The West New York Board of Commissioners were unable to find a pivotal fourth vote to pass a measure that would’ve bonded for roughly four million dollars, the majority of which would’ve gone towards renovations at Miller Stadium.
“The valuable lessons of community, of dedication, of sacrifice – those are lessons you learn through athletics. The state of our facilities is making this more difficult by the day to allow those boys and girls in the back to have the same experiences that I had,” Memorial High School Football Coach Stefano Calderara said during the ordinance hearing.
“I understand that the finances are in place to redo Miller Stadium, McEldowney Field, and Centennial Field down on the water. I understand that this was on the agenda for last meeting and didn’t get passed. I don’t understand why this would be a problem getting passed: it’s in the best interests of our town, our community and of our children.”
Calderara was one of many coaches and parents who spoke in favor of the measure, which would’ve allocated about $1.7 million towards improving Miller Stadium.
According to Public Affairs Commissioner Cosmo Cirillo, who oversees the recreation department, grant money from the county and the state would cover about $1.5 million of the expenses – making this the perfect time to act.
“Not only is it a benefit to the children that are participating in the program, but it’s also a safety factor in my opinion. And when you have a high school that no longer chooses to participate [in] their games at a field here in town, I think that’s disgraceful,” Cirillo stated.
He emphasized that the commissioners needed to “do the right thing” by approving the ordinance, which would have a lasting impact for two to three decades.
After Margarita Guzman voted yes and Susan Colacurcio abstained since the latter is a teacher and the bonding pertained to a shared services agreement with the board of education, Gabriel Rodriguez voted in the affirmative and urged Mayor Felix Roque to do the same.
“We are here today, clearly I vote yes, clearly I vote yes,” he repeated to loud applause.
“And I ask that the mayor please support this. I know that he had a conflict last month and I know that with this outpouring of people, I don’t see any reason why he should not vote to fix these parks for the community.”
Roque addressed many of the public speakers and agreed that he didn’t think this vote should be politicized, which is why he felt the right thing was to abstain and allow the administration that is elected on May 14th to sort this out.
“This is the reality of being the mayor: when you make a decision, it has to affect everybody. That is true. I have to think about the children, but I have to also think about those taxpayers whose taxes might increase in the future. Because we’re taking a credit card here and we’re borrowing for the next generation,” Roque explained.
” … My feeling today is not to vote on this, I will abstain, and I’ll tell you why, okay? And you can say ‘boo’ and boo me, whatever. I need for the next administration to make that decision in May or June: let them make the decision and I’ll be okay with that.”
The vote ended up being 3-0(2), meaning that the bond ordinance failed. During the public portion of the meeting, several speakers lashed out at Roque for his abstention.
“You said that you care about these kids, yet, I’ve been coaching at the West New York Little League and football, yet, I only see you on opening day, then I never see you: you’re like a ghost!,” William Rodriguez said to applause from the audience.
Roque took the criticisms in stride, responding to each speaker with some variation of the same line: “thank you for your time.”
After the vote, Cirillo, Guzman and Rodriguez, who are part of a five-person slate opposing Roque in May, all expressed frustration with the mayor’s vote, noting that the grant funding secured now may not be available in four or five months.
The full bond hearing and public speaking portion streamed live on our Facebook page and could be viewed below: