State of the City 2014

Reverend Clergy, Members of the City Council, Elected Officials, Honored Guests, friends, family and residents:

Our City is:

·         Reliable

·         Innovative

Delivering what our residents need to:

·         Grow

·         Achieve

·         Succeed

We provide services that are necessary and transformative.

 

In order to support the diversity and the character that is found across each Ward, this government continually works to:

·         Develop new programs

·         And design creative solutions

·         That are as unexpected as they are inspiring

It is by:

·         Listening to concerns

·         And addressing issues

·         That our City becomes even better – every day

Effectiveness can be measured by impact, satisfaction and the quality of services provided.

We recognize the demanding schedules of our residents and visitors - their time is both important and valuable.

From going to work and attending school to shopping our stores and dining out, while in our City we want everyone to be able to maximize and enjoy each moment. That is why the Parking Authority has incorporated new conveniences that provide options, save time and improve access.

No more searching for exact change - not having enough money with you for the meter - because this year, 39 new machines were placed within Midtown:

·         Debit and Credit Cards along with bills and a combination of coins, can now be used as payment

·         On-meter instructions in multiple languages to expedite and ease the process

·         And soon a new Pay-by-Phone pilot program, which uses an app to pay for parking on Morris Avenue

Assisting shoppers, while helping our businesses reduce costs; the Parking Authority has launched a new initiative known as PACECLUB.

Local merchants and venues, who use Authority-operated garages for special events, can receive discounts; reinforcing how our agencies are working to deliver the best for our City.

Supporting our business districts helps grow our economy - develop our neighborhoods into vibrant as well as appealing locations. Meeting the needs of our City  -  is one of our most evolving districts - Elizabeth Avenue.

In 2013 seven new businesses opened on the Avenue.

Working with the Elizabeth Avenue Partnership, these shops have delivered new products and services, while reducing the vacancy rate to just 3%.

Part of what draws people to a place is how it is maintained - and this year, the Partnership:

·         Hired Commercial District Services to manage street cleaning programs

·         Removed litter and graffiti with the Clean-n-Green Team

In 2013, the Outlet Collection – Jersey Gardens, embarked on an ambitious $30 million renovation.

The transformation is complete and spectacular - with an elegant new look along with more amenities and stores:

·         Leading retailers and dining:

Ø  Century 21

Ø  Under Armor

Ø  And Moe’s

·          Wi-Fi installed throughout the Mall

·         And this year a new Michael Kors store will call The Outlet Collection home

Our Mall continues to impress - attracting consumers from throughout our region - all over the world:

·         Shoppers were up 9%

·         Bus groups 11%

·         And International visits up 21%

 

2014 will be another exciting year for our City.

The Greater Elizabeth Chamber of Commerce has been working closely with the hotel and business community to prepare for the influx of visitors, who will be choosing Elizabeth as their destination for the Super Bowl.

·         Introducing more customers to our shops and restaurants

·         Highlighting the diversity, culture and experiences that our City has to offer

This year also marks the 350th Anniversary of Elizabethtown - will feature events, programs and celebrations commemorating:

·         Our proud past

·         Significant contributions

·         And the role of Elizabeth in our nation’s history

With dedicated partners, planning began more than a year ago with the design of a banner and Elizabethtown350 pin.

Community events this year will highlight the anniversary, including the Tour de Elizabeth.

I encourage all of you to show your support and honor the extraordinary community Elizabeth remains today.

From exploring the revitalization of brownfields to supporting the City’s Go Green initiatives, Groundwork Elizabeth has been a leader in preservation and conservation.

They are helping our residents care for our environment as well as live healthier lives:

·         The Tour De Elizabeth, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2013, welcomed over 500 participants

·         Creating Community Gardens under Come Grow With Us!

·         Improving overall health with Shaping Elizabeth

We want our residents to remain healthy in all aspects of their lives - including their financial and professional development.

Elizabeth Development Company recognizes the importance of preparation and the value of guidance through this difficult process.

