Since the summer of 2020, his residence has hosted about two dozen visitors. PIX11 News has learned it was even rented out for a full 28 days at one point.
Some of his fellow council members have accused him of fleeing the city, traveling internationally to COVID-19 hot spots and being notably absent for his constituents in the middle of a pandemic.
“Just a stunning lack of good judgement when it comes to respect for the people of Hoboken,” City Councilmember-at-large Emily Jabbour told PIX11 News. “Total abdication of responsibility.”
But other council members have come to DeFusco’s defense, with Councilmember Tiffanie Fisher calling it a “political hit job” in a statement and pointing the finger at Mayor Ravi Bhalla, a political foe of DeFusco’s who defeated him in the 2017 mayoral race.
“It’s political season and I think people just don’t necessarily understand what he and other single people go through,” Councilmember Fisher said, suggesting she can relate to his situation. “I’m single, I don’t come home to a house full of family. I spent a considerable amount of time with my family, and I know he’s spent time with his family and balancing the duties of the city, working remotely that’s what everyone is trying to do.”
The mayor’s office didn’t comment, but Councilmember Jabbour says it’s not about politics but about being there for his constituents.
“To say that this is something the mayor’s team put together is simply false,” she said. “I think there’s a question there in terms of his commitment to the position. If you’re not here, then who are your residents looking to?”
For her part, Councilmember Fisher again defended DeFusco renting out his unit, citing the financial impact the pandemic could have on someone living in pricey Hoboken.
“If this councilman wants to create some passive income, I don’t know why he should be faulted for doing that.”
In a statement to PIX11 News, Councilmember DeFusco wrote that during the pandemic he leaned on his family for support and rented his home as a way to offset his mortgage.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have put forth significant legislation to improve the lives of our Hoboken neighbors and businesses including the parklet legislation,” he said. “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. I own one home, have one mailing address and live in one place — Hoboken’s First Ward and for anyone to speculate otherwise is preposterous.”
Jabbour, along with Councilmembers Jim Doyle, Vanessa Falco and Phil Cohen, signed on to statements criticizing DeFusco, including a link to his Airbnb profile.
DeFusco contacted Hoboken police, citing concerns for his privacy, Jabbour claimed.
“HPD is an incredible team of professionals,” she said. “I know that they’re trying to handle this appropriately. In my mind, that sort of came of as an intimidation factor.”
Hoboken’s mayoral election is in November and Councilmember DeFusco is likely to run. He ran in 2017 and lost by just about 500 votes. On Monday, he tweeted out plans to meet with constituents every Thursday in May.