A Look at Next Week’s Mayoral Elections in North Bergen and West New York

Insider NJ's Fred Snowflack looks at the upcoming mayoral elections in North Bergen and West New York. In North Bergen, Larry Wainstein and Mayor Nick Sacco battle over the building of a new power plant in the North Bergen Meadowlands. In West New York, City Commissioner Gabriel Rodriguez hopes to unseat Mayor Felix Roque.

North Bergen and West New York sit side-by-side in Hudson County, which is fitting because both towns hold city commission elections on Tuesday.

In North Bergen, a slate headed by Larry Wainstein is trying to unseat one aligned with Mayor Nick Sacco for the second time in four years.

And just like four years ago, the Sacco team is calling Wainstein “Lying Larry.”

It’s catchy to be sure, but things are a little different this time around. Wainstein has a legitimate issue to use and that’s no lie.

An electric-generating plant envisioned for a patch of township meadowlands has provoked widespread opposition. Those opposed include not only statewide environmentalists, but many nearby residents, some of whom live in Bergen County.

The Sacco administration backs the plant, seeing it as a way to boost township ratables and create jobs.

Wainstein has held rallies against plant construction and has even retained a lawyer to file suit to stop it. It is common for large-scale power plants to draw passionate opposition. The political question is how many of the opponents live – and vote – in North Bergen. The site of the proposed plant is an
industrial no-man’s land in the township’s extreme northern corner – west of Tonnelle Avenue and near 95th street.

How about residents living in other parts of town? Do they care?

A spokesman for the Wainstein campaign said last week that “Cancer knows no boundaries.”

True enough, but still, will people living on, say, 45th street or Bergenline Avenue, oppose Sacco just because of the plant? Guess we will find out.

While there are few similarities between congested North Bergen and the bucolic home town of Chris Christie in Mendham Township, the former governor has a presence of sorts in this campaign.

The Sacco team in a recent release accused Wainstein of being too chummy with the Republican Christie. And it stressed that Sacco long has been a loyal Democrat and a Christie opponent. For example, the release noted that in 2013 Sacco was a strong supporter of Democrat Barbara Buono for governor.

The significance is that many Democratic leaders that year abandoned Buono knowing Christie was likely to win. But not Sacco. Does that mean anything six years later?  Who knows?

What is true this year is that Christie a few weeks back gave some help to Wainstein – unintentional one assumes – when he said that the North Bergen power plant in question will come about because of a
political deal between Sacco and Gov. Phil Murphy. Christie was criticizing Murphy, but that doesn’t leave Sacco off the hook completely.

Now it’s time to move across Kennedy Boulevard and into West New York.

A truck parked on the boulevard near 53rd Street last Friday afternoon featured a large photo of Albio Sires and urged voters to back Column A.

Makes sense, no? Sires is the local congressman and a resident of West New York to boot. But this year, he’s not running for anything.

What Sires is doing is seemingly all he can to unseat Mayor Felix Roque. The congressman backs a slate headed by Gabriel Rodriguez, who is now a city commissioner.

Sires, in fact, has made a video in support of the Rodriguez slate.

One is reminded of the old saying that “all politics is local.” Still, it would be pretty embarrassing if a candidate endorsed by the local congressman loses in the congressman’s home town. Facebook posts in support of New Beginnings, the name of the opposition slate, portray West New York under Roque as a pretty miserable place. Posts speak of gang violence, rising crime and cracked sidewalks. The mayor, they say, is totally unresponsive.

Roque, for his part, offers quite a different reality. He says crime is down, taxes have been stabilized and that the future looks good.

The mayor has tried to play down the rift with Sires, saying in recent weeks that he doesn’t get the congressman’s antipathy to him and reflecting at one point that both he and Sires by birth are “fellow Cubans.”

That doesn’t seem to be going too far.

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