Christian Strumolo, Line 1A
Q: How can a small, independent town remain a small independent town in the face of rising costs and state mandates?
Christian Strumolo: Right, and cost in reference to what?
In reference to the spending that’s necessary to operate a town.
Christian Strumolo: Well, first and foremost, Alex Roman has been there eight years. Christine McGrath has been there for four years. It took our new administrator to finally come in and hire a grant writer. What have they been doing for the years they’ve been there? We’ve never had a grant writer. Our Council does not really have any relationship with our county executive Joe DiVincenzo, our new state senator Kristen Corrado, nor our new Congressman Donald Payne (Jr.) . I have those relationships. I specifically asked Alex Roman if he’s met with any of those three. And his answer to me was “no.” * So I think they are a huge tool for small towns like Verona to form a relationship with to get all that state, county and federal funding. Along with, believe it or not, there’s tons of residents that would love to pitch in and help in any way they possibly could. And I just feel that the Council is kind of disconnected to what really needs to be done in Verona. These issues that, you know, are upon us today, did not happen overnight. They’ve happened from years and years of neglect. And now all of a sudden, it’s two weeks to the election, and we want to purchase property. We want to have special Council meetings. But I really feel the residents of Verona, especially the voters, are not going to be fooled. They’ve had their chance to get things done. And it seems like we’re in a worse position today than we were eight years ago.
With all due respect, Mr. Strumolo, it doesn’t entirely answer the question of what a town can do. All of these things exist, but we have spending mandates.
The Waste Water Treatment Plant hasn’t just crumbled yesterday. Our police station that’s antiquated hasn’t crumbled yesterday. Our fire station that has crumbled did not happen yesterday. Our baseball fields, that have been neglected year after year after year, did not happen yesterday. These are issues that have been brought up by residents of this township for the past 8, 10, 12 years. And they’ve gone on deaf ears and the residents are tired of it. Now we’re in a position where everything’s gonna cost double, triple, quadruple, because nothing’s been done. Our wastewater treatment plant I heard could cost up to $10 million. What have we been putting into this? Over the past eight years? Our police station, we had female officers for over eight years. All of a sudden now, Oh, they have no locker room for the females. It’s election time. Let’s make it an issue. But for the past eight years, it wasn’t an issue. And I can go on and on and on. It’s neglect from the Township Council from the top down.
*Mayor Roman has met with Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. and Congressman Donald Payne Jr. and has provided MyVeronaNJ with photos from both encounters.
Q: How do we get through the next round of state-mandated affordable housing without the cost and confusion of the last round?
Christian Strumolo: While the cause of that confusion was again neglect, the state was on top of the township of Verona year after year after year, and they waited, waited and waited. And then they finally have to purchase the piece of property which I think was above and beyond what the property’s worth. And my understanding is, the affordable housing they did was two rounds of affordable housing. And now we’re kind of caught up to where we should be. I understand that in 26, I think possibly, we’re gonna have maybe our third round. But again, these are issues that didn’t happen overnight. And now all of a sudden it’s a huge priority to accomplish.
Well, in a way, sir, they did because the rules for affordable housing changed under Governor Christie. Before that, they had been taken care of by the Fair Housing Center. Cities in New Jersey knew what to expect with coming rounds. All of that went out the window with Governor Christie. And so we had to wait a long time to find out what those new rules are.
Christian Strumolo: Well, we have Alex is there eight years. Christine? Is there four years. Under the Murphy administration, it was very clear-cut what he expected for townships like Verona to get done. And as of today, there’s not one affordable housing unit built, not one. You can purchase all the properties you’d like and have Council meetings and closed sessions. But the bottom line is nothing’s been done. The ground has not been broken. There’s no units out there available for our residents that are in need to possibly, you know, apply for those apartments.
Q: The next Council must update the Zoning Code to be consistent with the new Master Plan. Which aspects of the commercial zone should it focus on, and which aspects of the residential zones?
Christian Strumolo: Repeat the question about the Master Plan. The Master Plan was redone already.
The next Council must update the zoning code to be consistent with the new Master Plan. Which aspects of the commercial zone should it focus on and which aspects of the residential zone?
Christian Strumolo: Well, I’m against any large developments. They have the one project that they’re approving up in the Afterglow section that’s going to be over 200 units. And not only did they approve 200 units, they gave them a tax abatement. So for example, if that complex has 50 children coming out of there into our schools, our schools get zero funding because they approved a tax abatement. I’m against any large development, and I’m against any tax abatements whatsoever. When it comes to the zoning aspect, the Zoning Board and Planning Board are appointed by the Mayor and Council, three year, five year terms.* Whoever’s on there now is the individuals that they appointed. So I’m sure that you know, as the time goes, you know we can get new appointments on there, but I would bring in a professional. They should bring in an outside firm who specializes in zoning to come in and sit down with the Council and explain to us what they would recommend for a township like Verona. Our schools are busting at the seams. We can’t afford any more big housing projects.
Okay, but that doesn’t answer the question of which aspects of the commercial zoning code should we focus on and which aspects of the residential code, if any, should be addressed.
