Five Hoboken elected officials, four council members (including one former running mate) and one county commissioner, are denouncing 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco for renting his home on Airbnb during the COVID-19 pandemic.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
” … This past year has been a difficult one for residents, students, senior citizens, teachers, first responders, and parents. I am not sure how he feels his absence is appropriate or why. During the pandemic, it was, and still remains an all hands-on deck approach in keeping residents safe,” said Councilwoman-at-Large Vanessa Falco.
“From delivering food, checking on senior citizens, providing education and awareness of testing and vaccines, my council colleagues have all contributed immensely during these difficult times. I unfortunately cannot say that Council member Defusco was a part of our collective efforts during the pandemic. Despite having conversations with him, he never once mentioned that he was out of the country and/or not living in Hoboken and I find that so disingenuous.”
She continued that DeFusco needs “to be honest, transparent, and accountable” for using Airbnb.
Falco was one DeFusco’s council-at-large slate in 2017 and she was the only candidate who emerged victorious. She is the first African American to serve as council-at-large in the history of the Mile Square City.
Earlier this week, the Downtown councilman answered questions about renting his home 23 times since August, stating he had been spending time with family, with the exception of one trip to Colombia.
He attributed other Airbnb host reviews from outside of the country to a childhood friend, also named Michael, whom he shares the account with.
Not everyone on the council is angry with DeFusco, with 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher calling the notion that he did something wrong “a politically motivated hit job,” pointing out that many council members traveled to see family over the past year.
“Many city council members, not just Mike, have traveled this last year to be with close family, including those who signed this letter. As most know, I lost my mom last year and spent a lot of time in Rochester while handling city business remotely in those cases,” she stated.
“I think my colleagues should be held accountable for bullying someone for choosing to supplement their income, while still doing their job, during a difficult time. Just another disgusting example of how far Team Bhalla will go to discredit a potential opponent.”
Mayor Ravi Bhalla is currently running unopposed ahead of a bid for a second term in November, though DeFusco, who hasn’t announced his plans one way or another, is still often viewed as a potential challenger.
Additionally, County Commissioner Anthony Romano (D-5), a rival of DeFusco’s during the 2017 mayoral campaign, accused him of being absent for constituents during the public health emergency (Romano lives in the 1st Ward).
“I, along with other constituents, have reached out to DeFusco about the issue of Airbnb, with no response from him. Now, after media reports of his many rentals through Airbnb and not living in Hoboken, it’s abundantly clear why,” Romano exclaimed.
“During his absence, our community has come together to help residents and seniors in the 1st Ward, because DeFusco has not been there for his own constituents, many of whom have not heard or seen from him in almost a year.”
Expectedly, Council members Phil Cohen, Emily Jabbour, and Jim Doyle, staunch allies of Bhalla, stated that DeFusco should consider resigning from the city council if he can’t provide “a complete and full accounting” of his whereabouts since August.