The 1st Ward is the township's largest in terms of area and population, and has the most registered voters. It stretches from the Union City border along Palisade Avenue to the south to Hackensack Plank Road and Pleasant Avenue, until the Southern Marginal (Lincoln Tunnel helix) to the north. It also includes everything south and east to the river, including the Shades area and the Riva Pointe development on Harbor Blvd.
Lou Ferullo has been the 1st Ward councilman of Weehawken for the last 12 years and the deputy mayor for the last five. Robert Terhune has been involved with the Board of Directors at Gregory Commons for the last four years. Both feel that they are more than qualified to hold the position of 1st Ward councilman for the next four years.
While Terhune vehemently questioned Ferullo's availability to the residents, Ferullo lashed back and insisted that he has always had the town's best interests in heart during his many years of public service.
Here are excerpts from the forum held between the two candidates, held last Monday.
Question 1: Please tell us what experience you have to hold this position and why you feel you are the best qualified candidate.
Terhune: "I've been involved with the Board of Directors in Gregory Commons, involved in tenant issues and issues of homeowners. I've been involved in other community service, like organizing a youth/child bowling league, working with children. I know that this is a very diverse community and I want to represent everyone in the town, those who just moved in and those who have lived here all their lives. We have many different nationalities and needs and I felt it was important that I run, because I'm dedicated to the people. I feel that there has been a lack of representation for all the people for the last 12 years."
Ferullo: "I spent 13 years on the Weehawken Board of Education, through good times and bad, when the state was about to take us over. I've spent the last 12 years as 1st Ward councilman. I represent all the people all the time and I do it all the time. In that time, we've stabilized taxes, cleaned our streets, found a good plan for the waterfront. I feel I've done a great job and I'm more than qualified to continue. I love the people in this town and I reach out to them. I'm going to run now and again and again. I'll always be qualified."
Terhune: "I've met Mr. Ferullo a couple of times and he seems like a nice guy. People have said good things about him. But the one thing I've encountered is that some people have never heard of him and never spoken with him. There are a lot of people in this town and I don't feel they're represented. We might as well have just a mayor at this point, rather than a council who people don't know."
Ferullo: "I have no idea what Mr. Terhune is talking about. People who don't know me? The seniors know me, the neighborhood knows me. Anybody who doesn't know me hasn't been around and hasn't done anything in this town. There are new people in this town, and I'd love to meet them all. I can't meet them all. But they can come to town meetings."
Question 2: Describe what you feel are the best qualities about Weehawken and the ones that need improvement. How can you, as an elected official, insure the best quality of life? How important of an issue is the quality of life? Ferullo: "The best qualities of Weehawken are all of it. The whole thing. We've fixed the waterfront, fixed Park Avenue, fixed the Shades, which is a beautiful old area. We've worked hard to keep our streets safe and clean and we're going to keep that up. We're a small urban community and the home of the Lincoln Tunnel. We're always going to see that our air quality and traffic are manageable. Parking is a problem, but it's always been a problem. It was a problem 20 years ago and it will be 20 years from now. The quality of life is important from the littlest child to the senior citizen. We're there to help them."
Terhune: "The best quality of Weehawken is its diversity. I've spent several evenings with some of my new neighbors, people that I'm just getting to know. And I'm hearing stories of how great the town is, from people who have been here all their lives. The diversity is wonderful. It's a wonderful small community and it's up to me what I can do to improve it. The people I've spoken with worry about the traffic issues that come from the waterfront development. Most of the people have been kept in the dark and don't even know what's going to be there. I'm shocked that the council would side with a developer to approve such a development that even their own traffic expert said would cause traffic problems. It's shocking that the council would allow this to happen."
Ferullo: "Weehawken was voted among the top 25 towns in the state to live in [by New Jersey Monthly magazine]. If we're voted as one of the top towns, we must be doing something right."
Terhune: "Yes, this is a great town. But we're concerned about its future. I don't feel that this administration is the one to bring us into the 21st century. Mr. Ferullo says that they've fixed up Park Avenue. I beg to differ. If fixing up Park Avenue means taking pigeon stuff away from the Water Tower, then they've done that. But we need life there. We want Park Avenue to be a place where people want to shop and go to. We don't have that now."
Question 3: Easily the biggest issue and most controversial topic around town is the Roseland Properties' Port Imperial South development along the waterfront. What is your view on this development project and your views on other development in town?
Terhune: "The waterfront is a very important issue to our campaign. So many people are concerned about what will go there, even supporters of Mayor Turner are concerned. A lot of people don't know the details of what's going on. They don't know about the massive structures of the building, the privatizing of the waterfront. The development is too much and was approved in some back-room deals. We should find ways how we can develop to a certain degree. If you go by consensus, the public was ignored in the process. And we're left with an agreement that a lot of people are not happy with."
Ferullo: "The FWW [Friends of the Weehawken Waterfront] brought 270 charges against us and they were all dropped in superior court and in federal court. There were no back deals and I resent Mr. Terhune saying that. I don't know where he's getting that from. We don't make deals with developers. We tell them what we want. We had roads and open space and the FWW stopped it. It was what they were planning all along, as a political group, and they found Mr. Terhune two days before the filing date to run with them. There's open space. The buildings are two stories lower than originally planned. The DEP and the EPA have both approved what we've approved. The ratables look promising with no cost to the town. It's a good development for all of us."
Terhune: "I am not and never was a member of the Friends of the Weehawken Waterfront. Only one member of our ticket [Dr. Ben Goldman] was and is. As a councilman, you're supposed to be working for the people and that's where you failed. And it's why I'm running. You did not listen to the people when it came to the waterfront."
Ferullo: "I listened to the people. There were only a small group of people who were opposed. But you didn't attend the Planning Board meetings or the council meetings, so how would you know? Maybe you should have. We listened and we're doing what the people want."
Question 4: Probably most of the residents in town care about one thing more than any other, namely property taxes. What can you do, if elected, that can assure property owners that any future tax increases would be at a minimum, or to cut spending? Ferullo: "We'll do what we've been doing for the last 12 years, which is keeping taxes stable. With the waterfront development, we'll bring in more ratables and that will keep property taxes down."
Terhune: "We need responsible development, development that is under control. That would bring in ratables as well. We have to cut down on duplicity of jobs. The budget is very top heavy in management. We have to cut that. The politics, the favor doing, costs this town money. We have to bring in people that are not a part of the political machine. We have to go through the budget, make it clean, lean and mean."
Ferullo: "We can go through the budget and the only increases are in salary and benefits. We're not top-heavy. We're in a better position now than we have been in the last 20 years. There isn't anything wrong."
Terhune: "I beg to differ. He says that people think there's nothing wrong. I know people want to have more open government. We definitely have to look at all aspects of the budget." Profiles FIRST WARD Name: Louis Ferullo
Ticket: Weehawken and You
Occupation: Retired, assistant vice president, U.S. Trust Company of New York
Marital Status: Wife, Raye
Children: Sons Louis (34) and Robert (31)
Educational Background: Various college and banking credits
Previous Political Experience: 13 years on the Weehawken Board of Education, 1990-2002, First Ward Councilman, Township of Weehawken.
Years Residing in Weehawken: 37 years
Name: Robert Terhune
Ticket: WIN (Weehawken Initiative Now)
Occupation: Freelance Art Director
Marital Status: Single
Educational Background: B.A., Fine Arts, Parsons School of Design
Previous Political Experience: Board of Directors, Gregory Commons Condominium
Years Residing in Weehawken: 10 years