said that putting Claveria’s name up right before the meeting was “bad timing” and that she would have allowed the council to take the same time she and some of her colleagues were given the previous week for Alicea.

Also at the meeting this past Wednesday, Philip Salinardi Jr. was reappointed to the ABC Board, with only Zimmer and Cunningham dissenting.

Recycling and cycling
The council voted unanimously on two ordinances up for first reading; both will be up for final vote and public input at the next meeting.

The first ordinance does away with recycling pick-up on weekends and holidays for businesses, reportedly saving the city $385,000 per year.

Businesses must now arrange for their own pick-up services, with fines enforced if the bottles and cans remain on the street after 7 a.m.

The second ordinance will provide bike lanes on Madison and Grand streets, from Observer Highway and Newark Street, respectively, to 15th Street. The original proposal also called for bike lanes on either side on Sinatra Drive, but according to Zimmer, the road was found not to be wide enough. Alternate arrangements are being explored, Zimmer said.

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