Hernandez Jumps Right into Purple Parsippany

PARSIPPANY – The last time council members gathered in 2023, it was to approve PILOT agreements during a 7-hour meeting filled with angry residents.

By comparison, the New Year’s Day ceremonial swearing in was quite tame.

But not uneventful.

Two Republican council members, Loretta Gragnani and Michael DePierro, have retired. DePierro’s departure is the most notable. There was a short break in his career, but he first got to the council in the early 1980’s, providing a link to such colorful political figures of the past as Mayor Frank Priore and Township Lawyer John Dorsey.

One of the new councilmembers is Democrat Judy Hernandez, who becomes the only Dem on the council. She won by eight votes.
The other two winners last year were GOP incumbent Frank Neglia and newcomer Matthew McGrath. Both took the oath as well.

Parsippany these days is very much a “purple” town.

Hernandez said she got involved in politics to support “sustainable development.”

Which brings us back to the PILOT, or payment-in-lieu of taxes, agreements on four properties that the council backed last week.

This prompted fierce opposition from residents, who condemned the arrangement as a give-away to wealthy developers.

The vote in favor was 4-1 with Councilman Justin Musella in opposition.

On Monday, Mayor Jamie Barberio welcomed Hernandez to the council, saying there are a lot of things to do, and, “One of them is working together.”

Barberio seemed unruffled by last week’s meeting, saying that the public debate about developing the Waterview project in town was more emotionally-charged than the recent one,

But it will be interesting to see if the unease generated by the latest PILOT agreements impact council business in the year ahead.

Barberio did mention to Hernandez, and by extension the other new council member, “You’re encumbering a very difficult era in a difficult time.”

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