Sidewalks, an Expensive Scam, and a City Cop Discussed at City Council Meeting
Update April 11, 2023 - A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Steve Goldberg as the speaker who talked about a walking tour in Clifton. That has been corrected.
At Tuesday’s meeting of the City Council, many important topics were brought to light. For the most part, the meeting boasted a calm air. However, several poignant hot-button moments caused a noticeable shift throughout the room.
The public portion of the council meeting offered several residents who made mention of sidewalk provisions concerning certain properties which had not installed sidewalks in front of their homes as is required by city code. City Manager Nick Villano stated that letters would be sent to affected residences on both Allwood Road and Mt. Prospect regarding the implementation of sidewalks. Councilwoman Sadrakula voiced her opposition to the manager’s handling of the letters being sent out stating confusion had been caused on whether or not they were technically mailed out, or if there was a simple verbal indication of sidewalks needing to be put on those specific properties. The city manager reaffirmed that the letters would shortly be sent out by the city engineer to applicable properties.
Villano continued by stating that FEMA (Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration) is offering a new revolutionary program to assist properties in flood zone areas, specifically the four affected properties by the Third River. The program can offer up to $300,000 to assist in elevating the home high enough to no longer be deemed at risk of flooding. These residents will shortly receive an email with instructions on how to apply for the program assistance for their properties.
Ray Perino came to the podium with an idea to implement a walking tour in conjunction with the one he had personally witnessed in Branch Brook Park, Essex County. He went on to state that you can use your cellular phone to access a QR code which prompts the history, facts, and more interesting information to pop up on the screen. The resident proposed that due to the area being federal property, federal grants and the Historical Society could assist with the funding of the project. He believes the city of Clifton can greatly benefit from including the likes of other major cities, such as Atlanta, Georgia’s Michelle Obama dedication, in town. He received praise from several council members deeming the idea to be beneficial to the city and its residents.
Another resident, Steve Goldberg, used his time during public privilege to share his feelings on the “whoever applies first, gets hired” idea that he feels is used in place of conducting essential background checks. He expressed his disdain for the approach that the city takes in assigning people to different committees. The committee he regularly mentioned was the Civil Rights Committee, in which he stated that internal biases must be examined versus simply their name being adequate to onboard new members. He repeatedly suggested that the council must vet their candidates on qualifications and perspectives and not by who they know and the names they hold.
The next person to speak during public privilege altered the feeling in the room. Julie Krygsman, a third-generation Cliftonite, approached the podium and stated her frustrations with an incident that occurred on her property. She witnessed two men sitting in their parked vehicle which was one of the long lists of offenses that occurred adjacent to her home. She felt fearful due to the recent home invasion where a woman had been tied up and robbed, not far from her residence. The incident happened in the daytime when the woman was home alone. Julie’s situation with the two men sitting in their car and staring at her home caused her to contact the Clifton Police Department. Julie stated that her property abuts two streets and that the empty area of her lot paves the way to multiple nefarious activities. The list included finding garbage, using condoms, witnessing illicit drug activities and drinking, and more. The responding officer seemed less than enthused to do anything about the situation. He stated that the city cannot put a NO LOITERING sign in the area, and will not ever.
He also stated that due to zoning restrictions, they cannot turn the empty area into a parking space. Julie then stated that when she asked the officer what she could do to be proactive in handling the ongoing situation, the officer stated to “Vote Republican” because “they are more strict on these types of things.” She continued sharing what the officer said to her which included how the city of Clifton has gone downhill, that police officers are no longer proactive but reactive, and that there are not enough officers to handle the overpopulated city. He then proceeded to tell her, she said, to run for a position so she could do something about it or to put her home up for sale. Krygsman was visibly upset in recounting the upsetting situation as she pleaded to the council to do something to protect her, her home, and her family.
Krygsman was followed by her husband’s reiteration of the seriousness of the situation involving her property and the behavior of the officer who was on-call at the residence. He added that more high-quality officers must be hired to prevent these situations from recurring. He additionally offered statistics highlighting precluding the fact that there is only 1 officer per 526 residents in the city. He applauded the recent salary increase for Clifton police; however, he believes that it is not enough to bring out the officers Clifton needs to be proactive and keep the city and its residents safe. He reiterated that Clifton needs to hire more officers to ease the burden. Multiple councilpersons and the mayor shared their agreement with the fact that Clifton police officers must protect the citizens of Clifton.
During council privilege, Councilwoman Sadrakula expressed her disapproval of her and her colleagues not being informed about the scam that cost the city $600,000. She stated that she and other council members were not informed about the scammed money until residents reached out to her personally. City Manager Villano jumped in to state that he disapproved of her insinuating that the city simply brushed aside the matter and that the matter is still under investigation. He then asked Councilwoman Sadrakula to refrain from further speaking on the matter with the public as it continues to be an ongoing matter.
Councilwoman Murphy shared with the public that CHIP (Clifton Home Improvement Program) is available to those who are eligible for essential home improvements. She stated that eligible people must meet the listed limit on income to qualify for the home program. Any further questions or information can be requested from Brian Rodgers: 973-470-5847.
The next City Council meeting will be held on Tuesday, April 11. The work session starts at 6:30 and the public portion begins at 8 p.m. at City Hall.