Bergen County’s Blue Laws have been temporarily suspended in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy allowing residents to shop on Sunday. Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan asked Gov. Chris Christie to allow the suspension of the Blue Laws to give hurricane victims an extra day to replace items lost in the storm. Donovan told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that she is asking Christie to revoke the suspension and return the Blue Laws to the county.
Donovan said she didn’t expect crowds Sunday. “The whole purpose behind this was to help people get back on their feet who lost so much over the last 10, 12, 14 days,” she said.
Paramus officials immediately pushed back, saying they would go to court to challenge the sale of non-essential items during the suspension. Donovan said she wasn’t surprised at the reaction. “I’ve been in government long enough, no matter what you decide to do, somebody’s not going to like it. And I respect that,” she said. “But we needed to have compassion for so many people who were hurt by the storm one way or another. And it wasn’t for me to tell people what you could or could not buy.”
Donovan pointed out that the decision to open was left up to individual businesses and not all chose to open their doors on Sunday. She also denied that suspending the Blue Laws was a way to see how Bergen County shoppers would respond for a possible future ballot question or law change.
“What I have said to anybody who talks about Blue Laws is they’re in place in Bergen County and Paramus and other towns have an even stricter construction of the Blue Laws than the overall statute,” Donovan said. “But unless and until people get it to be a ballot question we have Blue Laws in Bergen County and I support them, always have. I happen to like them.”
Donovan said she wasn’t advocating one way or another on Blue Laws and that the residents of Bergen County would be the ones making the ultimate decision.
When asked if having businesses close Sundays has an impact on revenues, Donovan said, “There may be some revenue being lost but again, that’s not the point. It’s quality of life. People are going to decide on Blue Laws based on what they think is best in their lives and I am not advocating any changes.”
Donovan said Bergen County’s recovery from Hurricane Sandy has begun, but there is much work to still be done. “We got hit enormously with this storm. About 70 percent of our people were out of power for a substantial amount of time and we had hundreds of homes lost in the southern Bergen County area when the wall of water came through,” she said. “Some of those people will never be able to go back to their homes or it’ll be four, five, six months. We lost schools. It’s going to take a long time to recover. We’re working on it but it’s going to take a long time.”
When asked what the biggest lesson learned since Hurricane Sandy, Donovan said, “The cooperation we get from everybody when the chips are down. Bergen County should be proud of all our volunteers, all our paid people who worked tirelessly, almost around the clock, to save people, protect them and do the best that we could.”