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Closter mayor says she didn’t have charity clothing bin removed

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT: A company that collects used clothing for charity is accusing Closter Mayor Sophie Heymann of illegally ordering its drop box removed in order to clear the way for another charity to install a bin carrying her endorsement, a claim Heymann called “an outrageous lie.”

Edward Degen, Closter Mayor Sophie Heymann

Heymann said borough officials did no more than order the A&P on Demarest Avenue to produce a permit for two clothing bins in its lot.

“I wouldn’t know anything about” what happened next, she told CLIFFVIEW PILOT. “I didn’t see them taken away.

“It certainly was not done by me or anyone else with the borough.”

Edward Degen, the New Jersey district manager for Casings Inc.’s “Rock Solid” program, told CLIFFVIEW PILOT that borough Zoning Officer James Whitney specifically told both him and a company official that borough statutes don’t allow such action on private property.

Degen said he’s been unable to find the 1,200-pound bin, which retails for about $2,000. Because its removal amounts to theft, he said, he filed a report today with Closter police requesting an investigation — and specifically identifying Heymann as responsible, based on “reliable information” from township-employed sources.

CLIFFVIEW PILOT obtained a copy of the police report. Degen said he also has an official permission slip from the A&P.

Heymann confirmed that she’s been in talks with others about placing clothing boxes in town, including one that recently was rejected. She insisted she hasn’t formally agreed to have a replacement put in the A&P lot — “not right now, anyway.”

Asked again about any previous arrangements, the mayor called the claim “vapid,” then said there was nothing in the works, “not for the time being, for sure.”

Degen wrote in his police report that the non-profit “Rock Solid,” which he said has more than 50 drop boxes at supermarkets and other businesses throughout New Jersey, contributes 100 percent of its proceeds to various charities.

Proceeds from the bright-orange Closter bin — “about $400 a month, give or take” — had been going to the Upton Lake Christian School in Clinton Corners, N.Y., just outside of Poughkeepsie, Degen said.

“We’ve never had a problem with the A&P,” he told CLIFFVIEW PILOT. “In fact, we have only had one site that asked us to remove a bin [the past two years]. In this case, we weren’t asked.”

Instead, Degen said, a driver making the weekly pickup on Monday called him and said the box was gone. Also removed was a bin next to it, sponsored by New Life Recycling, he said.

Earlier this year, Whitney called the company manager and asked that the bin be removed, Degen said. The manager asked whether he could cite an ordinance giving the borough such authority.

“An hour later Whitney called back and said there wasn’t any,” Degen told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.

Both agreed to drop the matter at the time, he said.

That was until two weeks ago, when Degen discovered an A&P price placard taped onto the bin requesting that it be removed “as per the town of Closter.”

Degen said he contacted the A&P manager, who told him: “It’s them, not me.”

He said a Casings Inc. manager then called Heymann, who insisted the borough could order the box removed.

“He told her: ‘Leave my bin alone. You have no right to tamper with it’,” Degen said.

Degen said a witness from a nearby business told him the bins were loaded onto a Ford 250 pickup without any signage on its sides — similar to those operated by the Closter DPW.

He also said an employee in the zoning department “basically admitted to me that they removed the bin” but “wouldn’t give me any more details.”

Degen said he spent part of the past two days searching area tow yards, looking for his company’s property, to no avail. He believes it was destroyed.

This morning, he spoke at Borough Hall with Whitney, who he said told him the borough “had no problem” with his bin but couldn’t say the same about the one that was next to it. Others were present in the zoning office during the conversation, Degen said.

Degen said he pressed Whitney for answers to why the “Rock Solid” box would be removed, specifically asking about the mayor’s possible involvement, but “he wouldn’t answer me.”

Heymann told CLIFFVIEW PILOT in a telephone interview earlier this evening that her alleged involvement “is an outrageous lie and has no basis in reality. I had absolutely nothing to do with it.”

She cited Whitney’s call to Casings Inc. months ago, nothing that borough officials have been “trying to trace it to see if a permit existed.”

“We have an ordinance that requires a permit for every solicitation box in the borough,” she explained. “We have lots of permits that deal with private property. We told the A&P they needed a permit to place such a box on its property.”

Two clothing bins at Borough Hall “don’t need” permits, Heymann said, because “they were given permission by the Mayor and Council.”

Asked which other clothing bins in town had received permits or similar approvals, the mayor couldn’t immediately cite any.

“I think I’ve stated my position clearly,” she said, before hanging up.

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