Despite a debate over new language added to the ordinance since its introduction, the City Council on Wednesday voted unanimously to adopt a measure intended to create more affordable housing in the city.
The revised ordinance, which says developers should set aside 10 percent of their units as affordable, is meant to comply with longtime state and local laws stating that developers must include a certain amount of affordable housing in each new project. The 10 percent requirement is actually not new to Hoboken, but residents have charged for several years that the city had not been complying with it.
An initial version of the revised ordinance was deemed inconsistent with the city’s master plan, a document that lays out the future development desires of the city. After the council’s initial vote to introduce the ordinance at a previous meeting, Planning Board members suggested that still more language should be added. City Attorney Ronald Cucchiaro said that the new language “doesn’t change how the ordinance operates.”
“This is just the beginning for more affordable housing by the city of Hoboken.” – Councilwoman Theresa Castellano
“We’ve had recommendations from our legal counsel that if you change two sentences that we should go back to the first reading,” said Occhipinti.
“I’m sure if you, Mr. Cucchiaro, thought in your expertise that this was a problem, you would have suggested that we go back to first reading,” said Castellano.
“It’s been the practice of this council that if there are substantive changes that we go back to the first reading,” said Cunningham.
Cucchiaro said the additional language didn’t cause substantive changes.
“I’m comfortable because it sounds like our attorneys are comfortable,” said Occhipinti. “I’m okay to proceed.”
“I would not like to see this go back to first read and waste a moment or two within our opportunity to protect affordable housing,” said Castellano.
During the public portion of the ordinance, several residents spoke in favor of affordable housing.
“I don’t think that these clarifications are a significant change,” said Kevin Walsh. “It’s important not to lose opportunities.”
“I think this is historic, that we’re actually setting a precedent,” said April Harris.
“I think it’s a good idea to provide affordable housing,” said Dan Tumpson.
Castellano was vocal about her vote before the votes were cast. She even went as far to ask the legal counsel if the 20-day implementation waiting period for ordinances could be waived.
“This is just the beginning for more affordable housing by the city of Hoboken,” she said.
The council put their trust in the attorneys and all voted for the measure.
Rent control and smear campaign
During the public participation portion of the meeting, several residents applauded Mayor Dawn Zimmer for her letter to the Hoboken Reporter on Oct. 14 about referendum questions on the upcoming Nov. 6 ballot. In the letter, Zimmer said she opposed proposed rent control changes and supports changing the municipal election date from May to November, and eliminating runoff elections (see related cover story).
Members of the opposition, the Mile Square Taxpayers Association (MSTA), were also present and argued vehemently for approval of the rent control change.
That ‘Nazi truck’
The race for the school board election on Nov. 6 was also discussed, specifically a video truck making the rounds on Oct. 16. A campaign that began with anonymous “midnight flyer” pamphlets attacking the Zimmer-supported Kids First members of the board has escalated with a truck parked outside the school board meeting on Tuesday night (see related brief).
Video screens on the truck displayed Nazi imagery that had appeared years ago as part of satire on local blogs. The ad voice-over criticized the Kids First school board slate for not condemning the images, which had appeared years ago on blogs of their supporters.
However, the images are two years old. One of the bloggers, Nancy Pincus, had already apologized to a Jewish group for the imagery and recently said she is not involved in the current school board campaign.
The school board slate opposed to Kids First, Move Forward, has denied that they hired the truck.
“I think the video truck that goes around [Hoboken] is a little too much and I would like to politely request that whoever is responsible for it make the truck go away,” said one resident, who noted that he has been a target of Pincus’s blog but is trying to forgive her.
Vanessa Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org