Monday saw a lively City Council meeting as newly elected 4th Ward Councilman Tim Occhipinti took his seat following his heated election Nov. 2.
Occhipinti actually had already taken his oath on a different day, but had a ceremonial swearing in at the meeting. Some past and present officials turned out for the moment: Assemblyman Ruben Ramos Jr. (D-Hoboken), Freeholder Anthony Romano, Jersey City Councilman Ray Velazquez, Union County Freeholder Rayland Van Blake, former Council President Richard Del Boccio, former Councilman Christopher Campos, former Freeholder Maurice Fitzgibbons, former Councilman Dick England, and former school board Commissioner Frank “Pupie” Raia.
“I don’t feel my elected position in the city affords me to even suggest to people about how they should run their household.” – Councilwoman Theresa Castellano
Corner Cars legislation fails
The controversial Hertz Corner Cars program returned to the agenda Monday night. An ordinance establishing permanent, specific parking spaces for the program’s vehicles failed on a 4-4 vote. Councilman Nino Giacchi was not present at the meeting.
The program encourages Hoboken residents to give up their cars and instead rent Hertz cars by the hour. The cars are parked on Hoboken street corners. Foes of Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s administration have said that the program wastes parking spots without enough benefit to residents.
But according to Parking and Transportation Director Ian Sacs, the program has already caused 41 residents to surrender their parking permits, which almost equals the 42 parking spots unavailable to residents because they were reserved for Corner Cars.
Councilwoman Theresa Castellano voted against the ordinance Monday night.
“I don’t feel my elected position in the city affords me to even suggest to people about how they should run their household,” Castellano said.
Councilman David Mello, a Zimmer ally who was visibly annoyed after the legislation failed, said he would like to sit down with members of the council to rework the legislation to ensure the program is not killed in its infancy.
Waterfront: Under investigation
Divers will be working soon below the entire Hoboken waterfront to inspect the piers supporting public and private properties, after an ordinance passed to allocate $334,395 to Boswell Engineering.
City engineer Joseph Pomante said 21 days would be spent on an inspection of public property. It will cost $86,775, and a 53-day inspection of private property will total $247,620.
Councilwoman Beth Mason called for the creation of an ad-hoc subcommittee that will be updated weekly on the status of the inspections. She says the committee would “inform constituents on an immediate basis.”
“I support the mayor in whatever needs to be done,” Mason said in regards to the waterfront repairs.
The Twenty is Plenty initiative, which encourages motorists to drive 20 miles per hour instead of the posted 25 m.p.h. speed limit, was discussed after a resolution was put forth by Councilman Mello to support the program.
Though some council members thought the resolution and legislation was “fluff,” it prompted a discussion about lowering the speed limit in Hoboken to 20 m.p.h.
“It makes no sense to ask someone to do 20 m.p.h. in a 25 m.p.h. zone,” said Councilman Michael Russo. “The right thing to do is change the speed limit to 20 m.p.h. I think everybody should slow down, myself included.”
Sacs said changing the speed limit would be difficult, as the city would have to prove that 85 percent of vehicles travel at that speed in the city.
Council President Carol Marsh said she believes the legislation is more than simply “fluff.” She said her teenage son and friends were talking about the ordinance, and discussing if 20 m.p.h. really is fast enough to drive in Hoboken.
One resident, Jim Vance, said the council should pass the resolution and then pursue tough enforcement for speeding violations on the streets of Hoboken.
Also at the meeting, Vincent J. Wassman was once again recognized in front of a standing room only crowd for his work on the Hoboken Historical Preservation Commission.
On Nov. 1, Wassman was honored in a small ceremony in the mayor’s office. The former commissioner received a standing ovation for his work, which includes the preservation of the Clam Broth House, Sybil’s Cave, and Holy Innocents Church.
Another former resident, the late Marjorie J. Laue, was honored as the Jackson Street Community Garden was named in her honor.
“Marjorie took an empty lot and made it a place where a community could grow,” said one friend.
Ines Garcia-Keim also spoke regarding the resolution.
“It gives me hope that this little plot of land will continue to be a community garden,” Garcia said.
Occhipinti said that as his first resolution on the council, he was honored to sponsor the legislation.
A special Monday meeting
The council held their bi-weekly meeting on a Monday as opposed to the usual Wednesday night because the League of Municipalities conference took place in Atlantic City last week. Many politicians and city directors headed south for a few days for the statewide government convention.
The next council meeting is scheduled for Dec. 1.
Ray Smith can be reached at RSmith@hudsonreporter.com.