WEST NEW YORK – The town’s Board of Commissioners voted 3-1-1 late Wednesday night to approve an ordinance banning a wide range of signs, pennants, and business flags. Mayor Felix Roque and Commissioners FiorD’Aliza Frias and Ruben Vargas voted to pass it, while Commissioner Count Wiley opposed it. Commissioner Caridad Rodriguez abstained.
The ordinance bans signs affixed to the exterior of a glass window or a light pole, as well as a large variety of portable signs, including those attached to vehicles.
The ordinance was introduced in January, and a less strict version was approved on Wednesday. The revised version was re-introduced earlier this month after outcry from local residents. The ban does not apply to residential signs.
The meeting was no dull matter, with multiple members of the public being ordered to exit the municipal chamber over the course of the evening. Political opponents of the mayor, as well as some local business owners and residents, have claimed he is infringing upon their First Amendment rights.
The mayor denied the accusation, saying that it does not ban any language or opinions, but rather governs the manner in which they are conveyed.
“Our ordinance does not prohibit religious political or personal messages and it does not prohibit content,” he said in January. “It prohibits the way that content is portrayed, considering quality of life and safety.”
But Frank Ferreiro, a Sayreville resident and West New York business owner who heads the organization Residents for a Better West New York, accused Roque in a press release of practicing political corruption “not seen since the days of Frank Hague,” the infamous Depression-era Jersey City mayor.
Residents for a Better West New York staged two protests over the sign, during which they carried signs comparing Roque to former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, two weeks ago and last night before the ordinance’s hearing.
After the meeting, Ferriero said his group would be pursuing legal action against the ordinance. – Dean DeChiaro