First blood: Michael Russo cries “deal” having to face opposition, Raia says ‘I’m a giver not a taker’

In the first exchange of blows since the November City Council ward lineups were announced yesterday, the third ward quickly emerged drawing first blood.

Councilman Michael Russo who apparently expected to run for re-election with no opposition whatsoever went on the record claiming a “deal” between his opposition and current nemesis Frank “Pupie” Raia and Mayor Dawn Zimmer.

The mayor is backing a council ticket this fall but has no third ward candidate.

Raia immediately rebuked the notion declaring it “bull crap” and clearly contrasting himself versus Russo saying, “I’m a giver not a taker.” He highlighted his decades long service as a founder of HOPES, the North Hudson Sewerage Authority, and Hoboken Board of Education.

Russo is seeking his third term as the third ward councilman and clearly wishes to “evolve” from the person seen on FBI surveillance tape in 2011 when he agreed to a series of bribes with federal informant Solomon Dwek in Jersey City’s Whitehorse Tavern. That story was first broken in Hoboken on MSV.

The exchange took place in separate interviews with John Heinis of the Hudson County View.

This video report comes courtesy of the Hudson County View.

Talking Ed Note: In the interview, Michael Russo complained further about the mayor being “hooked up with a developer” who has “multiple projects in the city” concluding it’s “everything that’s wrong with politics.”

While Raia has seen some progress on properties he’s owned in recent years, no one has claimed he’s received any favoritism and others think he like other local builders have been stalled by the balanced development vision Mayor Zimmer advocates since she took office in 2009.

Did Michael Russo raise any red flag or express concern on any of this in recent years? The answer is very likely a resounding no. The third ward councilman certainly didn’t raise a red flag when he was caught on FBI surveillance tape agreeing to a series of bribes related to zoning telling Solomon Dwek to make out a $5,000 check to “Russo for Hoboken.

Russo lives in moderate income PILOTed housing of Church Towers where his voting base is maintained on a “closed” list of tenant vacancies/transactions.  He benefited gaining an apartment when he was only a teenager bypassing numerous others.

It’s widely known the Russo family made well into seven figures in real estate transactions and some questionable votes on the City Council may have paved the way for eventual exclusive real estate commissions in northwest Hoboken adding to the haul.

Raia is seeking to reverse fortunes in their previous 2007 City Council contest for the third ward seat.

No Hoboken election, especially one with an Old Guard heavyweight match-up such as this will go without behind the scenes warring and the controversy of Vote-by-Mail irregularities.

Those questions can be expected to mount not only in the third ward race but especially the fourth ward in the area of the Hoboken Housing Authority.

Related: MSV set the standard for investigative reporting on the controversial use of Vote-by-Mail in Hoboken back in 2010 and more recently in 2013. Its coverage has been followed by PolitickerNJ, Hoboken Patch and others.

In 2013, MSV filed this exclusive investigative VBM related report.

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