Fights and flood walls
At meeting, councilwoman announces she is battling cancer again
by Hannington Dia
Reporter Staff Writer
Nov 05, 2017 | 3224 views | 0 0 comments | 198 198 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mayor Michael Gonnelli and council members after handing out sweatshirts to a local soccer team that recently went undefeated in their season.
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Third Ward Councilwoman Susan Pirro revealed she is again battling cancer during the Oct. 24 Town Council meeting. Speaking via phone from a rehab facility, Pirro said that she is preparing for a second round of medical treatments.

“I will continue fighting,” Pirro said. “I will continue doing everything I have to do. Thank you for all the cards, all the prayers, all the phone calls from residents. It's really heartwarming.”

Doctors first diagnosed Pirro with cancer last November. She took a leave of absence from the council chambers, returning this past February. At the time, she was waiting to see whether or not the cancer was in remission.

“We're all praying with you,” responded Mayor Michael Gonnelli.

“Sue, just so you know, Mike and I have been out throughout the 3rd Ward,” responded William McKeever, the other 3rd Ward councilmember, who is running unopposed Nov 7, along with the mayor. “And virtually everyone has asked how you've been. In fact, we were at the Senior Center on Monday. And every door we knocked on, the first thing they asked was, 'How is Sue?' Everybody's with you. Just get strong.”

Bond ordinance for public hearing

The council also introduced an ordinance for a public hearing on a $500,000 bond, to be held at the Nov. 28 council meeting. The money will go to engineering and design work for a proposed flood wall at Gail Place and Valley Court.

Recently, the state gave the town a $2 million grant for the project, but solely for constructing the wall, not for the preparations in advance.

Residents with opinions on bonding for the preparations can attend the meeting and speak out.

Resident presses council on criminal allegations

During the meeting's public remarks section, local resident Tom Roarty questioned whether the council controls which criminal cases become public information.

He said he had been hearing reports of a councilmember receiving a summons over a vehicular incident in the past month, implying that police intentionally suppressed such information. A few days after the meeting, media reports revealed that Councilman Robert Costantino was charged with hindering in connection with a car accident (see story, page 3).

“Who makes the determination of what goes to the press, and what doesn't go to the press?” Roarty asked.

The Secaucus police send out a list of crimes to reporters each week, but did not mention this incident the week it happened, because Costantino received a criminal summons yet was not arrested. The list of crimes usually includes only arrests.

“We really don't make a determination of what goes to the press,” Gonnelli responded. “It comes from the courts or record room.”

Roarty also asked the council if “There's an ongoing investigation into any elected official in town going on right now?”

Town Attorney Keri-Ann Eglentowicz responded that officials do not have to respond to public comments if they do not wish to. No one did so.

Phone scams, and new cable providers

Councilman John Gerbasio issued another warning to residents to be careful of phone scams in town. “We've had two elderly victims recently who were approached by phone, given a sob story, for some reason, and they sent money to someone they shouldn't have sent,” Gerbasio said. “Some of these scams involve relatives and grandchildren, the IRS saying you owe taxes, you missed jury duty. The key to all of these is that you’re asked to send gift cards or money cards, not just pay the bill.”

Gerbasio added that residents who receive such calls should contact Secaucus police, a trusted neighbor, or even one of the council members for advice.

However, if you see a Verizon employee around town, that person may be legitimate.

Verizon Fios is finally debuting around the Clarendon section, according to Councilman Costantino. He said third party installers will walk around town, asking if people will want to sign up. “It's not a scam,” Costantino said. “They will be walking throughout, I believe, somewhere in the area of Clarendon School. It's literally block by block that it's starting to open up. It'll be nice to see Comcast have a lot of competition, because they've been kind of brutal over the years to some people.”

New defibrillator for Fire Department

Gonnelli presented a new defibrillator to the Secaucus Volunteer Fire Department at the meeting. “On behalf of the Secaucus fire chiefs and the entire Secaucus Volunteer Fire Department, we say ‘Thank you’ to the mayor and the council for always providing us with top notch equipment, as always,” said

Fire Chief Joseph Schoendorf.

Undefeated Youth soccer teams honored

The Recreation Department’s youth 12 travel soccer team received sweatshirts at the meeting, having gone a full season undefeated. In addition, youth 13 was also honored with sweatshirts for winning their division's trophy this season, though they did not go undefeated.

Job fair

Union Beer Distributors will be holding a job fair on Nov. 9 and Nov. 16, according to Councilman Gerbasio. The fairs will be held at the Secaucus Senior Center. The jobs pay $15/hourly with overtime, Gerbasio said.

Major community and charity events coming up

The town will hold a benefit concert by Come Together, a Beatles/Rolling Stones tribute band, Nov. 11, at the Secaucus High School Performing Arts Center, at 7 p.m., Councilman Mark Dehnert said at Tuesday’s meeting.

Tickets to the concert are free. However, the group is collecting donations to benefit the "What Every Woman Should Know" campaign against gynecologic cancers. Visit for more information.

On Nov. 18, the town will hold its sixth annual Secaucus Community Ball, from 7 to 11 p.m. at La Reggia restaurant. The event benefits the Secaucus Emergency Fund. Tickets are $75 per person, and can be purchased

Parents who just want a break from being parents for the night are also in luck. On Nov. 17, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., the Secaucus Recreation Center will be hosting “Kids Night In, Parents Night Out.” The center will be screening “The Secret Life of Pets.” Admission is $5 per child. The center is located at 1200 Koelle Blvd.

Parents can sign up through the Secaucus Community Pass.

At the meeting, Mayor Michael Gonnelli shared some positive news regarding town’s efforts to help Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria's damage.

“We shipped stuff down there,” Gonnelli said. “We had a couple of trailer loads.” He shared a picture of a little girl and her sister getting a pair of shoes from the town. The town is also performing donation work for the U.S. Virgin Islands, which were also dealt huge blows from Maria.

Meanwhile, at the meeting, the town’s Rotary Club presented three $500 checks to charities for local needy people (and needy pets): for the Secaucus Emergency Fund, Emergency Food Pantry, and the Secaucus Animal Shelter.

Hannington Dia can be reached at

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