After over 30 minutes of heated debate, the Hoboken City Council voted down a measure introduced by Councilmen Mike DeFusco and Ruben Ramos to preserve the interior structure of 901-907 Bloomfield Street.
Video courtesy of Mile Square View‘s Roman Brice
“I applaud Councilman [Ravi] Bhalla for mischaracterizing this as a political stunt. I’ve been talking about this for the better part of the year. This is nothing new. And you could pull the records from this council, my social media feed, I’ve been talking about this for a year,” said DeFusco, a rumored mayoral candidate for November.
“I’ve been on this council for a year and a couple months. Councilman [Peter] Cunningham: you’ve seen this bill from a functioning church, to a property for sale, and what have you done to save it?”
DeFusco also let Cunningham know that he was angry for saying this resolution was “pitting neighborhoods against each other,” calling it “vile” that any of his colleagues had dismissed the resolution as illegitimate.
901-907 Bloomfield St. is a historic church built in 1890 and the resolution urged the council to delay construction at the building, possibly by prioritizing a project at 83 Willow Ave. (both properties have the same owner).
Councilman-at-Large James Doyle, who also drew the ire of DeFusco, gave his perspective on the situation.
“I was at the December 2 meeting where this topic was on the agenda, and you did not raise it and the meeting was ending, and [Community Development] Director [Brandy] Forbes had to be the one to say ‘oh, what about the topic?’,” Doyle recalled.
“So your statement that you’ve been pushing hard for this for however many years, five years on the zoning board as well, I’m sure,” Doyle continued before being cut off by DeFusco.
“I’ve been on this council for one year and I’ve been pushing for it since October,” he said.
“I was alluding to the zoning board, five years …,” Doyle began to respond.
“I can’t push for anything on the zoning board since it’s a semi-judicial body, councilman,” DeFusco retorted.
After a few more seconds of a back-and-forth between DeFusco and Doyle, Council President Jen Giattino restored order and chimed in.
“You know, councilman, you brought up neighborhood lines and in the one email you sent me, started with ‘we in the 1st Ward, which is completely divisive,” she said.
“Because you reached out to my neighbors trying to rally support against it,” DeFusco said, a claim Giattino was quick to deny.
“What bothers me most about this is giving false hope to something that so many residents are passionate about. No one here is talking about ‘what is the cost if the city somehow acquired the church? What is the cost of bringing the church back to what it was?,’” Giattino stated.
In what was easily one of the most heated discussions of the year, the council ultimately voted the resolution down by a vote of 5-4, with DeFusco, Councilman-at-Large David Mello, Third Ward Councilman Mike Russo and Fourth Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos voting yes.
This isn’t the first time in 2017 that DeFusco has challenged the Mayor Dawn Zimmer administration, trading blows with council colleagues over appointments to the zoning board on two separate occasions in January.
Political observers also raised eyebrows when DeFusco and Bhalla hosted dueling fundraisers last month, with both councilmen writing off the situation as a miscommunication.
DeFusco has not fed into any of the speculation about a mayoral run, but has also declined to endorse Zimmer for re-election yet. His council seat is not up until 2019.