Council hears complaints about judge, homes, stores

Also reassigns police, undertakes green initiatives

The town has asked the county sheriff’s office to assign two officers to patrol industrial areas of Secaucus, as well as Harmon Cove, so that more Secaucus police can be freed up to patrol residential areas.
“This enhances safety and frees up police officers,” said Councilman Gary Jeffas during the Town Council meeting Sept. 27.
Mayor Michael Gonnelli said the sheriff’s patrols will free up two municipal police cars to make rounds at Huber Street and Clarendon Elementary schools.

“Other people in town feel the same way I do and they just don’t want to speak up.” – Garry Pollack
The initiative was advanced by a special police committee formed at the Sept. 18 Town Council meeting to address police matters.

Ongoing complaints against judge

During the portion of the meeting reserved for public comments, Denise Massaro alleged she was badly treated in Municipal Court by Judge Kathleen Walrod. Massaro was ticketed for parking in a handicapped access-only parking space at Walmart. Massaro has a disability and her own placard allowing her to park in handicapped parking spaces.
Several residents have been ticketed for this offense, as detailed in a Secaucus Reporter cover story last week (see
“Judge Walrod was extremely unsympathetic and rude to every person that was disabled that day,” said Massaro. “I was not given due process. I was not allowed to state my case. She made me wait three hours in that court room.”
Mayor Gonelli apologized to Massaro for the way she was treated in court and told her she could file a complaint against the judge if she believed she was treated poorly.
“You are one of probably hundreds that received that ticket,” the mayor said. “The fact is that the law doesn’t allow you to park in a van spot. When you get your plates or tags it clearly states that you can’t park there. So I apologize for that, but that is the law.”
Gonnelli said the town has since put up signs in the Walmart parking lot that clearly indicate no parking is allowed except for wheelchair dropoff.
A Union City resident, Gary Pollack, complained about the judge as well.
“This is a lady who takes pleasure in the misfortunes of others,” he said. He said he filed a formal complaint against her with the state Supreme Court, but it was determined to be unfounded.
“Other people in town feel the same way I do,” he said. “And they just don’t want to speak up.”
Judge Walrod was appointed by former Mayor Richard Steffens in Oct. 2009 as he finished the last few months of ex-Mayor Dennis Elwell’s term. Gonnelli, Jeffas, and John Bueckner, all council members at the time, voted against her appointment.

Mayor thanked for hurricane help

Residents who continue to deal with the effects of Hurricane Irene spoke during the public portion.
“I was one of the homes most affected by the hurricane. We are still not in our home,” said Guy Pascarello, whose home experienced the worst damage. He lives next door to Gonnelli. “I am here to say thank you to the mayor and the council. I don’t know if anyone realizes that [the] number two [home most damaged] was next door. [The mayor] wasn’t home. He was taking care of everyone else. As a neighbor, a friend, and a constituent, I owe you a debt of gratitude that I can never repay.”
Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) spoke to the Town Council and residents at the beginning of the meeting, explained the types of aid available, and encouraged people to register if they experienced flood damage from Hurricane Irene.
Residents have 60 days from the time period of the hurricane, which was Aug. 27 to Sept. 5, to register for aid. The FEMA representatives recommended residents appeal if they received a determination letter that said they are not eligible for aid.

Feeling green again

The council accepted a $45,524 Recycling Tonnage Grant from the state. The money will be used to purchase recycling buckets, garbage containers, and to support the educational components of the recycling program.
The council authorized participation in the Hudson County Improvement Authority’s Renewable Energy Program. The HCIA will serve as the financier for a third party provider of solar panels that will be installed on the roof of the Division of Public Works building.
Town Administrator David Drumeler said that HCIA has a good model that will allow the town to get a reduced rate on the project and take advantage of incentives.

Public defender, recycling coordinator hired

The council passed resolutions appointing or reappointing individuals to several positions.
Stephen Badalamenti will become the part-time recycling coordinator for $6,000 per year for the Department of Public Works, a position left vacant after the loss of David McAdams this past June. Town Administrator David Drumeler said the town interviewed three candidates. He said the coordinator’s main responsibilities include reviewing tonnage certifications, preparing the recycling grant, and recycling outreach.
Thomas J. Koehl, Esq., was appointed public defender, succeeding Peter Weiner, who resigned Aug. 19 after almost 20 years of service. Koehl has been serving as an alternate since Weiner’s resignation.
Drumeler said the town received inquiries from three different law firms, got the municipal court’s recommendation, and checked references before hiring Koehl.
“Koehl had been serving as a substitute [public defender] and doing a good job,” said Drumeler. The public defender gets $275 per session, which is whenever the court is open and he has cases.
Sergio Valente was reappointed to the Board of Health until April 2013.
Mike Schlemm and Nick Costantino were both reappointed to new terms on the Housing Authority until 2016. Joe Mancini was appointed as the liaison to the motion picture industry to help the town lure productions, which Gonnelli said was important, since the town receives the film credit tax back.

Rolling out the pink ribbon for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Secaucus will mark the occasion by participating in the “Tie a Ribbon for the Cure” campaign. Pink ribbons will hang in Town Hall and around trees in the surrounding neighborhood and in the center of town, and will be on display from Sept. 30 to Oct. 31.


Residents talk about overcrowding, empty storefronts

Overcrowded homes and empty storefronts were brought to the attention of the Town Council at Tuesday night’s meeting by two residents who asked the governing body to deal with the issues.
“Illegal apartments are a serious problem in this town,” said Tom Roarty. He asked the administration to take a proactive approach and conduct an inventory of houses where owners are breaking zoning rules converting single family homes to two-family homes.
Gonnelli said the town has brought in the state to look at those types of properties.
Resident Don Evanson said too many businesses are leaving.
“I don’t know how or who could help bring retail business into the town of Secaucus,” said Don Evanson.
Gonnelli said the issue of bringing more businesses to town is a priority, pointing out the town had renovated the town center and started a small business association.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at

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