Three Candidates Seek Two Seats on New Providence Borough Council
Wednesday, October 24, 2012 • 6:41am
NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – Two Republicans and an Independent making his second bid for public office are seeking voter support for two vacancies on the Borough Council.
Republicans Alan Lesnewich, who was first appointed to office to complete an un-expired term and then was overwhelmingly elected to a one-year term last year, and Gary Kapner, founding member and past president of the New Providence Business and Professional Association, are running on a platform of managing municipal taxes, improving recreational facilities and encouraging downtown growth.
Independent Victor Moschella, seemingly undaunted by attempting to gain a seat on a council long dominated by Republicans, expressed enthusiasm that voters would respond favorably to his platform of lowered taxes, a restoration of discarded borough services and vigorous exploration of consolidating local governments.
Since moving to New Providence 14 years ago, Moschella noted a reduction in services – garbage collection from twice a week to once, fewer bulk pick-ups and the elimination of free leaf vacuuming to an optional $50 fee.
Moschella applauded council efforts to minimize tax increases but argued the emphasis was misplaced.
“They’re maintaining it (the budget) by cutting services and I think it’s time to look at cutting government,” Moschella said.
To that end, Moschella said neighboring communities should come together to investigate forming one township with one government, one mayor, one town council, one Board of Education, one police department and one fire department.
“I’m not saying it can be done but I think we need to look at it,” he said.
Moschella said that if elected he would endeavor to create citizen action committees and charge them with the responsibilities of taking an active part in the care of the community.
“I know we have the expertise among our citizens to creatively address and resolve many of our issues,” he said. He added that making improvements to playgrounds and fields would be an initial area of interest.
Moschella received graduate and undergraduate degrees from Louisiana State University and is the AVP of Facilities for the Barnabas Health System. He was a charter member of the New Providence Open Space Advisory Board and a contributor to the Open Space and Recreational plans.
Councilman Alan Lesnewich has a long interest in improving the borough’s recreational facilities for both youngsters and adults.
Eight years ago, he founded and served as president of the New Providence Athletic Foundation which raised funds to provide artificial turf and lights at the high school’s Lieder Field.
The candidate said the borough has begun an ambitious but prudent effort to address recreation needs.
As an example, Lesnewich cited the recent approval of a bond ordinance coupled with government grants to renovate Hillview Field at a total cost of $300,000,
“This is the first step in a program that has as its goal a complete review of, and improvements to, the borough’s passive and active recreational facilities,” the councilman said.
Lesnewich said the borough’s goal was to involve the community at large by holding special meetings to share information and receive feedback from residents particularly those that could be impacted by changes to their neighborhoods.
The councilman said the borough would take the same approach as it looks at every field and park in town. Up next are Lincoln Field and Oakwood Park.
Lesnewich also mentioned the recent use of state and county grants to improve passive recreation areas such as walking trails, playgrounds and tennis courts.
There has also been a concerted effort to bring various groups and organizations together under a common umbrella with a unified goal. Lesnewich cited the efforts of the Partnership for Recreation comprised of the borough’s primary athletic and recreation groups along with local government and the Board of Education.
“We’re all talking now. Before it was all siloed,” he added.
Lesnewich is a lifelong borough resident and a partner in a Murray Hill law firm. He serves on the borough’s Public Safety, Personnel, Administrative and Recreational Facility Capital Improvement committees.
As a local business owner, a member of the Planning Board, a founding member and past president of the New Providence Business and Professional Association and a board member of the Downtown Improvement District, Republican candidate Gary Kapner is in a unique position to provide a keen perspective of the town’s business climate.
Kapner said there are 110 retail sites in the borough with 90 located in the large downtown and central business district. While occupancy rates are high, there is still a nine percent vacancy rate which is an improvement over last year’s 11 percent vacancy rate.
“Our vacancy rate is not that bad,” Kapner said. He added he was unsuccessful in seeking similar data from neighboring towns.
Kapner said the vacancy rate at the Village Shopping Center is 29 percent. Owners of properties that abut the shopping center can afford to lease locations at a lesser rate to tenants whose customers park in the shopping center parking lot
Kapner said the shopping center owner has been generous in the past allowing open parking access but that could change and create problems in the downtown area.
“It’s a real problem and one that the Downtown Improvement District will be looking at,” he said.
One way to decrease the vacancy rate and increase tax ratables is supporting local businesses. "Residents have to help them survive,” Kapner said.
Another area that needs to be addressed is the streamlining of sometimes expensive and time consuming processes employed by the Planning and Zoning Boards.
“Laws and regulations need to be followed but we must also address the needs of the community and our residents,” Kapner said.
He said if elected he would continue to manage growth and attract new businesses to improve the downtown economy.
Kapner has been a borough resident for 20 years and is the co-owner of Creative Wallcoverings & Interiors. In addition to his other efforts, he is a member of the Suburban Chamber of Commerce and the Lions Club.
The three candidates will meet in a debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters at New Providence Memorial Library on Thursday, Oct. 25, 7:30 pm.