Your local gadflies

Citizen watchdogs keep an eye on politics, development

The term “gadfly” describes someone whom many people – especially those in power – tend to find annoying. But they watch your tax dollars and challenge the status quo by asking difficult or novel questions that more timid residents may be afraid to vocalize.


“As someone who is scared about what is going on, you have to be there.” – David Kronick

North Bergen and Guttenberg have several residents who show up consistently to meetings of the council, board of education, or planning board, driving public officials to distraction with their persistence and tenacity.

If not them, who would be there to pose the question?

Here are profiles of five of the local meeting “regulars.”

Name: Herbert Shaw

Known for: Objecting, saying “sometimes” at the end of the Pledge of Allegiance, running for elections, and often being the only member of the public at North Bergen commissioners’ meetings.

Background: Shaw was born in Weehawken, and lived in West New York and Union City before getting married and moving to North Bergen. He is a Korean War veteran and a retired operating engineer. He has run for a seat on the North Bergen Board of Education more than 30 times, along with other elected offices, including the U.S. Senate, all unsuccessfully. He has questioned the administration on a vast number of issues, from the processes at a now-closed sewerage treatment plant, to why taxpayers do not get their “money’s worth.” Shaw has also insisted that developments along the Palisades Cliffs are dangerous because they are near an earthquake fault line.

Quotable quotes: “I won’t be elected, but somebody has to challenge these corrupt establishments, and that’s what I’m doing. You can do that in this country.” (April 2009)
“The engineering looks to me to be all wrong,” said Shaw on the road-widening construction taking place on Tonnelle Avenue in 2010.

Name: Peggy Wong

Known for: Opposing developments that disturb the Palisades Cliffs, forming the Coalition to Preserve the Palisades Cliffs (CPPC), and fighting for the right to appeal the Hudson County Planning Board’s approval of a strip mall along the cliffs to the Board of Freeholders.

Background: Wong is a lifelong Hudson County resident who moved into her North Bergen apartment in 1972. She is a retired large-scale hotel interior designer whose work includes a renovation of the St. Regis Hotel, and the Sultan of Brunei’s palace. She has files of her work housed in the Pentagon. Wong is also the president of the CPPC and a trustee on the Hudson River Waterfront Conservancy.
In 2005, she found a postcard from the Bergen Ridge Homeowner’s Association, objecting to the proposed Riverview development that was planned for an empty parcel of land seen from outside her window. “I think Riverview opened my eyes about being concerned about what is happening around me,” said Wong. She went on to oppose a proposed Walgreens, bank, and coffee shop currently being built on River Road by Avak Properties, LLC, and U&G Development. When the Hudson County Board of Freeholders refused the CPPC an appeal, she fought for their right to appeal before a judge and won, even though the freeholders ultimately upheld the original county Planning Board approval.

Quotable quotes: “After being ignored by the Board of Chosen Freeholders, we had no choice but to take our case to a higher level.” (October 2009)
“I have to congratulate you. I live in an apartment of 400 units and we have only one meeting room. I’m just concerned as to what is going to go on in these rooms,” Wong said in July 2010, while questioning why the Appleview development of 59 units needed six meeting rooms on each floor. The developer later changed these to storage units.

Name: David Kronick

Known for: defending the Palisades, serving in the N.J. Assembly, serving as the Commander of the Jewish War Veterans Post, and restoring the historic stained glass windows of Temple Beth-El.

Background: Kronick moved to North Bergen in the mid 1970s from Fort Lee. In the early 1980s, he joined the North Bergen Action Group when a development was proposed across the street from his apartment building along J.F.K. Boulevard East. The dedication of the group members led to that parcel becoming J. George Fredman Park.
Kronick said that he learned a lot through that experience, including that his own building didn’t belong on the cliffs, and that for the public to fight what they considered unwise development, it took money and lawyers. He went on to serve six years on the state Assembly from 1988 to 1994 and worked for North Bergen’s Economical Development and Parking Authority offices. He has been active in fighting against Palisades developments that he says encroaches on the cliffs.

Quotable quotes: “As a concerned citizen, as a resident, as someone who is scared about what is going on, you have to be there. You have to be there first hand and unfortunately, most people are busy with their own lives.”
“What legacy do we leave our future generations? More concrete and steel has very limited benefits and only to a few, whereas the venerable Palisades Cliffs can continue to embrace generations of New Jersey communities forever.” (April 2010)

Names: Jeremy Raben and Siat Ng

Known for: A married couple who leads an organized group of citizens that began at Guttenberg’s Galaxy Towers, but has since expanded. Their interest began when the proposed Appleview residential development’s first plans had more than 100 units, but since then they have fought what they feel are other “oversized” developments.

Background: Ng works in finance, while Raben is a teacher. They lived in New York City for many years before moving to the Galaxy in 2004 for more open space, but said that soon after that, they noticed more developments springing up. Ng said that they wanted to know how they were getting approved and what criteria was necessary, especially when Appleview was initially introduced at the Planning Board, since it would have an immediate impact on them.
They have brought 100 members of the community together, expanding outside of their apartment complex.

Quotable quotes: “One of the areas where the public is very concerned about this project is the matter of the gas pipeline, that being particular since this is a very large pipeline, 36-inch, high-pressured 800 psi gas pipeline supplying over half of Manhattan’s natural gas, which is quite a lot. I am one of those people who would be killed probably, if that pipeline were to explode, and that’s some of the reason why for five years I’ve been coming to these meetings,” Raben said at an October, 2010 Appleview meeting.
Tricia Tirella may be reached at

© 2000, Newspaper Media Group