Home>Local>Bergen>Labrosse team scores big win in Hackensack

Hackensack Mayor John Labrosse, center, with his slate of council candidates, celebrate victory in the May 11, 2021 municipal election. (Photo: Phil Swibinski.)

Labrosse team scores big win in Hackensack

By Nikita Biryukov, May 11 2021 9:09 pm

A slate headed by Mayor John Labrosse swept local races in Hackensack Tuesday, defeating rival slates headed by a former running mate and a prominent New Jersey activist by a wide margin.

Labrosse and his team — Deputy Mayor Kathleen Canestrino, Council members Leonardo Battaglia and Stephanie Von Rudenborg and retired teacher Gerard Carroll — beat out slates headed by Councilman David Sims and New Jersey Citizen Action director of development Leila Amirhamzeh in a race that focused on costly developments in the seat of Bergen County’s government.

Labrosse finished first with 1,799 votes, followed by Carroll (1,746), Canestrino (1,725), Von Rudenborg (1,725), and Battaglia (1,678).

The combined vote of the ten opponents exceeded the incumbents, something that may be a cause for concern in the future despite the magnitude of Labrosse’s victory.

Sims (1,047) was dropped from the incumbent ticket after bringing his daughter into City Hall after she tested positive for COVID-19. He ran Carlos Merina (909), Fred Miller (926) and county committee members Venus Nelson (9265) and Modesto Romero (1063).

Bergen County NAACP economic development chair Randy Glover (999), Hackensack Chamber of Commerce member Andee Post (992), educator Caseen Gaines (1,062) and business owner Mary Lopez (965) joined Amirhamzeh (1,004) on the “For Hackensack’s Future” slate.

“Today Hackensack voters spoke loud and clear that they want to keep moving forward and let our team finish the job of revitalizing our city and building a brighter future for all residents,” Labrosse said. “On behalf of our entire team I want to thank the residents of Hackensack for the faith they have once again shown in us, and we pledge to continue working hard to live up to it and keep our city on the right track in the next four years.”

Labrosse was a councilman — and a Republican who has since switched parties — when he won his first mayoral race in 2013.  That election ended 20 years of rule by the Zisa family, which had dominated local politics for two generations.

The Labrosse team ran on their records, touting $900,000 in tax cuts and redevelopments on the city’s main street they said had made Hackensack a destination city.

Both challengers launched repeated attacks against the developments, charging the agreements to receive payments in lieu of taxes the city entered into denied it sizeable chunks of tax revenue that could otherwise have helped Hackensack residents.

Those developments, which the mayor’s slate said were made on previously untaxed land, have brought in roughly $1.4 million in revenue for the current year’s budget, though Labrosse’s rivals said the revenue had fell far short of what was promised.

Those investments, they said, had cheated Hackensack’s schools, libraries and other public services out of much-needed funds.

Sims’ opposition to the development proved a little awkward. Before the virus-fueled break, Sims was an ally of Labrosse and voted in tandem with the mayor on the development projects.

The mayor’s slate had a cash advantage, with $53,287 banked at the end of April. Sims managed to outraise Labrosse’s slate in the penultimate leg of the race, bringing in $25,750 to the mayor’s $16,000 between April 9 and April 27.

Amirhamzeh’s slate was never flush with cash. The team filed forms with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission saying their spending would not exceed $15,800 and raised at least $5,125, filings show.

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