West New York mayor lends support to longtime Sacco adversary


WEST NEW YORK – Mayor Felix Roque lent his support to Larry Wainstein during a speech at a Wainstein event at a local restaurant last Saturday. Wainstein is a perennial adversary of Mayor Nicholas Sacco who has frequently challenged the mayor in past elections.
While media outlets characterized the speech as an endorsement for North Bergen’s 2019 municipal election, Roque stopped short of confirming that.
“The word ‘endorsing’ is a very precise, targeted word,” Roque said. “I would say that he’s a phenomenal person.”
He said that as far as any endorsements, “when the time comes, it’s something I have to consider.”
Roque has been in office for seven years, and Sacco for 27. So why is Roque suddenly supporting a longtime adversary?
Local mayors recently became divided over who should be the next Hudson County executive. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and Union City Mayor and State Sen. Brian Stack announced they would not support current County Executive Tom DeGise’s 2019 reelection efforts. Roque has joined them in seeking a new candidate, as has Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla.
Roque has said that “there’s a need for change,” calling Stack, Fulop and Bhalla a “new generation trying to make a difference.”
But Sacco is in DeGise’s camp (see Al Sullivan’s political column this week). Some say the fight is over jobs.
Roque said he gave kind words to Wainstein because of his philanthropic efforts in North Bergen. Roque also said that Wainstein has recently helped West New York residents with bill and rent payments.
On the other hand, three West New York commissioners have announced support for DeGise, an apparent split from Roque. In fact, next month, those commissioners will participate in a fundraiser to be hosted by Rep. Albio Sires for an anti-Roque ticket.
One of those commissioners is Cosmo Cirillo, who has close ties to Sacco, and is a rumored Roque opponent for next year.
Asked whether his words complimenting Wainstein were political retaliation against DeGise sympathizers, Mayor Roque shot that down. “I don’t have any problems with Sacco,” Roque said.
In a statement, North Bergen town spokesman Phil Swibinski said, “Mayor Roque should be more concerned with West New York, where in the last few months he has lost control of local government, with a majority of the Board of Commissioners breaking away from him, and [with] his own chances of re-election, which appear to be getting slimmer by the day.”
Sacco had harsh words for Wainstein during a recent media interview. “He’s surrounded by criminals, and I’ll match my record against his,” he said.