Past Newsletters

Coronavirus Is Testing Our Leadership

Montclair Township Council candidate Peter Yacobellis has released the following statement in response to the confirmed Coronavirus cases and tragic deaths in Montclair

MONTCLAIR, NJ (March 19, 2020)—Montclair Township Council candidate Peter Yacobellis has released the following statement in response to the confirmed Coronavirus cases and tragic deaths in Montclair:

As the global health crisis being caused by Covid-19 and the coronavirus escalates in our communities, so too does the level of fear and distress among our families and neighbors. While the crisis has prompted an unprecedented response by governments around the world, it has also presented unprecedented challenges for our leaders. In times of crises like these, we turn to our government for answers, for protection and for solutions, but most importantly, we turn to them for assurance. We are reminded of the crucial role that government serves. Unfortunately, these times of crises also serve to expose the fractures and weaknesses within our leadership, the catastrophic consequences of their failures, and the separate and stand-alone crisis of widespread fear, uncertainty and panic that results when we do not trust our leadership. When a response that seems extreme on day one is inadequate on day three, when the spread of misinformation is being fueled by fear and political agendas, it is crucial that we have confidence in the competency, preparedness and transparency of our government. When we find ourselves dependent upon a government we do not trust, our sense of uncertainty and vulnerability intensifies. If we do not trust or disregard the government’s leadership in a crisis, we may act in a way that exacerbates the situation. We are seeing this in our individual responses to the Coronavirus, and in addition to impeding our ability to contain the virus, it is threatening to turn neighbor against neighbor. 

For many years, I had the privilege and opportunity to work for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo as the director of his New York City office, so it does not surprise me to see him emerge as a true leader in this crisis. He has spoken frankly and honestly about the severity of the threat so that we can understand the urgency of protecting ourselves, while his transparency, command of facts and detailed reports about the virus and his government’s response has provided, in as much as it is possible right now, the assurance necessary to contain panic. He has validated the legitimacy of our fears with facts but has been equally authoritative in using facts to quell disinformation.  This balance has inspired confidence. He is also coordinating with neighboring states, such as New Jersey, where Gov. Phil Murphy is also providing exemplary leadership.

This was also Gov. Cuomo’s approach following the devastation of Superstorm Sandy. After the storm surge wiped out the facility being used as New York’s command center, Gov. Cuomo directed me to turn his administration’s New York City headquarters into the joint federal, state and city storm response command center. We worked with the National Guard, various state commissioners, key administration officials and the Bloomberg administration to run this operation. Paramount among all the functions was communication with the public.

My experience working with Andrew Cuomo taught me the importance of leadership and public service and ultimately inspired me to seek election to the Montclair Town Council. Observing his exemplary leadership during this unprecedented crisis has been humbling and comforting, and has stood in stark contrast to the frightening and confounding lack of leadership we are seeing from the White House.   While it is not usually the purview of a small town’s local government to deal with a global pandemic, this crisis is requiring leadership at all levels of government. It is teaching all of us how urgently our communities need competent, transparent, responsive and trustworthy leadership, and a government we can trust to be prepared and to take responsibility for the present, future, long-term and emergency challenges we face.

About Peter Yacobellis

As a human rights activist, community leader and environmentalist, Peter Yacobellis has dedicated his life to public service. He served as a search and rescue supply distributor at ground zero after 9/11, helped set up and run Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Hurricane Sandy command center and hotline, and is at the forefront of his generation’s fight for LGBTQ+ rights. Peter currently works as the director of human resources and facilities for Amicus Therapeutics, which develops treatments and medicine for children living with extremely rare diseases.

After studying business management and political science as an undergraduate at Adelphi University on Long Island, Peter enrolled in a graduate program in environmental sustainability at Columbia University. Peter served in the administrations of New York Governors David Paterson and Andrew Cuomo, where he helped pass marriage equality and gun control legislation and ran the New York rent stabilization office and the Hurricane Sandy command center. Following his tenure with the state of New York, Peter served as Chief of Staff for the brand and marketing team at American Express – the group that, among other things, leads Small Business Saturday and Shop Small. He has earned several business and leadership certificates in partnership with Harvard and American Express’s leadership training program.

Peter had intended to serve his country as a member of the military, but was prevented from doing so when, in 1998, he was discharged from U.S. Air Force basic training under the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. This propelled Peter to help organize the 2009 protest march in Washington that led to the policy’s reversal. In 2010, following the death of Tyler Clementi, Peter partnered with The Trevor Project to launch the largest LGBT volunteer network in the New York metro area – Trevor NextGen—and chaired the Trevor Project’s Board of Directors Government Affairs committee.

Peter’s connection to Montclair dates to 2007, when he helped lead Garden State Equality which was headquartered in the Unitarian Universalist Church on Montclair’s iconic Church Street. He is a member of Bike & Walk Montclair and the Montclair Film Festival and is a local artist whose work was recently exhibited in town. He and his fiancé, Benjamin, have been proud Montclair homeowners since 2017.