Working for WNY Mayor Vega's first three months in office
by Jessica Rosero Reporter staff writer
Jan 28, 2007 | 434 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It has been three months since Mayor Silvero "Sal" Vega took the oath of office, and had the gavel passed down to him by his predecessor Rep. Albio Sires, whom he worked alongside since 1995. The new mayor has gone right to work.

From meeting with residents, to taking note of what needs to be done along the major commercial and commuter boulevards of the township, Vega has set out plans, which have since taken effect or are pending for the immediate future.

The one thing Vega has not done is hire any new personnel or create new positions with the exception of filling in existing vacancies that were left by Sires' administration.

"First of all we are doing a total review of the budget before we entertain the idea of hiring anyone or creating new positions," said Vega.

Vega would also like to give various municipal departments any additional and updated equipment as needed.

"We want to make sure the budget can afford it first," said Vega. "We haven't hired anyone [new] since I've been sworn in as mayor, and I've been mayor for three months."

Vega said that the review should be completed by May.

What Vega has done is introduce himself to the community he has served as a commissioner since 1991, when he came in with Mayor Anthony DeFino. During these first few months, Vega joined the town building and health inspectors in walking the main shopping district of Bergenline Avenue, meeting with merchants and making sure that the buildings are up to code.

"It gave me a good opportunity to introduce myself as the mayor," said Vega, who still has his "lucky" commissioner's plaque in the mayoral office.

They have also taken note of the repairs and renovations needed to the façade of the commercial avenue.

"We're going through the list and trying to improve on what we found such as store fronts that have not been kept up and there are roof awnings that need to be replaced," said Vega. "Also merchants on the southern end of Bergenline have merchandise on the sidewalk, which is not allowed [except for designated days]. It takes away from the beauty of the avenue and the ability for people to get around."

Cracking down on graffiti artists

Another project Vega has been working on is the Graffiti Task Force, which has been set up to catch suspects in the act and issue the proper penalties.

"We're working with the West New York police department and Director Griffin on this," said Vega. "For many years we have been successful in removing [the graffiti] immediately, but now we are also looking at it from a public safety side and are looking to be successful in apprehending individuals who have chosen to deface private property."

The Graffiti Task Force has been in place for about a month, and has made several arrests in the last few weeks alone.

"The law requires that you catch them in the act," said Vega. "If you catch them seconds later [or even just with materials in their possession] you are not able to make an arrest." Vega said that despite the stereotype that much of the tagging is done by young kids, a majority of "graffiti artists" as they call themselves are above the age of 18.

Some tag marks have also been affiliated with gang members as a means of communication.

"We're working very hard on identifying these marks and following the patterns," said Vega. "The police department has a way of identifying the sign patterns of gangs, but for the most part these are just individuals trying to go out there and place their mark."

Although at times graffiti tagging can be viewed as petty vandalism, Vega has taken the point of view of the personal violation placed upon the victim, which is equivalent to having their car broken into.

"I think the worst violation is [any scenario] that can leave a victim with the feeling of being violated," said Vega.

In addition, the township also invests funds in removing the graffiti. Although the law requires the merchants to take it down themselves, the town assists in making sure it comes down quickly.

Last year West New York spent $80,000 in graffiti removal.

"We have also reminded the store owners that to sell these paints to people under the age of 18 is illegal," said Vega.

Signs are also being provided for store owners to remind customers of this regulation.

Fines for graffiti tagging are up to $200, and parents of minors caught tagging could also be fined penalties.

Upcoming projects

In addition, Vega is also concentrating on improvements to the other main commercial and commuter avenues around West New York including 60th Street and Boulevard East. He is currently in discussions with a company that will help maintain old bus shelters, which have been ravaged by the elements, in exchange for advertising that the town will have a say over. The exchange of free advertising will supplement any cost to the city.

"We are in the process of contracting with a company [to maintain the shelters]," said Vega. "They have worked from Fort Lee to Jersey City, and we will control the type of advertising. We don't want anything offensive."

Vega's main long-term project, however, is to get the town a much needed state of the art recreation facility with an indoor swimming pool. The pool will serve the town athletic programs during the winter seasons.

"I think I found the perfect site for it, and it's already owned by the town and partially by the Parking Authority," said Vega.

Vega is hoping to include the center on a back portion of Miller Stadium. The stadium is already undergoing renovations, as well as a portion of an adjacent municipal parking lot.

The needed plans for the center are still months off. Yet Vega has begun discussions with the county to get an architect to help in the planning and estimate before applying for funding.
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