After several media outlets reported earlier this week that Hoboken’s First Ward Councilman Michael DeFusco rented out his home on Airbnb over the past year during the pandemic, and travelled out of the country on more than one instance, several local politicians have expressed their views on the situation.
Reportedly, DeFusco rented his home on a short-term basis over a period of eight months. During those times, the Councilman travelled to various parts of New Jersey and even went overseas to visit family and friends. Several members of the City Council issued statements on Wednesday criticizing DeFusco’s actions.
Jim Doyle, Emily Jabbour and Phil Cohen, all strong allies of Mayor Ravi Bhalla, said, “Since last summer, Councilman Michael DeFusco has notably been absent from Hoboken – absent from signing-up seniors for vaccines, absent from volunteering in the community, absent from supporting our struggling small businesses, and absent from certain City Council meetings and several community meetings. Now, we know why – not only has he been traveling across the world to COVID hot-spot countries like Colombia, Michael has rented his own apartment through Air BnB more than 20 times since August of last year, including up-to month-long rentals, evidently leaving him absent from his elected office, absent from Hoboken, and absent from any presence in the City he’s elected to represent. As elected officials, we’ve been doing our jobs representing our constituents, safely and in-person when appropriate and safe to do so, helping our City recover from the pandemic. At a bare minimum, Michael owes his constituents a full and complete accounting as to why he’s been an absentee Councilman, with overseas travel to COVID-19 hot-spots during the height of the pandemic. If he’s unable to do so, perhaps he should no longer serve on the City Council.”
Councilwoman Vanessa Falco, who ran on DeFusco’s ticket in 2017 when he sought to win the race for the Mayor’s office, stated, “It was very disappointing for me to learn the information that is being reported about First Ward Council Member Michael DeFusco. This past year has been a difficult one for residents, students, senior citizens, teachers, first responders, and parents. I am not sure how he feels his absence is appropriate or why. During the pandemic, it was, and still remains an all hands-on deck approach in keeping residents safe.
From delivering food, checking on senior citizens, providing education and awareness of testing and vaccines, my council colleagues have all contributed immensely during these difficult times. I unfortunately cannot say that Council Member Defusco was a part of our collective efforts during the pandemic. Despite having conversations with him, he never once mentioned that he was out of the country and/or not living in Hoboken and I find that so disingenuous.
I hope that he can find a way to be honest, transparent and accountable for his actions. Our constituents deserve this because as elected officials we are held to a higher standard in doing what’s best for our community.”
When contacted by Hudson TV for an on camera interview, Councilman DeFusco declined, but he did provide the following statement, saying, “Like most, including my City Council colleagues, during the pandemic I spent time with close family. Living alone and without the ability to physically interact with the community I love, the family support is what got me through this very difficult time.
Maybe the only difference is that while I was visiting family I sometimes offered my home as a short term rental as a way of offsetting my mortgage which I pay on a single person’s income. All of this was done in accordance with CDC guidelines to protect the health of my senior parents, young nieces and myself as I fall within the at risk population.
Since the beginning of the pandemic I have put forth significant legislation to improve the lives of our Hoboken neighbors and businesses including a compressive plan for outdoor dining, and I’ve worked with the mayor to move the municipal garage from my district.
Having missed only one council meeting due to injury, I’ve remained fully present in Hoboken and my constituents know my commitment to our neighborhood and public service is absolute and unwavering.”
Even Hudson County Commissioner Anthony Romano, a resident of Hoboken’s First Ward and a candidate in the 2017 Mayoral election, weighed in, saying, “The recent revelation concerning Councilman Michael Defusco and his 23 Air BnB rentals in just nine months, along with his trips outside of the country, are very troubling. Our Councilperson in the First Ward, the ward in which I live, should not be absent from his neighborhood and renting out his primary residence for long term stays through Air BnB.
I, along with other of his constituents have reached out to DeFusco about the issue of Air BnB, with no response from him. Now, after media reports of his many rentals through Air BnB and not living in Hoboken, it’s abundantly clear why.
During his absence, our community has come together to help residents and seniors in the first ward, because DeFusco has not been there for his own constituents, many of whom have not heard or seen from him in almost a year.”
Councilwoman Jabbour also provided the following information in a release to members of the media following a review of Councilman DeFusco’s Airbnb profile and other reported facts published by various news sources:
· DeFusco’s Air BnB profile, which includes his apartment for listing, lists travel 11 times to hot-spot countries including Colombia, Croatia and Belgium.
· DeFusco rented out his apartment, including stays of up to 28 days, 23 times since August of 2020.
· DeFusco has had only 2 public appearances documented on his social media feed in Hoboken since August, 2020 through April, 2021 – in October and November, 2020 – which corresponds with breaks of reviews of Michael’s stay in Air BnBs in Columbia, Croatia and Belgium.
· Michael earned 5.0 ratings renting out his Air BnB and achieved the “Superhost” status, which directly due to the number of times he’s rented out his home in Hoboken.
· As of just a few weeks ago, Councilman DeFusco listed his apartment available for rent for the majority of June, July and August of 2021. Subsequent to the recent publications in two other news sources, those long-term rentals have been removed.
Second Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher took a different approach, clearly taking issue with those persons who expressed outrage at Councilman DeFusco. Councilwoman Fisher stated, ““I hope the public will see this for what it is —a politically motivated hit job,” said Fisher. “Many City Council members, not just Mike, have traveled this last year to be with close family, including those who signed this letter. As most know I lost my mom last year and spent a lot of time in Rochester [NY] while handling City business remotely in those cases. I think my colleagues should be held accountable for bullying someone for choosing to supplement their income, while still doing their job, during a difficult time. Just another disgusting example of how far team Bhalla will go to discredit a potential opponent.”
Mayor Bhalla is seeking re-election in November.
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