West New York Commissioner Gerald Lange came under fire last week for allegedly leaving the scene of a collision at Park Avenue and 56th Street in West New York to go to the bathroom after he hit a vehicle driven by an off-duty police officer.
Police issued Lange a summons for leaving the scene of the accident. Lange was driving a city-issued SUV in the incident, which occurred Dec. 30.
While the accident has been described by city spokesman Paul Swibinski as “a mere bump,” political opponent Felix Roque said it showed a lack of accountability in the West New York administration.
“If this was one of my soldiers, I would have reprimanded him.” – Dr. Felix Roque
According to the police report, Police Officer Max A. Batres Machado, driving his personal vehicle, was stopped at a light at 56th Street and Park Avenue the night of Thursday, Dec. 30. Then, Lange allegedly rear-ended him with a town-owned vehicle. Upon arrival, police found Lange to be absent and issued him a summons.
When questioned by police, Lange reportedly stated that his car had gone over a speed bump and skidded into Machado’s vehicle stopped at the traffic light, and that he left the scene because he had to use the bathroom.
Swibinski said the accident took place right near Lange’s residence. He said he pulled into the Park Avenue driveway of his apartment building at 5701 Boulevard East and told the other driver he was going to use the restroom and come right back. He said Lange returned to the scene to find that police had arrived.
Swibinski said the “low rate of speed” accident was “very minor” and that Lange “believes that either this matter’s going to be dropped, or he’s going to fight the ticket. He believes it’s a technicality. He went inside to use the bathroom and the other officers arrived.”
A questionable past
Machado and a passenger in the car, Yesenia Glen, were treated at Palisades Medical Center. Swibinski said that Lange’s summons was for leaving the scene of the accident without injury.
“I believe [Machado and Glen] went as a precaution and they were examined and released,” Swibinski said, “but I’m not in a position to say there were categorically no injuries.”
Rumors have circulated that Glen is pregnant. Swibinski said he cannot confirm it.
The collision Dec. 30 was not the Lange’s first brush with the law.
Last year, police were called when Lange was allegedly involved in a scuffle with an adult day care facility owner, Dr. Antonio Gines, for possibly placing political signs on company vehicles supporting Dr. Felix Roque, who was leading an effort to recall West New York Mayor Silverio Vega. Neither man filed charges.
In 2007, West New York police arrested Lange, then a Hudson Country freeholder and West New York commissioner, on a charge of aggravated assault against his wife, a charge that was later dropped. Lange later dropped out of a special election at the time, citing personal reasons.
Questioning administration accountability
The failure of West New York to hold Lange accountable for his actions has Roque, a political opponent of the Vega administration, declaring the situation “completely unacceptable.”
Roque, who has served in the military for the past 35 years and now holds the title of colonel, said, “If this was one of my soldiers, I would have reprimanded him.”
Roque also questioned Lange’s use of a town vehicle at 8:12 p.m. However, town vehicles are issued to all West New York commissioners.
Town spokesman Paul Swibinski said he does not believe that it is “unusual in any way that Lange was using a town vehicle at night. Being a commissioner is a 24/7 job.”
Officer Machado could not be reached for comment.