Steve Cappiello passes away at 89
Former three-term Hoboken mayor saw big changes
by Caren Matzner
Reporter Editor
Apr 21, 2013 | 4292 views | 1 1 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Hoboken Mayor Steve Cappiello ran the city from 1973 to 1985 and played a part in local politics for years before that and afterward. On Thursday, at the age of 89, he passed away.

Cappiello presided over the mile-square city during the beginning of its renaissance. In a Reporter interview in the year 2000, he said “When I started, it was difficult for us to fill up the garages on Hudson Street. We had to encourage people from New York to park there because it was cheaper and we were still spending $650,000 a year to maintain them.” When he left, development was speeding along.

Cappiello, a former police sergeant and 10-year city councilman, said that his style of governing the city was very different from the mayors who succeeded him. “I went to maybe 10 percent of the city council meetings,” he said in the 2000 Reporter interview. “While they were going on, I was usually out doing something hands-on like shoveling snow, or riding around in a police radio car, or maybe even going over to the fire station for a meal.”

Looking back on the time that he spent in office, Cappiello said that he was most proud of the agreement that his administration brokered with the Port Authority to revitalize the then-crumbling waterfront. “There was a lot that happened behind the scenes that people were not aware of,” he said. “There were several congressmen who were reluctant to let the piers be placed in the city's hands because they hoped to get projects of their own, and of course there were the mayors of Elizabeth and Newark who were jumping all over the Port Authority asking for something for them too. But the trick was just to do what you could to get the most for your city.”
“I’ve been a very lucky, lucky fellow.” – Steve Cappiello
On Friday, Mayor Dawn Zimmer gave a statement: “Mayor Steve Cappiello committed much of his life to the city of Hoboken, serving as a police sergeant, councilman, freeholder, and mayor. My deepest sympathies are with his family and friends.”

Long-term city clerk and former Board of Education member James Farina knew Cappiello well.

“He was my second father,” he said. “I started with Steve when I was 16 years old, putting signs up when he first ran for councilman in the ’60s. He got elected in the 3rd Ward. Steve was part of the big turnaround of the city as far as housing was concerned, along with Walter Barry and Joe Barry. He started the renaissance we have today. Steve was a people person; anybody who needed help, he’d help. He walked the streets and knew people and people knew him. That’s why he wound up a three-term mayor. He was a freeholder for a while. Steve was a very important part of Hoboken, and his legacy will live on for memories to come.”

Times change

Cappiello's reign ended in 1985 when many believed that he was allowing development to get out of control. Residents concerned about gentrification, condo conversions, and suspicious fires elected Tom Vezzetti, dubbed “the wackiest mayor in America” by one newspaper. Vezzetti, who won by approximately 350 votes, was seen as a reformer who would protect the tenants. Cappiello remained involved in town affairs and worked at City Hall as president of the employees' credit union.

In 2000, Cappiello said that development was a big issue again in town, and that it would probably have to slow down so officials could ascertain its impact on the infrastructure.

He is survived by wife Dorothy, and children Linda, Janet, and Steven.

In a year 2000 interview, he said, “I've been a very lucky, lucky fellow. I've got a wonderful wife and a solid family and that is really all that I need.”

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April 21, 2013
steve cappiello was a rebel with a cause...he lived and breathe hoboken on every occasion...if you think hoboken is a beautiful city today, you should have seen it in the late 1960's and early 70's...washington street, between observer hwy. and hudson street, looked like a war zone...

people used to laugh at hoboken back then but they don't laugh at it the eyes of steve cappiello, it was a great city back then as it is today...i first met him as a cub reporter for the hudson dispatch assigned to the hoboken beat in 1969...steve cappiello, a city councilman on the verge of upsetting then mayor louie depascale, and the regular democratic organization, knew how to rock-the-boat; he knew how to get the attention of the some 40,000 residents of a decaying city; the magic-mile as he used to call it...i remember reporting on the street riots in 1970 when a group of local residents took to the streets to make their point about poor housing and living conditions; cappiello made it his business to meet with the angry leaders not only to quell matters but to help right many wrongs...playing a large role in getting law and order restored was a young jim farina, leader of the hoboken young dems, and the late police george wasn't just housing that cappiello was concerned with, it was everything that had anything to do with the betterment of the city he loved: Hoboken.

--submitted by peter la villa

former mayor of guttenberg