They are the six candidates competing on May 13 to be one of the two at-large council members to be sworn in on July 1. The at-large race has more candidates than any other in this year’s municipal elections:
Debra Czerwienski worked through the hard times as a Bayonne councilwoman and wants to be reelected to see the turnaround she feels is right around the corner.
“When we came in Bayonne was in dire straits,” she said. “We started something and we didn’t finish it, and I want to see it come to its fruition.”
Czerwienski is referring, in part, to the various development projects under way, or soon to be, around the city.
“Government sometimes works slowly,” she said. “Now, we’re at the cusp of great things. And I want to be there for them.”
Czerwienski is encouraged by the recent proclamation by NJ Biz that Bayonne is one of the “key hot spots” in the state.
“It’s the development. I think that’s the key to turning the city around,” she said. “Because we have a process in place for developers to come and know that they’re going to be listened to and something is going to happen.”
Czerwienski said the administration is seeking to revitalize Broadway block by block. With the recent announcement of a medical center possibly coming to the 23rd to 24th street area, that effort can continue, she thinks.
“It has a domino effect,” Czerwienski said. “Once one developer sees what is being done, I think it spurs other developers to come in.”
She said the administration is not looking at Broadway as a three-mile-long entity. Rather, they want to compartmentalize it, and rebuild it from that viewpoint.
“It’s not like it was 40 years ago, you can’t sustain it the way it was,” Czerwienski said. “The demographics are different, shopping is different.”
Czerwienski is also proud that Mayor Mark Smith and the current council are paying down the municipal debt and getting taxes under control.
“Bringing down the debt was huge,” she said. “It’s not one of the key issues people will think about. Also, stabilizing taxes, which we’ve done. This year we have no tax increase whatsoever.”
Czerwienski is running again with Smith because she believes in him, and the policies he espouses.
“We share the same love for the city. I’ve known Mark for a very long time,” she said. “His family's been in Bayonne a long time, in service to Bayonne. He genuinely cares what’s happening here, and I do too.”
Czerwienski was raised on Bayonne’s east side. She attended Lincoln School, Bayonne High School and Montclair State University, where she graduated with a BA in Health Education. Czerwienski is a sixth-grade teacher at All Saints Catholic Academy.
A communicant of Our Lady of Mount Carmel R.C. Church, she serves on the parish council and as director of the Parish Religious Education Program. Active in Scouting, Czerwienski serves on the Troop Committee for Troop 25 at St. Vincent’s R.C. Church.
She is a commissioner on the Planning Board.
She is married to Greg Czerwienski; the couple has three sons.
Leonard Kantor is running because he wants to “present the truth to the people.” He’s run for office for the last 45 years and said this is his last attempt to gain public office and help the residents of Bayonne.
“I want to be the voice of the people,” said Kantor, who is a retired Bayonne police officer and Korean War veteran.
If elected a councilman, Kantor said he will come to meetings with ideas on programs or services to eliminate in the city each year when the budget comes up for vote.
“I will be the first councilman that will have cuts to propose,” he said. “They’ve never done this publicly at a meeting. Everyone votes unanimously on the budget, year after year.”
Kantor decries this year’s zero tax increase as an election-year ploy.
“[There’s] no increase this year in an election year,” Kantor said. “[They] didn’t go up in 2010 either, but in 2011 they went up 8.2 percent.”
And he doesn’t agree with the administration’s sale of land at the former Military Ocean Terminal to the Port Authority, saying the land was given up “for almost nothing.”
He also has a problem with most of the new development in Bayonne being residential, saying the city is already overpopulated.
“They’re putting up thousands and thousands of additional housing units,” Kantor said. “That’ll mean more cops, teachers, firemen, workers in the school system and the city, and more garbage pickup. We’ll be back in debt [another] $100 million dollars.”
Kantor also faulted the Smith administration for not helping to create what he said was enough new jobs in the city.
“Most of the people in Bayonne take the light rail out of town. There are really no jobs in Bayonne,” he said. “He's destroying Broadway. He’s not revitalizing it; he’s vaporizing it.”
Kantor is also worried about the solvency of many of the stores on Broadway, the city’s main shopping area for decades.
“All these people—when they put the stores on the back highway there—they’re going to fold up,” he said.
Kantor had a simple reason for why voters should cast their ballots for him on May 13.
“Of all the candidates in this election, I’ve been running year after year,” he said. “I know this city backward and forward. I would cut employees, and stop wasteful spending, cronyism, and nepotism.”
“They should vote for me because I’m a person who believes in honesty and integrity. What I say is what I mean, and what I say, I’m going to do,” Kantor said. “An elected person is supposed to do what residents say. They’re the boss.”
