BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Each week leading to the November 3 election, the candidates running for Berkeley Heights Township Council have the opportunity to answer question(s) that will be run in a series by TAPinto Berkeley Heights.
The following answer is from Republican Township Council Candidate Jeanne Kingsley for Week 3.
Week 3 Questions:
- How will you support the local business community recover from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 closures and loss of business?
- How will you help to attract and retain business both large and small to Berkeley Heights?
- Where do you stand on the re-zoning and redevelopment of Connell Park?
How will you support the local business community recover from the devastating effects of COVID-19 closures and loss of businesses?
On Saturday March 14th, I was in NYC having dinner with my family when the waiter came over and told us the restaurant, and all of their sister establishments, would be closing immediately due to COVID-19. I don’t think any of us could have imagined that 7 months later we would still be fighting the spread of this virus. In the very early days of the COVID shutdown, I reached out to the BH Communications Committee and a team of us got right to work on creating directories for our restaurants and other businesses so that residents could easily access information on how to support them online. I supported the various volunteer groups that were feeding our first responders with meals purchased at our local restaurants. And my running mate Jeff Varnerin and I arranged a conference call with Assemblyman Jon Bramnick and our business community so that they could get assistance with unemployment filings, PPE grant applications and other COVID related issues.
It is going to take time for us to defeat this virus. All of our businesses are essential to our town, and we need to find ways to keep every business open and operating in this difficult environment. One of the most effective ways to do that is to shop and eat local. Let's forget the big chains and focus on spending our money downtown. From hardware purchases to take-out or dining in, it is incumbent on all of us to do our part because we are all in this together! In addition, as elected officials we must continue to be flexible with local ordinances and the like to ensure we are optimizing our businesses’ ability to operate effectively without compromising public safety. Our businesses will only recover if we all support them!
How will you help to attract and retain business both large and small to Berkeley Heights?
My passion has always been the continued improvement of our downtown and that is why I formed the Downtown Beautification Committee several years ago. Tremendous progress has been made—from our summer Block Party to the Winter Walk, these events have become annual treasures that we all look forward to as an opportunity to come together as a community. Under my leadership, we have strengthened design and streetscape standards, added a town clock, hung seasonal banners and flower baskets along Springfield Ave, sponsored an annual ‘Restaurant Week’ and executed a number of other campaigns, all focused on driving business to our downtown. In addition, it is important to highlight that we have negotiated significant additional streetscape and walkability improvements for our downtown from the 4 major development projects currently underway. Most of these projects are not in the ground yet and it is absolutely critical that we keep an eagle eye on them to ensure the developers adhere to the high standards that we negotiated. I have been there from the beginning, understand what’s at stake, and am laser focused on ensuring these projects get built as promised. This is so important to the future look and feel of our downtown as these projects will not only enhance the walkability and overall character of our town, but they will also bring new people creating demand for our downtown businesses.
Where do you stand on the re-zoning and redevelopment of Connell Park?
We all understand that Connell is important for our tax base. That is why we need a measured approach to the development of that property. We need to ensure that any new development compliments our downtown and does not directly compete with it. I believe that many aspects of the Connell planned development such as the dog park, microbrewery, additional dining options, bowling, outdoor play ground and turf field will all enhance our town and make Berkeley Heights a great destination. My job, however, as an elected official is to consider the needs of all of our town’s residents and businesses – not just one single taxpayer.