With their On the Job Training Program, they work in:

·         Direct coordination with our business community and local employers

·         Provide job seekers with the skills that are in demand

·         Deliver knowledge and experience that will secure a position

Hundreds of residents have received readiness skills and more than 40 are in new jobs.

Taking a holistic approach to personal and career growth, social services are also available through partnerships with the Elizabeth Presbyterian Center and Union County College Retail Skills Center, who in 2013:

·         Served more than 1900 through job counseling, employment fairs and workshops

·         Trained 214 residents

·         And placed 219 in jobs

It makes sense to connect local jobs with local people. They represent a majority of the population that will:

·         Shop in area stores

·         Make recommendations

·         And share reviews

When a business chooses Elizabeth, it chooses our community - and there is no better representative of our City - than one of our residents.

Embassy Suites hotel is located across from The Outlet Collection - Jersey Gardens, and is the newest development to join our successful hospitality providers.

Working closely with the Retail Skills Center, they have committed to hiring more than 70 Elizabeth residents.

Providing support and renewed energy, EDC sponsors the Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit Program:

·         Nearly $4 million dollars has been generated for projects

·         With significant investments made by:

Ø  NJ Manufacturers  -  PSE&G

Ø  PNC, TD and Chase Banks

Ø  Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield

 

Increasing accessibility to financial resources, the Urban Enterprise Zone loan program assists businesses with set-up and expansion needs.

With this funding, the Laundry Warehouse on Elizabeth Avenue:

·         Purchased equipment and developed a Point of Sale system

·         Created new jobs for our residents

Families today are doing more with less - making the need for affordable housing always in demand.

Working to provide assistance and deliver the services that residents require are the focus of the Elizabeth Home Improvement Program and the Housing Authority. 

Celebrating its 75th anniversary, the Housing Authority continues to make a difference with:

·         E-Port Homes Project, which is in the development phase and will produce 36 new units

·         Elizabethport Summer Arts and After-School Program - serving 111 young people

For the past decade, Josephine’s Place and their volunteers, have assisted and served our City:

·         Sharing their time and skills with women and families

·         Creating an atmosphere, where every voice is encouraged and valued

·         Increasing services and opportunities - they strengthen our community

As a historic City, we continue to redevelop and re-define sites to maximize space, remain competitive and deliver the services that have made Elizabeth a prime destination:

·         To live

·         Do business

·         Work and raise a family

Partnering with the Midtown Special Improvement District:

Ø  A new Elizabeth office opened for the 20th Legislative District

 

Ø  First Republic Lounge and Restaurant welcomed its first customers

 

Ø  And Juliana’s Pastry Shop received a new sign and façade

 

Midtown is the heart of our City - it is where transportation, education, business and government services converge – and I will ask the City Council to designate Faros Properties to develop the Midtown parcels.

Faros, whose principals are the Leventhal Family, are based out of Boston and New York City.

Housing, offices and even a place to stay will be available:

·         More than 300 market-rate residential units with parking

·         Over 35,000 square feet of commercial space for nationally recognized tenants

·         A $45 million dollar, 9 story hotel  -  with 135 rooms and 18,000 square feet of meeting space

In addition to being LEED certified, the development will have green design and open space elements including the continuation of the Elizabeth River Trail. 

Opportunities to learn and advance are important for all our residents - but especially our youth.

It helps them define who they are and who they want to be.

Our Recreation Department continues to support these efforts through:

·         After school activities

·         Provided in partnership with the Boys & Girls Club and the United Youth of NJ

Delivering the services and recreational sites our young people are looking for, renovations at the Charles Holland Playground were completed and include a state-of-the-art skate park featuring:

·         New playground equipment

·         A gazebo

And in 2014:

Ø  Renovations at O’Brien Playground will be completed - including a synthetic turf soccer field

Ø  And a new in-ground pool at Erxleben

 

Enabling our youth to acquire the ability to prepare for the life they want - as well as the success they deserve, the City’s Office of Youth Services is helping them accomplish their goals.
 

Providing assistance to more than 7,000 young people and families each year, the Office administers the S.O.A.R., SAFE HAVEN and Building Future Leaders Programs.

