EXCLUSIVE: NJ mayor personally asks family to remove ‘offensive’ Christmas decorations

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TENAFLY, N.J. (PIX11) – The Alvator family, joined by some neighbors, set out to recreate a tradition they themselves had grown up with.

After they say they checked with the local fire and police departments and were given the green light, 300 decorative luminaries were lined along their street on Joyce Road on Christmas Eve.

“Our neighbors, from all different backgrounds, sent their children out to help fill the bags and light the candles early in the evening on Christmas Eve. We loved it. We thought it was a great sense of community,” said Scott Semone.

But it turns out, not everyone felt the same way.


Mayor Peter Rustin told the family the Christmas luminaries were offending one of their neighbors.

Just as the Alvators were enjoying Christmas Eve dinner with family at about 9 in the evening, they received a face to face visit from the Mayor of  Tenafly, Peter Rustin.

Rustin came to the Alvator’s door personally inform them their luminaries had offended one of their neighbors just a few doors down.

“He just said he’s also Jewish and could understand and empathize with someone who was offended by these candles,” Jason Alvator told PIX11 News.

“It kind of felt like the Grinch was knocking on my front door and my children felt the same way. They were confused by what was happening,” said wife Loran.

Jason left Christmas Eve dinner and picked up all of the luminaries with the exception of a few.

“I cleaned up the whole block. I left his [the neighbor that complained]. Maybe that’s me being a little spiteful about it,” he said.

Alvator had a change of heart and cleaned it up Thursday.

PIX11 tried to speak to his neighbor, but no one answered the door.

As for Rustin, he declined our request for an  interview, but did tell us over the phone  he made the personal visit to the Alvators after only one complaint from this homeowner.

He also told PIX11 the Alvators were in violation of a town ordinance, which states, “No person shall place any sign or advertisement, or other matter upon any pole, tree, curbstone, sidewalk or elsewhere, in any public street or public place, excepting such as may be authorized by this or any other ordinance of the Borough”

Alvator, however, insists the mayor made no mention of breaking any rules, only that it was found to be offensive by one person.

None of it, the Alvators believe, warranted a personal visit by the mayor of their small town.

“It had nothing to do with religion. It was about bringing people in our neighborhood closer together,” Jason said.

“Unfortunately, the mayor’s actions were violating to our family,” Loran added.


  • Kevin

    The lighting of bags on the street had nothing to do with Christianity or Judaism. But everything to do with Spirituality, Unity and Good will to All Men and Women. Apparently the Mayor and the neighbor find these three concepts offensive. Remember that on election day. The Mayor made a decision based on his religious beliefs, however skewed they are, not of the common good in people.
    People are so caught up in themselves. You know I'm Jewish. Yea, well I'm Christian. But I'm' Buddhist. I'm a Muslim. Your none of these things, these are title's, labels you choose to call yourself. We are all One, living within a Power Greater then Ourselves. Supposedly practicing Spirituality within the guise of one of the aforementioned titles. You're not a member of a club.
    If you believe in GOD, it's his wish that we all get along as one. His will be done. That all religion intertwine for the common good of humanity. Apparently that's asking too much. That's just my opinion. Fortunately I live in a Country where I'm entitled to it. Now, light a candle, put in front of your own doorway tonight and pray for Peace

    • jjx

      yeah, go ahead & light your candle, just don't presume to put one in front of my house for your wacko religious beliefs.

  • Jasper

    I think the commentators here are missing the point of the offense. The issue isn't with Christmas lights or decorations, it's with the idea of someone placing Christmas lights or decorations in front of a home that isn't theirs. I understand that "'tis the season" and all, but how would you feel if someone put up a sign for a political candidate in front of your home without your permission? Christmas lights are going to exist, and no one really cares if you light up your own yard or home, but placing a series of candles in front of someone's house without their consent is inconsiderate, regardless of each party's faith. The offense caused could go anywhere from "please don't place candles honoring the birth of a messiah that I don't worship on my property" to "don't place anything on my property" to "don't block off all the street parking in front of my property;" whichever it may be, there was clearly no consideration that went into lining up an entire street with candles. It was obviously meant to bring joy and there was no ill will intended, but it was also incredibly presumptuous the think that every single neighbor would want these candles placed in front of their home. Tolerance allows for people to have Christmas decorations, but it also means you can't force them onto others that don't wish to have them.

    • TenaflyJew

      On the button. Apparently, some people believe they have to force their ideas and religion on others. I dont know why everyone cant just do their own thing and get along!! Family tradition and religious beliefs has nothing to do with your next door neighbor!

      • Pam

        Exactly! Take the whole tradition, faith, religious belief nonsense out of this and just strip this to the barest: maybe someone didn't like their idea of decorating! It could be as simple as that! decorate your own property, but unless you own the street and the town, don't presume to know what other people find beautiful, and serene, and peaceful.

