Amid hints that the blue laws ban will be lifted next week, Paramus Mayor Richard LaBarbiera expressed frustration tonight that Bergen County Superior Court determined borough officials cannot block any retailers from keeping their doors open while Gov. Chris Christie's order suspending blue laws remains in effect.
A Christie spokesman said in an e-mail that Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan plans to ask the governor to lift the blue laws ban next week. Jeanne Baratta, Donovan's chief of staff, confirmed the county executive will ask Christie to reinstate the blue laws next week, "barring we don't have another catastrophe. … This is really just one more Sunday so people can get their lives back together."
Donovan's request can't come soon enough for LaBarbiera, who said "The only thing coming through Paramus is Hurricane Kathleen."
Donovan sought the ruling in response to LaBarbiera's threats to fine and possibly arrest retailers violating his strict interpretation of Christie's executive order, which will suspend blue laws throughout the county until Donovan requests the order to be rescinded. Under a ruling by Superior Court Judge Menelaos Toskos,Paramus is barred from constricting Sunday retail sales to items like clothes, appliances and building materials that were listed in that statute, The Record first reported today.
"Our focus right now is on ensuring the county executive's petition to the governor is rescinded come Monday. She said she held off asking the governor to rescind the order for this Sunday because of the nor'easter we had, but we've had nor'easters before," LaBarbiera said. "I'm concerned with how arbitrarily unnecessary this ban is, as it begs the question of what happens to our blue laws in any future natural disaster."
But Baratta said "the events of last two weeks have been a one-two punch to Bergen County, and while Paramus didn't see any flooding, Moonachie saw 8 feet of water, so it's not anyone's business to tell those people what they can and cannot buy this Sunday."
"The mayor suggested we make it that clothing stores can sell apparel but they can't sell accessories, but then we argued, 'So somebody can buy a pair of pants but they can't buy the belt to hold them up,' " Baratta said. "Maybe people need to buy perfume because they're going to a birthday party and their gifts were destroyed. The mayor should really venture out of Paramus and go out to Moonachie and Little Ferry, where people lost everything."
But LaBarbiera said, "I pose to her, 'Have you been to Paramus to see the 1,200 utility trucks taking up 50 percent of the Westfield GardenState Plaza's parking lot?'"
"Those people from areas impacted from the storm and buying some pants for work on Sunday won't be the people clogging our roads and delaying all those trucks from restoring power," LaBarbiera said. "For the people from Little Ferry who are trying to get their houses in order, the last thing they're worried about is shopping."
LaBarbiera said he will abide by the court ruling and Christie's executive order. Earlier today, several state legislators and local mayors called on the governor to put an end to the blue laws suspension to avoid additional legal battles that distract from storm-related matters.
"Traffic snarls are the last thing our towns need as we attempt to regroup and rebuild," Assemblyman Tim Eustace (D-Paramus) said in a statement. "As we approach the two-week mark post-Sandy, all of the more immediate threats appear to be behind us. Stores can remain open six days a week to meet residents' needs. It would behoove the governor to rescind his executive order after this weekend or, at the very least, allow towns to determine what's best for their own recovery at this point."
The Christie spokesman said "the 'urging' of those legislators seems entirely unnecessary," noting Donovan plans to ask the governor to lift the blue laws ban next week.