Hoboken just dodged a second Sandy, but so far the silence is deafening. Everyone who wants a stable, livable city has cause to rejoice in the defeat of the Hoboken Public Question 2 ballot initiative, which was underwritten and orchestrated by the Mile Square Taxpayers Association lobbying organization.
On election eve, the margin on the voting machines was over 550 votes against that initiative. But after more than three weeks of storm-related delays, during which hundreds and hundreds of additional ballots were accepted by mail, fax and e-mail, the question was finally defeated by 52 votes. This result was certified last Tuesday afternoon by the County Clerk. Existing rent control protections remain in force, including the very important vacancy decontrol limitations on rent increases, as well as provisions for hardship rent increases for any landlord who has a real need.
These vacancy decontrol limitations serve to defend the entire community – not just renters – from evictions en masse. They are the roadblocks that prevent wholesale displacement of renters in Hoboken. Removing these safeguards would rapidly and permanently alter the character of the city and further destabilize it during this critical time after the hurricane disaster.
This “tenant cleansing” assault was clearly the intent of the interests that formulated and pushed the scheme as a “local” public question initiative. Acknowledgments and thanks are in order for all the local voters groups and activists, as well as officials, who spoke out to oppose Hoboken Public Question 2 and expose the realities behind it. These include the residents of senior and city housing and their advocates, the Hoboken Fair Housing Association (HFHA – hobokenfairhousing.com), and the New Jersey Tenants’ Organization (NJTO – njto.org), and City Council members Castellano, Bhalla, Doyle, and Mello.
Thankfully, Mayor Zimmer and her administration proved to be unstinting allies and defenders of Hoboken’s integrity, diversity, and livability in this matter. The city demanded accurate interpretive language to clarify the highly misleading wording of the initiative, and it informed voters of the facts connected to Hoboken Public Question 2. The mayor also spoke out personally to reject it. The administration’s good-faith efforts to clarify this issue made the difference in overcoming disgracefully misleading claims by out-of-town lobbyists with money to burn in an ongoing campaign against all tenant protections everywhere in New Jersey – and above all here.
It’s been a very rough year for Hoboken, but in this holiday season long-term residents, seniors, working families, and thousands of other renters here can at least count on stable housing. So let’s patronize the local merchants (Battaglia’s!), remember the neediest among us, and never forget who our friends in local government really are.
“Market Rent 2003”