New firefighters for Jersey City
Federal officials announced last week that the Jersey City Fire Department will receive an $8.2 million two-year grant. The funds will be used to hire 64 firefighters.
The city has lost more than 100 fire fighters in the past two years, largely due to retirement. The funds come from the federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency response program.
Off-duty police officer involved in crash that killed woman
Helen Antczak, 82, of Bayonne, died as a result of a seven-car crash near Avenue E and 36th Street in Bayonne on Feb. 20. Hudson County Prosecutor Ed DeFazio said an off-duty Jersey City police officer, Rick Garrison, was allegedly speeding when his car struck several other vehicles.
Six people were injured besides Antczak, including Garrison.
“The Bayonne Police Department is continuing to investigate,” DeFazio said on Wednesday. “We’re awaiting results of the toxicology report on his blood work, but preliminary indications are that alcohol was not a factor.”
He was issued seven motor vehicle summonses from the Bayonne Police Department as a result of the crash.
Garrison serves as the 1st vice president of the Jersey City Police Officers Benevolent Association. A 16-year veteran of the force, he has served on the emergency services unit.
Gov. moves ahead to eliminate UEZ funding
Jersey City Business Administrator Jack Kelly informed members of the City Council on Wednesday that Gov. Christopher Christie hopes to abolish the state’s Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ) program. Kelly said it’s too early to tell what the governor’s plans will mean for Jersey City.
The state UEZ program, which benefits 32 designated zones in 37 cities – including Jersey City, North Bergen, Union City, and Kearny in Hudson County – was launched in 1983 to spur economic development and revitalization in urban cities. Through tax incentives and public and private investment, the program encourages businesses to locate in urban areas and create private sector jobs in communities with high unemployment.
Among the many features of the program is the diversion of local sales tax revenue back into the coffers of the UEZ city, rather than the money being funneled to the state. The sales tax in those districts is also lower than most – 3.5 percent – to attract customers.
According to the state Department of Community Affairs, which oversees the program, 133,000 full time jobs and $31.6 billion in private investment has been created through the UEZ program.
But Christie suspended the program after taking office last year, stating that he wanted to study the program’s economic impact before agreeing to continue it.
After reviewing a report from the office of the state comptroller, the administration is now planning to divert $93.9 million from the UEZ program, which would effectively end it.
Christie’s proposal would still have to be approved by the state legislature.
Democratic lawmakers from cities that have benefited from UEZ money say the elimination of the program will devastate urban centers that were hard hit in the recession.
“While we have not had a chance to review the report issued today by the state on the Urban Enterprise Zones, we know first-hand they have been a success in Jersey City where on an annual basis the UEZ generates approximately $12 million,” said Mayor Jerramiah Healy last week. “The UEZ has been a marketing tool for our city, helping to spur the relocation of dozens of businesses to Jersey City, as well as providing the funding for valuable services such as the hiring of police officers to patrol our commercial districts, CCTV crime deterrent cameras, street cleaning, job training, small business improvement grants, and assistance for the Special Improvement Districts.”
State Sen. Nicholas Sacco (D-32nd Dist.), who represents a portion of Jersey City agreed.
“The Urban Enterprise Zone program has been one of the most successful economic development initiatives in state history and eliminating it would be a tragedy,” he said in a statement released last Thursday. “It has helped thousands of businesses create jobs and allowed municipalities to revitalize themselves with increased tax ratables, beautified shopping districts, more police officers and many other benefits. It has also lowered the burden on taxpayers both by reducing sales tax and paying for vital services with UEZ funds instead of property taxes. Abandoning this proven job creation engine, especially now, would be an awful policy decision and a giant step backwards.”
Democrats in Trenton are vowing to fight for the program.
Pilgrimage for immigrant rights
A coalition of human rights groups is protesting the detention of immigrants at the Elizabeth Detention Center with a pilgrimage beginning at Ellis Island and ending at the barbed wire fences at the gates of the detention center. Ellis Island was chosen for its symbolic embrace of immigrants who passed through its “Golden Door.” Some 1,500 immigrants are being held at the Elizabeth center and in local county jails. The activists are also protesting plans to build a 2,700-bed detention facility next to the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark.
The pilgrimage will take place on Ash Wednesday, March 9, starting at 9:30 a.m. in Liberty State Park. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (908) 273-0751.
Riverkeeper offers scholarships to students
Hackensack Riverkeeper is accepting applications for the 2011 Ron Vellekamp Environmental Scholarship. The program was created in 2011 to support exceptional college-bound high school seniors who demonstrate a commitment to the environment. The student must live or attend school within the Hackensack River Watershed which covers about 210 square miles of land and water from New City, N.Y. to Jersey City and Kearny. Teachers and guidance counselors must submit applications on behalf of deserving students.
Applications must be postmarked no later than Earth Day, April 22. Visit www.hackensackriverkeeper.org or call (201) 968-0808.
Ferris High School gets reaccredited
James J. Ferris High School in Jersey City, first accredited in 1940, has been reaccredited through the Commission on Secondary Schools. The accreditation comes after an extensive three-year process that included meeting standards of governance, leadership, educational programs, staffing, student services, and other benchmarks.
“Accreditation can help a school and its community better understand not only how it is doing, but more importantly, learn what it needs to do to improve,” said Henry G. Cram, Jr., president, Middle States Association Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools.
City eyes marina for Newport area
The city of Jersey City, which owns 30 acres of land between Harborside Financial Center and the Newport Pier, is seeking proposals from developers for a marina on the property, according to a published news story. The Jersey City Redevelopment Agency would own the facility but contract out the management. The cost to build it would be picked up by the developer. The waterfront property has spectacular views of Manhattan and easy access to downtown entertainment and recreation options and mass transit.
Chromium cleanup meeting
A public meeting will be held March 3 conducted by the Chromium Cleanup Partnership. On the docket is a discussion of PPG Industries’ plans to clean up chromium waste at the Garfield Avenue site. The partnership is made up of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the City of Jersey City, and PPG Industries. PPG is committed to cleaning up 20 chromium sites in Hudson County. The meeting is from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Mary McLeod Bethune Life Center, 140 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Jersey City. (201) 777-2099.
Fundraiser features jazz concert
Temple Beth El of Jersey City will hold a jazz concert fundraiser on March 12, featuring the Heritage Ensemble, a jazz group that will be making its New Jersey debut, though widely known in New York City. Tickets are $25 per person if purchased before March 7. After March 7, they will be $30 per person. Showtime is 8 p.m. Visit www.betheljc.org.
A caption that ran in several of our editions last week with a story about accreditation for the county’s psychiatric hospital inadvertently labeled a photo of Freeholder Doreen DiDomenico, who chairs the freeholders’ Health Committee, as County Health and Human Services Director Carol Ann Wilson.