They prepare our youth for a brighter tomorrow:

  • Scholarship and employment opportunities
  • Contests, Clubs, Family Fun Nights
  • Workshops and College Tours

When school is out, it is often difficult for children and teens to find positive activities to occupy their time.

Working closely with the Elizabeth Police Department, a program was developed that would challenge and empower this population - and be available Friday and Saturday nights from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.

C.O.D.E. YOUTH served an average of 75 young people each night, providing an engaging and fun atmosphere.

In 2013, 209 juveniles were in violation of curfew - with many of those individuals transported to C.O.D.E. Youth - and there have been no repeat offenders.

In order to prepare young people for success, they must be provided with the resources they need to excel.

Any parent or guardian can tell you - school supplies are expensive. The City wants every child to have a positive start to each New Year and the annual Book Bag Give-a-way does just that:

·         4,000 book bags and back-to-school supplies were distributed

·         Partnered with the Recreation Department, Waste Management, PSE&G, Healthfirst and METLIFE

Harvest Fest was bigger than ever in 2013. Working with the Department of Recreation, the Office expanded its resources and partnerships:

·         Served more than 800 youth and families

·         Provided financial education, food and prizes

For the first time ever, the City is launching a new Youth Website. Representing Elizabeth Youth T.O.D.A.Y., the site has been designed for our next generation and will feature:

·         Contests and activities

·         Registration forms and upcoming events

·         And an interactive social media format

All of our residents deserve to be healthy, safe and happy - and for our Health and Human Services Department, it all begins with access and awareness.

When the Affordable Care Act started hitting the news:

·         There were questions, uncertainty, anxiety

·         About how and where to sign up

·         With sensitive and personal information being provided - who can you trust?

The Health and Human Services Department stepped up - and working with City offices and agencies, organized a press conference to educate and inform residents about free services, resulting in:

·         A Health Care hotline, where residents could schedule appointments for help

·         We have employees, who are certified Navigators - providing free aid in the enrollment process

·         Assistance now available in English and Spanish

With unfortunate system glitches and delays that followed, we continue to help residents prepare to comply with the law and meet health insurance deadlines.

·         We partnered with the Urban League and Elizabeth Public Library

·         Held information sessions throughout the City

·         Distributed flyers, highlighted locations on our website, social media and Twitter page

Part of maintaining good health is staying active and being informed of the benefits associated with preventative care.

The Department of Health and Human Services worked closely with local organizations to raise awareness and deliver assistance.

·         We organized a Prostate Cancer Walkathon

·         Partnered with Recreation to provide cardio workouts

·         Held a Health and Wellness event, featuring Sherri Shepherd from The View

At our 4 Centers throughout our City, the Office on Aging delivers programs that keep our Senior population dynamic and involved:

·         Billiards, Dominos, Book Clubs

·         Arts and Crafts, Dance and Computer Classes

Our City and Seniors experienced exciting milestones in 2013:

·         Stephen Sampson Center celebrated its 10th anniversary

·         And the new “Art Auction” enabled Seniors to bid on paintings by a local artist

The Liberty Square Senior Center continues to provide an exciting location, where the programs and services our older residents are looking for are delivered. And in June, their 10 year anniversary will be celebrated.

From exercising and eating right to receiving seasonal immunizations, we all try to do what we can to stay healthy and our Public Health Nurses continue to be there, assisting us along the way:

·         Pediatric flu programs were offered to eligible children at the Peterstown Baby Keep Well Clinic

·         Over 600 adult residents were immunized against the flu

·         And in 2013, more than 1600 clients, ages 2 months to 18 years, received immunizations

Being informed about the services that are delivered within our City as well as preparing for the growth and development of your child are imperative.

At the City’s Health Fair, screenings were offered for:

·         Blood Pressure and Glucose

·         Cholesterol and Anemia

·         Vision and dental exams

And staying healthy will now be even easier because the Department of Health and Human Services received approval to start free adult vaccinations.

Members of our community, who meet the criteria, are eligible to receive vaccines for:

·         Meningitis

·         Hepatitis A and B

·         Along with Chickenpox and Shingles

Having good health is having a lot - and in order to ensure that quality services are delivered to our residents, the City continues to work closely with Trinitas Regional Medical Center.

