ELIZABETH, NJ –The City Council Chamber was packed today, Jan. 2, with residents who came to witness the 2017 re-organization meeting that included Mayor Christian Bollwage’s Annual State of the City Address.

Councilman-at-Large Manny Grova was elected the temporary president of the City Council. He then conducted the election of First Ward Councilman Carlos Torres as the president. Councilman-at-Large Frank Cuesta was elected president pro tem. (The person in that position will conduct Council business in the absence of the president.) President Torres then appointed Fifth Ward Councilman William Gallman as floor leader.

The first order of business was administering the oath of office to three, re-elected Council members. The Honorable Carl Marshall, Judge, swore in Councilwoman-Elect Patricia Perkins-Auguste for her next term. The Honorable Roman Montes, Judge, administered the oath of office to Councilman-Elect Frank Cuesta and Manny Grova, Jr.

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After being sworn in by Judge Montes, Mayor Bollwage administered the oath of office to the city’s department heads. He then gave his Annual State of the City Address. His theme was preparedness, which requires planning, resources, equipment, training, and dedicated personnel. He began with the announcement of the city’s Aa3 bond rating from Moody’s Investors Service, the highest of the largest cities. “The state of our municipality is strong,” he concluded.

Here are some of the highlights from the Address:

Emergency generators have been installed at O’Donnell Dempsey Center, Mickey Walker Recreation Center, Ford Leonard Towers, and will be installed at 205 First Street.

Cameras and LED lighting has been installed at garages, making them safer.

Elizabeth Destination Marketing Organization continues to make progress, winning the New Jersey State Tourism Digital Outreach Award.

Trinitas Regional Medical Center completed Phase 1 of the emergency room expansion that includes a new CT scanner and a low dose lung screening program. “The commitment they display, along with the doctors, nurses, and staff, continues to exceed expectations and deliver results,” said the Mayor.

Public Health Nurses immunized nearly 1,000 children, administered 400 flu shots, and assisted 300 patients at the city’s clinics.

The Mayor reported that 8,000 senior citizens participated in computer labs; 9,000 took part in dance/exercise classes; 22,000 used Visiting Nurses services. The Transportation Division provided 3,600 seniors with rides to doctors’ offices; 8,000 got rides to supermarkets; and 8,600 to senior centers.

“Getting from point A to point B can be difficult at any age if the ability, if means or support are not there,” said the Mayor. “That is why more than 3,700 children were provided with rides to and from after-school program and events because no matter how old you are, no one should miss out on the important things because they did not have someone to take them.”

The summer food program provided more than 1,500 children with free lunches and snacks. The city also built two, synthetic turf, soccer fields and a tee-ball field at Kenah; a spray fountain, equipment, and lighting at Jackson Park; and a fitness zone at Carteret Park with funding from Trust for Public Land.

One of the biggest events in the city this year was the dedication of the Waterfront Field in honor of Elizabeth native and New York Jets Coach Todd Bowles.

Recreation was a priority for the administration this year with the nearly $1.7 million remodel of the Mickey Walker Recreation Center.

The Elizabeth Municipal ID Program will help those residents who lack an ID. The city is working with the Elizabeth Public Library to institute this program.

The city’s infrastructure was not ignored. Approximately 2.5 miles of streets were resurfaced. New traffic lights will soon be installed at the intersection of East Jersey and Winfield Scott Plaza and also Jackson and Monroe avenues. A re-design is underway for Elizabeth Avenue at High Street and New Point Road and South and Jacques streets.

The city is also prepared for snowy days with the addition of a $2.3 million storage container that can store 6,700 tons of salt.

Phase 2 of the Elizabeth River Trail, extending the path from Bridge to South streets along South Pearl Street. It features scenic, paved route with lighting for biking, walking, and running. Phase 3 and 4 will continue from South to Clinton streets and South Broad to West Grand streets.

Food Bazaar, which is in the same location of the former Pathmark, provided 75 jobs for residents in the 106,000 square feet store, the result of an $11 million investment.

Although progress is slow, the Midtown Train Station project continues to move forward. New Jersey Transit is bidding the design/build for the state-of-the-art facility.

The Mayor reported that the sale of the Cashman South Front Street Property to Waste Management is anticipated to produce more than $1 million in revenue by 2018.

The Mills at Jersey Gardens mall continues to expand, attracting customers from all over the world. The 200-store mall is going before the planning board in March with plans to add a 411,000-square-foot expansion.

The Mills at Jersey Gardens mall is also partnering with the city to develop an education program. “Young people are most at-risk when learning does not remain a priority and for some individuals, the typical school structure poses challenges,” said the mayor. “The Mills at Jersey Garden recognizes this need and will work in conjunction with area schools on a new collaborative effort to prepare students for success.”

High school students who have dropped out can earn their GED through the Workforce Innovation Business Center, located at the mall.

The biggest story of 2016 was the terrorist who discarded bombs at the Elizabeth train station. Said the Mayor, “First responders within Elizabeth and throughout our region train for these kinds of dangerous situations, including ones most only heard or read about. The value of that preparedness was never more evident than went terrorism came to our city.”

The Mayor continued, “As with anything worth doing, being prepared requires time and resources. The key is to be ready when it counts. In Elizabeth, our police, fire, and EMS were ready because we continue to undergo training, advance technology, and enhance operations.”

That preparedness includes the hiring of eight EMTs, 18 police officers, and 21 firefighters. More hirings are planned. This week, the police department will add 13 officers, and 15 firefighters will join that department in February.

Elizabeth is the first major city in New Jersey to equipment police officers with body-worn cameras that have improved court testimony and decreased excessive force and officer demeanor complaints.

Three ambulances were added this year, and a new fire station opened on Catherine Street, home to Engine and EMS 6. The fire department will also receive a mid-mount tower, a skyboom, and two 2,000-gallon pumpers.  

Among the crowd were Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, Assemblyman Jamel Holley, Freeholders Bette Jane Kowalski and Sergio Granados, Union County Manager Al Faella, Union County Sheriff Joseph Cryan and Hillside Mayor Angela Garretson. Six members of the Board of Education, Stephanie Goncalves, Maria Carvalho, Stan Neron, Jose Rodriguez, Dan Nina, and Diana Barbosa, also attended.