In Hoboken, they call it a friendly sign of affection

Was it a slap or a tap?

Did Senate Majority Leader Bernard Kenny hit a Hoboken official in the face yesterday, or was he just being playful?

City Councilman Michael Russo says that it was a slap, and that it hurt. But unless veteran firefighter Tom Molta speaks up, the world may never know.

Russo claims he was having a casual, non-political conversation with Molta when the 60-year-old Kenny came running up to them, thinking they were talking politics.

“Bernie came running over and interjected in the conversation, and made a very strange statement that ‘I saved the hospital – he had nothing to do with it,’ and pointed at me,” said Russo. “Then he proceeded to yell in the face of Tom Molta that he’s in charge of the ambulance corps and anything that he needs to be taken care of, he’ll take care of it.”

And then it happened – Kenny allegedly hit him once on the chest and twice across both sides of his face.

“He struck me in my chest and in my face with an open hand. I stepped back. I did not react to it because of his situation. He’s an older man. I was taught in my life to respect your elders, and he had absolutely no respect for me,” said Russo.

But a spokesman for Kenny said it was not a slap in the face so much as a playful tap on the cheek.

“He didn’t slap Mr. Russo — he gave him what they call a ‘friendly Hoboken sign of affection,’” said Jim Manion, the Senate Democratic Communications Director. “[Senator Kenny] said he’s got 30 pounds and 30 years on him — he wouldn’t start a fight with him.”

Molta could settle the dispute, but he told he’d rather not get involved. He says he’s friends with both men and doesn’t want to take sides.

So what is a “Hoboken sign of affection?”

Politifax editor Nick Acocella, a Hoboken native, is unfamiliar with the term. But when it comes to local politicians, the nicest thing they could do for him during an election season is “just staying away from me… they’re all in a heightened state of excitation — lets put it that way.”

In Hoboken, they call it a friendly sign of affection