Politics Pollutes Hoboken Zoning Office
Zoning Officer Holtzman under fire for playing politics with her office
Pinchevsky and Kurta illegally open headquarters without inspection; Occhipinti pays $50 fine for keeping banner up too long…
New Hoboken Zoning Officer Ann Holtzman is at the center of a political firestorm involving two candidates for 4th Ward City Council and another in the 1st Ward.
Zoning Officers are supposed to leave politics out of their jobs, but evidence is mounting that Holtzman is not living up to that standard. Holtzman is a political patronage appointee of Mayor Dawn Zimmer, who also appointed her husband Gary Holtzman to the Planning Board in exchange for their political support. (Yes, even more cronyism.)
Holtzman attends illegal HQ opening for Kurta/Pinchevsky
As Zoning Officer, it’s Ann Holtzman’s job to issue certificates allowing political campaigns to open headquarters operations in retail spaces. It’s also her job to ensure those spaces operate legally.
That means no headquarters can open before a safety inspection by the Construction Code office. Holtzman issued a Use Certificate for the Kurta/Pinchevsky headquarters on February 24th, weeks after Eric Kurta had actually begun preparing the space.
On February 28th, Holtzman and her husband attended the grand opening kickoff of the headquarters, which was open to the public. The problem? The event was illegal because the Construction Code Office had not yet inspected the site and there was no Certificate of Occupancy posted.
Without that CO – the public opening was unlawful – but the Zoning Officer allowed it to happen, and is actually seen happily smiling in many campaign-provided photos of the event with “Rami” and “Kurta” stickers on her arms.
Word gets out about Holtzman’s error, and the HQ is closed
An order shutting down the Kurta/Pinchevsky HQ was later issued, and operations were supposed to cease until the legally required inspections were completed. On March 15th – more than 2 weeks after the Zoning Officer partied at an illegal public event – the CO was finally issued.
While Holtzman looked the other way for her allies, she bowed to political pressure to fine Councilman Tim Occhipinti for leaving a campaign banner up at his headquarters.
Zoning Pollution in Hoboken Politics
When 4th ward Councilman Tim Occhipinti was elected in November, he knew he would be running again for the job in May.
That meant a brief respite from a campaign in December and January before getting back to the grind of preparing for another in February. Occhipinti emptied out his headquarters at Observer and Monroe in November so the owner of the property could do some floor repairs before he moved back in March. His banners stayed up on the awnings of the building because he was going to be back in there soon enough. In fact, in December Occhipinti moved from his apartment on 4th Street to an another upstairs from his campaign headquarters.
Holtzman wants banners down, Occhipinti says he’ll comply
..gets ticket anyway
Twice-defeated ex-councilman Tony Soares lives across the street from Occhipinti headquarters at The Skyline.
During the campaign he would often be seen flipping people the bird and was suspected of allowing his dog to soil the area around the campaign office. That’s just Tony being Tony, a man constantly brimming with anger and hatred. Sources say Soares was pressuring people at City Hall to use their government power to force Occhipinti to take down his sign, using a little-known (and rarely-used) clause in the Zoning Code regarding political signage. The fine for leaving a political sign up too long is $100. Hardly a major crime.
Why remove a sign for a campaign that resumes so soon?
Occhipinti didn’t see why the signs needed to be taken down in December when by February the campaign would be underway once again, but he told her he would comply with her request. On the day after Christmas, Occhipinti took the banner down, but Holtzman cited him anyway.
1st ticket never makes it to Occhipinti, causing court confusion
Occhipinti says he never received the original ticket in the mail, and it may have been lost in the confusion of moving from one apartment to another. He found out he was cited and had missed the first court appearance only when allies of Mayor Dawn Zimmer began anonymously posting harassing accusations against him on the internet. He received a call from a supporter asking why someone (most likely Soares himself) was claiming he “skipped out” on a court appearance. With such a minor issue at hand there was no bench warrant issued. Instead the court rescheduled the issue to a later date, where Occhipinti and his campaign attorney appeared pay the $100 fine.
Hoboken Judge refuses Occhipinti payment, sends it to Secaucus
Occhipinti wasn’t going to fight the fine. His attorney told the Hoboken Judge they just wanted to pay it and be done with it. The Judge said no, he wanted a change of venue to another town because Occhipinti was an elected official. This week Occhipinti appeared in Secaucus court where the Municipal Prosecutor got a good laugh out of the whole thing and reduced the fine to $50, which Occhipinti promptly paid. Ann Holtzman also had to appear in Secaucus Court, and she wasn’t the only Pinchevsky ally there. Holtzman was there when a paid campaign operative working for the Zimmer-supported candidates ambushed Occhipinti with a video camera in an effort to get some mileage out of the $50 fine.
Pinchevsky issues error-filled press release attacking Occhipinti
In a desperate effort to get his own campaign off the ground, Pinchevsky – a lapdog for Mayor Dawn Zimmer – issued the following statement:
“As head of the Zoning and Development Committee for the City Council, it is inexcusable that Mr Occhipinti would disregard the law in such a manner.”
First of all, Pinchevsky is wrong about the committee Occhipinti heads. It’s called the “Economic Development and Open Space Acquisition Subcommittee.” He’s apparently confusing it with the Planning and Zoning subcommittee.
“His brazen behavior shows an utter disrespect to city residents and the law he has duly sworn to uphold. Mr. Occhipinti should publicly apologize for his behavior,” said Rami.
“Do as I say, not as I do” a big trend in Hoboken
Leaving a banner up shows “an utter disrespect” to the law?
After reading that, one might ask when Rami Pinchevsky and Eric Kurta are going to “publicly apologize” for breaking the law regarding the legal occupancy of their own campaign headquarters!
Why did Pinchevsky and Kurta open their doors to the public illegally more than two weeks before a safety inspection and CO was issued… and more importantly, why did Holtzman allow (and attend) that party to go on despite the lack of a posted permit? It’s clear from the way Soares, Pinchevsky and their allies have handled this tempest in a teapot that they’ve been following every step of the process with a complicit Holtzman in an effort to embarrass a political rival.
Isn’t that the kind of political retribution and manipulation that was supposed to be erased from City Hall by the so-called new guard? The faces change, but the politics remains. Holtzman’s actions have led some critics to consider submitting an ethics complaint with the state Department of Community Affairs.
The hypocrisy and cronyism at City Hall – you can’t make this stuff up!