Of the 6,110 current registered voters in the 4th ward, only 1,571 voted in the May 8 election earlier this year, and only 1,778 voted in the June 12 runoff between then-incumbent Christopher Campos and his opponent, political newcomer Dawn Zimmer.
Situated in the southwestern part of town and encompassing 40 blocks, Hoboken's 4th Ward used to be largely defined by the economic disparity between its residents and the rest of Hoboken. The ward is home to most of the federally-subsidized Hoboken Housing Authority buildings. In recent years, however, many middle-to-upper-class families and young professionals have settled in luxury condos that have risen there.
The major issues affecting the 4th Ward include development, park space, flooding, and the quality of life and future leadership at the Housing Authority projects. Due to its low elevation, the 4th Ward has seen intense flooding when a heavy storm arrives.
One of the most talked-about issues currently affecting the ward is the city's Southwest Redevelopment Plan, a proposed blueprint for future development near the city's southern border.
The plan was presented to the public in late February and calls for the rezoning of a 13-acre area, adding both park and residential space to a formerly industrial region. However, Campos and Zimmer differed on their support for the plan. Campos supported it, while Zimmer felt more work was needed to ensure open space and prevent flooding.
Last month, a residents' coalition offered an alternative plan that proposed an increase in park acreage and proposals for more environmentally-friendly structures. That plan also includes an innovative solution to the flooding that plagues the surrounding area.
Both candidates have embraced the new plan.
Dawn Zimmer, 39, a marketing professional who specializes in photography, moved to Hoboken from New York City in 2002 with her husband Stan Grossbard. They currently reside on Madison Street with their two young sons.
Zimmer is originally from New Hampshire. She graduated cum laude in 1990 from the University of New Hampshire, where she earned a degree in history. From 1990 through 1993, Zimmer lived in rural Japan, where she taught English in a private language school.
Zimmer was formerly a principal member of the Southwest Parks Coalition Steering Committee, where she was and continues to be a strong advocate for more park space in the 4th Ward. In addition, she has served on the board of the Kaplan Cooperative Preschool and currently volunteers as secretary of the Parent Teacher Student Organization for the Elysian Charter School, and is an active participant in the Adult Soccer League.
Christopher Campos, 30, an attorney, is a former six-year incumbent councilman who lives with a roommate on Observer Highway. Campos won a two-year term in 2001 to fill the term of Ruben Ramos Jr. after Ramos became councilman-at-large. Campos was later re-elected to the 4th Ward council seat in 2003.
The former councilman practices out of the law offices of Joseph J. Ryglicki in Edgewater, Campos' areas of concentration include litigation, real estate, and sports and entertainment.
Campos is a native of Hoboken, born and raised in the city's Housing Authority projects. After graduating from Hoboken High School in 1994, Campos moved to Granville, Ohio to attend Denison University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in history and black studies. At graduation, he was selected to be the commencement speaker, the first black studies major to receive such an honor.
Campos went on to American University's Washington College of Law, where he served as student attorney at the Community and Economic Development Law Clinic, providing legal services for low-income groups engaged in various models of community development. Campos graduated in 2001, when he returned to Hoboken. Besides having served on the council, Campos is a commissioner on the Housing Authority.
Campos was arrested on a Driving While Intoxicated charge in New York City after allegedly running a red light earlier this year. Campos has pleaded not guilty to the DWI. The case has been pushed back in the courts several times, according to Campos, because his attorney has not yet received requested information. The case is currently scheduled to go before the judge again in December.
Besides the mudslinging that has gone on between the two candidates, troubling issues have arisen with both campaigns.
Zimmer posted on a local internet site in March a very clear statement saying she would not accept money, either personally or for her campaign, from the powerful countywide political group the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO). But since then, she has received a total of $6,000 from two major HCDO politicians, including the group's chairman. When asked about that last week, she said, "In March when I made that statement, I was only expecting to run in one election. Then, in May after [Campos] took over [$20,000] from developers and $60,000 from political sources ... I took a minimal amount of money from the HCDO." (Each candidate has raised approximately $115,000 from various sources; for details see the Oct. 14 cover story.)
Meanwhile, Campos has been accused of only suddenly making flooding an issue because Zimmer has brought it up so often, instead of having worked on it during his time in office. Campos responded last week that the assertion is off base. Campos pointed to a letter printed in this very newspaper in October of 2005 in which he expressed his frustrations with the flooding situation to the North Hudson Sewerage Authority and appealed to both the "public and private sectors to help enact a plan of action."
When asked what he did prior to the election to assist in alleviating the flooding, Campos said, "Flooding was a concern of mine since 2002 when myself and others put pressure on the North Hudson Sewerage Authority to find a solution to the flooding. For a long time I've been advocating for these wet-weather pumping stations which we are now getting. This issue didn't begin with this campaign; Zimmer's involvement began with her campaign."
He added, "Just because she's been screaming from a rooftop on the mountain, doesn't mean that other people aren't working on it."
For more on both candidates' issues, campaign financing, and histories, see previous articles from May, June, and last month at www.hobokenreporter.com. Make sure to click on "advanced search."
For more about troubling issues in the balloting this time around, see story, p. 3 of this edition.
