The Hoboken City Council approved measures to implement new garbage disposal regulations to rat infestation problems at last night’s special meeting.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
Hoboken Council President Emily Jabbour said the issue was urgent and acknowledged that there were two similar ordinances on the agenda related to containerized garbage.
“We acknowledge and recognize there were modifications that had to be made. Residents had questions, suggestions,” Jabbour noted.
The ordinance up for second reading called for every building with 10 or fewer units to have lidded garbage cans, while the ordinance up for first reading included all food and beverage service establishments regardless of how many units the building has.
“One is a little more holistic. The major concern our trash haulers have relates to the weight of the can. Their recommendation was to keep it at 32 gallons,” Business Administrator Jason Freeman said of the second ordinance up for consideration.
He continued that the administration decided not to regulate the gallon size of the can (it originally called for cans from 10 gallons to 32 gallons), but the 50-pound weight limit will remain in place.
“If a can is too substantially heavy, they won’t pick it up. That’s going to create issues,” Freeman explained.
Additionally, an exception provision in the first reading ordinance allows residents to write to the Department of Environmental Services detailing why they feel they deserve an exception to the new rules.
During public comment, Pat Waiters, a board of education candidate, said that residents should not be fined heavily if they violate the new garbage protocols, noting tourists and visitors also contribute to the problem.
“We wasn’t eating out as many restaurants three years ago. I think we should bring the tables inside. That’s one of the major problems. We’ve never seen rats in broad daylight,” she claimed.
“There’s rats running around. It’s crazy. The garbage is being piled up in backyards. Let’s clean up and keep it neat together.”
Manny Rivera Soler, a potential 6th Ward council candidate, said the two ordinances weren’t spelled out in layman’s terms.
“The garbage cans, are they going to have any types of requirements? Will corporate landlords use a special bag?” he questioned.
“The ordinances on the agenda are a step in the right direction. No two rat problems are the same,” 1st Ward Council candidate Paul Presinzano stated.
He called for government intervention to spend money buying the correct garbage cans and distributing them for free or cheaply, echoing aspects of a rat control plan he released last month.
“You could use it for targeted areas. New guidance has to be enacted quickly. We must throw every tool at it possible,” Presinzano added, also suggesting calling and mailing seniors about these changes.
“The administration and the council are looking to address street eatery regulations,” Jabbour noted, while Freeman they are soliciting quotes for garbage cans to distribute to the public.
Rose Marie Markle, who raised concerns about streateries at the previous public meeting, reiterated that they were attracting rats and related costs should not be pushed onto homeowners.
She also repeated that garbage men are not careful when they pick up garbage, noting that one of them broke her can, which cost $170.
“I’ve probably killed 50 rats on my property. Eight in the last month. The rat infestation just came back. They’re scaling the fence … to drop into our yards. We’re not really close to the streateries,” declared Byron Warner.
“When you got 20 bags on the street for pick up three times a week, you’re feeding rats. It feels pretty hopeless. Is the ordinance going to apply to schools and the shelter on 3rd Street?”
Jabbour replied that the local legislation specifically applies to buildings with 10 units or less, while Freeman indicated that there’s been conversations between city sanitation and health experts, along with the schools and exterminators, on the issue.
“This is not about anyone having to weigh their garbage. The goal is to ensure the garbage we have going out is contained,” Jabbour also clarified.
Freeman later noted there would be a grace period before fines were imposed, as well that the city has distributed door hangers to inform people what’s going on.
Another resident, Paul Wolnicki, asked how fines would be enforced, claiming some businesses have trash cans overflowing regularly.
Freeman responded by stating that businesses with unpaid fines cannot secure permits, though tickets must be issued to individuals.
“You can’t put a warrant out for an LLC,” Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia concurred.
“The amendment actually adds food and beverage establishments… as being required to have lidded cans,” 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher noted.
4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos said this has been an issue for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I didn’t support the streateries because of the rat problems,” he explained, also agreeing with Solar Rivera that the two ordinances were a bit confusing.
Jabbour replied that the city is planning on sending out Nixle alerts to provide clarity to residents.
6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino noted that larger buildings are having major rodent problems, so they should be included in local relief efforts, not just smaller buildings.
She also argued the city should expand its compost program to address food tempting rats, as well as that garbage storage isn’t always possible in smaller buildings.
3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo, the vice president of the board, asked how enforcement would work, citing a shortage of directors and inspectors.
“I’d like this ordinance to be in effect before the next election. If we delay it tonight, we’re waiting an entire month for this to be enforceable,” 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco said.
“I applaud the administration for moving this forward,” Fisher said.
However, she only wanted the amended ordinance up for first reading approved versus the ordinance up for second reading “to give the public a little more color.”
Fisher wanted to address the issue further during their regularly scheduled August 24th meeting.
Upon further questioning from Giattino, Freeman said they were planning on having a 30-day grace period before imposing fines.
Giattino asked if the timeline would change if they only passed the ordinance up for first reading.
“I would also like to see something endorsed on the exemptions. If you do not store your garbage outside, you do not need a trash bin,” she argued.
Shortly thereafter, Ramos made a motion to table the second reading, which was seconded Fisher.
The motion to table failed 5-4, with Fisher, Russo, Ramos, and Giattino voting yes.
“The administration needs as many tools as possible,” Jabbour argued.
The second reading then passed by the same tally, with the four council members who voted yes to table voting no on passage.
Freeman noted the resolution waiving an estoppel period would remove the 20 days of waiting between passage and enactment.
However, DeFusco said did not want to waive the estoppel period because he preferred the ordinance up for first reading.
5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen argued that passage would lead to quicker enforcement actions, but Fisher said during a short back and forth that residents’ indicated they didn’t support the measure.
Ultimately, the resolution failed 3-6, with DeFusco, Fisher, Russo, Ramos, Giattino, and Councilman-at Large Jim Doyle voting no.
“There needs to be language under exemptions ‘you will be exempt until you hear back,’” Giattino said regarding the first reading ordinance.
“Are they going to be receiving tickets for eight months? I am not comfortable with it being completely open-ended.”
Nevertheless, the ordinance up for first reading passed unanimously (9-0).