Parking, politics, and a really cute dog
Hoboken mayoral candidates clash in Hudson Reporter debate
by Dean DeChiaro
Reporter staff writer
Oct 13, 2013 | 7564 views | 8 8 comments | 135 135 recommendations | email to a friend | print
FACING OFF – The three candidates competing in the upcoming November mayoral election joined the staff of the Hudson Reporter for a debate on Tuesday that ranged in topic from issues like rent control and small business to Hoboken’s political culture to their own personal regrets.
FACING OFF – The three candidates competing in the upcoming November mayoral election joined the staff of the Hudson Reporter for a debate on Tuesday that ranged in topic from issues like rent control and small business to Hoboken’s political culture to their own personal regrets.

The three candidates to be the next mayor of Hoboken discussed a handful of the issues facing the city, as well as the nature of the city’s political atmosphere, at a debate hosted by The Hudson Reporter ahead of the Nov. 5 citywide elections.

The debate will air this week at

Since the candidates were at odds with each other, the Reporter also asked them a few questions to catch them off guard, including asking them to name the best thing about each of their opponents. For her part, Mayor Dawn Zimmer said that she had heard that 4th Ward Councilman Tim Occhipinti had a really cute dog.

Rent control

In the debate, Mayor Zimmer, referred to her record of “returning honesty, integrity, and fiscal responsibility to City Hall,” while her challengers – state Assemblyman Ruben Ramos Jr. and Occhipinti – painted her first term as failed and misguided, and described the unified Hoboken they both believe they could achieve.

Right off the bat, the candidates showcased their divisions over a rent control referendum that has been hotly contested by tenants and property owners. The question would remove rent control from buildings with four or fewer units of housing when a current tenant moves out, and add a one-time decontrol for buildings with five or more units.
Candidates answered questions on rent control, boosting small business, and Hoboken’s political culture.
Each candidate responded differently.

Zimmer said that she supports voting down the measure, as she did last year when it first appeared on the ballot.

“My concern is that this legislation is drafted by the landlords, for the landlords, and hasn’t gone through the legislative process that would assure it’s balanced legislation,” she said. “It has very strong financial incentives for landlords to encourage vacancies, and it doesn’t have the corresponding protections for tenants.”

Occhipinti said that he supports the decontrol measure, but noted that his administration will hold a zero-tolerance policy towards landlords accused of intimidating or harassing tenants in an effort to force them to move so they can decontrol rents.

“Make no mistake about it, if there are any unscrupulous landlords in this city that intend to intimidate or coerce our tenants, we will bring the full weight of city hall to bear upon them,” he said.

Ramos said the measure should not be on the ballot. He placed the blame on the Zimmer administration, saying better governing could find a compromise between tenants and landlords.

“The mayor and the City Council should have stepped in when you’ve got both sides in this steel cage match,” he said. “They’re looking for an absolute winner on each side, either total annihilation of rent control as we know it in the city of Hoboken, or trying to keep it the same way.”

Small business and parking

Later in the debate, the candidates answered another issue-based question critical to many Hobokenites, the issue of boosting small business in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Unsurprisingly, the issue quickly turned to parking, and Ramos and Occhipinti, answering first and second respectively, criticized Zimmer for failing to reform parking codes unfriendly to local businesses.

“Patrons are sick of coming into our shops and coming out to find a boot on their car,” said Ramos. “We need to look at our parking mechanisms over and over again, and our codes over and over again.”

He also complained about what he said was the failure of the city to advertise itself properly.

“Washington Street is back to life, but we’ve failed to get that word out time and time again,” he said.

Occhipinti vowed to create new municipal parking garages in an effort to relieve the stress of finding a space, for both visitors and residents.

“There’s 25,000 residential parking permits and only 16,000 on-street spaces,” he said. “We need to attack that problem aggressively by building more parking garages, which in turn will bring more people to the city.”

He also complained about the behavior of Parking Utility workers, who he said lacked “grace” in being overzealous about ticketing.

Zimmer, as she did several times during the debate, referred to her actions following Hurricane Sandy, noting that she promoted the city on the national news as a shopping and tourism destination. She said that while her administration is working on parking laws, the most important way to bring business to town is to protect the town itself.

Presenting a map showing what she has referred to as a comprehensive flood protection plan, Zimmer said that local businesses won’t improve until the city is safe. She touted her plan to build flood pumps along the river and instate green infrastructure codes as a way of bolstering the city’s defenses while still maintaining its character.

Is Hoboken divided?

This election season, like Zimmer’s first mayoral campaign in 2009, is sometimes framed as being divided along “Old Hoboken” and “New Hoboken” lines. The candidates were asked about the divisions in town, and whether the heated political atmosphere intimidated people from getting involved, considering those who speak out are often criticized on the internet and elsewhere, along with their families.

