Councilman Tim Occhipinti joined the Hoboken City Council representing the city’s Fourth Ward in 2010 during a special election. In May of 2011, the councilman was elected to a full four-year term. Now, Occhipinti is facing off against challengers Dana Wefer and Ruben Ramos as he aims to keep his seat on the Council.
PolitickerNJ talked with Occhipinti about why he feels he should be reelected, how he thinks he has done during his tenure representing the Fourth Ward and the issues he believes most need to be addressed during the next term.
- Why do you think your constituents should reelect you to represent Hoboken’s Fourth Ward?
I think I have a delivered on the campaign promises that I originally ran on. We are breaking ground this year on a new Southwest park and I was able to successfully advocate for $3 million in open space grants. We have also updated our two pocket parks with new playground equipment and safety surfaces. I also lead the renovation of Mama Johnson field with a new turf surface with drainage underneath along with the Housing Authority.
We have tackled transit congestion by rerouting some NJ Transit bus routes and improved pedestrian safety with new stop signs, pedestrian signs, cross walks and so on. We have also completed the most significant road resurfacing project in the ward’s history. Prior to taking office, the roads were in terrible shape. We still have many more to do but it is a positive step in the right direction.
I feel I have really tackled some quality of life issues in the ward like tackling potholes and making sure streetlights are on. Right away I made sure there were more trashcans on the road. One other major quality of life project we had was a complete renovation of a community garden. We took a patch of land that was completely devastated by Sandy and we put in 50 10 x 10 garden plots. I did that in conjunction with my nonprofit Hoboken Volunteers. I am very proud of that because as we improve quality of life people are more proud of their neighborhood. I have people tell me that all the time.
- When we interviewed Dana Wefer, she said she doesn’t feel you have a platform to run on. What do you have to say to that?
In terms of a platform, I believe we really just need to keep moving the ward forward. We have been able to hold the line on municipal taxes during my tenure. I plan on that being something I continue to do.
A large redevelopment plan in southwest Hoboken with was delayed due to court cases but I am looking forward to that process. I am looking forward to bringing development into the ward. We also want to expand the Southwest Park because it is less than an acre. That will be a focal point in my next term.
- Wefer says she has the support of Mayor Dawn Zimmer. Do you think that that lack of support from the Mayor will pose a problem in your reelection?
I think if the voters look at my job performance and what I have accomplished they will support me. Whether they support the Mayor or not wont matter.
- What do you think sets you apart from Wefer and Ramos?
I think it is my track record, my ability to move the city forward regardless of any political lines that are in the city. I voted for many initiatives that mayor Zimmer has moved forward including an extra pumping station in the west of the city. It was needed. We can’t have residents having their property damaged any time there is a storm at high tide. If it is good for the city and good for the ward I am going to support it regardless of politics.
People used to call the fourth ward “the forgotten ward.” Politicians in the past wouldn’t try to make a big difference. I have changed that.
- Explain your campaign strategy.
We have already had a fundraiser and we are moving forward we are getting voters registered. We are talking to neighbors. We are just trying to get everyone geared up and get people excited for my reelection campaign. I look to be hiring a campaign manager in the near future but it is a ward election so I think what is most important is for me to go out there and knock on doors, talk to voters and tell them about my record.
- What, in particular, do you want to see happen in the Fourth Ward if you are reelected?
We need to focus on the traffic light at Paterson Ave where there is a light rail station. The light will sit red for eight or nine minutes while it waits for the train. I want to work with NJ Transit to get the resolved.
I want to see a redevelopment plan passed for the city, I want to see us have a plan in place, more roads paved, continue to hold the line on taxes and not put forward any kind of taxes on our residents. I agree with Dana, the county taxes are an issue and we need to work to bring down this budget by removing any redundancies. Unfortunately, you can only advocate so far but we need these lawmakers to not look at Hoboken as their piggybank. I know it is a state formula but we need to advocate to change that formula.