Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Blogger's campaign helped change Hackensack

Limon Fine Food Marketplace on Main Street is a mere shell, symbolizing the failure of the Upper Main Alliance to revive the downtown shopping district in Hackensack. The public-private partnership was formed in 2004, when Jack Zisa was mayor of "Zisaville." Zisa served 16 years as mayor, a powerful argument for term limits.
The alliance does have a shiny pickup truck marked "SUPERVISOR." Of what? Around 2:30 on Monday afternoon, there was little foot traffic on Main Street, and some of the people were homeless or appeared deranged.

This morning, Victor E. Sasson drove over the same roughly patched streets he brought to the attention of voters during a 3-month campaign for City Council in Hackensack.

Sasson used potholes and the city's failure to pave his street since 1979 to dramatize how property taxes continue to rise and city services decline in "Zisaville."

When the campaign ended this week, street paving and most other quality of life issues in Sasson's platform had become part of the promises made to voters by the 10 other candidates in the race.

And city officials appeared to be making some of the changes Sasson sought on behalf of himself and other property tax payers.

Last, not least 

Sasson finished last on Tuesday, with 344 votes, but his consolation prize is the victory of the 5-member Citizens for Change slate, headed by incumbent John Labrosse.

Best of all, the Coalition for Open Government, a quintet of mental lightweights and Zisa allies, was defeated, signaling that decades of corrupt rule in Hackensack will soon end (see Page 1 of The Record today).

Although 344 seems like a small number, those vote could have swung the election to other candidates.

John Labrosse, right, speaking to supporters on Tuesday night at the Elks Lodge on Linden Street in Hackensack.

LTACH and you

The victory of the Labrosse slate also repudiated the strategy of the Prospect Avenue Coaltion to organize residents around a single issue, and to hell with the rest of Hackensack.

Hundreds of high-rise residents attended forums with the candidates, and grilled them on their positions regarding a 19-story Long-Term Acute Care Hospital (LTACH) proposed for a small parcel between Prospect and Summit avenues, near Golf Place. 

The developer is appealing the city zoning board's 5-0 decision to reject the plan, and the coaltion wanted to make sure City Attorney Joseph C. Zisa Jr. and former zoning board attorney Richard Malagiere would continue to fight against LTACH in Superior Court.

Key members of the coalition even urged Prospect Avenue residents to split their vote and elect a City Council with three Zisa allies and two members of Citizens for Change -- in other words, maintain the status quo.

Labrosse and his running mates had said they would cut loose Joe Zisa and Malagiere, as did Sasson.

Such a 3-2 council would be great for the coalition -- because the attorneys would be able to continue fighting LTACH and lining their pockets with legal fees at taxpayers' expense -- but terrible for the rest of the city. 

Inside the voting booth. Victor E. Sasson appeared to be hurt by his ballot position -- last. He was told it is state law to list candidates in one column, in contrast to from left to right as on ballots used in the general election. That law doesn't favor independents.

Taxing officials

Sasson and Citizens for Change didn't coordinate their campaigns, but their positions complemented each other as they made voters aware of a 65% hike in property taxes amid declining services.

Kathy Canestrino, the Labrosse running-mate elected on her second try, hammered away at the $6 million in legal fees the city paid in 3 years, all of it generated by the legal problems of Ken "I Am The Law" Zisa, the former state Assemblyman and convicted ex-police chief.

A select group of lawyers got rich suing or defending Zisa, who was sentenced to 5 years in prison, but who remains free pending the appeal of his conviction a year ago for official corruption and insurance fraud.

And Sasson told voters Hackensack is a tax-poor city, deprived of tens of millions of dollars, because of the tax-exempt status of Hackensack University Medical Center, Fairleigh Dickinson University and Bergen County.

Sasson urged HUMC and the others to give back to the city in lieu of property taxes.

Change has started

He didn't have to get elected to see that process begin.

Mike Mordaga took over on Feb. 4 as the city's first civilian police director, and went to work on problems ranging from street crime to moving violations by drivers to all the time his officers spend driving the homeless to the HUMC emergency room.

Mordaga paired county sheriff's officers with city cops in cruisers, and sent them out to stop crime and improve the quality of life by having residents feel safe walking the streets.

He's also asked the county police for assistance.

And Mordaga ordered a crackdown on such moving violations as speeding and blowing through stop signs.

Finally, he asked HUMC to staff a room at the county shelter on South River Street -- where three free meals a day keep the homeless in Hackensack -- to cut down on his officers' trips to the emergency room.

Sasson's lawn signs may come in handy in the next campaign.

Sasson's street will be paved in the fall, the city manager said recently.

And the city no longer sends a noisy truck to collect his garbage and recyclables before 6 a.m., giving his family and neighbors some sorely needed peace and quiet.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. You still Kicked Ass in the Election Mr. Sasson and will still be a valuable voice in Hackensack and Bergen County.Your a Good Samaritan.Best of Luck Victor!

  3. It's great you ran. People can't win everything, but you experienced something few people even try. And you seem to generally care. I take it as a victory for you also that the former leaders were replaced. It's crazy how HUMC pays nothing in the form of taxes, just ridiculous. I went there for a doctor visit this week and they have so many people there and so many doctors. They must be minting money.

    On a different topic...Main Street has very little foot traffic on Sunday -- probably because nearly everything is closed -- and if you just want to go for a walk, at least half a dozen homeless people follow you making small talk and asking for $1 or spare change. We don't even like to go out for an afternoon walk anywhere near Main Street or State Street anymore. I don't mind it if they're walking or sitting on benches -- even the people who scream out loud and talk to themselves. I just don't like when they start following you and begging for money.

  4. That's too bad. The county homeless shelter serves 3 meals a day so their clients spend the whole day in Hackensack.

  5. Victor, you may be interested on this little exhibit called 'Little Syria" in the city:


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