By Ron Leir
A bombshell has shaken up the Belleville municipal campaign and has left a glaring hole in the Working for Belleville/ Working for You ticket headed by Mayor Ray Kimble.
Councilman Michael Nicosia, one of the two at-large council candidates running on that slate, has abruptly dropped out of the race.
Nicosia, who is completing his second 4-year term on the council, submitted a letter to the Township Clerk’s Office Friday announcing that he was withdrawing from the campaign.
And it is too late for the campaign team to replace Nicosia on the ballot for the May 13 municipal election. A drawing for ballot positions was scheduled for this week. Aside from Kimble, Nicosia was also running with at-large Councilman Kevin G. Kennedy.
They’re opposed by the Belleville United! ticket, led by Marie Strumolo Burke, the current First Ward councilwoman now seeking the mayoralty, and at-large council aspirants Joseph V. Longo and William J. Freda, both of whom currently sit on the Belleville Board of Education.
In a phone interview with The Observer, Nicosia said that he felt badly for having abandoned his running mates at the 11th hour but, at the same time, he felt he had no choice.
“Four years ago, when I ran in the previous election for council, I felt like backing out because [government service] was consuming too much of my life,” Nicosia said.
This time around, Nicosia said, he thought it would be different. “I was really energized about revitalizing Washington Ave. and other things and the [campaign] battle started early, I got wrapped up in it and I convinced myself I can do this again.”
But during Thursday night’s meeting of the township Planning Board, of which he’s a member, he said he realized he was only fooling himself.
During a hearing on a subdivision application by the developer of a residential complex planned at Franklin Ave. and Mill St., Nicosia said he found himself drawn into a lengthy discussion about “agerestricted” (ages 55 and older) – which is what this developer will be building – versus “senior citizen” housing, “which had no bearing on the application,” and, then, arguing about the pros and cons of amending the plan to allow the developer to give back a piece of land to the township to make it easier for the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission to access the adjoining Second River for maintenance purposes. “And still, three [board members] voted against it,” he said. However, a majority carried the amendment forward.
“The night totally consumed me,” Nicosia said. “I said to myself, ‘What am I doing?’ It was an absolute awakening for me that I need to focus on my family.”
Nicosia, who will finish out his current term June 30, said he’s “most proud of having had a big impact on the [Belleville Municipal] football stadium, the fact that I got the price reduced by $200,000. And, on the new Friendly House, which is still unfinished, because of my negotiations with the contractor, I got us the air-conditioning and the water heater at no extra cost.”
In addition to his four terms on the Planning Board, Nicosia said he also put in time on the council’s development, recreation, public works and IT committees.
Asked would he’d miss most about the job, Nicosia said: “Definitely helping people solve their problems. That’s very gratifying.”
But he remains adamant about bidding farewell to the political arena. “I love this town but I love my family more,” he said.