Who's on who's side
Many of the city's local politicians, as well as countywide pols, have taken sides in the 4th Ward race. In terms of well-known local allies, Campos is allied with Councilman Peter Cammarano and Freeholder Maurice Fitzgibbons, while Zimmer's close allies include former Councilman Tony Soares and former Board of Education President Michael Lenz.
Zimmer has ties to the city's "reform" movement, as well as limited financial support from one of the county's most powerful political organizations - the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) - via monetary contributions from County Executive Tom DeGise and Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healey.
Campos has been backed by members of a relatively new anti-HCDO group, the Democrats for Hudson County, a group led by Assemblyman Brian Stack. (For more on these groups, see Al Sullivan's political column, inside.)
Discussing the issues
Last week, the Reporter asked each candidate about the most pressing issues in the 4th Ward and how they planned to deal with them.
"The most important issue facing the 4th Ward is the question of what our corner of Hoboken will look and feel like after the southwest has been fully developed. We have an opportunity to transform an area currently zoned industrial and plagued by serious flooding into a thriving neighborhood that provides the quality of life we deserve.
"In 2003, Hoboken's Planning Board adopted our Master Plan, which presented a vision of a neighborhood built around a large new active park. The zoning ordinances necessary to implement our Master Plan have never even been considered by the City Council. It's time for that to change. Last year, Mayor Roberts proposed a redevelopment plan that envisioned adding at least 1,200 new apartments - about 2,400 people - to our little corner of town. This plan, which was supported by my opponent, paid lip service to infrastructure improvements, but provided no specifics.
"....Last, but not least, this new neighborhood needs to be a place where everybody in the 4th Ward can join together as a single community. We need to break down the artificial barriers that separate us and recognize that Hoboken's future is for all of us."
Campos responded: "Obviously, flooding is a major issue. I will continue working hard to realize both immediate and long-term flood abatement measures for the 4th Ward. To fix Hoboken's flooding crisis, we must focus on how to address this issue responsibly. Though some are calling for an all-out building moratorium, I believe this will only act as a mere band-aid to a bigger problem. And, simply offering yet another study of the issue will only delay the solution.
"A far more productive, fair and realistic alternative for the short-term is to install water retention and detention fields in the southwest area of the city, as recently proposed by the Hoboken Southwest Parks Coalition plan, the concept of having developers pay for mitigating flooding was originally put forth in the southwest redevelopment-plan which I have always supported." [Campos is referring to the original Heyer, Gruel & Associates plan earlier this year.]
I've strongly endorsed the plan 'SW6: A Greener, Greater Hoboken' because it focuses on enhancing flood abatement and open space.
"...Through faith, optimism, cooperation and hard work, I believe we can accomplish great things for the Fourth Ward. I will continue working to ensure that we have sound sustainable development in our ward, including open space, parks, affordable housing, parking traffic mitigating devices and green technologies."
Why are you better than your opponent?
When asked why he deserves the seat and what he can offer that his opponent cannot, Campos responded:
"Rather than focus on my opponent, I'd rather just talk about my record and what I want to accomplish. It's important to understand politics, process, and procedure. I know how to make things happen for my neighbors.
"As Housing Authority Commissioner, I ended the corruption and mismanagement that left a $4.6 million dollar deficit at the authority. My efforts created 100 new affordable housing units, with 100 more on the way. [When asked about this statement, Campos said he is referring to a condo development at 1118 Adams St. He noted that he and the rest of the City Council forced the developers of that Northwest Redevelopment area to include an affordable housing component. Ironically, the developers who built that were in a partnership with Frank Raia, a major local developer who has been campaigning with Dawn Zimmer. Campos' campaign team has criticized Zimmer for campaigning with Raia. When asked about this irony, Campos said that he is not against Raia, but he is against the fact that Zimmer has criticized Campos for accepting developer money and then went ahead and campaigned with Raia, a developer of mostly market-rate housing. Zimmer said in the Reporter last week that she had not accepted money from Raia, but had not ruled it out.]
Campos continued, "I'm particularly proud of my work building two stellar family play areas to give our families a brand-new basketball court and pristine barbeque areas. At no cost to taxpayers, I engineered a public-private partnership that transformed an unsafe backyard into a state-of-the-art recreational facility at the Jubilee Center.
I've secured streetscape funding and built a Pocket Park out of a dilapidated Public Works Garage. I championed traffic-calming measures and safety devices leading to new traffic lights at First and Monroe streets. I fought for comprehensive street paving, specifically along First, Harrison and Jackson streets.
"I have a proven track-record of delivering real results by working with local, county, private and state officials to produce for our residents without raising taxes, as evidenced by the recently announced flooding solution."
When asked why she deserves the seat and what she can offer that her opponent cannot, Zimmer responded:
"In my few short months as a councilwoman I accomplished more on flooding and open space than my opponent did in six years. I led the successful fight to put an open space referendum on the ballot that can provide a permanent source of funding for parks in the 4th Ward and throughout Hoboken. Furthermore, I have pushed flood prevention to the top of the public agenda in Hoboken, sparking, for the first time, a real conversation about solutions that is beginning to produce results.
"I offer the 4th Ward an independent voice who stands up on the issues of most concern to 4th Ward residents. I am not a traditional politician and do not get most of my funding from developers. As councilwoman, I will work hard every day to bring about the quality of life improvements all the residents of this diverse ward so richly deserve."
Michael Mullins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.