Decision day in Secaucus Three council seats up for grabs Nov. 7; polls open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Secaucus residents may be interested in the New Jersey Senate race or who controls Congress. However, if all politics are truly local, then all eyes will be watching the three contested council rates on Nov. 7.

Two slates centered on two rivals

The Secaucus town council race features two slates with three candidates each, as well as one independent candidate. The Elwell Team slate, made up of candidates backed by Mayor Dennis Elwell, is made up of Michael Grecco, Robert Kickey and John Shinnick. The Take Back Secaucus slate, led by the Secaucus superintendent of the Department of Public Works and fire department battalion chief Michael Gonnelli, is made up of Gary Jeffas, Gonnelli, and Dr. Robert Berckes. Independent candidate Tom Troyer rounds out the list of candidates.

The two slates are going up against each other in each of Secaucus’s three wards. The 1st Ward race features incumbent Michael Grecco against attorney Gary Jeffas, who is making his first run for office. The 3rd Ward race features former Secaucus Board of Education trustee John Shinnick against chiropractor and school principal Dr. Robert Berckes. The 2nd Ward race is slightly more complex. Michael Gonnelli is going up against incumbent Robert Kickey. However, Gonnelli and Kickey are being joined by independent candidate and Secaucus Board of Education trustee Tom Troyer.

Although Elwell is not on the ballot himself this November, many town residents see this council race as a proxy battle between the mayor and his longstanding rival Gonnelli. The onetime allies are now fierce political enemies. Their discordant relationship, rooted in questions concerning Gonnelli’s D.P.W. retirement package and other issues, was on display as recently as the Oct. 24 town council meeting. On that day, the question of whether Gonnelli can continue to serve as a volunteer fireman and as a town councilman if he wins was heatedly discussed by Elwell and Gonnelli, as well as the general public. If Gonnelli triumphs, many town political observers would see his victory as a warm-up to a battle royale between him and Elwell in the 2009 Secaucus mayoral election.

Overdevelopment the most critical issue

The one issue that has been most frequently mentioned in Secaucus by both candidates and voters alike as they walk into the voting booth is overdevelopment.

The Elwell administration has been a strong supporter of the future Transit Village housing development at the Secaucus Junction train station. Gonnelli has stated that while he was initially supportive of the project, he no longer favors it, believing that the increased population density the project would add to the town would hurt schools and services.

Members of the Elwell Team, the Take Back Secaucus team and Troyer have all stated that they are against overdevelopment, with varying degrees of support for the Transit Village project. All believe that whatever steps lie ahead for the Transit Village project, as well as any additional development in Secaucus, they should be taken cautiously, keeping in the mind the still small-town nature of Secaucus and hoping to preserve the unique character of the town, which lies within the New York/New Jersey megalopolis.

NJ Tenth Congressional District also in play

Secaucus voters will also vote for who represents them in Congress on Nov. 7. U.S. Representative Steve Rothman (D – 9th district – Fair Lawn) is running for re-election against his Republican challenger, Vince Micco. Rothman was first elected to the House in 1996. Micco, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq, lives in Rutherford.

Polling times and locations

All polls will be open is Secaucus from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The Secaucus polling place locations are as follows:

1st Ward:

Election District 1: Clarendon Elementary School, 685 Fifth Street

Election District 2: First Reformed Church, 53 Centre Avenue

Election District 3: Washington Hook & Ladder Co, No 1, 272 County Avenue

Election District 4 and 5: Secaucus Fire Department, Engine Company One, 150 Plaza Center Road

2nd Ward:

All Election Districts 1 – 5: Huber Street School, 1520 Paterson Plank Road

3 rd Ward:

Election District 1: Clarendon Elementary School, 685 Fifth Street

Election District 2: Harmon Cove (recreation center)

Election District 3: The Elms, 777 Fifth Street


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