The citizens of West New York elected their new Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, May 8, including Mayor Sal Vega, who serves simultaneously as mayor and commissioner.
In West New York’s form of government, five commissioners are elected to a board, and one of them is chosen to be mayor as well.
In the election, Mayor Silverio “Sal” Vega secured another four-year term on the Board of Commissioners, along with incumbents Gerald Lange and Lawrence Riccardi and new commissioners Alberto Rodriguez and Michelle Fernandez Lopez.
The five ran as a slate and were unopposed.
According to the voting numbers, which do not include absentee ballots, Vega received approximately 3,500 votes, Riccardi, approximately 2,820, Lange, approximately 2,730, Rodriguez, approximately 2,800, and Fernandez Lopez, approximately 2,750.
Fernandez Lopez is the first woman elected to the board, and Rodriguez, at 27, is the youngest commissioner ever elected in West New York.
“We are very thankful for everything you have done for us tonight and every day; the people of West New York have spoken,” said Vega. “If I live up to this great honor, I will ask you to allow me to be mayor again four years from now.”
Vega is also a state Assemblyman but is running for state Senate against Union City Mayor Brian Stack in the Democratic primary on June 5 (see related story on cover).
Following the polling results, Vega and some members of his team took a victory walk to the Lighthouse in Edgewater for their celebration, where Rodriguez showed his musical skills as his salsa jazz band performed sets for the evening’s festivities.
“Tonight is about the hard work and dedication you have done for West New York,” said Vega. “You have elected five commissioners that are totally dedicated to the town of West New York and we will work together [as a team].”
One by one, the commissioners came up to express a few words of thanks to the crowd of supporters gathered at the Lighthouse.
“It’s great to be elected again, and to get to the next level, we have to do better than we did today,” said Lange. “I appreciate everything you have done for me. Thank you and God bless you.”
“Today’s election was not about us; it was about you,” said Riccardi. “We wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for your hard work.”
This is Lange’s fourth term and Riccardi’s seventh term on the Board of Commissioners.
New commissioner Lopez said, “Thank you very much and enjoy [tonight] as much as you can. We have many years to go [in West New York]. I just want to thank Mayor Vega once again for giving me this opportunity, and I want to thank my mentor, Commissioner Riccardi.”
“The town of West New York has a brand new Board of Commissioners,” said Rodriguez. “West New York is going through a beautiful transition, and this administration is ready to go towards the future.”
Things to do in the next term
Vega’s administration wants to start focusing on development for the rest of the town, since the positive growth that occurred on the waterfront, and updating the town’s Master Plan.
“The next phase is to develop the rest of the town, but we have to be very careful that we don’t alter the beauty and the [charm] in the town,” said Vega.
Vega wants to encourage developers to look beyond the waterfront in West New York and bring their investments throughout the rest of the town. A possibility is offering a kind of tax incentive similar to neighboring municipalities like Hoboken and Jersey City, who work out agreements with developers to temporarily pay a scaled-down version of the true tax rate to attract them. However, those deals are often controversial.
Developers will also be encouraged to include affordable housing and/or invest a percentage of money into the town’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund to continue the progress of affordable housing.
Other upcoming projects include senior citizen affordable housing, the creation of a Cultural Affairs Center, and more resources and programs available for gifted students, who are often shipped out of the district to private schools because the public schools don’t offer a certain caliber of programming.
“What I would like to see is a concept where we can create programs for these [elementary through high school] kids offering exceptional education in the sciences and the arts,” said Vega. “Sort of like a magnet school in our district.”
There are also plans for a state of the art recreation center behind and within Miller Stadium, off of 59th Street and Kennedy Boulevard, which will have updated facilities and programs for youth and seniors.
Miller Stadium will then become a facility only for baseball and softball.
The recreation center would also take a portion of the locker room area of the stadium now used for the football season. Football and soccer will be moved to Memorial Park and additional soccer fields will be provided at the waterfront. Jessica Rosero can be reached at email@example.com SIDEBAR
Vega will sleep in his ‘Freedom Wagon’ RV
At his mayoral victory party, West New York Mayor Sal Vega introduced two of his runningmates for his next challenge – his June 5 Democratic primary for state Senate. Running for other seats that day are Nicole Garcia, a candidate for the Assembly seat in the 33rd District, and Alberto Cabrera, a candidate for the county freeholder seat in the 7th District.
“We have people working to fight in the places we have the greatest challenges,” said Vega.
Vega, who is also the athletic director for Memorial High School, took a leave of absence on Wednesday from that position in the West New York School District to campaign for the next 28 days throughout the 33rd District.
He campaigned from his mobile RV headquarters, nicknamed the “Freedom Wagon.”
“This is my mobile office of Sal Vega for state Senate headquarters,” said Vega. “With the flexibility to be mobile, I can be closer to the voters.”
Vega will be spending much of his time in Union City, including sleeping there in the RV.
“Obviously, this is where my opponent is, and I want to make sure that the people of Union City know we will support them,” said Vega. “That there are people willing to make a change and make Hudson County better.”
Vega said he will continue to fulfill his responsibilities as mayor in West New York the entire time as well. – Jessica Rosero