West New York Mayor Felix Roque Talks About What He Will Do If He Wins Reelection

West New York Mayor Felix Roque talks to Insider NJ about what he has done during his tenure as mayor and what he will do if he wins reelection this year.

WEST NEW YORK – Felix Roque says that when he became mayor, he required all town employees to come to town hall and pick up their checks personally.

He soon had a stack of checks on his desk that no one claimed – “ghost employees” Roque calls them. No-show jobs may be common in Hudson County politics, but Roque, an anesthesiologist and now-retired Army colonel seeking his third term in the May 14 city election, said he wasn’t going to tolerate that. He said getting rid of the deadbeats, many of whom were also on the city’s health insurance rolls, saved enormous sums of money.

But that wasn’t all.

Roque said he “micromanaged” just about everything to further cut costs. Combined with a ratable boost from development on the waterfront – just about the only available land in this congested city overlooking the Hudson – the mayor says property taxes have stabilized and that crime is down, an argument confirmed in most areas by state police data. He also boasts of doing a good job with routine tasks that are easily overlooked. He said pot holes are being filled promptly and that using town employees to collect trash, as opposed to contracting it out, has improved service and saved money.

Still, as the mayor and his four running mates – voters elect five members of a city commission – get ready for an election in about 10 days, Roque is fighting headwinds. Three of the current members of the city commission are running on an opposition slate. The leader of that group and the man ticketed to become mayor if they win is Gabriel Rodriguez.

In a recent interview in his office, the mayor conceded that when first elected, he knew little about politics. That soon proved problematic.

Back in 2012, Roque said he would support Joe Kyrillos in his run for the U.S. Senate. One problem was that Kyrillos was a Republican. A greater problem was that Kyrillos was running against Democrat Bob Menendez, who grew up a few blocks south of West New York in Union City. Roque quickly tried to retract the endorsement, but as he admits, “The damage was done.”

Last year, Roque backed Brian Stack in his battle to win the chairmanship of the Hudson County Democratic Committee. Stack lost, putting Roque on the outs with the county’s political organization.
Another foe is local resident and Congressman Albio Sires, who the mayor has called a “fellow Cuban.”

Said Roque of Sires, “I’m not sure why he’s turning on me.”

Undaunted by all this, Roque, who is in his early 60’s, says he wants to stay involved.

“It’s something inside me that says ‘help,’ and ‘serve,'” he said.

If he wins another term, Roque talked about placing security cameras in selected spots to discourage mischief and of increasing parking, a problem that plagues all Hudson communities. He also talks ambitiously about bringing a charter school to West New York based on a military theme. The mayor attended elementary school locally, but then went to New York Military Academy. Another school alumnus is Donald Trump, but that’s a connection unlikely to offer Roque much help in West New York.

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