West New York could lose 22 uniformed police officers — 20 percent of its street presence — by the end of this week. If no agreement is reached by Friday, the city will have nearly two dozen fewer cops patrolling its growing population.
West New York was once the town on the cliffs — but not since development below of apartment/condo complex after complex. That’s lot of ground to cover.
“You are the ones that will suffer when crime goes through the roof,” a member of PBA Local 361 told Mayor Silverio “Sal” Vega and council members at a recent City Council meeting.
Vega has remained steadfast, however. “All options are on the table,” he has said.
It’s not that simple, though.
Residents have packed Town Hall meetings to complain about the municipality’s steep tax hikes in recent years, and there have been rumblings of a possible mayoral recall.
Facing an angry electorate on one side and municipal employees on the other puts Vega and company in a tight spot they may not be able to wiggle out of without causing serious damage somewhere.
City officials had been haggling with union representatives over health insurance givebacks, but that was when both sides were talking.
If they can find $5 million in savings, city officials say, the number of layoffs would dramatically decrease. But that money has to come from somewhere — and that’s usually when the talk turns to givebacks.
In particular, they’re talking about reduced health benefits.
Officer Tom Mannion, president of the town PBA, said it’s “an unbelievable thing that they’re trying to do.”
But the clock is ticking, and the month ends in just days.
Police Director Oscar Fernandez has promised to redeploy officers to keep the public safe if he loses staff.
He hasn’t said how he would do that, and no one can reasonably predict how it would affect the town, which is fast approaching 50,000 Census-counted residents over a square mile of land.
Maybe it will become a scenario we won’t have to face. Maybe both sides roll up their sleeves and get down to it. And maybe the city keeps the protection it needs.
Meantime, we wait.
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