Despite the election battle being fought in West New York, one candidate is entering the race as an outsider.
Adil Ahmed announced his candidacy on the May 14 ballot, in a first-time campaign for elected office. He’s running as an independent candidate on the ballot for one of five commissioner seats.
Ahmed is currently on the town’s planning board, and serves on the boards of a number of immigrants’ rights organizations. He’s an attorney with a long history of working on behalf of labor unions for workers in both the public and private sector.
For a few years, Ahmed found work with a large law firm to pay off his Fordham University student loans, but in 2018 he gave up full-time work in order to campaign for a commissioner seat.
“I quit in January last year,” Ahmed said. “That was a decision I had to make because there’s no way I could be out there meeting people every day. That’s the work it takes, and I want folks to know I’m committed to doing it right. I’m not going after anything else.”
Since leaving, he’s kept up a daily schedule of canvassing, talking about the issues facing West New York. Though he’s turned in about 360 petitions so far, enough to get on the ballot, he plans to keep on canvassing; he’s competing against both Mayor Roque’s camp and a slate backed by Congressman Albio Sires.
“People get really excited once they find out I’m running independently,” Ahmed said. “They also wish me good luck. I’m fully aware of the mountain to climb, and what I’m up against.”
A town that works
Ahmed said that he was drawn to run for local office because he feels that municipal government is the best avenue to take on public service projects, and because “working people deserve a town that works for them.”
“You have the ability to deploy services to people who really need it, and it impacts their life every day,” Ahmed said. “There’s something very direct and tangible I could do working with other commissioners.”
The feud among current officeholders rears its ugly head at every board of commissioners meeting; Ahmed has called for an end to infighting and dysfunction, so that those tangible issues can be addressed.
“I don’t know where the conflict started, but frankly I don’t care, because the results of it are unacceptable.” – Adil Ahmed
“No one is trying to express a vision for change,” Ahmed said. “They’re just saying, ‘trust us, we’re not like the other guys.’ I don’t really know all of Roque’s history, or the politics. And I think that’s an advantage. The reputation of this town is that it’s gotten so political people don’t want to get involved anymore. I don’t know where the conflict started, but frankly I don’t care, because the results of it are unacceptable.”
Ahmed said that public meetings have reached a state of dysfunction.
“You know that term in criminal law, heat of passion? Everyone gets really riled up and goes off topic,” Ahmed said. “Then, you have dozens of people in the room who want to talk about something relevant, and no one’s talking about it.”
Tale of Two Cities
Ahmed wants to create equity in West New York’s future development, which he feels has been neglected especially on the Hudson River waterfront and parks on Boulevard East.
“I’m calling for a stop on waterfront residential development,” he said. “I’m talking full stop. There isn’t any more public space there, All these kids who live here and grow up in town can’t play there. The waterfront isn’t a place for kids ‘on the hill,’ as people who live on the waterfront call them. It’s this weird Tale of Two Cities kind of thing, and I want to bridge that.”
Ahmed envisions a waterfront a community center, which would give everyone access to that area.
“I know the community is behind it, but who is willing to do it?” – Adil Ahmed
“It could change the way people grow up,” Ahmed said. “Kids from town could say they used to play on the waterfront; it’s one of the most beautiful sights in town. Right now, you cannot go there. That hill is like a wall. It takes some vision and someone willing to say that’s what they want. I know the community is behind it, but who is willing to do it?”
Ahmed supports a town shuttle service for residents to get to and from the waterfront area.
Backing the workforce
Ahmed has also called for establishing a bureau of labor for workforce and business development in the town’s Department of Public Affairs. That program would educate workers and employers on workers’ rights, support mediation of disputes prior to litigation, and create a network supporting locals who want to start businesses.
“It’s important because we have so many low-income workers in West New York,” Ahmed said. “We were ranked among the highest poverty rates in New Jersey. Twenty-two percent of our residents live in extreme poverty. We have such a large service employee industry in this town. I really think they need to be supported. Government has a role in that. It’s all about how the government best serves people.”
Putting the “control” back in rent control
Ahmed said that many residents are facing with exorbitant rent increases that aren’t being regulated, despite the town’s rent-control ordinance.
“We have a rent-control attorney that meets with residents one day per month,” Ahmed said. “I’ve been reading leases over the past few months of knocking on doors because people have disputes with their landlords. People are getting charged ridiculous rents, increased well above what they should be.”
Dissolving the parking authority
Currently, the West New York Parking Authority (WNYPA) is a fully autonomous operation whose members are appointed by the town, which has little municipal oversight.
In Fall 2018, New York Capital Markets, Inc. issued a report to the board of commissioners detailing how taxpayers would save about $429,000 if the WNYPA was absorbed by the town. The board hasn’t moved forward with the recommendation; Ahmed said that was a mistake.
“There’s a lot of waste here,” he said. “Everyone in town has frustration with the authority, no one can get answers, they get tickets and don’t understand why, and there aren’t spaces painted on the roads. The study showed there would be no harm to the operations of the authority if it were absorbed by the town.”
No more business as usual
Ahmed would like to cut the red tape for business owners by removing a ban on storefront lighting, he’d like an online process for residents to report issues to the DPW. He also wants to strengthen health and transportation services for those living in senior housing, and ban political campaigning inside of senior housing buildings.
“I’m conscientiously running as one and not a team of five because I can work with anyone” – Adil Ahmed
Ahmed said that he is capable of working alongside incumbent candidates from either Roque’s “Continue the Progress” slate, or the “New Beginnings” slate.
“I’m conscientiously running as one and not a team of five because I can work with anyone,” Ahmed said. “If Roque gets in, or Gabe and them, I can work with them. I can figure it out, I don’t need a team to try and raid everyone with.”
Ahmed said he is getting a younger demographic involved in the electoral process.
“I’m seeing how much these young kids care about politics.” Ahmed said. “They’re really thinking about policies in town and things that should be addressed. That, to me, is making all of this worth it.”
To find out more about Adil Ahmed’s campaign, visit adil4wny.com. His community newsletter is available at thefutureofwny.com. Ahmed can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For updates on this and more stories check hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mike Montemarano can be reached at email@example.com.