By MAX PIZARRO
When voters go to the polls on Tuesday, May 8, they will select representatives for six Hoboken City Council seats.
The terms in Hoboken are four years apiece.
All wards are contested. Two seats are open. Four council incumbents are supporting one another for re-election. Twelve challengers are also running. Although they’ve formed a political action committee, the incumbents insist it’s a “loose” alliance at best.
“We made the announcement we were running together, then went our separate ways to campaign in our own wards on our own issues,” said Ward Six Councilman Angelo “Nino” Giachhi.”There’s minimal overlapping.”
Among the opposition candidates, developer Frank “Pupie” Raia is running with allyRon Rosenberg on a ticket aligned with Assembly candidate and former City Councilwoman Carol Marsh. Raia and Rosenberg contend thattheir opponents arein league with Assemblyman (and State Senate candidate) Union City Mayor Brian P. Stack, who’s bucking the Hudson County Democratic Organization with the help of At-large Hoboken Councilman (and Assembly candidate) Ruben Ramos.
Russo and Rosenberg fear that if they lose, Stack will wield too much influence over Hoboken. The younger generation of council peoplesee Stackas a way to jump on-boardthe power base, and argue Hoboken can only profit byan alliance with the ragtag Union City Mayor, a favorite to win his primary next month.
Fronting himself as the poor kid from the neighborhood made good, Raia is running in Ward Three against Councilman Michael Russo, son of a mayor convicted of bribery and extortion. Friends say the younger Russo has stood up on his own merits.
Retiring Council President Richard Del Boccio, a retired school teacher and principal, oversaw the education of both Raia and Russo. He says he supported Raia last year in the developer’s bid for the Hoboken School Board. In this race, he’s supporting Russo.
“Russo has demonstrated that he is an excellent council person with a vast knowledge of budget issues,” said Del Boccio. “I appointed him chair of the budget committee and he served very well in that capacity. Regarding his father: We are not responsible for the mistakes of our relatives.”
Fronting his neighborhood credentials, Raia contends that Russo opposed construction of the ShopRite, which is one of Raia’s projects, and he contends, a boon to the community.
“Russo tried to blame the ShopRite for flooding,” Raia says in a newspaper ad. “But if the ShopRite closes, Hoboken families will be hurt and hundreds of jobs will be lost.”
Russo rejected Raia’s characterization of his position on the food store.
Raia also argues he’s built affordable housing – 90 apartments on Adams Street that rent for around $600 a month. “But Russo is attacking Raia for that too. More over-development, according to the Russos.”
To hear candidates talk about it and to hear the squabbles in City Hall, one of the big issues in the coming term will involve Hoboken getting New Jersey Transit to move on its 2001 commitment to join the North Hudson Sewerage Authority in building pump stations to alleviate flooding in town.
Ward Four Councilman Christopher Campos says New Jersey Transit is making things difficult by adding other development dimensions to the simple infrastructure improvement.
“That’s unacceptable,” said Campos. “We don’t have time for pet projects.”
Del Boccio says new development has also brought new demands from residents. Going forward, the council will have to find ways to create recreational facilities for young families. “We need more ballparks, softball fields, toddler parks,” said the retiring council president.
That’s an issue championed by real estate attorney Thomas Foley in Ward Six, father of two young children, who has been pressing the city to work with the Stevens Institute of Technology to build an ice rink. Foley worked the issue as a member of the Zoning Board.
Running to retain his seat in Ward Six, Hoboken native Giachhi, also an attorney with young children, says constituents sometimes criticize him for not speaking up more on the council.
“My training keeps me more reserved,” he said. “If I know the answer to the question, then I ask the question.”
Their Ward Six rival, William Noonan, is running on his record of civic involvement. A member of the Hoboken Rotary Club and the St. Pat’s Parade Cay Committee, among other organizations, Noonan argues that if residents want a truly independent candidate, they should vote for him
“Unfettered is a good way to describe me,” said Noonan. “I have no ties to anybody in city government. There is no one who would get any positive benefit by my election, other than my constituents, of course.”
With his background in healthcare management, Noonan says he would like to look at how to save the city money with respect to benefits.
“I’ve got the expertise but my company wouldn’t be the one to provide the service,” said Noonan.
Noonan says the council isn’t blameless on the flooding front. “They don’t have a plan,” said the candidate. “Excuse me, they have a pipe dream.”