Seasonal celebrations in Secaucus

Council meeting includes tribute to WWII vets, town improvements, donations, more

Two days before Thanksgiving, the celebrations had already begun in Secaucus, as the Town Council meeting was preceded by several special presentations. The evening began with citations presented to two lifelong Secaucus residents who served with great honor in World War II.
Michael J. Marra served from 1943 to 1945 in the 26th Infantry Division, part of General George Patton’s Third Army. He received the American Theater Ribbon, the European-African-Middle Eastern Ribbon, the Good Conduct Medal, the WWII Victory Medal, and two Purple Hearts with oak leaf clusters.
Charles A. Steffens served from 1943 to 1945 with the intelligence division in the Army’s Second Battalion, 126th Infantry. He received the Good Conduct Medal, Philippine Liberation Ribbon with star, WWII Victory Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and the Combat Infantry Badge.
The two veterans were born a week apart, went to school together, raised families in town, and were members of the American Legion and VFW. Both were presented with the Distinguished Service Medal by Councilman William McKeever at the council meeting on Nov. 24. They also received a citation and medal on behalf of County Executive Tom DeGise, the county Board of Chosen Freeholders, and the people of the County of Hudson, and received a standing ovation from friends, family, and a large audience gathered in their honor.

Scouts, new firefighters, and Ferrari

That celebration was followed by a presentation to the mayor and Town Council by members of the Secaucus Boy Scout Troop 22 in appreciation for the town’s donation to the troop to provide camping supplies.
Three new firefighters were sworn in to Engine Company No. 1. Bryonna McClure and Rahul Nagpal became members of the Secaucus Fire Department and Craig Cervasio took the oath as a probationary member.
David DeFerrari presented the town with a plaque honoring his mother, former Councilwoman Pat DeFerrari, who passed away a year ago in November. Pat DeFerrari was the first female councilperson in Secaucus history. The plaque will be displayed in Town Hall.

It’s a busy season in Secaucus, with numerous community events, programs, and opportunities to donate.
“My mother had many achievements in and out of politics in Secaucus,” said David DeFerrari, who was 12 years old when his mother first took office in 1977. Pat DeFerrari was known for her community service, forming the W.O.O.D.S. committee in the early 1970s to protect Schmidt’s Woods from destruction. She served as president of the Clarendon School PTA and cofounded C.A.S.T., the Community Arts Scholarship Theater.
“You can’t write the history of the Town of Secaucus without including Pat DeFerrari,” said her son.
“Pat kind of set the bar in many ways, not only as a female councilperson but as a leader, someone that’s very compassionate and caring,” said Mayor Michael Gonnelli. “She raised that level for all of us and set the example for all of us to follow.”

Improvements throughout town

Gonnelli announced that the town has acquired property along Radio Avenue that will be used to create a passive park with benches and a view of the Manhattan skyline. The area is zoned for residential development, but the town’s acquisition means a developer will not build 12 proposed duplexes there.
“All too often, government bodies like ours are criticized for development and overdevelopment, and sometimes it’s really tough to curtail development, especially when something is zoned for residential,” said Gonnelli.
The park will include a raised elevation to prevent the type of flooding that happened during Superstorm Sandy when water crossed Radio Avenue. “It’s a win-win,” said Gonnelli. “We get a flood control project, we negated a large housing project, and it’s something that I’m sure by April or May of next year the entire community will be very proud of.”
The town also secured a grant from the DEP for buoys to mark the 21-mile Hackensack River Water Trail that borders the river. This will supplement the ongoing work the town is doing along the trail, which is currently 1.6 miles long and is expected to be extended by at least another mile next year.

Companies donate

Thanksgiving is a time of giving, and Secaucus provided about 150 turkey dinners to the needy and 75 meals to homebound residents. The town itself also received many donations from generous corporation and individuals.
Rent the Runway, a rapidly expanding business situated in Secaucus that doubled in size in their first year, purchased an emergency generator costing $40,000 to $50,000 and immediately outgrew it, so they donated the brand-new item to the town. The generator will be placed at the firehouse/pre-K building in the center of town as an emergency backup generator for that facility.
Goya made their traditional holiday donation, providing food for up to 300 families in town. White Toque donated 12 pallets of food, as they have done annually, inviting shelters throughout the area to come and select whatever they needed.
Anheuser-Busch donated $5,000 to the Secaucus Emergency Fund. Xchange donated $5,000 each to the Emergency Fund and to the K&S Club. Bob’s Furniture donated $1,000 to the Food Pantry.
“As I’m sitting here looking at my phone,” Gonnelli said from the dais at the meeting, “Empire Hotel called to donate turkeys, Wendy’s called to donate turkeys, and some motorcycle club just Facebooked me to donate toys.”
Residents can get into the act by donating toys to the town toy drive until Dec. 11. New, unwrapped toys are needed for less fortunate children between the ages of newborn and 12 years old. For more information call (201) 330-2014.
Also needed are seasonal items for the Food Pantry. The holiday wish list includes stuffing, mashed potatoes, canned corn, macaroni and cheese, turkey, gravy, canned yams, cranberry sauce, pasta, marinara sauce, and cookies. Small denomination gift cards for supermarkets or Walmart are also appreciated for the purchase of perishable goods. Items can be dropped at the senior Center, 101 Centre Ave., Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call Patt or Eileen at (201) 330-2014 for more information.

Busy event season

Many events are upcoming in town this holiday season. A comprehensive listing can be found on the town’s website at
Among those mentioned at the council meeting were the annual Hanukkah lighting of the first menorah candle in the Plaza Center at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 6. That same day, UNICO will host a Breakfast with Santa from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Senior Center.
St. Matthew’s Church is hosting a Christmas Bazaar on Thursday, Dec. 10, with lunches and dinners available. And on Friday, Dec. 18, residents can enjoy Kids Night In – Parents Night Out at the Recreation Center. “Send the children over to see the movie for a few hours, and you can go out and have dinner somewhere or relax at home, and then pick them up at 10 p.m.,” said Councilman James Clancy. The event runs from 6 to 10 p.m. for children ages 5 to 14. The cost is $5 per child, which covers pizza, soda, snacks, and the film “The Polar Express.”

Resident assistance

Available to residents this year is the Home Energy Assistance Program, which is free to qualifying individuals. The program enables low income families, particularly the elderly, people with disabilities, and children, to permanently reduce their energy bills and make their homes more energy efficient by using the most advanced technologies and testing protocols available in the industry. A representative from PACO, Inc. is available to assist with applications on Wednesdays only from noon to 8 p.m. in the Senior Center.
The American Red Cross has launched a Home Fire Campaign to help families be better prepared to take important steps to prevent home fires and reduce the number of home fire-related injuries and fatalities. The first phase of the program has been started in the Harmon Cove area, and it is scheduled to be expanded throughout town after the New Year. “We’ll probably break it up in wards, so people in the wards can come, listen to the fire chiefs, the Red Cross, and they will give you all the information you need, and I believe they also provide a smoke detector if you attend,” said Councilman James Clancy.
Street sweeping in town will be temporarily suspended between Dec. 14 and March 14, 2016. As always, there is no enforcement if roads are snow-covered or if the temperature falls below 32 degrees.
And finally, Mayor Gonnelli encouraged all residents to enroll in the Swift Reach 911 Community Alert program. “If you’re not already signed up for our Swift 911 please sign up for that so in the event of an emergency we can get in touch with you,” he said. Residents can enroll by visiting the town website at and clicking on the Swift Reach 911 tab in the left column.

Art Schwartz may be reached at

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