Mayor Dawn Zimmer proclaimed 2012 “The Year of Parks” in her second annual State of the City address on Wednesday night.
Zimmer gave a 30-minute speech in front of approximately 175 residents and officials at the DeBaun Auditorium on the campus of Stevens Institute. Touching on a wide range of issues, she touted her accomplishments and outlined future goals.
In addition to the city continuing to work on open space at 1600 Park Ave. and Hoboken Cove uptown, the mayor said that Sinatra Park and Castle Point Park, two waterfront recreation areas closed for renovations, will reopen in 2012.
The mayor also provided an update on upgrades to local parks. “We have a contractor in place to upgrade the playgrounds at Jackson Street Park, Jefferson Park, and Legion Park on Willow Avenue,” she said. “At Stevens Park, we’re looking to resurface the Little League field, upgrade the playground, and install an indoor batting cage. Church Square Park, Mama Johnson Field, and all our dog runs will all be upgraded this year.”
Zimmer said that in 2012 the city will make a down payment on a southwest park.
Although the ward does not yet have a park, Zimmer said that in 2012 the city will make a downpayment on “a substantial piece of property” using a $3 million county grant, as well as a portion of the $20 million park bond, which was first mentioned in her 2011 State of the City address.
St. Patrick’s Day Parade
The mayor also addressed the controversy over the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The Hoboken St. Patrick’s Parade Committee recently decided to cancel the annual event in March, saying they could not agree with the city’s intention to hold it on a weekday night rather than a Saturday. The city had wanted to move it to a Wednesday to lessen the partying in town that accompanies it.
The city is still anticipating large crowds on the first Saturday in March, with various people holding parties and bar crawls on the day when the parade would have been held.
“The loss of the parade is a loss for Hoboken, but at the end of the day, the safety and quality of life of our residents is more important than scheduling a parade on a particular day,” Zimmer said.
Zimmer said a zero-tolerance policy will remain in effect for that day, “and this year disorderly people will not merely be ticketed, but when appropriate, will be arrested and detained immediately,” she said.
The crowd cheered.
Crime at its lowest in a generation
The mayor said in her speech that crime is down 16 percent since she took office in 2009.
“It is never possible for our law enforcement officers to be everywhere at all times,” Zimmer said. “But as we all know, quality of life offenses are most common during late night hours on weekends and in places where large numbers of people tend to congregate. In response to this, Police Chief [Anthony] Falco has reassigned and redeployed his personnel in more close alignment with the time and days of these offenses. We will also be adding more eyes on the streets with Class II officers during peak activity hours on weekends and events.”
Development and transportation; other news
• Zimmer also reiterated her opposition to the proposed Monarch at Shipyard development along the waterfront in Hoboken (see briefs), though she didn’t mention the project by name. “My administration will continue to fully use the power of its office and exercise all of the legal tools available to ensure that this developers’ commitment and all other commitments, past, present, and future, made to the people of Hoboken, are kept,” Zimmer said. “That is why, without hesitation, we are appealing the DEP’s approval of this pier project in north Hoboken.”
• The mayor said she has advocated with Gov. Christopher Christie and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s staff for a Number 7 MTA subway stop in north Hoboken.
• Zimmer also used her speech to urge Christie, a cross party ally, to support the Marriage Equality Act if it goes to his office to sign. Democratic legislators have made passing the bill, which would allow for same sex marriage in New Jersey, a top priority, but Christie is against it. Zimmer said signing the legislation “is simply the right thing to do.” Christie has said he would veto the bill, and believes the issue should be decided by a referendum.
• The mayor also publicly thanked members of the Hoboken Municipal Hospital Authority, the municipal board that helped sell Hoboken University Medical Center, to relieve the taxpayers of a $52 million bond guarantee. Former Mayor David Roberts and former State Sen. Bernie Kenny, who helped save the hospital from closure in 2007 by guaranteeing city bonds, were present and were acknowledged by Zimmer during the speech. Current hospital Chief Executive Officer Phil Schaengold was also present during the speech. Zimmer welcomed Dr. Ramesh Babu, a neurosurgeon from New York University who was profiled in last week’s Hoboken Reporter, to Hoboken.
Responses to the speech
While the room was filled with many city directors and other allies of the mayor, some political opponents of Zimmer, such as Councilwoman Beth Mason and Assemblyman Ruben J. Ramos Jr. (D – 33rd Dist.), also attended the speech. Ramos and Mason are both rumored mayoral challengers when Zimmer’s term ends in 2013.
Ramos called the mayor’s address “a good speech” with positive initiatives, but said “people want those parks completed.”
“Let’s get it done already,” Ramos added Thursday morning.
Ramos added that many of the successes that the mayor touted were done with the help of state money that he helped acquire for the district, including the hospital sale and funds for the repair of Sinatra Park.
Councilwoman Beth Mason said she agreed with many of the mayor’s sentiments, including opposition to the Monarch and the desire to open more parks.
But Mason said she disagreed with the mayor on the budget. The city had a 10 percent municipal tax cut last year, but the city still kept a $5.1 million surplus. Mason wanted the surplus returned to the taxpayers for an even bigger tax cut.
Councilwoman Jen Giattino, a Zimmer ally, said she was very happy with the speech, especially since she too became involved in government with the hope of opening more parks in Hoboken. Giattino said that with parks a big part of the agenda, she’s “very happy that I’ll be a part of it.”
Ray Smith may be reached at RSmith@hudsonreporter.com