The Hoboken City Council appointed Rev. Anthony Forbes to the Hoboken Housing Authority (HHA), replacing Chair Dave Mello, and while the appointment itself went relatively smoothly, Mello got into a heated exchange with Business Administrator Jason Freeman before the night ended.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
Mello, a councilman-at-large between 2009 and 2017, thanked his former colleagues on the for their support, having been appointed to a five-year term on the volunteer board back in May 2017.
He spoke highly of Forbes, the manager of the Hoboken Shelter on Bloomfield Street, though noted that his appointment should have come in June when Council President Mike Russo, who Mello called a friend, was named to the board despite calls for more Black and brown commissioners.
“Council President Russo: very high up officials at HUD [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] have expressed great concern over having a sitting city councilperson also serve simultaneously on our Board of Commissioners,” Mello said, noting that he did the same thing in 2017 and that Mayor Ravi Bhalla had been notified of this.
Regarding his tenure, Mello pointed out that they brought in an executive director, Marc Recko, who had no local political ties. He also explained they built affordable housing without displacing existing residents as a complete restructuring is expected in the near future.
“Zero displacement,” he said.
Councilwoman-at-Large Emily Jabbour, who sponsored the resolution, thanked Mello for his service and expressed excitement for Forbes having the opportunity to sit on the board.
6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino, like a couple members of the public, said that prior to the HHA appointment in June, Forbes submitted his application prior to Russo – who said he would withdraw his name if a person of color was in the mix, but he did not do so.
5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen acknowledged that Mello was on the HHA for 10 years through challenging times.
“This was an extraordinary accomplishment,” he said.
Cohen also noted his wife served on the Hoboken Shelter with Forbes and spoke in his favor.
“He works every day to make their lives better. He is going to bring a great perspective. I wish him great success.”
4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos, who oversees much of the HHA in his ward, noted that Russo was appointed to an unexpired term as opposed to a full term, replacing Lissette Vega after it was determined she had a conflict of interest.
He also commended both Mello and Forbes before his appointment was approved unanimously (8-0), with 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco absent.
The HHA has seven seats, five appointed by the council, one by the mayor, and one by the governor.
During the public portion, Mello said he planned on speaking more freely now since it was the first time he is a private citizen in 13 years.
He stated there is a Twitter account viciously attacking and mocking 2nd Ward Councilman Tiffanie Fisher and offered to help her get the account offline, also intimating that the person behind the account was in the room.
“It said some disgusting and harsh things … Somebody in this room has an idea of who runs this account,” Mello said.
“We do,” Fisher said.
“Yeah, you do. And he attacks my wife. It said ‘Are you aware that your husband is a misogynistic a-hole? Now quick question, in the bedroom do you pull his ponytail or does he pull yours?’ It’s something isn’t it? That is the comment of an immature, perverted child,” Mello said while staring at Freeman.
“You have something to say to me, we can go outside,” Freeman responded, repeating himself when Mello asked what he said.
“What I have to say to you is I strongly suspect that you run that account,” Mello said before Russo banged the gavel.
“You’d be incorrect,” Freeman replied.
“Gentleman please,” Russo interrupted.
“Okay, I’d like you to prove that,” Mello added before Russo again interjected.
Trying to calm the tensions, Russo said that after Elon Musk buys Twitter, he might force everyone to put their real names on their accounts and end problems such as this one.