Residents want their school bus back
Also at meeting: New housing commissioner, parks, and police promotions
by Adriana Rambay Fernández
Reporter Staff Writer
Sep 30, 2012 | 5267 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
NEW HOUSING COMMISSIONER – Rachel Andre-Tomlinson, 26, was sworn in as the new commissioner of the Secaucus Housing Authority.
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Several residents of Creekside Manor spoke during the public comments section of Tuesday night’s Secaucus Town Council meeting, asking for their help in getting a bus to take their children to school.

Creekside Manor is located near the Recreation Center and Schmidt’s Woods.

“We’d like to ask for the Town Council to consider any and all options of helping us or find ways to get our children to…Huber Street School,” said Resident Ajay Damani. His daughter Sohana, who is in second grade, was at his side.

He said that the school district provided a bus last year, but that children were left standing and waiting for a bus that never arrived on the first day of school this year.

The school district is not required to provide a bus because Creekside Manor is within a two-mile radius of the elementary school.

Damani said that he understood the development is within the mileage limit but felt that much of the distance between Creekside Manor and Huber Street does not have sidewalks and he was concerned about speeding cars along the route.

“There are lots of other districts in New Jersey that have found ways to address a situation such as ours,” said Damani.

“We have a couple of ideas,” said Mayor Michael Gonnelli. “We understand.”


The bus last year “was such a relief,” said Admira Spahic.


Parent Admira Spahic said after the meeting that she drops off her child a half hour early before school because she doesn’t feel the route along Koelle Boulevard is safe. She said that parents try to work with one another and car pool, but that most of the parents who live in the development work and have varying schedules.

“We cannot allow kids to walk,” said Spahic after the meeting. She said that the school bus last year “was such a relief.”

School Business Administrator Ron Smith said last week that the school district will not provide a bus and has already discussed the matter.

“There is no safety issue whatsoever,” said Smith. “They are not eligible for transportation…there are sidewalks, it is safe and it is within the mileage.”

Board Trustee Dora Marra said “it is not fair” to bus certain kids within the two mile radius and not others.

“It is not in our budget,” added Marra.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the mayor and Town Council voted to introduce several ordinances that pertain to residential parking, park improvements, and police promotions. Residents can speak out at the Oct. 23 council meeting before those matters get a final vote.

Parking zones

An ordinance was passed unanimously to designate certain streets as a residential parking zone. The streets are Eighth Street, Hudson Avenue, and Ninth Street from Flanagan Way to Mansfield Avenue, and the entire length of Tenth Avenue.

A different parking ordinance was introduced and will be voted on next month. The ordinance specifies that no parking is allowed on the south side of Pandolfi Avenue from 7:45 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. from Fourth Street to Fifth Street, to allow room for school buses.

Funding for fire truck and parks

The mayor and council proposed a $600,000 bond ordinance for supplemental funding to acquire a new fire truck, and for improvements to the Ninth Street and Gail Place parks. Gonnelli said that the money from the parking fee at Field Station: Dinosaur, which averages $50,000 a month since June, will be used to pay off the park upgrades.

Police promotion criteria

After discussing the matter at previous meetings, the mayor and council have arrived at recommendations for the procedures for promotions in the Police Department. The effort derives from a desire to update a promotional policy that hasn’t changed in more than four years and to also eliminate some of the more subjective criteria in the performance evaluation component.

The mayor and council have made a number of significant changes to the Police Department, most notably the elimination of the chief of detectives position in January. The second-in-command will now be the deputy police chief. The candidate chosen for the open deputy police chief position will be announced at the next council meeting, according to Gonnelli.

All applicants for promotion up to and including the rank of captain are required to submit an application in writing. The applicants will be evaluated upon a written exam that counts for 60 percent, an oral exam that counts for 35 percent, length of service that counts for 5 percent, and veterans get preferential treatment.

The committee that reviews eligible candidates will consist of two council members and the chief of police.

Other matters:

--Residents of the 2nd ward may be inconvenienced because of construction on Paterson Plank Road after the second week of October.

--PSE&G paid the municipality to replace trees removed by the company near Huber Street School after what Councilman James Clancy said was “the destruction of the trees.”

--Amanda Nesheiwat, Environmental Committee Chair, issued a call to action to residents to contact the governor to support the bill to ban fracking waste in New Jersey. Christie vetoed the bill on Sept. 21 because he said it was premature and unlikely that fracking would occur in New Jersey. Hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is a drilling method that involves pumping sand and chemical-laden water at high pressures to obtain natural gas from shale rock formations.

The mayor and Town Council banned fracking and fracking waste water in Secaucus in June, stating that the drilling process causes environmental hazards.

“The most important thing we can do is flood his office with phone calls and letters,” said Nesheiwat.

--The mayor is pleased with progress against reducing the amount the municipality pays into the Meadowlands tax sharing program after a recent meeting with Division of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable, III, he said.

“I feel more positive now than I have in a long time that we are going to get resolution to this matter.” He said the municipality seeks a change to the base year for the tax-sharing formula from 1970 to 2004, which would reduce the pool from $7 million to $2 million. Secaucus has paid in excess of $72 million to the program since its inception and is the largest contributor.

--A resident and mom publicly asked for people to volunteer for the Son-Rise Program, based in Secaucus, through which they can dedicate six hours a week for a minimum of six months to play with her 4-year-old son Lucas, who has autism. Training is provided. For more information, call: (201) 702-1208.

--Police advised residents to not let any strangers in to their homes and to stay alert to scams from individuals posing as the Water Company or PSE&G to enter their homes.

Awards, presentations, appointments

Seven-year-old Cory Robinson, who attends Clarendon Elementary School, was recognized with a plaque for placing third in the green belt middle weight competition at the United States Tae Kwon Do National Championships in Dallas, Texas. He trains locally in martial arts and has won titles in the NJ and NY State Championships.

Fran Price from La Quinta Hotel received the Serving the Community Award in recognition of her continuing support of the community. La Quinta Hotel participates in the Clean the World Soap to Suds campaign to recycle hotel soap, and also has helped with the local community ball, which is being held on Oct. 6.

All the present council members and the mayor left their seats to stand alongside Rachel Andre-Tomlinson, a media professional, as she was sworn in as a Secaucus Housing Authority Commissioner. The moment made local history because Andre-Tomlinson, 26, became the first African-American woman to serve on a municipal board in Secaucus (see last week’s cover story). She is also the youngest commissioner of the seven-member board that is comprised of four men and now three women.

Residents watched on as Andre-Tomlinson took her oath, her husband held the Bible, and she repeated after Town Clerk Mike Marra.

Andre-Tomlinson thanked everyone for their support after being sworn in.

“I really look forward to getting to know every single one of you,” said Andre-Tomlinson. “It is really an honor to hear your voice and meet the needs of the people.”

Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at

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