With expansion efforts and new technology, Trinitas is a leader in innovation as well as preparedness.

·         Named one of the “Most Wired” hospitals in the nation by Hospitals and Health Networks

·         Partnered with Care One to establish a 25-bed Long Term Acute Care Hospital

Always working to deliver the best healthcare possible, Trinitas began construction on a:

·         $4.5 million dollar 

·         9,000 square foot-ambulatory surgery center 

·         Anticipated to be completed this Spring

Our Police Department is there for you and our City 24/7. Whether it is through neighborhood patrols or active block watch programs, they are protecting and serving our residents every day.

With hard work, resident partnerships and increased presence:

·         Reportable crimes and calls for service have been significantly decreased

·         And overall crime is down 14%

Re-examining how services are delivered, identifying the best use of resources and taking effective, pro-active approaches have resulted in:

·         Better deployment of personnel

·         And bolstering of the Street Crimes Unit

Technology plays a major role in the ability to fight and prevent crime. Through use of our extensive camera network:

·         Visibility has been increased throughout the City

·         Enabling certain hazards to be identified and eliminated before escalating

Quick and efficient responses, along with access to immediate resources, saves lives - and our EMS and Fire Department have been working to deliver the level of excellence our residents deserve with:

·         A new CBRNE / REHAB Support Unit

·         Two refurbished ambulances

·         And replaced aging defibrillators with the newest technology available

When calls come in, the ability to relay information to the appropriate emergency personnel is vital.

In 2014, a new radio system will improve communications.

·         Increasing interoperability with agencies

·         Through upgraded dual band radios

More than 18,000 incidents required response by the Fire Department in 2013.

In order to maintain safety, secure properties and stay prepared, the Department’s Fleet is constantly being evaluated for operational value and improvements.

·         All fire engines were independently tested and certified

·         A new engine and new ladder truck

·         Foam delivery and support units will soon join the Department

Through the Urban Area Security Initiative:

·         Received radiological detection devices

·         And an oxygen filling station with an Assistance to Firefighters Grant

When Hurricane Sandy hit, it brought destruction and loss - that many still struggle with today. But it also brought with it an important message - be prepared.

Within our City, efforts are ongoing to reconstruct the damage at our Waterfront including:

·         Rebuilding the boardwalk, recreation pier, floating docks and irrigation

Action is also being taken to incorporate mitigation measures and increase preparedness to prevent similar damage in the event of another storm:

·         At Veterans Park –vinyl sheet piling to protect the steel bulkhead

·         Concrete ballast to keep the boardwalk from lifting

·         Hurricane straps to brace structures from future storm surges

·         Taller steel piles at the Marina to protect new floating docks

Modifications have been made to sewer lines along City streets to address flooding issues, protect property and ensure that residents safely navigate roadways.

·         Phase I of Third Avenue Control Project is complete

·         Replacing existing infrastructure with larger sewer capacity

Improving infrastructure and access:

·         Traffic signals were upgraded at North Broad Street and Westfield Avenue

·         With new sidewalks, curbing and ADA compliant ramps

Aggressive road resurfacing initiatives continue to provide travelers with safer passage and a more enjoyable experience with:

·         Broad Street, North Broad Street and West Jersey Street improvements nearly complete

·         Florida and Geneva Streets

·         Along with portions of Third Avenue and South Second Street

President Bill Clinton once said, “The future is not an inheritance, it is an opportunity and an obligation.”

Whether looking ahead to tomorrow or down the road to the next decade, preparing for the future starts with meeting the needs of today.

And we are a true community:

·         One that embraces responsibility; cares for its residents and delivers the services that count

·         One that has built strong foundations, where assistance is offered and opportunities created

·         One that has developed places, programs and projects where:

Ø         Vision is encouraged

Ø         Progress is celebrated

Ø         And individuals can thrive in a supportive environment

 

Working together with our local partners, we continue to serve and deliver the quality of life that our residents need to grow and be successful.

May God Bless the City of Elizabeth and May God Bless the United States of America.

 

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