This is the sixth and final preview in a series about Hoboken’s upcoming May 10 City Council races.
Hoboken’s midtown 6th Ward is known for its shops, restaurants, bars, and waterfront areas, as well as some of the city’s most expensive properties. Although Councilman Nino Giacchi has represented the ward since 2001, this spring the 6th is seen as a ward to watch in the upcoming May 10 City Council elections.
Giacchi first ascended to the City Council in 2001, when he was appointed after Dave Roberts vacated the seat to become mayor.
The 6th Ward is seen as a strong battleground in the upcoming May 10 City Council elections.
Giacchi said he enjoys “meeting and getting to know the people that make up the ward.”
“Being able to serve them is a great honor and it brings great pleasure when I’m able to make a difference,” Giacchi said.
Giacchi’s challenger is Jennifer Giattino. Giattino works in real estate and has lived in Hoboken for 12 years. Giattino received the endorsement of Mayor Dawn Zimmer in the upcoming race.
“I don’t like to be a person that just complains about things and never does anything about them,” Giattino said. “The best thing is to actually do something about it.”
Giattino said she’s running partly because she feels no connection with Giacchi.
“I never felt as if he was my councilperson,” she said last week. “He’s not around.”
Giattino is a former stockbroker and ballet dancer, but transitioned to a career in real estate after becoming a mother of three. She has supported the campaigns of Zimmer in the past, but this is her first race.
“It’s been great,” she said about campaigning. “I’ve had dinner with people in their homes; they invite me to come in and sit down…people invite me in for tea to just sit down and talk.”
In Hoboken, the City Council is currently split 5-4, with a majority of the members often voting against Zimmer’s more controversial initiatives. Councilman Giacchi often finds himself on the side against the mayor, but is seen as a quieter opponent of hers as compared to some of his council colleagues. He tends to engage in less criticism and less mudslinging.
“This administration, like others, certainly has done some good things,” Giacchi said last week. “I can’t dispute that. But I think they could do better. I think they should pay attention more to the issues, and less time and effort should be given to the politics and to the desire of authority.”
However, Giattino said Giacchi has not been an independent voice.
“When Dave Roberts was mayor, he always voted with that slate,” Giattino said. “Now that [Councilman Michael] Russo and [Council President Beth] Mason have the majority, he always votes with that slate. He voted for Corner Cars, and then as soon as Mason/Russo got majority he voted against it. He voted for the $25 recreation fee; when they got the majority he voted against it.”
Giacchi voted, along with seven other members of the council, for the establishment of the Corner Cars program last spring. However, the council did not vote to make the spots permanent by way of ordinance at the inception of the program. Instead, the council has designated the spots by temporary resolutions, despite the advice of city attorneys who said the parking spots must be designated by ordinance. When Zimmer’s supporters wanted to vote to make the spots permanent by ordinance in November, the new council majority opposed that item, instead voting to establish spots by resolution once again until they could make a further decision.
Giacchi also said he originally voted for a $25 recreation fee, along with the rest of the council, because he said when it was first introduced, “There was a representation by the administration of dire straights for finances and the threat of losing programs.”
“The council allowed for a $25 recreation fee based on those representations,” he said. “Subsequently you had a budget with a large surplus, and plenty of monies spent in other directions.”
Giacchi said he’s proud to work on legislation that improves the quality of life for residents. He cited his work as the chairman of the council’s Quality of Life Committee in an interview last week, including his work on a recent transfer of a park from Toll Brothers to the city.
“We’ve seen legislation recently for the improvement of our parks, and acquisition of open space, which is necessary for the quality of life improvements in Hoboken,” Giacchi said.
Giacchi voted against a $20 million parks acquisition ordinance when it was introduced recently recently, but changed his mind for the final vote and helped approval.
Giacchi also has been active in the construction of the proposed Pier A Park 9/11 memorial.
“With any luck we’ll have the opening of that memorial by the time of the 10-year anniversary [next year],” Giacchi said.
Giacchi thinks taxes hit the 6th Ward especially hard, given the high value of the properties in the ward.
“I’ve always been very conservative on budgetary and fiscal matters,” he said. “When past administrations looked to put in the revenue from the sale of a municipal garage into the budget, I fought against it. It’s a good thing I did, because the garage was never sold.”
Giacchi also has a proposed solution for parking in his ward.
“My proposal would be that after the dinner hours, say 7 p.m., meters on side streets between Hudson and Washington and Bloomfield and Washington, they become available free of charge for any vehicle [that] has a residency permit,” he said. “They wouldn’t have to pay for the meter until 8:30 a.m. the next morning when it’s expected they’ll leave for work. We accommodate not only the needs of the resident and taxpayers, but it allows for turnover and availability of those spots for businesses.”
Giattino emerged on the civic scene in Hoboken through volunteering in the school system, including forming a group that donates sandwiches to the Hoboken Homeless Shelter. She is also involved in the city’s local agriculture movement, where she volunteers with the uptown farmer’s market.
As far as problems in the ward, Giattino thinks there’s a faulty mindset in city government.
“Instead of fixing things when they’re repairable, we wait until it’s too late,” Giattino said.
She cites problems as small as fixing fences in Church Square Park and as large as potholes, water main breaks, and city streets.
Giattino has supported the current initiatives of Zimmer in the city, including Corner Cars, the Hop bus, and an increase in bike lanes.
Why they’re qualified
Giacchi cites his experience on the council as a major qualification for office.
“Not only in terms of my training as an attorney, but by its nature, this job requires a certain level of preparedness,” Giacchi said. “I’ve lived in this city my entire life. I’ve been involved in government now for over a decade. I’ve been exposed to a lot of situations. I have the knowledge to make correct decisions. You don’t go to school to be a government official; it’s on-the-job training.”
Giattino believes Giacchi’s time on the council is up.
“He’s had 10 years to prove what he could do for the 6th Ward and in my eyes, as well as many people I’ve spoken to, he hasn’t done anything for the 6th Ward,” Giattino said. “I will be out there talking to people just like I have been, finding out what they want and what their needs are to make them come to fruition. I’m not going to ignore the people of the 6th Ward.”
The two have set other goals for themselves if elected to office. For Giattino, she wants to see the Sinatra Field soccer field opened, and said she wants to see the streets cleaned up.
For Giacchi, he said it’s about acquiring open space, resolving budgetary issues, and improving parks.
Ray Smith may be reached at RSmith@hudsonreporter.com