Kantor is running with the #Better Bayonne ticket of Anthony Zanowic because they are not longtime politicians.
“They’re sincere people; they don’t know the first thing about politics,” he said. “They just want to help the city.”
Kantor also feels that his running mates offer a fresh new alternative for those unhappy with the current administration.
“Our city has been heading in the wrong direction for far too long,” he said. “Now is the time that we have to step up and ensure that the people of Bayonne have a voice.”
Sharon Nadrowski is running because she feels Bayonne has a lot of problems that she would like to help solve.
She cited the increase in litter, a lack of youth sports facilities, low teacher morale, high taxes, and empty Broadway storefronts as things that concern her.
“I’ve lived in Bayonne all my life, and I just don’t like the way Bayonne is moving,” Nadrowski said. “We’re paying more, but not getting back for what we’re paying the city. It’s obvious it’s not heading in the right direction.”
Nadrowski thinks she can change things for the better.
“I have skills from the private sector, and I can use those skills for the city,” she said. “I’m used to meeting deadlines and providing quality products to clients. I believe those are the exact same proficiencies that will make me be a good councilwoman.”
Nadrowski is a Microsoft database engineer in Parsippany.
Running on the James Davis for Mayor ticket, Nadrowski said her team’s focuses will be on making city government accountable to residents, settling the teachers’ contract, and establishing
Bayonne as a business-friendly town.
Regarding what she said was a lack of youth sports facilities, she said:
“There’s no reason to have so much vacant land and not enough facilities. There’s no reason not to have enough for the children of the city.”
Among Nadrowski’s ideas is making the community center ice rink in the high school compound more accessible to residents.
She said that years of volunteering in Bayonne, and walking and knocking on doors over the last few weeks, have given her an understanding of what’s important to city residents and what their priorities are.
“I'll work with integrity and honesty in the best interests of all the residents of Bayonne,” she said. “I only have them in mind. I’m not beholden to anyone. I don’t have a side agenda. I will listen to the people and work with all the people of Bayonne.”
Sharon graduated from St. Andrews Grammar School and Bayonne High School and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from New Jersey City University.
She was a coach for the Bayonne Girls Travel Basketball team for many years.
Nardowski instituted and coached the track program at St. Mary’s Grammar School in 2003 and has continued coaching the track program with the merger of the Bayonne catholic schools into All Saints Catholic Academy. She was a CYO basketball coach for both St. Mary’s and ASCA. She is the ASCA athletic director, as well as a past school PTA member.
Nardowski is a current member and past vice president of the Irish American League, where she is also on the Annual Claddagh Dance committee. She is a member of both the Bayonne Shamrock Society and Bayonne St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee.
She is an active member of the St. Mary’s Parish. She was on the committee for St. Mary’s 150th Anniversary celebration, and was a volunteer for St. Mary’s Citywide Pee Wee Program and St. Mary’s carnival committee. She was also a member of the committee that instituted the Bayonne soup kitchen.
She is married to Charlie Nadrowski; they have three children.
Like mayoral candidates Smith and Davis, Juan Perez has deep roots in law enforcement. He was formerly Hudson County Sheriff, where he oversaw a department of 300 and he feels his administrative skills learned from that job prepare him for the role of at-large councilman.
A fiscal conservative, he said he will watch spending here in the city, like he did when sheriff.
“I held the line on overtime,” Perez said. “I streamlined the government there. They had an excessive amount of captains. They were falling over each other. I cut to the bone and made it work.”
With his county experience, he said he would work to streamline government and reduce the debt here as well.
“I’m running because I’m fed up with the taxes going up,” he said. “I own property. I have a house. I pay $13,000 a year in taxes. And my water rate is going up, up and away.”
Retired now, Perez said he is on a fixed income and understands the plight of seniors and families, and would fight for them.
“So we do something to stabilize their taxes,” he said. “So they can keep their house, on the fixed income they’re living on.”
Like many of the other council candidates, Perez feels there are not enough recreational facilities in town for youth, especially soccer fields. He said that’s especially troubling to him, since Bayonne has morphed into a diverse community, with many immigrants from Egypt and Central and South America, hotbeds for soccer play.
“Bayonne has changed, a new group of people coming in,” he said. “We want to build two soccer fields for these kids. And we feel for them.”
A community center for children, or a boxing club like the one in Jersey City that he knew as a child, would be among his goals.
“This is what I want for the kids in Bayonne,” Perez said. “Remember the idol hand is the devil’s workshop.
Perez would also advocate for an elected school board.
“We’d work with them to reduce costs,” he said. “We’ll make a fair and equitable contract that’s good for the teachers and the residents of Bayonne.”
