Roque claims Vega followers were intimidating

Police show up as politicians argue

Dr. Felix Roque, who recently launched the petition drive for a special election to recall West New York Mayor Silverio “Sal” Vega, says he has collected the 5,500 signatures needed to begin a recall, but is hoping to get 25 to 30 percent over what is required in case the authenticity of the signatures is questioned.
“We’re already close to 5,800 or so,” said Roque, who has until the first week of December to collect enough signatures.


Roque has until the first week of December to collect enough signatures.

However, as he recently began adding signatures, brutal battles broke out on West New York turf.
Roque complained that his supporters have told him Vega operatives were knocking on people’s doors and discouraging them from signing the petition.
“They are actually [allegedly] knocking on doors telling the individuals … that if they were to sign, they would get kicked out of the housing project. That a judge had ordered them not to sign,” said Roque. “That is what they are telling the seniors and actually knocking very hard and making them nervous.”
There were witnesses.
Senior citizen Georgina Zamora, 430 62nd St., told the Reporter that three women and one man came to her home and made her feel intimidated.
Roque also asserted that Vega supporters are able to get into public housing, but he cannot. He said that he was told by a housing official that he may not petition there.
“It is a double standard what they are doing,” said Roque. “Two months ago we were knocking on [public] housing and they threw us out.”
The regular mayoral election will be held in May of 2011, but Roque says that because of issues like high taxes, Vega should be removed from office earlier.

Confrontation at Park Towers

There was a confrontation on Wednesday at a privately owned building, Park Towers.
Roque went to the building, 5101 Park Ave., on Wednesday, Oct. 7 at approximately 7 p.m. to confront Vega supporters on the 21st floor. The Vega supporters were leaving anti-recall election flyers, knocking on doors, and talking to residents.
A confrontation was witnessed by a reporter from the West New York Reporter. The Vega supporters at first did not want to reveal their names. Later they identified themselves as Jesenia Camilo and “Jim.”
“I believe that the community should know what Vega has done for the community,” said Camilo. “I love it when people come to my house and tell me what is going on.”
Eventually, Camilo used her cell phone to call someone from “headquarters” to come and answer questions. In the meantime, Roque called the police.
Then Roque said to the Vega supporters, “Okay, I got the Police Department. I’m not being disrespectful and I apologize if I’m offending you, but the thing is, I have been kicked out of buildings because they say that I’m illegal in that building. So I’m going to do the same thing that you did [by petitioning]. If they decide to keep you here, it’s okay, but understand that if it was us in here, they would have kicked us out a long time ago.”
Camilo responded, “Since we spoke to the owner, we thought that it’s okay.”
The owner of the building is developer James Canino.
Roque said he thought it was not surprising that Canino owned the building. A few months earlier, Canino’s development company had requested a rezoning change of part of the neighborhood from medium density to high density, which would have allowed the developer to build up to 30 stories in height. However, Canino’s company, Park View Terrace, LLC, rescinded that request via a letter from their attorney on Aug. 28.

Not his prerogative

Eventually, Commissioners Gerald Lange and Alberto Rodriguez arrived in the lobby of the building where Roque and Vega supporters were waiting after going down from the 21st floor. When Roque asked Lange if they gave permission for volunteers to knock on doors, Lange said, “That’s not my prerogative. That’s the owner’s prerogative.”
“It’s private property,” said Rodriguez “He’s [Roque] actually got ‘circulators’ out there, and we have volunteers trying to tell the people ‘don’t sign.’ ”
Lange said that he had affidavits from people saying they signed a Roque petition but didn’t know what it was for. “We’re going to have those affidavits to withdraw those signatures,” said Lange.


As arguing between both parties arose in the lobby, the police arrived. At one point, Lange heard Roque saying something to another man in Spanish about him. Lange asked Roque to translate what he was saying. Roque said he’d just told the man that Lange was scared to lose his job if the recall goes through. (See for audio.)
Lange then told Roque, “If you’re going to talk about me in front of me, speak in English,” and called Roque a “jerk.”
Police waited until both men were done talking. Eventually, both parties left on their own.
“Roque, in my opinion, was very wrong to bother the police last night,” said town spokesman Paul Swibinski. “WNY police have much more important issues to handle to protect the people and property in town to be distracted by a publicity seeking official just looking for headlines. Leave the police alone and let them do their jobs.”

Roque says he’s being targeted

Roque also said that one month ago, during the time his volunteers have been requesting signatures for his petition, the front window of his car was smashed, though he did not make a police report. He also said he caught a man on surveillance video removing pro-petition signs from the front door of his business.
Melissa Rappaport may be reached at

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