Patricia Waiters serves as a $10,000-per-year aide to newly elected state Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia. Garcia also serves full-time as the paid director of the Hoboken Housing Authority, the agency in Hoboken that oversees the 1,300-plus units of federally subsidized low income housing. The remarks were made at a heated Housing Authority meeting last month.
At that meeting, Waiters said that since Mayor Dawn Zimmer, who is Jewish, took office, she has been appointing only Jewish people to various city boards. Waiters also said, according to the newly released transcript, "Since Dawn's mayorship, we have a real estate place on every corner. What is his name? Weitzman, Heller, Einstein, every corner okay?"
Waiters said that an examination of contracts awarded under Zimmer would reveal that everyone hired by the mayor is Jewish.
Mello is a City Council member who also sits on the Hoboken Housing Authority board, a seven-member unpaid board whose members help oversee the agency and help oversee Garcia, who is paid. For over a year, Garcia has been at odds with the Zimmer-allied members of the board over various issues.
At Wednesday's council meeting, Mello said that Waiters should be fired from her post as an Assembly aide and said the remarks were anti-Semitic.
Reached by phone late Wednesday night, Garcia said that he was in the bathroom when Waiters made the comments about Jewish people and that he could not fire her over comments he did not bear witness to. He did say that he would review the meeting transcript. But he said he could not punish Waiters, a part-time legislative aide, for statements made on her own time.
Racial and ethnic rhetoric has become more intense in Hoboken over the past year. Last year, Garcia went as far as to sue Zimmer and her husband, claiming a plot to "ethnically cleanse" the city. That suit was dismissed, but Garcia later re-filed a new version that omitted the ethnic cleansing charge.
Mello said during a tense exchange with Waiters at the council meeting on Wednesday that "the NBA commissioner knows what to do... he should come down here and show [Garcia]."
Mello was referring to the NBA's lifetime ban of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling handed down by Commissioner Adam Silver last week. Sterling was caught on tape saying that he wished his girlfriend would not bring African-Americans to Clippers games.
Mello became particularly heated when he said that he was personally offended by Waiters' comments because members of his wife's family were killed in the Holocaust.
After being asked to leave by the police at the request of Council President Jennifer Giattino, When interviewed Wednesday night, Waiters maintained that her comments were not anti-Semitic. Waiters has accused Mello and other council members allied with Zimmer of racism in the past.
The exchange between Mello and Waiters was not the only mention of race at Wednesday's meeting. Two housing board candidates -- incumbent Commissioner Eduardo Gonzalez and political newcomer David Dening -- were up for Gonzalez's seat after his term ended in April. Denning was appointed over Gonzales by a 5-4 vote. (See hudsonreporter.com for more on that issue.)
The housing board has been the site of a power struggle between allies and opponents of Zimmer for years, and recently Zimmer gained a majority on the board.
The Housing Authority board meets tonight (Thursday). The meeting is likely to be heated. Sources have said that Mello may be named to replace the African American sitting chair of the board, Rob Davis III, which may also cause tensions.
A related story ran in the Hoboken Reporter this past weekend, with more background. See the links below to read about it. -- Dean DeChiaro