        BTW — I personally love the idea, but you should have ASKED first. And not asked the fire department — asked everyone on the street.

    • Jane

      So, does the Scrooge have a right to complain if the Luminary placing family has too many visitors and they park in front of Scrooge's house? See, you DON'T own the street in front of your home no matter how much you would like too. It is public property and the home oner, renter, tenant, has to just suffer the lawful activity that takes place in front of their home no matter how much they might be offended by it. If this family, and their NEIGHBORS, asked the POLICE if they could engage in this activity, then it certainly seems to me to be legal.

      • Jasper

        There's a big difference between parking along the side of a street and rendering parking impossible by placing Christmas candles: streets were built for parking. The legality of the candles is questionably because, according to the article, the police said it was okay while the mayor cited an ordinance that said it was not. The primary issue isn't the questionable legality (which I have no doubt is going to be reinforced by new legislature following this incident and its coverage on the local news), it's the human component: is it okay to take up the public road in front of someone else's home by placing candles used to celebrate a specific religion's savior, and is it acceptable to complain about it if you're a resident who has these items placed in front of your home?

  • RMalave

    They should have told the mayor to take them down and then filmed that for public viewing later on during campaign season.
    PS – total bullshit. Menorahs would have no affect on me whatsoever, so get a life there anon you chicken shit.

  • Carl

    The Mayor's part in this is not quite as black and white as is being portrayed. Mr. Alvator put the luminaries in front of everyone's house – including in front of the house of the grinch who complained. We don't know what Grinchie said, or threatened to do – the mayor may have been trying to deescalate this before Grinchie swore out a complaint against the Alvators, or even physically confronted them.

    • Jane

      Not the responsibility of the Mayor to "deescalate" anything. That is the job for the POLICE. "Swear out a complaint"? Again, you do that before the POLICE not the Mayor. The Mayor stuck his nose where it clearly didn't belong.

  • This Guy

    Honestly, if this guy can’t just man up instead of using his religion as a scapegoat, than the candles should be allowed to stay there. If he’s afraid of candles, he should stay out of Pottery Barn. What a douchebag…both the mayor and the neighbor.

  • TenaflyJew

    This is the same town that DID NOT allow a Jewish Eiruv to be put up! An Eiruv that is totally unintrusive and barely noticeable. Its amazing how this article would forget to mention that story and how kind and accepting the town of Tenafly was to the Jewish people. A whole bunch of hypocrites!

    Tim – on the button!!!!

    "If I put manorahs down the entire street every single one of you would poop yourselves. You call yourselves tolerant and religious but I guarantee if it was the other way around you would feel the same way. Not saying it's right or wrong, but shut the f up you hypocrites." On the button as well!

  • Mary

    I get that you should not decorate in front of someone else's property, even if the luminaries were placed on the street, which in reality is public property, so I could understand the neighbor's frustration – but what I take issue with is the Mayor of town showing up on someone's doorstep to personally force his constituents into some type of action just because he has the power to, given to him by us, the residents of town, …obviously someone had to have the Mayor's personal phone number, but what I ask is, how does one get to have that kind of power over a sitting Mayor?…the Mayor did not need to personally deescalate any situation, as there really wasn't any. A phone call to the Tenafly police department would have sufficed, the town is fortunate enough to have a very good and responsive police force who would have promptly taken action, if a situation should have risen, so let's not give this man any outs – his actions were intrusive…if I have issues with my neighbors, will the mayor personally show up to clean up for me because I'm to much of a coward to do it myself?

  • WOW

    So it is ok for this family just to walk down the street and decorate anything they want without permission and nearly everyone here is bad mouthing the mayor and the offended family? What gives them the right to put crap in other peoples yard and then get offended when someone complains about it? No matter what it was, the Jewish people had every right to complain. Then the jerk picks them all up but the one house and you still defend him? Would all the other families been ok if he were to line the street with Jewish decorations?

  • darrin

    whatever happened to the majority rules just because one person is offended they have to take it away from everyone i wonder if muslims were to publicly pray to allah or any other faith were to pray to their god in public and christians were offended would they be told to just get over it but it's different when one person is offended by jesus and christian traditions we all have to bow to the monority seems to me that "tolerance" is just an excuse for censors to be biased toward one certain faction

    • Guest

      Please go re-read the first amendment.

      What you do on your own property is your business. What you do on public property isn't.

  • PeteCarrier

    What is wrong with people today? I mean seriously. How should I react when my local WMCA puts a menorah on the front counter…

    • Will Crump

      Wow!! Excellent point!! Good for you!! I never thought of it in those terms before, but your point is 300% valid.

  • Brian

    People need to reevaluate themselves stop being so politically correct. Bringing the neighborhood together is what is important. The mayor should put his head in the sand in shame.

  • WhaaaWhaaa


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