Business & Finance

'State of the Township': Mayor Cohen Discusses Taxes, Redevelopment, Millennials

Mayor Brad Cohen addresses the community at his inauguration earlier this month. Credits: TAP into East Brunswick

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Newly elected Mayor Brad Cohen offered a "State of the Township" address as part of the regular council meeting on Monday night, discussing the current state of East Brunswick's programs, departments and plans for forward movement.

Cohen returned to election themes of re-visioning the role of business in the community, especially on the Route 18 corridor, home of both new construction and unoccupied eyesores.

Cohen began by describing East Brunswick's current financial state -- the budget process was also initiated at this meeting -- and the degree to which taxes are impacted by their primary base in the residential community, which has seen a steady rise in property values over the past four years. The mayor cited the township's AA+ bond rating and complete fulfillment of tax obligations.

Sign Up for E-News

"The economic health of our community will rest on how we redevelop, rezone, reuse, repurpose or re-green existing properties that are non-performing, " said Cohen, suggesting that lower taxes could result from increasing commercial ratables in town. Later on in his address, he prioritized the need for East Brunswick to, "Stop the continued dependence on residential property taxes and try to give residents some relief." Cohen added the statistic, "At almost 80 percent, residents of East Brunswick are contributing to almost all of the tax base through residential property taxes."

Cohen then praised the work of the Planning and Engineering Department and the improvements made to Church Lane with funds from the New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund. He also cited the smooth execution of building contracts and the facilitation of permits for the Park Chateau as a model for forward movement in encouraging growth in the township.

"2016 saw a $10 million increase in the value of construction," noted Cohen, who listed several new businesses that have opened recently and acknowledging more that will open in 2017.

He praised several other departments, including the East Brunswick Police Department and the Opiate Outreach Program.

Listing needs as the township moves to improve financially, Cohen said that East Brunswick must, " Redevelop large parts of the commercial corridors to attract millennials. This means experienced-based shopping where there are walkable, mixed residential communities with outdoor, non-chain restaurants, music/art/culture. These communities must be close to the transit center and must feature easy access to major roadways." Experience-based shopping, according to Forbes, addresses the growing need for experiences - dining, traveling, music - by young consumers, contrasting the prior purpose of mall shopping which was to acquire goods.

The Mayor continued, "We need to re-energize our small businesses that we still have, so that they can be active participants helping to drive and support the redevelopment changes we propose."  The designation of Route 18 South between the NJ Turnpike and Ferris Street as an "area in need of redevelopment" would allow for some incentives to preserve existing businesses.

"We need to continue to support our schools as they still remain a key attraction and will become even more important as millennials have children and look to home buying. The needs of millennials will remain the same as those before them - the need for good schools, a safe community, and good geography," said Cohen of the need to maintain the quality of the East Brunswick Schools, recently named 67th in the nation

Having completed the report on the status quo and the goals for the future, Cohen then moved on to enumerate some initiatives that will drive change.  The first of these would be the "Shop East Brunswick" program, which was also the subject of many conversations during the election. SEB is a rewards/tax credit program that supports local merchants and encourages local shopping, dining, construction, professional services, and entertainment.

The Mayor next described his proposal to hire a full-time Economic Development Officer to support facilitate commercial growth in the township by " walking each new merchant/business through the Planning/Engineering/Construction process."  Additionally, Cohen hopes to "reignite" the EB Business Alliance/Chamber of Commerce.

The township Redevelopment Committee may be able to present plans this summer for the largely unoccupied malls that formerly housed Loehmann's and The Wiz, as well as the former Wonder Bread bakery on Tices Lane.  Cohen stressed that it was essential to change to a "customer service orientation" when it came to attracting new businesses so that projects proceed as planned and open on time.

The overriding idea of the speech was vision - the vision to see the needs of the future and to take a second look at how what East Brunswick has can be turned into what East Brunswick needs.  

*Cohen's address was part of a regular meeting which will be reported on later this week by TAP into East Brunswick.


TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

East Brunswick

South Brunswick: Volunteer Soccer Coach Charged With Possessing And Distributing Child Pornography

February 17, 2018

SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ – A volunteer youth soccer coach and former Sunday school teacher is charged with possessing and distributing child pornography, officials said Thursday.

FBI agents and local law enforcement arrested Waldo Milla-Guerra, 49, at his Kendall Park home Thursday morning after executing a search warrant, officials said.

Milla-Guerra, a volunteer soccer coach with the ...

How to Talk with Kids About the Florida Shooting

Guest Column

The tragedy of the Florida school shooting is devastating leaving 17 killed and 15 injured. Our children can easily identify with what occurred yesterday. It will be the topic of conversation today in schools everywhere. School administrators are doing all they can to provide support and guidance. The shootings affect children, teachers, and school personnel. The ...

Rep. Watson Coleman Statement Following Whistleblower Report on Baseless Attacks on Planned Parenthood

February 15, 2018

WASHINGTON, DC - Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) released the below statement following the letter sent by Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) to the Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Sectary, Eric Hargan. The letter outlines documents regarding an effort by the Trump Administration to allow states to terminate Planned Parenthood as a healthcare ...

Upcoming Events

Sun, February 18, 3:00 PM

State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick, New Brunswick

New Jersey Symphony Orchestra: Hot Latin Nights ...

Arts & Entertainment

Mon, February 19

State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick

Mr. Popper's Penguins

Arts & Entertainment

Mon, February 19, 7:00 AM

Raritan Valley YMCA, East Brunswick

Presidents Celebration at the Raritan Valley Y


Library Hosts Program On Joint Replacement Surgery

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ—East Brunswick Public Library (2 Jean Walling Civic Center) and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital partner to present the special medical program “Considering Total Joint Replacement in 2018” at the library on Tuesday, March 6 at 7 pm.

Lead by board certified orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Stephen Kayiaros, the program gives a brief overview of arthritis of ...

Super Carb Diet by Bob Harper

Super Carb Diet by Bob Harper with Danny Pellegrino (St. Martin's Press, 2017)

It's hard to go on a serious diet, one on which you expect to be successful and maintain a loss. Fortunately, in his new book Super Carb Diet, Bob Harper has given the weight watching world a sensible new diet plan to help achieve a healthy weight.

Harper, host of NBC's popular show The Biggest Loser, ...

Two Nights by Kathy Reichs

Two Nights by Kathy Reichs (Bantom,2017)

How does a writer of a beloved series like Harry Potter or Temperance Brennan break out of their readers' expectations and try something new? For J.K. Rowlings it was the novels penned under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith; books about a maimed and very flawed private detective with the unlikely name of Cormoran Strike. For Kathy Reichs, it is the ...

'What Stays' exposes family secrets and lies

‘What Stays’ exposes family secrets, resentment and lies

By Liz Keill

SUMMIT, NJ – In an original play by Laura Ekstrand and Jason Szamreta, the Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre has provided an enlightening, funny and heart-felt view of family foibles.

Ekstrand has said that the germ of the play came from conversations with the ensemble members of the troupe, based on ...

'American Hero' explores with powerful performances

‘American Hero’ pulses with tension, clashing emotions at George Street

By Liz Keill

NEW BRUNWICK – The issue of social injustice makes its way into “American Hero,” the second play in a trilogy by Christopher Demo-Brown.

Armand Schultz as Rob is to receive a medal of honor for his heroic actions during the Iraq war. Although he lost the use of his legs, he ...