The City Council made several Zoning Board appointments on Wednesday, referred proposed changes to the rent control law to a subcommittee for further discussion, and tabled changes to the controversial Corner Cars program.
With St. Patrick’s Day only six weeks away, the council also began planning for the parade and festivities, which bring in thousands of out-of-towners to Hoboken each year. This year, partygoers will once face strict rules and a “zero tolerance policy” that could result in some offenders revisiting Hoboken for an afternoon of community service in the summer.
Zoning Board appointments
The Zoning Board of Adjustment rules on requests for variances from the zoning regulations for buildings in Hoboken. On Wednesday the council appointed members for that board and for the North Hudson Sewerage Authority.
“We have an interest in keeping the day as peaceful as possible.” – Nino Giacchi
Though the positions are unpaid, in a city where real estate development and politics are inextricably mixed, a certain amount of power comes with service on the Zoning Board. The board has the ability to green light or block projects large or small.
“Think very, very carefully about the people you put up there [on the boards],” said resident Forde Prigot. “The abuses that probably happened in the past will probably happen again.”
The power of Zoning Board appointments traditionally belonged to the City Council, but former Mayor Anthony Russo transferred that power to the mayor’s office in 1993. In 2009, after former Mayor Peter Cammarano was arrested for taking campaign contributions viewed as bribes to buy his help with development, the power to appoint members by way of ordinance shifted back to the City Council.
The chair of the Zoning Board, former Councilman Tony Soares, did not re-apply for his slot on the board. He currently sits on the North Hudson Sewerage Authority.
Mayor Dawn Zimmer appointed Gill Mosserito to the Planning Board and Paul Sommerville and David Downs to the Historic Preservation Board, actions which required no council approval.
Frank Raia, a former Board of Education member and former mayoral candidate, was re-appointed by a 6-3 vote to the North Hudson Sewerage Authority. The authority operates and manages wastewater treatment for the cities of Hoboken, Union City, Weehawken, and West New York.
Rent control tabled
Many residents in attendance to speak about proposed changes to the city’s rent control ordinance were able to leave early after Council President Beth Mason, the chair of a subcommittee designed to address the changes, announced that the issue had been pulled from the agenda.
“I guess we have to applaud the idea that you wouldn’t want a first reading on something [we] haven’t read,” said Ron Simoncini, a spokesperson for Mile Square Taxpayers Association, a group of landlords in Hoboken that has been following the issue. He called the process a “sketchy situation.”
The subcommittee will meet for one more meeting on Monday, Jan. 24, at 6 p.m. in the City Hall council chambers to discuss the issue before an ordinance is introduced.
“If the amendments you are making have any weight at all,” Simoncini said, “it is worth letting us show our attorneys and letting the tenants show it to their attorneys. We’re not trying to do your job…if the public doesn’t agree with the policies, they’re going to unseat you, or somebody is going to have a referendum.”
Mason said Thursday she hoped to have the proposed amendments available before the weekend, but said the “worst case scenario is Monday morning. If we put [the proposed amendments] out there and it’s not going to be very, very close to what we’re going to do, it’s going to be a problem.”
Mason said she and the rent control subcommittee are also waiting for more information from the administration. The meeting on Monday will be limited to one hour.
For more about the proposed changes, see last week’s cover story in the Reporter.
Corner cars curbed…again
Councilman Tim Occhipinti proposed a resolution to relocate a Corner Cars parking space in the 4th Ward after receiving complaints from a condo organization. The council currently designates spots for the program by resolution, but a city attorney, Mellissa Longo, advised against continuing that practice.
“Parking spaces must be established by ordinance,” she said. “The state law requires that you legislate by ordinance, not resolution. I’m going to strongly advise you not to try and establish parking spaces by resolution, and that you do it pursuant to the state law.”
The issue was tabled after that advice, but one resident, Scott Siegel, who is a customer of the Corner Cars program, believes the process of moving the spots should be revisited.
“It doesn’t seem to me that the council people are actually [talking to the people who are] signed up for the program” Siegel said. “Somehow, through Hertz, you should be finding out if [those people] want the cars to stay or be moved.”
Occhipinti said he only cared about the cars being moved, and will re-address the issue in subcommittee.
St. Patty’s parade set for March 5
Councilman Nino Giacchi, the head of the Quality of Life Subcommittee, said he recently met with public safety officials to discuss the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day parade, an event that has made Hoboken a premier party spot for one day per year.
“[We’re going to be operating] with the same template this year as last year,” Giacchi said at the meeting, indicating the renewal of the “zero tolerance” policy.
Last year, fines for possessing open containers of alcoholic beverages and public urination were doubled to a maximum of $2,000, with the possibility of having to perform community service. House parties were labeled as the largest problem on the parade day.
“When a party is deemed to be unreasonably reckless, disorderly, and unsafe, the renter or owner of the apartment or house will be charged with [maintaining a nuisance],” according to the guidelines from last year. Maximum penalties for the house parties are imprisonment of up to six months and fines not to exceed $1,000.
The date for the Hoboken St. Patrick’s Day parade is March 5.
“We have an interest in keeping the day as peaceful as possible,” Giacchi said on Thursday. “From a council person’s point of view, we want to set the policy to make it a safe day.”
Ray Smith may be reached at RSmith@hudsonreporter.com