Maintaining that his administration has lived up to many of the promises made in 2018, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise focused on the positive in his annual State of the County address.
Each year, the county executive gives a report on the progress of the county to the county Board of Freeholders. Mayors and legislators from around the county were in attendance on Feb. 13.
DeGise said the county saw the realization of a $15-an-hour minimum wage, which Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law in early February.
Quality of life
“We won new funding to make our schools safer from violence,” DeGise said. “And we took huge strides toward improving the lives of those in our custody.” The last refers to upgrading conditions at the Hudson County Correctional Facility.
DeGise highlighted the county’s decision to cease doing business with FedEx over how guns are shipped, and its court case against the pharmaceutical industry for its role in the opioid addiction crisis.
“To follow that up, I will sign an executive order this month to create our first-ever Substance Abuse Task Force,” DeGise said. “It will study how we can best direct our resources to fight this plague more effectively.”
“And in all that space, indoors and out, our people learn, have fun, and get the help they need every day.” — Tom DeGise
Indoor and outdoor space
He celebrated the continued use of the county’s Open Space Trust Fund to create new playgrounds and parks, the county’s commitment to providing a warming center for homeless, and a Veterans Affairs Office to help veterans.
“Our Office of Tourism Development reached an exciting milestone,” DeGise said. “We ranked number one in tourism industry sales growth out of all of New Jersey’s 21 counties.”
Over the last year, the county opened a new High Tech High School campus in Secaucus, one of a number of expanded county facilities.
“Since 2002, we have increased county facilities of all kinds by nearly one million square feet,” DeGise said. “And in all that space, indoors and out, our people learn, have fun, and get the help they need every day.”
Down the line
DeGise set four major goals to be accomplished by 2023, which include a new County Public Safety Academy; a replacement for The Casino in the Park (a recreation hall in Lincoln County Park); a final closing on the Koppers Koke property which the county has hoped to redevelop for decades; and the construction of a new county court complex in Jersey City.
The Casino in the Park, the centerpiece of the Lincoln County facility which has hosted political and other functions for decades, needs to be upgraded.
Koppers Koke is a property in Kearny along the Hackensack River which was originally slated to be purchased by NJ Transit to accommodate the ARC Tunnel. The sale fell through when then Gov. Christopher Christie cancelled the ARC Tunnel project. The county hopes to get significant revenue from the site.
See you in court
The massive court complex project will include the potential redevelopment of the existing court house site, which would be sold to a private developer to defray the cost of building the new court house.
The project would include street widening and extending Central Avenue to connect with Newark Avenue and improve overall traffic flow in the area.
The historic Brennan Court House at 495 Newark Ave. would remain untouched and would continue to house the county executive and other offices as well as a number of the courts. The new building would take over the courts and other operations currently operating out of the dilapidated 595 Newark Ave. building.
The county has already acquired all the property for the massive project, and the freeholders will soon be presented with architectural options to consider.
The county is proposing to convert the former Youth Detention Center into a police academy, which would allow local municipalities to train their new officers. Jersey City, with the largest police force in the county, has been forced to send police recruits to academies elsewhere in the state.
For updates on this and other stories keep checking www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Al Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org