Hoboken council rejects measure denouncing alleged rent control referendum tactics


The Hoboken City Council rejected a measure denouncing the way signatures have been collected for an anticipated rent control referendum at last night’s meeting.

Photo via Google Maps.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

The emergency resolution, introduced by 5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen and seconded by Councilwoman-at-Large Emily Jabbour, asserted that those collecting signatures for the anticipated referendum are using patently dishonest tactics.

“Individuals collecting signatures from Hoboken residents to place this proposed referendum on the ballot are deceptively telling Hoboken residents that they should sign the Petition because it is for ‘Affordable Housing in Hoboken,'” the local legislation says.

The ballot question would ask voters whether owners of apartment units that are subject to Hoboken’s rent-control ordinance can reset their base monthly rent to market rate in exchange for the unit owner’s making a single $2,500 payment.

The proposed referendum provides that the one-time $2,500 payments would be deposited into the affordable housing trust fund, where the resolution contends “these payments when pooled would at best generate sufficient revenue to create a handful of new affordable units.”

The Mile Square Taxpayers Association unveiled the proposal at the March 6th council meeting, as HCV first reported.

Last night, the emergency resolution was added to the agenda (which also requires a hearing) by a tally of 6-3, with 3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo, 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos, and Council President Jen Giattino all voting no.

MSTA Executive Director Ron Simoncini was not pleased with the late agenda item, beginning that the purpose of a referendum is to allow people to vote on something, before taking aim at Cohen.

“Councilman Cohen: there’s no robes on you, you can’t sit here and hold judgement on anybody. You were approached correctly, this ordinance will in fact create affordable housing, many more units than you’ve ever voted on, you’ve never voted once to spend $1 of this city’s money to create one unit of affordable housing,” he stated.

“Wrong. Wrong,” Cohen said as Simoncini continued with his remarks.

“And we are sitting here saying we’ll collect it for you, create it for you, and it will end up in the hands of people who need the affordable housing. Can I have my time extended please every time Councilman Cohen addresses me?”

At that point, Giattino asked Cohen to stop interrupting and he obliged, with Simoncini pointing out that the council often approves ordinances on first reading and then votes them down on second reading, which is similar to how the referendum would work.

“So you can come and try to demonize this thing and suggest to people, again, ‘oh more bogeyman emerging in Hoboken.’ The fact of the matter is, people should have an opportunity to do what you guys have not done, which is figure out a way to use the rent control cohort of housing to create affordable housing.”

Developer Hany Ahmed said that the council members could have circulated their own petitions with their own wording if they wanted to, as well as that Mayor Ravi Bhalla vetoed a rent control compromise just under a year ago which led to the current situation.

1st Ward Councilman Paul Presinzano said he wouldn’t be supporting the measure since he had never encountered what was alleged, as well as that he considers collecting and signing petitions a fundamental right.

“They can sign the petition, they’re not voting for it or against it, and I think in fact in my election, it was ‘bring it on, bring it on.’ So if you sign it, you bring it on and you contest it. I can’t put my name to this,” he continued, adding that he agreed with Ahmed that this predicament was because of the aforementioned veto.

Councilman-at-Large Jim Doyle said that while Presinzano may not have experienced the dishonest campaign tactics, it’s the same as not being of a protected class and still being able to envision a scenario where discrimination happens.

“The point is that there are allegations that there are deceptive practices being used, which if there weren’t deceptive practices, people might not sign the petition,” he argued.

3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo said no petitions have been submitted yet, therefore there is still no referendum, even though it is expected, and asked if voting on the resolution would conflict them from having any involvement going forward, to which Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia said it would not.

“This to me goes down a path that I don’t think anyone wants to go down. We all have our opinions, as a matter of fact, I would go on a limb and say that each council member’s email that they send out weekly of biweekly or monthly or whatever it is, reaches more people than this resolution ever will,” Russo said.

“And we all have those opinions. What this does is this forces this council to take a position on something that has not even come to fruition yet … I don’t think this has anything to do with rent control, affordable housing, whether we do, we don’t, I don’t think it has anything to do with it. So should I put it in a resolution and make everybody vote on it?”

Councilman-at-Large Joe Quintero said definitively that he doesn’t support the referendum, which he has said previously, and called for an end of the deceptive practices and called on members of the public to contact them if they’ve been duped.

He also said Russo was using “hyperbole” in his remarks, to which he responded with “you are the most condescending person I’ve ever served with on this council.”

Cohen asked Giattino to call for order, prompting Russo to point at him and shout “excuse me, this has nothing to do with you.”

Russo further stated that prior to their recent vote on a new garbage collection contract, Quintero made disparaging remarks about the industry and Italian Americans, as well as that he loves to throw digs but can never admit when someone else is right.

“It’s absolutely appalling to me how you conduct yourself. You need to stop that nonsense. You disagree, you disagree. But you want to throw digs, I’m gonna start calling them all out. And I’m gonna call them out across the board. You owe and you owe every Italian American in this country an apology for your remarks in that committee meeting.”

Quintero appeared legitimately perplexed by his comments, indicating he grew up in an Italian and Irish neighborhood and has no prejudice whatsoever against Italians.

2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher said she felt the resolution oversimplifies that the referendum would do and it could actually have the opposite effect of pushing people to sign the petition. She also said she didn’t support the refeendum.

The measure ultimately failed 5-4, with Presinzano, Fisher, Russo, Ramos, and Giattino voting no.

“We are disappointed that our council colleagues refused to call out the referendum sponsors’ deceptive actions,” Cohen and Jabbour said in a joint statement.

“Asking people to sign a petition in support of ‘affordable housing,’ when the referendum’s impact will in fact result in the removal of many hundreds of rent control-protected, below-market units from the Hoboken housing market, is misleading, wrong, and needs to be condemned.”

Quintero and Doyle doubled down as well, asking for anyone who felt they were misled into to signing to email them at councilmanquintero@gmail.com and jimdoylehoboken@gmail.com.

“The MSTA petition that’s been circulated in Hoboken is for an anti-rent control referendum and, although the resolution failed, I appreciated that Councilpersons Cohen and Jabbour put forward a resolution underscoring that the petition supports a Referendum that is not an affordable housing petition, and I encourage anyone that supports tenant protections not to sign it,” added rent control activist Cheryl Fallick.

“Anyone that feels they were misled can reach out to one of the four council members who voted yes (Cohen, Doyle, Jabbour, and Quintero) to request that their signature be removed.”

Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /home/hcvcp/public_html/wp-content/themes/Hudson County View/includes/wp_booster/td_block.php on line 353


  1. Doyle trying to use the false analogy about minorities is so embarrassing, so would he approve of someone condemning someone as being racist based on hearsay? Wouldn’t he want to hear it himself? Regardless of how you feel about the emergency resolution presented for show, Doyle’s comments strike me as a little scary. Instead of an emergency maybe present the evidence that they are saying this so that the council can vote on it.

  2. Agreed. And based on Doyles stupid logic everyone should have voted again Paul because of JoeQ hearsay about voter fraud that was done s an election stunt.

  3. Would using “patently dishonest tactics” make this analagous to the “Terror Flyer” I keep reading about? Also, would encouraging voters to strike their names from the petition be a form of voter suppression?

  4. Sure it’s a deceptive petition but that’s the MSTA strategy. The City Council can talk about it and act as they like. If this special interest group gets it on the ballot then there will be more debate and a vote by the Hoboken voters.

    That’s better than a special interest group backing a mayoral candidate and distributing a terror flier. See, progress.