Bayonne has authorized new Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ) projects for this year.
The program was revived by the Urban Enterprise Zone Reform Bill, signed into New Jersey law by the Murphy Administration law, which appropriated $42.5 million in Zone Assistance Funds for UEZs in the Fiscal Year 2022. The program was brought back to full operation after lacking funding for more than a decade, when dedicated funding sources ended in 2011.
“It’s the Fiscal Year 2022 projects,” Law Director Jay Coffey explained in response to questions by former city employee and outspoken resident Gail Godesky.
The City Council passed a resolution authorizing the new projects at its September 21 meeting.
Some projects continue with leftover funds
In response, Godesky asked what projects were specifically authorized by the resolution.
“What are the projects that the UEZ plans for our small businesses these days?” Godesky asked. “We haven’t helped them during COVID except to give some of them some money, but what do we plan on doing for our small businesses by authorizing these UEZ projects?”
City Council President Gary La Pelusa clarified that there have still been some ongoing UEZ projects through COVID-19.
“There’s still some programs going on,” La Pelusa said. “They’re giving monies for awnings. There was a façade program. I’m trying to think of some of the other programs they had.”
“They just had the sidewalk sale,” Chief Financial Officer Donna Mauer said. “In the UEZ it was all shopping.”
In addition to awning, facade, and sidewalk sale programs, La Pelusa noted there was the Farmers Market too. Mauer then explained that these programs were leftover from when the program was fully funded, and that this resolution allows for new programs with the reinstated funding.
Bayonne’s UEZ funded again
“It’s for the continuous UEZ programs that we’ve been doing,” Mauer said. “What happened is, the state re-enacted the UEZ program. So now the council has to approve the projects. They have to be submitted to the state UEZ Board through the same system. They have have to approve them before they release the funding.”
After Mauer mentioned the state UEZ board, Godesky asked about the local UEZ board.
“When I was employed, they hadn’t met,” Godesky said. “They never had any meetings.”
Coffey reiterated that the program had been without funding so the board was not in place: “The UEZ at that point had been essentially defunded by the state.”
Godesky asked how the other programs continued if the state defunded the UEZs. She said: “We were still doing awnings, and we were still doing…”
Coffey then interjected to explain the program continued because the city spread out leftover funds: “We had a remainder of the money.” Mauer confirmed this: “That was leftover money.”
Local UEZ board to be reinstated?
Following that, Godesky again asked about the local UEZ board. In response, Coffey clarified it would need to be seated again.
“I think the board needs to be reactivated at this point,” Coffey said. “It’s got to be reconstituted because the state has now reinvigorated the program.”
Godesky asked if the board should be seated before the projects are approved. Mauer responded that is not the case.
“It’s not required, the council just has to approve it and the state UEZ board will approve the projects,” Mauer said.
Godeksy again asked when the board was going to be reinstated. Officials did not have a solid answer, but said that conversations about that would occur soon.
“I don’t know,” Mauer said. “This is all I know, this just happened.”
“I’ll have that discussion with the Mayor, “ La Pelusa said.
The City Council then voted unanimously to approve the resolution.
Restarting many programs in Bayonne
After the meeting, La Pelusa told the Bayonne Community News that the resolution authorizes new projects in 2022.
“It’s like us saying that we’re authorizing the UEZ to do the projects for the year,” La Pelusa said. “The reason we’re doing this is because it was kind of shut down for the longest time. It’s kind of reopening now, so you’ll see different projects being done, different money.”
La Pelusa reiterated that some projects had remained in effect with leftover funds and would continue to be with the new funding: “Some of them are the same projects they used to do in the past, but it had been kind of dormant. Now, we’ve had money in the account still, so we were able to do some. But now this should generate more money by them adding the tax money in. We should be able to expand the services we’re giving.”
While he did not specify the exact programs that would be resurrected in addition to existing programs, he said that it will likely include projects the UEZ previously undertook in the past.
“There’s a facade program,” La Pelusa said. “There’s some awnings that, we’re allowed to give signage on the awnings and things. The UEZ does a number of other authorization things and stuff like that. There’s a lot of good programs, but it’s kind of like saying we’re restarting them.”
The next meeting of the council is on October 19 at 7 p.m. in the municipal chambers at City Hall at 630 Avenue C. For more information, go to bayonnenj.org.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.