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As activists ‘trick or treat’ near Mehmet Oz’s New Jersey home, neighbors recall experiences with GOP Senate candidate

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Pennsylvanian Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz, held a campaign event in Philadelphia Wednesday, the day after debating his Democratic opponent, Pennsylvania's lieutenant governor, John Fetterman. Oz was attending an event with former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate. Oz avoided Fetterman's health at the event, as he did during the debate, focusing instead on crime. "Fetterman, when he says he wants to release one third of all prisoners, it wouldn't make anyone less safe. That's an experiment," Oz said, who went on to criticize Fetterman's position on drugs. Appearing on stage five months after experiencing a stroke on Tuesday night, Fetterman, struggled to complete sentences and jumbled words throughout the hourlong televised event. With the nation's political future potentially hinging on the results in Pennsylvania, some Democrats expressed concern that Fetterman's appearance at the debate was a mistake.

Residents of Cliffside Park, the North Jersey town where Mehmet Oz lived for more than 20 years, have different appraisals of what it’s like living next to the celebrity.

A few said Oz, who’s now the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, was a good neighbor who largely kept to himself. Others said that on Halloweens past, he’d take his grandkids trick-or-treating, and once showed up in a Superman costume and another time as a ghost.

Others, like Melissa Gentile, are a bit more blunt.

“I don’t like him,” she said. “Nobody likes him.”

In Cliffside Park, a Bergen County suburb that sits nestled atop the Palisades cliffs with epic views of the Manhattan skyline, most residents who spoke to The Philadelphia Inquirer couldn’t pinpoint the last time they saw Oz. But they each had stories of his time as a neighbor.

Democratic activists canvassed the neighborhood Monday, going door to door with treats mocking Oz and highlighting accusations that he’s a carpetbagger who has few ties to Pennsylvania. Democrat John Fetterman, Oz’s opponent in the Senate race, has made Oz’s New Jersey background a centerpiece of many campaign ads.

While Oz still owns his home in Cliffside Park, he has said he moved into his wife’s parents’ Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, home in late 2020.

As children in costumes trick-or-treated in Cliffside Park on Monday, John Roefaro, who lives near Oz’s mansion, said he barely saw Oz except for — fittingly enough — a Halloween about 10 years ago. Oz brought his grandson to the Roefaros’ home, dressed as the Kryptonian superhero.

Otherwise, Roefaro, who has lived in his home for 20 years, can’t recall seeing him out and about. He does remember, however, the parties that Oz would throw, including one that brought several New York Yankees players and their luxury cars to the quiet, tree-lined street.

“He pretty much keeps to himself,” said Roefaro.

Although he’s a New Jersey resident, Roefaro said he caught the highlights of the first and only debate last week between Oz and Fetterman. Roefaro said he wasn’t impressed by Fetterman’s performance in the debate and said that if he could, he would probably vote for Oz.

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Gentile, who has lived near Oz for 15 years, said Oz was a “garbage” neighbor who wasn’t very considerate and whose tree maintenance left much to be desired.

At one point, Oz planted bamboo on the back of his property, which sits on a cliff, she said. The invasive plant species often leaves the retaining wall along the road below his house unstable, causing rockslides and mudslides, she said.

Gentile also said that several neighbors had complained about the trees on Oz’s property. One neighbor even sued the celebrity doctor in 2010, claiming the trees obstructed his view of the skyline, according to The Associated Press.

At least two neighbors, who declined to give their names because of their proximity to Oz, said they complained to Oz about the trees that line his property, with one saying they had asked him to cut them, only for him to decline.

“I just keep telling my parents, ‘Please don’t vote for him,’” said Gentile. “Because they’re Pennsylvanians. Because he’s still my neighbor in New Jersey and he’s a garbage neighbor. You don’t vote for garbage neighbors.”

Karen Luchs, who also lives near Oz, declined to comment on the Senate race or Oz as a candidate. But to her, Oz was a model neighbor.

“I think whatever he chooses to do, he feels is the right thing for him,” she said. “He was a very good neighbor. I miss him. And he’s a good guy.”

One neighbor, who only gave his first name of Gary, also said that Oz was a good neighbor, but said that he leaned toward the Democratic Party.

“There’s too many celebrities running for office in this country,” said Gary. “They think they can change things.”

On Monday morning, members of Make the Road Action Pennsylvania and New Jersey and the Working Families party congregated down the block from Oz’s home, ready to go “trick-or-treating,” knocking on Oz’s neighbors’ doors, a tongue-in-cheek canvassing to let Cliffside Park residents know the groups felt Oz was unfit for Senate.

The group, some wearing costumes, brought crudités to give out as treats, a reference to one of Oz’s social media videos, and even touted a life-size cutout of Oz wearing an Eagles jersey.

They asked Oz’s New Jersey neighbors to tell any Pennsylvania residents they know to vote for Fetterman.

Later in the day, the group had a plane fly a banner in the sky above the Hudson River, in full view of many of Oz’s neighbors, with a message: “Dr. Oz to NJ Neighbors: Happy Halloween.”

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