The debate over the Central Avenue stoplight devolved into a shouting match between one of two advocates to remove the light and a former councilman during Tuesday’s Town Council meeting and in the hallway following the meeting.
addressed the Council during the meeting to defend Mayor Andy Skibitsky and Council members over the placement of the pedestrian activated traffic light on the Central Avenue property of Adina Enclescu, just in from the intersection with Clover. Enclescu and neighbor Maria Carluccio have been advocating for the removal of the light from Enclescu’s lawn at Town Council meetings since September.
“Every sign is on someone’s property. Every light is on someone’s property. Every speed bump is in front of someone’s house,” said Caruana in an address that was aimed at Carluccio and Enclescu during the public comment portion of the meeting. “Those decisions are made for the collective good of the community. When you balance all of the interests, we are trying to improve public safety. No one is trying to devalue anyone’s property."
Caruana, who voted for the placement of the light before his retirement from the Council at the end of 2009, addressed past traffic safety controversies from his seven-year tenure as a first ward councilman. These included public comments on the speed bumps placed on Benson Place and Gallows Hill Road, along with other traffic issues.
“This is not the only traffic improvement in the history of Westfield that’s impacted a local citizen,” he said.
Caruana addressed part of his comments to comments made by Enclescu and Carluccio earlier in the meeting about the impact of the light on Carluccio’s property value. Carluccio told the Council earlier in the evening that she had brought in three realtors to review Enclescu's property and ask what the impact of the light’s placement on her front lawn would be.
“They all said the same thing, that her buyer pool has been diminished considerably and the value of her home went down,” Carluccio said without identifying the names of the realtors.
Caruana jumped on this comment during his address to the Council.
“What this argument is about, is not about safety,” he said. “Realtors don’t come to talk about safety. It’s about property values. This is an argument about property values. One person’s property value.”
After telling Carluccio and Enclescu that Skibitsky and Council members have answered questions from the pair on past occasions, Caruana circled back to the property values argument. Earlier this year, Skibitsky told the pair during a Council meeting that he and Council members would not be answering further questions at meetings, saying that all questions had been answered.
“Let’s not make a mistake about what this is about,” he said. “This is an argument about my house, my property values, my neighbor’s property values.”
Caruana also said that he does not equate the quality of life issues being discussed by Carluccio and Enclescu with the quality of life issues raised by south side residents over the train whistles. This issue led to the town’s establishment of a quiet zone around the Rahway Avenue at grade railroad crossing.
Caruana’s characterization of the pair as “bullies” drew a response from Carluccio, who started debating Caruana from the audience. Caruana said he was referencing past statements by them at meetings, and the possibility that Carluccio had called Councilwoman Joann Neylan “crazy” earlier in the meeting.
During her earlier remarks, Carluccio referenced a letter to the editor in the Westfield Leader regarding work Neylan had done with a constituent in the second ward. During her remarks, Carluccio said a word that has been said by multiple attendees to be either “crazy” or “praising” before saying “Mrs. Neylan.” Neylan had taken offense at the characterization of being called “crazy” by Carluccio, at one point interrupting Carluccio during her remarks to ask the audience.
“Did anyone hear it?” Neylan said.
“Did you call me crazy?” Neylan asked a few seconds later.
Several members of the audience responded that they heard the word “crazy” used. Carluccio insists that she used the word “praising.”
During Caruana’s remarks, Enclescu approached the rail separating the Council from the audience and said she had the letter to the editor Carluccio was referencing. Skibitsky asked Enclescu to sit down.
Carluccio started showing a picture of an April car accident at the stop light to Caruana during his remarks and commenting from the audience about the bullying comments.
“You have some nerve,” Carluccio said.
“I’m just getting started,” Caruana said in response.
“You’re out of order. Please sit down, you’re out of order,” Skibitsky said to Carluccio.
Skibitsky also permitted Caruana additional time over the 10 minutes allocated to speakers, saying it was from the interruption from the audience. During previous meetings, Skibitsky has been consistent in reminding Carluccio and Enclescu of the time limit.
“She can come here until hell freezes over and say whatever she likes,” Caruana said. “My point is, the manner in which she says it and what is implying of the character and integrity of the individuals on this Council is outrageous. If this occurred in a school, it would be menacing, threatening, bullying and it would be dealt with.”
Following the meeting, Caruana was being interviewed by Westfield Leader reporter Lauren Barr in the hallway separating the Council chamber from the Recreation Department and court office. Carluccio came up the two to address Caruana, showing him a photo of the April accident and saying that is part of why she is working on the removal of the light.
“It’s all about safety sir,” she said. “This has nothing to do with my property values. I am here for my neighbor.”
Carluccio also addressed Caruana’s comments during the Council meeting about her making comments about the character of the Council members, saying she has not done that. Caruana did not specify the comments he believes that Carluccio has made at past meetings. During past meetings, Carluccio has accused the Council of “” Enclescu’s life and said the Council is “.”
Carluccio told Caruana in the hallway that he did not like her message and her for delivering her message.
“I don’t like how you talk to me,” Caruana said. “I don’t like how you talk to me.”
“Who are you God?” Carluccio said in response. “You don’t like the way I talk to you.”
“You are a fraud. You are a bully. You are out of control,” Caruana said.
“What am I a fraud about? What am I a bully about?” Carluccio said.
“You are threatening people,” Caruana said.
“Who did I threaten,” Carluccio said.
“Your manner is threatening,” Caruana said.
“How is my manner threatening,” Carluccio said, before saying that she believed that Caruana was threatening her.
It was unclear if the exchange related to Carluccio’s comment during the Council meeting that she believes she could face retaliation for speaking out on the light. She told the Council that she makes sure to drive under the speed limit in Westfield to avoid being pulled over.
The heated exchange between the two brought a small crowd to watch in the hallway, including Enclescu, who sought to have Carluccio leave the hallway. A police officer who was in the meeting stood in the hallway, including moving to near the exchange. An unidentified person with a video camera started filming the scene from an open door to the parking before being asked to stop by a police officer. The individual could be seen continuing to film through the closed door.
Skibitsky started watching part of the scene from the Municipal Building’s rotunda. His presence caused the police officer to move to the mayor’s side. After Caruana left the exchange with Carluccio to answer a question from Barr, Carluccio addressed Skibitsky.
“When are you going to admit what you did to this woman is horrible?” Carluccio said.
Skibitsky turned and started walking away from Carluccio and towards his private office.
“If it was your house that light wouldn’t be there,” Carluccio said. “If it was someone you knew or cared about that light would not be there.”