Recall attempt launched against Hoboken Councilman Phil Cohen

The committee seeking to unseat Cohen says that he “has not represented us as his constituents”

Councilman Phil Cohen was first elected in 2019, with his 5th Ward seat up for reelection next year. Photo by Mark Koosau.

A committee has formed in Hoboken seeking to remove Councilman Phil Cohen in a recall attempt, saying that the councilman “has not represented us as his constituents” and that he has “prioritized special interests before our own.”

The committee is trying to recall the freshman councilman before he’s up for reelection next year. The recall attempt was first reported by Hudson County View last week and was confirmed by Deputy City Clerk Jerry Lore to the Hudson Reporter that a notice of intent was filed.

“We believe we warrant a councilperson who prioritizes our 5th Ward community and interests, one who is more open and transparent, welcoming of discussion and diverse discourse, empathetic to different socioeconomic backgrounds, and above all focused on our growing neighborhood’s long term safety, affordability, and overall quality of life,” said the committee in a statement.

“This is not a matter we take lightly,” the statement continues. “However, we feel it is imperative to act now not only for our ward (especially given the development in the North End), but also for our larger beloved town of Hoboken.”

Cohen was elected to represent the northwest-based 5th Ward in 2019 with the support of Mayor Ravi Bhalla, succeeding retiring Councilman Peter Cunningham. His seat will be up for reelection next year.

Hudson County View reported that the committee consists of Perry Belfiore, Rebecca Cohen and Barry Grossman. Belfiore was one of the most vocal critics against Bhalla and former Mayor Dawn Zimmer.

In New Jersey, recall elections can be launched if at least 25 percent of registered voters in the electoral district the official represents petitions for it. It is unknown however whether the 2019 or the 2021 elections would be considered for the amount of petitions needed.

In the previous version of the 5th Ward before the re-warding process earlier this year, there were 7,520 registered voters in 2019, according to voting records, which would require 1,880 to petition for a recall. There were then 8,009 registered in 2021, which would require about 2,002 to petition.

“Phil Cohen is an outstanding, hard-working, councilman who through his twice monthly Coffees with Cohen, and other activities is accessible and responsive to his constituents,” said Rob Horowitz, a spokesperson for Cohen.

“Recalls should be reserved for highly unusual circumstances where there is evidence of criminality or other kinds of malfeasance,” he continued. “Led by Bhalla opponent and old time Hudson County pol Perry Belfiore, this effort – if it gains the requisite number of signatures – would result in a special election scheduled for when Phil’s term is nearly over at a cost to the taxpayers of $50,000. It is not only a waste of tax money; it is an abuse of the intent of the recall process.”

Bhalla also told Hudson County View that he views the recall attempt as a “political stunt.”

“Yeah, I guess politics always has its silly season and I think this is a prime example of a political stunt,” he said. “You know, people in America are free to do whatever they want, they could try to create a circus, but frankly, it’s a joke.”

Additional inquiries to the committee seeking to recall Cohen were not responded to.

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