Christian Strumolo: I’m not up to date with every code that we have. I’m not a sitting Council member. But if I do get elected, I will sit down with the Town Manager. I will sit down with the Chairman of the Zoning Board. I will sit down with – we don’t have an engineer because our engineer resigned for whatever reason – and find out what’s in the best interest of Verona.
Q: Okay, now we’re moving on to the three questions that are specific to you and to your campaign. You have been the owner of a number of small businesses; there was a cleaning business. I understand now your current business is Power Data Advisors. The other two candidates have managed or led larger operations. So what experience…
Christian Strumolo: and they have failed in our township, Virginia. if you’re gonna’ take this personally and say well, they are the head of a large firm or I have a cleaning company, Power Data. What does that have to do with my qualifications?
That’s exactly my point.
Christian Strumolo: I am well versed in government than either candidate that’s there.
Q: What experience would you bring to the Town Council that the other candidates don’t? Every candidate is unique.
Christian Strumolo: So what I would bring to the table is how to finally get things done. Our township has a dire need of leadership. Every time I ring a doorbell, which is every day, the residents are tired of hot air, we need action results. And the Township has not had results. And that’s the reason why we’re in the position we’re in today with our infrastructure, with our baseball fields, with our recreation, with our wastewater treatment plant, with our affordable housing. You know, just because Mr. Roman doesn’t have any children, it doesn’t mean that you have to be completely disconnected to the families of Verona. You know, we had Everett cleanup, which was very important to the residents of Verona and not one Council member showed up, not one, not one. It’s time that we get things done in our township
Q: Again, what experience do you have getting things done?
Christian Strumolo: First and foremost, the Council sets the policy, this is how it works. The Council sets the policy and then the manager brings that to fruition. Right now, this Council has not set the proper policy over the years they’re there because if they had done so, we would not be in the position that we’re in today. Like I said, I’ll give you Everett Field as an example. It was donated by the Everett family. There hasn’t been one dime put into that field in the 10 years I’m here.* Not one dime. You know what? The families of Verona are tired of it.
The family that donated the land for Everett Field, their last name was actually Condit and they named it Everett field in honor of their son Everett, who died during the 1918 flu pandemic.
Christian Strumolo: Just say it was different to donate the field to the township. But we’re on the property for use of recreation only, not to be able to develop housing or townhomes. Why hasn’t anything been done to these fields over all these years?
You probably need to ask VBSL, I don’t know.
Christian Strumolo: No, that’s a Township-owned field. A Township-owned field.
Q: You say, in your platform, that you’re here “to get things done.” What things have you gotten done in the past decade, and how are they relevant to the specific things that need to get done in Verona?
Christian Strumolo: I’m a successful businessman. That’s number one. I’m a no-nonsense guy. This Township is in desperate need of leadership. I’m tired of Council members saying the Manager runs the town. The Manager runs the town. When we have problems in our recreation, well, the Director of Recreation runs the recreation. Like I said, theTownship sets the policy. The Manager was hired by the Township Council. If we have individuals in this Township that aren’t capable of getting things done, then we need to find individuals that will get things done. And I’ll tell you this, if I’m elected to the Council, and the Council members that are on there, who feel that let’s just dance around issues, dance around issues. We had enough dancing around issues in this town, and the residents are tired of it. And we have zero results. We should not be in the situation that we’re in today. My opponents, if you look at their website, infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure, but Alex is there eight years, Christine is there four years. Alex has controlled the Council for eight years, he’s always had the vote.
I missed that part of that sentence. Alex is always what the Council…?
Christian Strumolo: Seems like he’s been on the winning side of the Council for eight years. So we take three votes to get things done. It always seemed like he’d been on that side of the majority. Okay. And, you know, I feel at the end of the day that as, you know, personal individuals, I don’t have a problem with anyone. But at this point with all the issues that were coming about right now, in reference to our infrastructure, our baseball fields, possibly school security, our police station, our fire station, these issues like I said, have not just crumbled overnight. They’ve been happening for years, upon years, and they’ve been sitting on their hands, and all of a sudden now it’s election season, and it’s let’s get things done. So, realistically, you should be asking them those questions. How come they have not gotten these issues done over eight and four years. It was on their watch that the problems continue to crumble and continue to get worse.
Let me just back up to something that you said at the beginning of your answer here. That you are a successful businessman. How is success measured in your industries? Is it sales, is it service? What’s the criteria for success?
Christian Strumolo: I don’t want to tell the personal questions.
People look for what experience…
I rang half the town’s doorbells and you know what they say to me? Honestly, it’s not what I do professionally. They’re tired of things not getting done. They’re tired of people saying they’re going to do things and not accomplishing those things. And at this point, the people are fed up and the voters are a lot smarter. They’re a lot smarter. And that’s the reason why I’m running because Alex had eight years to get things done. And Christine has four years to get things done. And obviously, there’s been disconnect on that Council.
*Everett Field was originally donated to Verona as a picnic ground, not a ball field. In season, the Verona Department of Public Works drags the field and Verona’s other baseball fields every day they need to be ready for play. The Council has begun to gather information for a complete revamp of Everett.