Controversial WNY sign ordinance to be repealed; attorney calls move ‘practical’

The town’s Board of Commissioners took measures towards repealing a controversial ordinance banning certain types of signs, banners, and flags Wednesday night, ending a nearly half-year struggle between Mayor Felix Roque, who had said the ordinance was an effort to clean up the town’s business district, and his opponents, who claimed it was a politically-motivated attack on their rights to free speech.
The repeal was introduced by a vote of 4 to 1 and will be up for final adoption at a May 15 commissioners meeting.
Though the ordinance was most hotly contested by the town’s various political bodies, including the anti-Roque Residents for a Better West New York group, it became clear that business owners, who would have been forced to purchase permits to display signs that would cost up to $150 per person, would be those most affected by the measure. It was their discontent, Roque said, that caused him to reconsider the ordinance.
“We’re representatives of the people,” he said. “If they have problems with something, we have to take that into account.”
Town Attorney Gilberto Garcia said in a phone interview Thursday morning that the decision to repeal the ordinance came after Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez (D-West New York) successfully filed petitions to have the ordinance placed on the ballot of a special election that would be held in July. The cost of such an election, said Garcia, would outweigh the benefits of implementing the ordinance.
“A special election just for this one issue, which is really not all that important, could cost the town anywhere from $70,000 to $100,000,” he said. “At the end of the day we have to be practical.”
Jimenez said she considered the repeal to be a major victory for the town’s business owners.
“I’m extremely proud of the work of the many residents who helped stop this controversial law,” she said in a statement. “This is a great victory for the town’s merchants but also for the freedom of speech of all West New York residents.”
Still, it remains to be seen whether Roque’s conciliatory actions would be followed by other steps to repair the town’s broken political system, which was thrust into the spotlight last week when Commissioner Count Wiley announced the official start of an effort to recall Roque, who was indicted on hacking charges last May and will go on trial next month.
But Wiley, Jimenez, and Frank Ferreiro, who heads the Residents for a Better West New York, have all portrayed Roque as a leader unable to take criticism. Ferreiro, who owns the mobile advertising business TV on Wheels and had been using those trucks to display anti-Roque propaganda, has said since February that the ordinance was aimed specifically at him.
However, Garcia said that in the spirit of compromise, he hoped the repeal of the ordinance would signal the start of a new chapter in West New York politics.
“You know, the mayor said it last night, and I really think he’s right. We do everything on a competitive level, and everyone is very adversarial with each other,” said Garcia. “This was never meant to be something that was supposed to be made political.”

WNY middle school evacuated after Facebook bomb threat ‘prank’

More than 800 students were evacuated from West New York Middle School Tuesday morning after the school’s principal was notified of a bomb threat made on Facebook, according to Superintendent of Schools John Fauta.
Students were relocated to the nearby Memorial High School while bomb-sniffing dogs from around the area swept the school, eventually clearing it for reentry by around 1:30 p.m., said Fauta.
“It was definitely a prank, just a joke, but the police are investigating. They are looking into the source of the threat to see if they can figure out where it came from,” said Fauta.
Fauta said that the principal, Israel Rodriguez, was notified of the threat by a student around 10 a.m., at which point evacuation procedures were immediately executed. Fauta said in a brief phone interview this morning that he was pleased with the response of the students, faculty and administration.
“We practice this every month. We’re required by the state statute,” he said. “Most of the kids thought it was just practice, and everything went very well.”
Fauta said that he visited the school Wednesday morning to commend the students and faculty on their performance during the evacuation, and advised “any students that were feeling a little shaky” about the various counseling opportunities the district offers.

Report: Union City man killed after being struck by tree

According to an article in the Record, a Union City man was looking for his golf ball next to a golf course in Alpine, N.J. when he was struck and killed by a falling tree on Sunday.
The story explains, “The 60-year-old golfer, identified as Sung K. Paik of Union City, was a guest of an unidentified club member, according to Alpine police Capt. Michael LaViola.”
The tree was being cut down in a private residence. Paik apparently wandered into the yard to look for his ball.
The police captain said that the workers yelled at him to go back, but they had already sliced through the tree, and it was falling.
The story says: “Paik’s companion, a dentist, tried to administer CPR, LaViola said, and another golfer on the course, who happened to be a physician, rushed over to help with the CPR.” But Paik was pronounced dead on arrival.

Arts @ St. John’s presents Concert on the Cliffs today

A smattering of Blues, Soul, Americana and funky New Orleans-style R&B artists will be on hand in Union City Sunday night for the Arts @ St. John’s Concert on the Cliffs. The concert, the first of its kind to be put on by the arts collective that has occupied the church since it closed in 2010, will be held at 5 p.m. on Sunday at the church, which is located at 1516 Palisade Ave. in Union City.
Brian Mitchell, Lisa Mills and Christine Santelli will headline the event and will be joined by special guests Mike Frensley and Adam Ahl.
Mills, who hails from Alabama by the way of Mississippi, has “a stunning voice that comes over like a full-throated Otis Redding with some Muscle Shoals soul and Nashville country touches for good measure.”
Mitchell, a multitalented musician has gained considerable notoriety in music industry circles and beyond for both his solo career and his high-profile collaborations recording and performing with some of music’s most respected artists including Bob Dylan, Al Green, Rosanne Cash, BB King, Levon Helm, and Allen Toussaint.
Santelli has toured around the world and has released eight albums throughout her career. Her most recent album, “Dragonfly” was chosen as 2012 Album of the Year by Deep Roots Magazine.
Tickets for the concert cost $17 online ( and $22 at the door. Food is included in the price.

Hudson River PAC to hold next concert this Wednesday

The Hudson River Performing Arts Center will present the penultimate concert of its lunchtime UBS Atrium Series this Wednesday, April 24 at 12:30 p.m. when it hosts the New York City-based Gypsy/jazz/Latin fusion group Ljova and the Kontraband this weekend. The concert will be held in the atrium of the UBS building in Weehawken, located at 1000 Harbor Boulevard.
The ensemble explores Gypsy and Eastern European melodies, Latin rhythms, Jazz-inspired improvisations, and deeply rooted Classic forms, all given new meaning through original compositions that forge a new direction, with a nostalgic gaze towards the past.
The band was founded by the maverick film composer, arranger and violinist Lev “Ljova” Zhurbin, who has dug deep into his roots to create a cross-cultural sound that is at once beautifully melodic and intelligent. Ljova, who has been hailed by the New York Times as “one of New York’s finest rising composers and instrumentalists,” is inspired by his collaborations with diverse and world-class artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Osvaldo Golijov, the Kronos Quartet, and the rapper Jay-Z, among others.
Since making its debut in June 2006, the ensemble has performed at venues such as New York’s Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Colorado Music Festival, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

WNY Early Childhood Program to hold community health fair Wednesday

The West New York Early Childhood Program will hold a community health fair for children and adults this Wednesday, April 24, at the Early Childhood School located at 5204 Hudson Ave., from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
The entrance to the building is on 53rd Street.
Various services will be available, including free cholesterol, blood pressure, and glucose screenings, vision screenings, cancer awareness information, information on eating healthy, information on health insurance, food pantry information.
Identification cards will also be given to children free of charge. Various healthcare and community organizations will be in attendance to answer questions.

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