The Hoboken City Council failed for the third time to appoint Barbara Reyes, a resident of the city’s public housing projects and the only candidate to make it before the council thus far, to the Hoboken Housing Authority’s unpaid board of commissioners Wednesday night, despite the fact that the state-mandated deadline to fill the seat had passed four days earlier.
The vacant seat on the HHA board has been an agenda item at several recent City Council meeting, and each time the council, which is divided 4-4 over its support of Mayor Dawn Zimmer, has failed to make the appointment.
Aug. 3 marked the end of the 90-day period which the state Department of Community Affairs (DCA) allows municipalities to make an appointment before stepping in.
A spokesman for the DCA said last month that his office was prepared to follow the guidelines for installing a replacement if the council failed to name one by the deadline, but would not say this week if they are planning to follow through.
“This isn’t going to deter me from continuing to do what I do, which is do everything I can to help the residents of the housing authority.” – Barbara Reyes
Reyes, they say, is the opposite, a politically independent person whose only priority on the HHA board would be helping residents. The debate over Reyes has been bogged down consistently with debate over the controversial Vision 20/20 plan, which would demolish sections of public housing and build mixed income homes.
The plan is the brainchild of HHA Executive Director Carmelo Garcia, and those City Council members who are against the Vision 20/20 plan have stacked themselves against Reyes as well, because they say she supports Garcia.
But Reyes has said several times that she is not in Garcia’s camp, and has butted heads with him at several HHA meetings. Following her third trip before the council and the third time they’ve voted against her appointment, she said the entire situation was “politics at its best.”
“This isn’t going to deter me from continuing to do what I do, which is do everything I can to help the residents of the Housing Authority,” said Reyes, a mother of four.
Before the vote, multiple HHA residents spoke on Reyes’ behalf before the council, and 4th Ward Councilman Tim Occhipinti, who co-sponsored her nomination along with 2nd Ward Councilwoman Beth Mason, criticized the council for its inaction.
“We’re giving up our right to make this appointment,” he said. “Jake Stuiver has moved to Pennsylvania, something he’s been very public about, and there’s a chance that if the state makes this appointment, they might not even appoint somebody from Hoboken.”
He also berated Zimmer’s allies on the council for assuming that Reyes would be an extension of Garcia’s power, which some of the council members have expressed concerns about.
“If we were being level headed about this, we would listen to all of these people that have come to speak for her, and we would vote her in,” he said. “This is a deeply ingrained community that’s trying to put its best foot forward.”
Backup generators in major buildings
The Hoboken Volunteer Ambulance Corps was a last-minute addition to a resolution allowing the city to purchase a series of backup and emergency generators that will be installed in major infrastructure buildings throughout the city, including City Hall, police headquarters, fire houses, the multi-service center, and Stevens Institute of Technology.
The Ambulance Corps, which is headquartered on Clinton Street near Hoboken High School, was originally left off the list of buildings that would benefit from the generators, even though it took heavy damage in Hurricane Sandy.
The Corps’ chief, Thomas Molta, came before the council during the public portion of the meeting and asked that his team be considered.
“During Sandy, if we’d had a backup generator, we could have been up and running three days earlier than we were,” he said.
In a rare show of cooperation, Council President Peter Cunningham and Third Ward Councilman Michael Russo, who rarely agree on anything, both moved to add the ambulance corps to the list.
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at email@example.com