Bayonne officials came out to support city Police Athletic League (PAL) Executive Director KT Torello, as well as dozens of children who enjoy the organization’s programs, as they face a potential eviction by the end of the summer.
“Instead of working together with all community groups to prepare for the future, the school superintendent has chosen to go her own way,” Mayor Jimmy Davis said to kickoff today’s press conference, which took place inside the council chambers in City Hall.
“I have learned that government works best when it works with the community, so I am asking the board of education to rescind the eviction notice and ask that they work and meet with the PAL, as well as other community groups, on providing quality programs for all of our children.”
Davis went after Superintendent of Schools Patricia McGeehan last week for sending the PAL an eviction notice on May 26, asking them to move out of the facility by August 31.
Assemblyman Nick Chiaravalloti (D-31), who has also previously spoken in favor of the PAL, said McGeehan is just plain wrong on this issue.
“Look, this is not an overly complicated issue, okay? Since I was elected and sworn in in January, I have worked continuously with the school board members, the superintendent and her administration on ways we can improve the Bayonne school district.”
” … And we have worked well together. But on this issue, she’s just wrong.”
Chiaravalloti added that he personally enjoyed playing games at the PAL’s arcade, as well as shooting basketball and taking boxing classes at the facility as a youth.
Board Board of Education Vice President Denis Wilbeck added that like the mayor and Assemblyman, who spent years growing up at the PAL, assured residents that “there is a silver lining along this dark cloud.”
“I can tell you this: that there is a silver lining along this dark cloud. And the board of education and trustees are gonna take a very close look at it and they’re for sure going to make a decision that’s beneficial to everyone involved.”
PAL Executive Director KT Torello closed up the 20-minute or so press conference by stating that he believes the eviction notice in it of itself (which he said was delivered by a constable) is deficient and that McGeehan acted alone in this matter.
“We looked at the letter and we knew right from the beginning it was not on a board of education letter head and it was not cc’ed to [Board] President Joseph Broderick, it was not cc’ed to Mayor Davis or to the assistant superintendents,” Torello, who has previously said the organization will not be evicted, stated at the podium.
“I think, personally, that the trustees of the board of education … I believe this was not a vote and I think this was on individual’s attempt, in the PAL’s opinion, to hurt our great name.”
After the press conference, Davis told Hudson County View that the PAL and the BOE are no closer to a resolution today than they were last week, but is confident that a program “that benefits everybody” can be worked out in the next couple of weeks.
When asked why the PAL is such a big deal in the Peninsula City, Davis exclaimed “because the Bayonne PAL is as Bayonne as you can get.”
“If you meet people that were born and raised in Bayonne … it’s instilled in you. It’s something in our city. I know it sounds crazy, but people from Bayonne are very proud to be from Bayonne and the PAL has been a staple of this town.”
The officials saw dozens of children in stands holding up hand made signs that said “Save the PAL,” occasionally chanting “P-A-L!” throughout the press event.
Additionally, Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-31) has also spoke out in favor of keeping the Bayonne PAL at 550 Avenue A.
McGeehan has not returned multiple calls and voicemails seeking comment on the matter.