During the recent Rochelle Park Township Committee meeting, a heated debate unfolded around a proposed flag ordinance that governs which flags can be displayed on township properties; a decision drafted following a June resolution on the raising of the pride flag. As the Committee pushed a first reading of the ordinance to the next meeting, a slim majority voted to permit the raising of a flag for Hispanic Heritage Month.
The most contentious debate surrounded a proposed flag ordinance that would restrict the flags hoisted on township property. The suggested limitation would only allow the U.S. flag, the township flag, and those of certain government agencies.
One critic of the pride flag, Committeeman Perrin Mosca, was accused of rallying both residents and outsiders to stage a “mini riot” at the meeting. A significant point of contention was the observation that while many towns in Bergen County had raised a particular flag, only Rochelle Park seemed to grapple with it. An exasperated member exclaimed, “Not one other town in Bergen County who flew this flag had a problem. Not one other one… And you caused the problem.”
Mosca was confronted about comments he allegedly made on a podcast regarding the LGBTQ community, allegedly suggesting they “need to be dealt with.” Mosca denied memory of the remark. Mosca was also criticized for allegedly refusing to come to work in June because the pride flag was flying.
Comparisons were drawn to Anita Bryant’s 1970s “Save the Children” campaign, implying an over-exaggerated reaction to the flying of certain flags. The discussion became progressively contentious with individuals accusing one another of various forms of misconduct including alleged threats of violence in past interactions.
The pride flag debate also influenced discussions around raising the Hispanic Heritage Month flag. Some Committee members expressed concerns about favoring one community over another, while others highlighted the importance of recognizing the Hispanic community’s contributions. One member stated: “I have consistently voted against all flags… If we represent one… we’re going to inadvertently leave somebody out.” Despite mixed opinions, the motion to raise the flag from September 15th to October 15th narrowly passed with three votes in favor, two against, and one abstention.
The Committee unanimously agreed to present the first reading of the flag restriction ordinance at the next meeting to foster deeper discussion.
Separately, the Committee tackled topics such as projects managed by Boswell Engineering. The community voiced concerns over the company representative’s unfamiliarity with local stakeholders and the remote location of the town engineer. Delays in projects, like the sanitary sewer pump station, highlighted the need for better communication. Additionally, with new state stormwater management standards in place, discussions circled around redesigning the municipal building blueprint after the departure of contractor Sonny Jumaane.
Local infrastructure also took center stage with debates about potential changes to roads and parks. While there was significant support for a $380 million fund dedicated to road safety improvements, apprehensions about traffic disruptions emerged. The Committee was unified in its stand against a beetle infestation, endorsing a five-year tree planting plan. Other community concerns revolved around Park Avenue parking, potential administrative conflicts of interest, and the selection process for planning board members.