Perez’s law enforcement career also included a rise through the New Jersey State Police to the rank of captain. While at the state police, he served on the governor’s protection detail and worked on the investigation unit, conducting criminal investigations across the state.
“I am a very sincere person. I’m conscientious and hard working,” he said. “I’m going to do the right thing for the people of Bayonne. I have no ulterior motives.”
Perez is the founder and past president of the Hispanic Law Enforcement Association, past board of trustee and vice chair of the Jersey City Medical Center board, a lieutenant in the Civil Air Patrol, and grand marshal of the Bayonne Hispanic Day Parade in 2007.
Ruane spent five full years on the council, and 23 years in the city’s post office, ending with his assignment as postmaster.
Those are the reasons Council President Terrence Ruane believes he should be elected to serve another four years.
Ruane joined the city council in May 2009, taking the seat of a departing councilman. He had to run and win to retain his seat in a November 2009 special election, and then run again the following May to retain it once more.
“I’m the best person for this job,” Ruane said. “I served for 23 of my 35 years right here in the post office in Bayonne. So I gained an intimate knowledge of the people in the city.”
The professional experience he gained in running “a large company” is priceless, he said, including knowledge of finance, labor negotiations, customer service, human resources, and safety issues.
“And all these skills, I feel, have enhanced my ability to do this job,” Ruane said.
He’s been retired since 2009.
“I always thought about it,” he said of public service. “It felt like a natural fit.”
Ruane moved here when he was 11, and has been here about 50 years now. He said that time here has given him an understanding of Bayonne that can only help if he is reelected and continues to serve on the council.
He thinks the institution of the zone management team by Mayor Smith has been successful.
He described the three city hall employees as “quality-of-life people. They look at illegal apartments, houses in disrepair. They’re pretty much a self-sufficient organization.”
With one for each ward, they visit buildings and cite building code violations, asking their owners to make improvements.
“I think it’s one of the better things” instituted, Ruane said. “We get quick, fast action and usually it’s done.”
Ruane said he would like to continue on that course in making the quality of life in Bayonne better, getting streets cleaned up, and ridding neighborhoods of graffiti.
“One of the things I’d really like to see is the schools pushing environmental issues,” he said.
Ruane is a graduate of Marist High School, where he was Student Council vice president. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology at Jersey City State College (now New Jersey City University). In 1971, he volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army. He is a member of American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Catholic War Veterans and was a secretary of Branch 78 National Association of Postal Supervisors.
In May 2009, the city council chose Ruane as interim Council Member-at-Large. Later he was elected to the post. Ruane currently serves as President of the Bayonne Municipal Council. Ruane is a strong supporter of Mayor Smith’s efforts to reduce city debt, encourage redevelopment, and bring jobs to Bayonne.
Ruane is married to the former Marie Contaldi. They have two children.
John Sebik is running because he believes that the City Council should have an independent voice. He also believes Bayonne needs a positive voice on the council.
“I’d like to spread a positive message of change in this town,” Sebik said. “One that people are not accustomed to.”
With the newer immigrant groups of Egyptians, Spanish, Indians, and Pakistanis in Bayonne, Sebik believes they should all become part of the process and part of the decisions made in town. He says he hasn’t seen those groups being invited to city hall. “I don’t believe the diversity of this town has been addressed,” he said.
“Everyone has a vested interest in this community,” he said. “We’re all neighbors.”
Sebik remembers growing up in the city, walking down the block and “bumping into 10 families you know.” He feels that can continue.
Sebik believes constituents should be consulted more when it comes to major decisions like development and city land to be sold on the former Military Ocean Terminal.
“If I was on the city council and working with the mayor, I'd want a public forum and a full presentation on it,” he said. “I just don’t agree with the mayor and council solely making the decisions.”
“If we sell off that land and develop it the wrong way, it’s going to be a headache down the road,” he said. “Four hundred acres on the water right there, it’s only going to go up in value.”
Sebik is also gratified by Bayonne being mentioned as one of the hot spots in the state, but he thinks developers should also build day care centers and athletic fields.
He also wants to increase police presence in the neighborhoods, including a 24-hour presence in areas that merit it.
He wants to bring Broadway back to its prominence as the main shopping venue in town. He feels the city has gone in reverse, citing about 60 empty storefronts on the avenue as opposed to a little less than a dozen four years ago.
Sebik was born in Jersey City but moved to Bayonne when he was six. He attended St. Joseph’s Grammar School and Bayonne High School. He earned his Bachelor’s and Master of Science Degree from New Jersey City University, specializing in national, cyber, and corporate security. He spent the majority of his career as an operations/general manager in distribution management and logistics, working in both union and nonunion environments. He is currently employed by the federal government.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at: JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.