HOBOKEN, NJ – Several Hoboken political personalities have offered their viewpoints following the news that First Ward Councilman Michael DeFusco not only travellng during the pandemic but listing his home as a short-term rental on Airbnb.

As reported first by TAPinto Hoboken earlier this week, a property matching the Councilman’s primary residence, “hosted by Michael”, is posted as a short-term rental on Airbnb, having housed a steady docket of various guests for the past eight months. According to the site, 23 reviews from a variety of guests date back to August 2020—several months into the global pandemic, while state-mandated travel restrictions were in place. Reviews for the unit have been posted by tenants from areas that include Canada, Washington State, Ohio, California, Colorado, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Florida.

First Ward Councilman Michael DeFusco refers to himself as a, “proud Hoboken homeowner,” and has served on the City Council since 2015. We reached out to DeFusco, who ultimately confirmed to TAPinto Hoboken that the listing was in fact his apartment. DeFusco also confirmed that he had been traveling, but would not offer any further details on the record regarding the duration and destination of his travels. However, it has been established that the Councilman did travel to Colombia at some point during the period in question. Furthermore, the Councilman declined to comment on information regarding at least one 28-day-long rental of the unit.

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On Wednesday, TAPinto Hoboken received an unsolicited email from Councilperson-at-Large Emily Jabbour, offering statement from her, her colleagues on the council, and a Hudson County Commissioner—all weighing in on the topic of DeFusco’s situation.

“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 meeting,” read a statement co-authored by Jabbour, Councilman-at-Large James Doyle, and 5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen. “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 Airbnb 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.”

Cohen, Jabbour and Doyle are longstanding allies of Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla, who narrowly defeated DeFusco in the 2017 election following a dramatic campaign.

Hoboken Second Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher took issue with her colleagues’ comments.

“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.”

Meanwhile, Councilwoman Vanessa Falco—who ran on DeFusco’s slate in 2017—has said, “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.”

Falco added, “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,” she said. “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.”

Hudson County Commissioner Anthony Romano also stepped into the fray, saying, “The recent revelation concerning Councilman Michael DeFusco and his 23 Airbnb 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 Airbnb.”

The Commissioner, and Hoboken resident, added, “I, along with other of his constituents have reached out to DeFusco about the issue of Airbnb, with no response from him. Now, after media reports of his many rentals through Airbnb and not living in Hoboken, it’s abundantly clear why.” Romano said, “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.”

Romano was also a candidate in the hotly contested 2017 Mayoral election.

TAPInto Hoboken reached out to DeFusco, who has declined to comment further.

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