After the death of Adrian Rivera, the 18-year-old Hoboken Housing Authority resident who was shot to death in his home on Jan. 24, Hoboken officials hosted a public meeting last week to discuss safety concerns and drug usage in the area.
“We wanted to make sure that all levels of communication were open,” said 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos, who actually had begun organizing the community meeting last December.
According to Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez, Rivera was the victim of a targeted attack.
This was “Not a random act of violence,” said Suarez at the meeting. “We believe based on the investigation he may have been targeted or at the very least followed.”
“We found over three pounds of marijuana, which is certainly more than I would anticipate anyone would have for their own personal consumption, and we found over $13,000 in cash,” added Suarez. “So draw whatever you wish from that information, but I can tell you from the prosecutor’s perspective, from my office’s perspective, we need to look at this entire incident with some suspicion.”
Two arrests have been made in connection with Rivera’s death and a third individual remains at large, according to the prosecutor, but she doesn’t believe “the suspect will do harm to others.”
Khalif Geiger, 20, and a 17-year-old juvenile were arrested by detectives from the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide Unit in connection with the murder.
Geiger was charged with murder, two counts of felony murder, armed robbery, armed burglary, possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose, unlawful possession of a firearm, and hindering apprehension.
The juvenile was charged with murder, felony murder, armed robbery, armed burglary, possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose, unlawful possession of a firearm and hindering apprehension.
The victim, Rivera, lived at 300 Marshall Dr. with his mother. Two siblings were with him at the time of the shooting.
Alleged perpetrators knew victim
Police Chief Ken Ferrante said as a lifelong resident and police chief, he takes violent crime personally. He stressed the importance of open communication between the public and his department.
Ferrante said that many of those involved in gun violence are teenagers, primarily from Jersey City.
He stated that those arrested for the murder of Rivera were not strangers but grammar school friends.
“Those juveniles, and Adrian Rivera, knew each other. They were friends from grammar school … We can’t have murders in our community. It was the first one we’ve had in four years, but it’s one too many.”
The week before Rivera’s death, police responded to a shooting in the area in which no one was hurt but two .9 mm handguns were found. Six juveniles and one adult were arrested.
Ferrante said they had come to Hoboken for a birthday party and a dispute broke out.
“The scary and disgusting fact is they were all between the ages of 14 and 17,” said Ferrante.
Ferrante said he has four officers stationed between Second and Sixth Street and from Jackson Street to the edge of town 24 hours a day.
Police Captain Charles Campbell told the residents, "We need your help," and urged them to phone in anonymous tips to 201-420-2111.
According to Ferrante, since Dec. 21 there have been 67 arrests between Second and Sixth Street and Jackson Street of which 39 were for drug related crimes.
According to Ferrante, drug users who believe they are getting heroin are actually getting more fentanyl, a deadly opioid that treats pain. Drug dealers are putting it into packets to increase their profit margin.
Ferrante said within the last five weeks there have been 12 incidents in which police have had to use Narcan due to drug overdoses in Hoboken. Narcan is a prescription medicine that blocks the effects of opioids and reverses an overdose.
“Too many kids are running to drugs.” -Michelle Lessane
"It's sad because we have nothing for our kids," said Housing Authority resident Michelle Lessane. "Yes, there are a lot of parks, but the parks are so crowded."
“You all have got to come up with a plan,” she said. “Too many kids are running to drugs… it just hurts my heart.”
Another Housing authority resident Barbara Reyes stressed the importance of city officials taking the time to go to the Hoboken Housing Authority and attend the monthly commissioner meetings. The federally funded low-income HHA buildings are managed by a paid director and staff who answer to the city’s seven-member volunteer Board of Commissioners.
“If you want residents to feel comfortable and confide in you then you have to come down here and show your face,” said Reyes.
Reyes said, “The front door at 311 Harrison consistently stays open… it’/s like a revolving door.”
She added, “We have eight lights in the Harrison Garden courtyard. Only two of them are working. How does that make me feel coming home when I work until 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. and have to go through there?”
Over more than 20 years, a succession of executive directors and board members have pledged to fix what ails the projects, including doors that don’t stay locked, and broken elevators. Apparently, the same problems resurface despite the promises.
Elizabeth Adams asked why there was no curfew for minors in Hoboken.
Kyelin Colon, a public housing resident, said that not everyone is comfortable contacting police because not all tips remain confidential.
She said in the past, before Ferrante became Chief, she would call the police confidentially and she could hear dispatch use her name.
“Anonymous needs to stay anonymous,” said Colon.
Susan Turner, who lives on Fourth and Jackson streets said she considers Jackson Gardens and the Hoboken Housing Authority to be her community even though she doesn’t live there
"People always ask me, why do I live at Fourth and Jackson?" said Turner. "Every time I leave my home, someone says, 'Yo, Susan! What's up?' I walk a few blocks and I don't get that."
She volunteered her services to help Hoboken Housing Authority parents relieve their stress with free yoga or kick boxing.
Help and assistance
Officials and residents said they would work on providing more programming and job opportunities to teens and youth.
Councilman Ruben Ramos, who grew up in the area, said he plans to start a program this summer that provides internships and jobs for Hoboken’s youth to work for the city.
“We used to have the program years ago, but it was eliminated with budget cuts in 2008,” said Ramos. “It hired teens to work in City Hall or at different city departments and were mentored. It gave kids a little money in their pockets and something to feel proud of.”
Ramos said he hopes the program will be initiated this summer.
Housing authority resident Sandra Smith said she and other residents plan to organize a group known as West Side Women to create more opportunities and programming for youth. "It takes a village to raise a child," said Smith.
Mayor Dawn Zimmer told residents she was committed to helping youths find jobs and internships. She said some of these jobs could include helping maintain Hoboken’s public parks.
Last year the city allocated $1 million in grant funding to repair and replace the elevators in the Hoboken Housing Authority. Zimmer said she would seek a similar grant this year to help fund new doors for Hoboken’s public housing.
Freeholder Anthony Romano said the Central Labor Council has apprentice programs for youths and for young adults to become trained and work for unions.
Ramos said the meeting was only step A. He believes the next action will be to have a meeting of community organizers and officials that want to get involved to plan how to actively pursue children’s programs.
Other officials in attendance included HHA Executive Director Marc Recko, Council members David Mello, Jen Giattino, Ravi Bhalla, James Doyle, and Tiffanie Fisher, Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro, Superintendent Dr. Christine Johnson, Freeholder Anthony Romano, and HHA Commissioners Dana Wefer and Hovie Foreman.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.