When I first ran for Town Council in the aftermath of the Recession, it was because I wanted to be part of rebuilding our town. I understood how a revitalized downtown could inspire a community. But the Recession barreled through Berkeley Heights like a tornado…suddenly buildings were shuttered and businesses gone. My message then, as it is now, was that TOGETHER we could build a better future for downtown Berkeley Heights. And with so many in our Town working together, that is exactly what we are doing.
Back then, as people struggled with the aftermath of the Recession and businesses tried hard to keep their doors open, we set about meeting, sharing ideas, and set out with determination that somehow…WITHOUT A NEW TAX ON OUR DOWNTOWN BUSINESSES, we would bring about change. We called upon our community to come together to form public-private partnerships to move forward without adding burden to the taxpayer. The response has been amazing.
Volunteers stepped forward to do the research and due diligence that was needed. Volunteers were our best path forward as we had no funds available to pay for staff or consultants. We developed the concept of a Downtown Beautification Committee (DBC) that could raise funds, and start a “support local “campaign, and met with the Chamber of Commerce and business owners who reinforced the importance of a pedestrian friendly and attractive streetscape—one that invited people to see and experience Berkeley Heights. As an advisory committee, the DBC recommended standards for sidewalks, street lamps, and signage; raised money for a new Town Clock, and introduced new seasonal banners. Another volunteer committee came together to address the need for renovating Memorial Park, raising $170,000 to completely renew the park while creating programs to honor our veterans and military with “Hometown Hero” banners. The Town Council proudly renamed the park Veterans Memorial Park and it has become the heart of our downtown.
The Suburban Chamber of Commerce launched its Street Fair inviting everyone to take a new look at Berkeley Heights. Businesses became inspired and launched the Winter Walk, a fabulous family-friendly event to coincide with the annual tree lighting. The Winter Walk now brings thousands to our downtown. Restaurants partnered with the DBC to launch a hugely successful Restaurant Week. The Council passed Municipal Code Article 19 setting development design standards. Abandoned properties found new owners, and the design standards they will be obliged to follow will continue to enhance our streetscapes.
The momentum continues to build. Another volunteer group came forward to partner with the Town to renovate Peppertown Park. This year, the YMCA negotiated with the Town to redo the Community Pool for families to enjoy along with new gym space that will become available for PAL and Recreation programs. We have joined forces with the County to secure new grants for the environment and a new van for our Seniors. We teamed with the Board of Education to upgrade our fields. We are working TOGETHER to build our future. So, if someone tells you that nothing has happened or they will be the ones to bring Berkeley Heights back, then please ask them, “Where have you been while all this hard work has been going on?” Berkeley Heights was just ranked the #6 BEST PLACE TO LIVE IN NEW JERSEY. And that is because we are working TOGETHER TO BE THE BEST WE CAN BE. We top the charts in safety and in the quality of our schools too! And even more is yet to come: A new modernized Municipal Complex located in the center of town, with a place for our Seniors to call home; new space for Recreation Programs; and a state-of-the-art Library that enable citizens of all ages to access technology. And our hardworking police department will at last have the kind of headquarters and equipment needed to face the security challenges of today’s world.
Berkeley Heights is truly a special place! We have come a long way, and TOGETHER we will keep moving forward. Please join John Sincaglia and me in our continued efforts by voting Column B Kingsley and Sincaglia on November 7. Thank you for your support. Visit KingsleySincaglia2017.com to learn more.