By a vote of 6-3 on Wednesday night, the Hoboken City Council rejected an ordinance which would have imposed a $250 fine for people not wearing a face mask when in public if social distancing was not reasonably available. The Council’s rejection of the proposed law went against the wishes of Mayor Ravi Bhalla who supported the idea.
Fifth Ward Councilman Phil Cohen, the ordinance’s main sponsor, expressed disappointment with the Council’s decision, saying, “It’s disappointing that the City Council failed to pass the face mask ordinance tonight, despite a majority of Hoboken residents and 5th Ward residents surveyed favoring the regulation, as they expected higher levels of compliance as a result.”
Cohen was referring to a survey the City put out seeking public input on the proposed law and penalty. The results of the survey were released yesterday prior to the Council’s vote last night. 3,661 residents completed the survey, with 51 percent of respondents saying they either agreed, or strongly agreed, with the proposed $250 fine.
Councilman Cohen added, “Hoboken needs to instill a culture of compliance with respect to mask-wearing in places where it is impossible to practice social distancing. The failure to authorize the City to issue warnings and tickets for such risky misconduct emboldens “mask-less” visitors to continue squeezing past us on our sidewalks and in our parks — further diminishing the quality of life in our City, particularly for our seniors and at-risk population, who are rightly fearful to venture into Hoboken’s public spaces due to the risks of COVID-19 and the poor rates of compliance in our community.”
The ordinance had passed by a unanimous vote on first reading. Council members Mike DeFusco, Tiffanie Fisher and Michael Russo had come out publicly prior to last night’s vote, saying they did not support it.