Will the 2,500 West Orange residents make their voices heard today?

By Owen Petrie | Essex County Politics
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November 4, 2014

What does the outcome of the West Orange mayoral election mean for the at least 2,500 concerned residents who signed a petition seeking the repeal of an ordinance that would issue general obligation bonds totaling $6.3Million taxpayer dollars to the developer of the Edison property on Main Street, Prism Capital Partners, LLC. 

The bonds in question will cover the infrastructure costs on the proposed project that would erect 333 luxury apartment units for-rent and 18,500 square feet of retail space in the Edison battery building. 

As stated in the West Orange Patch: "We're not against redevelopment, we all want something there, but we shouldn't be paying for it," said resident Rosary Morelli, who is spearheading the initiative. "There's not a high level of comfort with this whole thing, a lot of questions haven't gotten answered."

What many residents believe is that mayor Parisi should default Prism as redeveloper for breach of contract. According to the West Orange Tax Assessor website, Prism owes the township $518,504.70 as of Oct. 7. 

Mayor Parisi and these residents don’t see yet-to-eye and if he’s reelected, his plans are to forego the wishes of these residents and move forward with his original plan. The challenge here is, his plan hasn’t panned out in over four years.

The other mayoral candidates Joe Krokoviac and Rodolfo Rodriguez agree that Prism and the entire redevelopment project as it stands is a failure but, in the three mayoral debates, failed to offer a specific plan of action. 

Mayoral candidate Eldridge Hawkins challenged mayor Parisi’s redevelopment record, particularly the $6.3 Million bonding of the Edison Battery Factory as well as Parisi’s plans to create housing units. Hawkins believes these units would ultimately attract families with children who would attend an already crowded West Orange Public School System. In addition, Hawkins contends this would drastically add to already out of control taxes in West Orange.

Mr. Hawkins emphatically stated in the mayoral debates that he would never bond taxpayer dollars for the benefit of a private investor. Instead, he said he would look to create A West Orange Redevelopment Authority. 

Hawkins’ plan which is much different from Parisi’s includes the redevelopment of the Edison Battery Factory to recruit businesses and create a center focused on Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics to anchor downtown and improve educational opportunities for people of all ages.

Today the voters, especially those 2,500 currently embroiled in litigation with Parisi over the $6.3 Million bond, who might just represent over half of his total votes, must decide which direction they want the Township of West Orange to go.

The two plans are as different as the two candidates themselves. 

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