Mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration secured approval for an ordinance to waive off-duty police administrative fees for Elmwood Park, allowing the Bergen County municipality to hire a police officer to clamp down on loud noise and music emanating from Eastside Park.
Under the ordinance, the city will neither collect the $10 per hour administrative nor the $20 per hour vehicle fees. Members of the City Council voted 7-1 to approve the measure last Tuesday.
Some had spoken out against the measure viewing it as an embarrassment for a big city to seek assistance from a puny town across the Passaic River to address a problem within its own borders. Others saw it as an opportunity to address a problem that affects both municipalities.
“I don’t feel right about this ordinance. We’re the third largest city in New Jersey. If there’s an issue in our own backyard we should handle it,” said Shahin Khalique, 2nd Ward councilman.
Both municipalities will hire two Paterson police officers for four-hour shifts from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. Thursday through Sunday. Elmwood Park will pay $40 an hour for one officer or $640 per week; Paterson will pay the same for the second officer.
“Most of the folks that gather in Eastside Park and play loud music in their cars are coming from out of Paterson,” said William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman, who represents the area where Eastside Park is located. “I’ll accept help from anybody.”
McKoy pointed out some of those causing the disturbances at Eastside Park come from Elmwood Park. “They are making a small contribution to address the problem many of their residents are causing,” he said.
Some of the troublemakers do hail from Elmwood Park, according to police officials.
Flavio Rivera, councilman at-large, initially agreed with Khalique, but later changed his view after recognizing the benefits the collaboration will produce for residents living close to Eastside Park.
Rivera also had the Sayegh administration change the ordinance. For example, the first ordinance gave Sayegh carte blanche in waiving administrative fees for government entities hiring off-duty Paterson police officers.
The revised ordinance waives the fees for Elmwood Park and requires the administration to obtain City Council approval to waive fees for any other government entities.
Council members Michael Jackson, McKoy, Lilisa Mimms, Ruby Cotton, Al Abdelaziz, Rivera, and Maritza Davila voted in favor while Khalique voted against. Luis Velez was not present for the vote.
The off-duty officers were deployed several weeks ago. McKoy said residents have reported some improvements, but noted the problem may be shifting to elsewhere in the city.