Christie reaps ‘Sandy’ benefits

Mayor Gonnelli and Town Council back governor

Gov. Chris Christie stopped into a Secaucus eatery on Wednesday, July 31, and filled up with a bunch of endorsements.
The popular Republican governor, still riding high from his handling of Superstorm Sandy last fall, visited the Legends Diner & Restaurant on County Avenue to receive the backing of Mayor Michael Gonnelli and the Town Council during his reelection campaign.
Although the current Secaucus council is comprised of five Democrats and two Republicans, they all run as independents. Gonnelli himself is a Democrat.
Gonnelli said his slate will not endorse any other Republican candidates this year.

Help with tax sharing issue

Gonnelli praised the governor’s work on an issue specifically important to Secaucus: finding a one-year, temporary solution reducing the amount of money the town pays into the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC) tax sharing program.
“It is because of the great working relationship the town of Secaucus has with the governor, and the leadership demonstrated by him on this issue and his untiring efforts during and after Superstorm Sandy, that I am publicly announcing that I and all the members of the Secaucus Town Council intend to vote to re-elect Governor Chris Christie,” Gonnelli said.

“I’ll be back here in the fall to walk the streets.” – Gov. Chris Christie
Gonnelli also cited the efforts of 32nd District legislators; Assemblyman Vincent Prieto of Secaucus, State Sen. Nicholas Sacco, and Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez, as instrumental in forging the stopgap measure, which saved Secaucus $2.3 million in 2013.
Created by state statute, the Inter-Municipal Tax-Sharing Program incorporates the 14 municipalities that make up the NJMC District. Seven of the participating towns with higher concentrations of development pay into the program, while the remaining ones with more open space receive funding. It has been Gonnelli’s contention that the formula is antiquated and not equitable to his town and others.

Ringing endorsement

“We also cannot forget the around the clock work by the governor before, during, and after the most devastating storm in New Jersey history caused unprecedented destruction, not only along our shore areas, but also in Hudson County,” Gonnelli said. “Politics didn’t stop Governor Christie from working with and praising President Obama when it came to doing what was right for New Jersey. …”
Christie said that receiving the endorsement from Gonnelli and his six council members was noteworthy.
“To get the endorsement from these folks is something very important for my office,” the governor said. “The leadership here is indispensible – and this is the tone we’re trying to set all across the state.”

Bipartisan cooperation

Christie said the state needs to find people from throughout the political spectrum who are willing to cooperate to get things done.
“Secaucus has shown time and again, they are these type of people,” he said.
The governor pledged to return in a few months during the campaign season.
“I’ll be back here in the fall to walk the streets,” Christie said. “I want them to see me in their town with their elected representatives.”

Municipal election

Gonnelli himself is up for reelection in November, running unopposed, along with Councilmen William McKeever and Robert Costantino. Deputy Mayor John Bueckner has decided not to seek another term, and has been replaced on the ticket by newcomer Mark Dehnert.
Gonnelli won his seat four years ago after then-Mayor Dennis Elwell was charged in a bribery sting. Elwell was found guilty in 2011 of accepting $10,000 in cash.

Excitement in diner

Christie impressed diner patrons who already supported him and even those who had not to this point.
“I think he’s done a superb job, being left with what he was left with,” said Guy Pascarello, vice chairman of the Secaucus Municipal Utilities Authority and president of the Secaucus Little League. “I think he’ll make a great president if he chooses to run. I think the state needs leadership – and he’s not afraid to lead.”
“I was impressed. I wasn’t a big Christie supporter before now,” said John Trobiano of Secaucus, there with his wife. “I was impressed with how he spoke, what he spoke about, and how he carried himself. I’m having a change of opinion.”

Support for mayor

Both Pascarello and another Trobiano voiced their support for Gonnelli as well.
“I think the mayor is the same type of leader,” Pascarello said. “He’ll make decisions that are not always popular, but are correct.”
“Our mayor and our council members do so much for the people of Secaucus,” said Marie Trobiano, John’s wife.

Other attendees

Deputy Mayor Bueckner, Councilmen James Clancy, Gary Jeffas, Costantino, and McKeever, and Councilwoman Susan Pirro all attended the endorsement ceremony.
Also present were 32nd and 31st District state Assembly and Senate Republican candidates Maria Malavasi-Quartello, Paul Castelli, and Gerard Pizzillo.

Joseph Passantino may be reached at

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