Occhipinti, answering first, referred to his One Hoboken slate’s campaign mission.

“We’re too divided. Right now there are online personalities and commenters and blogs [with] the mission in life to attack people, attack their families, and it’s not the way we want the city to be represented,” he said.

He noted that he thought political leaders who are supported by various blogs should ask those who write them to reduce their hyperbole.

“We need to move forward as a community together,” he continued. “If that doesn’t happen, we’re going to have major problems, because the fabric of Hoboken is being destroyed.”

Zimmer’s allies have put together several blogs that attack her opponents. Zimmer didn’t address the toxicity specifically and said she didn’t think the city is as divided as some may think.

“I think the city is united. I think it's the City Council, and the council meetings, that are where you’ve seen some really nasty rhetoric, but you look at the most recent example is how our community came together after Hurricane Sandy,” she said. “It was really incredible.”

She also noted that she thought that under her leadership, more Hobokenites have a voice than ever before.

Ramos called the fact that he had to answer a question about the internet attacks “depressing,” and again criticized what he said was a lack of leadership on Zimmer’s part to bring the various parts of Hoboken together.

“We need to be beyond that negative political discourse and be about finding solutions to the important issues facing us today,” he said.

Even more online...

Zimmer, Occhipinti and Ramos also discussed questions about Hoboken’s sordid political past, they named their biggest personal regret in life, and had to talk about their opponents. So check out to see the full debate.

Dean DeChiaro may be reached at

Comments-icon Post a Comment
October 16, 2013
Hoboken Revolt just sent out a message endorsing the Rent Control referendum and saying that voting YES is the right thing for all of hoboken.

They are a general tax group that has supported the sale of the hospital, opposed the Monarch project, spoke out about extending the Church Towers PILOT agreement and many other things pertaining to good fiscal management.

They are part of a developer group whose mission is to look at what is good for the town as a whole.
October 16, 2013
There are NOT part of a developer group but have a mission to at what is good for the town as a whole....
October 15, 2013
Well look at all the posts try yo convince people to destrory rent control in Hoboken after the people just voted to save it.

One would think that by the shear volume of the rhetoric the real estate interests have their paid flacks working none stop to destroy rent control.

I too am voting for Mayor Zimmer and get entire slate because they have always stood up of the rights of all the residents of Hoboken.

On November 5th VOTE NO AGAIN to save rent control.
October 15, 2013
Vote YES to the referendum and allow condos and one to 4 families out of this horribly managed ordinance.

1,000's of home owners relied on a rule put out by the Rent Leveling Board that said they could charge what ever they wanted when they bought a condo upon conversion that was either vacant or they were the Tenant at the time.

A recent court ruling (APRIL 2013) ruled that the RLB had NO RIGHT to put in and disseminate that rule putting 1,000s of unsuspecting home owners at risk with NO RECOURSE. AGAIN, the city governing as if it was the wild wild west have put people's savings at risk.

Get rid of this law now.. No more waiting... No more excuses.... No more politicians who say they are going to do something about it and then don't.

Read more: Hudson Reporter - Hoboken mayoral candidate debate is now on line
October 15, 2013

October 15, 2013
I am voting for Mayor Zimmer but think she is wrong on the matter of rent control. How do you justify rent control on condos and 1-4 families when who gets to stay in these cheap apartments at the direct expense of the landlord, are not income tested? How do you justify taking money away from property owners and giving it to people who are not necessary low income earners?

When you look at property where the legal rents are well below market, the owners sell well below other similar properties where the rents are at market.

There is property on the south side, that will remain anonymous where the rents were below $1000 a piece for 2 bedrooms. The legal rents are ridiculously low and as recent as last year there was someone there making a 6 figure income paying $800/month in rent for a 2 bedroom. It wasn't in good shape but why in the world would or could the owner put any money into the property with that kind of rent?

Would the rent leveling board give the owner enough of an increase to make any voluntary improvement worthwhile? Why bother if all the landlord is going to get is the cost of the improvement spread over a super long time?

How can the Mayor support delaying change any further? Hoboken has been trying to change this law pretty much from the minute it went in. Why delay it?

The Council has been afraid in the past to change it. They are afraid to change it now. I believe 8 out of 9 Council members will vote yes in the booth but wont' say it publicly.

If she thinks it can be done better than how? Put the referendum through and then put in the supposed improvements. How many years to property owners have to wait? How long?

Read more: Hudson Reporter - Hoboken mayoral candidate debate is now on line
October 15, 2013
November 5th the people of Hoboken will be asked to do the right thing again.

October 13, 2013
Did Occhipinti complain about Hoboken411 attacking a former councilman's wife by name with the absurd lie a senior IT professional was applying to be the city Business Administrator?

Where was Occhipint's protest against family?

Must have missed it. Look it's silent Tim: