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South Amboy’s Mayor Fred Henry’s State of the City Address – Local Restaurants’ Cuisines Showcased 4/20/16

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*Photos by Katherine Massopust, Carolyn Maxwell and Camille Tooker

SOUTH AMBOY – Before the start of Mayor Henry’s State of the City, Business Administrator Camille Tooker had a surprise announcement. She stated, “The Mayor will be discussing the progress of the past year and the prospects for the coming year. We will be taking a departure from the usual schedule. We are presenting a Taste of South Amboy featuring samplings of the delicious multicultural food we can experience throughout the town.”

Tooker then introduced Fr. Dennis Weezorak from St. Mary’s Parish who blessed the food.
Mayor Henry started his speech by saying, “I hope you all enjoyed the “Taste of South Amboy.” Please patronize the to please patronize the participating restaurants.”

He acknowledged some of the local County Politicians which were present which included: Asm.John Wisniewski and Craig Coughlin, Freeholder Dir. Ronald Rios, Council President Mickey Gross, Councilwomen Zussette Dato and Christine Noble.

Henry gave his opening statement, “Last year, I closed my remarks with a challenge that we as a City pursue a positive path and do the right thing. We set goals that were in the best interest for the citizens of South Amboy and I’m here today to relate to you the results of those pursuits.”

Henry continued, “ The cornerstone of any town is its infrastructure and it is important to maintain and improve this asset. Two years ago the Department of Transportation (DOT) provided a grant to the City to defer the cost repaving the entire length of Pupek Road which has been completed. A year ago, another grant was received to defray the cost of repaving the entire length of Barkalow Street which will be completed this year. “

Henry spoke about road improvements under the South Amboy Road Improvement Program. The 500 Blocks of the following Streets will be paved: John, Catherine and Lefferts Streets and the lower part of Raritan Street all the way to Main Street.

“Our historical town is over 200 years old, and our century old sewer system requires continuous service. Repairs to lines, manholes and other vital components are essential and are not cheap. We will continue to be vigilant in servicing and securing our sewers. Middlesex Water has invested over $5.1 million into our City’s infrastructure with the RENEW Program which replaces old water pipes throughout the City. In 2016, this program will continue and millions more will be invested in improving the City’s water delivery system.”

Henry recognized the Middlesex County Water Company Representatives which were present. “Mr. Dennis Doll, President and CEO and Bernadette Sohler, who is the VP of Corporate Affairs.”

Henry thanked DPW Superintendent Len Moffa and his team for the great job that they do. Under Moffa’s direction, the City has initiated a 3 year Capital Improvement Plan. This included a major overhaul of the Public Works Building and the replacement and installation of new signage throughout the City. Some of the signs include directions to parking, to the waterfront and other City buildings. Signs will be updated annually if needed.

The Mayor highlighted what was implemented under the Emergency Services Unit:
1.) A purchase of a $850,000 fire truck.
2.) Investing $1.2 million in replacing an antiquated radio communication system to help have the Fire, Police, OEM and First Aid better communicate with each other and other County Services. A Emergency Boat, Trailer, and associated equipment for water related rescues was received from the County Freeholders.
3.) 4 SUV’s will be purchased for the Police Department and 1 SUV for the Fire Department.
Henry thanked Police Chief Darren LaVigne the Police Department along with Fire Chief John Kelly and the Volunteer Fire Department for both departments dedication for the safety and security of the City.

Henry next spoke about the Office of Emergency Management and it’s coordinator, Mark Herdman. “The County Homeland Security Office has chosen South Amboy to be a Pilot City to plan and implement a Citywide response to simulated bioterrorism attacks. We did a simulated train wreck a short time ago. It is unfortunate that we must do these things, but we all know that evil exists in this world and we must prepare. There will be more information forthcoming.”

He thanked the efforts put forth by the City and the County OEM Departments.

Renovations throughout the towns were discussed.
1.) A renovation of an old factory on First Street was converted to studio apartments.
2.) An old building on the corner of Augusta and Feltus Streets will be replaced by an apartment complex.
3.) Near the entrance of the county park, the first phase of Ryan Homes has been completed
4.) Augusta Street – A residential project will begin shortly with a shared parking agreement, bringing much needed parking to the Broadway area.
6.) Lower Main Streets – A mixed use commercial/residential building by Raritan Pointe Project
7.) Woodmont Properties A proposal for constructing luxury apartments opposite the Venetian Health Care Facility has been approved by the Planning Board.

He thanked Steve Santola of Woodmont Properties for his cooperation with the City to bring in this high-end facility and new rateables for the City. “This project, will complete the Southern Waterfront Redevelopment Plan running from Raritan Reach Road to the Woodmont Project encompassing Lighthouse Bay, Shore Gate, Ryan Homes, the YMCA and Venetian Healthcare.”

Henry thanked the Redevelopment Agency, signaling out its Executive Director, Eric Chubenko, the Planning Board, and its former Chair, Mike Wilday, and present Chairman, Bob Paulukiewicz and the present and former Council Members as well as former Mayor John T. O’Leary “. . .who continues to stay involved for the good of the citizens of South Amboy.”

Henry thanked the developers who invested in the City and also Mr. Gamarekian and his sons from Cambridge Pavers who have invested millions in upgrading and improving their facility. They are a responsible neighbor and an active community partner.”

Henry continued, “There has been a change in the Manhattan Beach Project Club located on the former Amboy Aggregates Site. The new builders are now the Matrix Development Group of South Brunswick.”
He introduced the President and Executive Officer Joseph Taylor.

Henry then quoted Warren Philip Gates: “Anyone can launch a new company, but it takes patience, hard work and commitment to make any new project a success.”

Henry continued, “If you substitute the word Ferry for company, you know where this is going. The Ferry is coming. The team of B.A. Tooker, our City Engineer Mark Rasimowicz, Ed Bogan and Frank Farrell of Grotto Engineering and myself have been attending biweekly meetings in Trenton with the Department of Transportation.The Middlesex County Board of Freeholders has improved an agreement to assume the project slated to improve Main Street from Broadway to Bradford Ferry Road. We will receive substantial help from the County as this is a County Road. They will take over that portion of the City Project which will put the City in a better position to dedicate the bulk of the City’s remaining TEA-21 Funding to complete the Ferry Terminal Project.”

Henry thanked Freehold Director Ron Rios, the Freeholder Board for their participation and support for this project.

Henry stated that Potomac Hudson Environmental was chosen to do the following work: the construction engineering and related services associated with remediation work on the former Conrail and Spectraserve sites. The remediation will begin this spring. “While that work is being completed, the City will prepare necessary documentation to advance the terminal design and parking. We are committed to making the Ferry Service a reality.”

Henry mentioned the new businesses that have opened up or are slated to open up soon. “The Shop South Amboy Program will prove to be beneficial to both businesses and residents.”

He thanked the South Amboy Businesses Association President Jorge Gonzalez, the Redevelopment Agency and SABA for supporting this program.

Henry talked enthusiastically about the City’s new Gov-Pilot Program. “Via the web, it will make it easier to access the information such as zoning, tax, and other vital property statistics as well as select City forms, permits and other applications. This will benefit homeowners, residents and investors.”

“I want to thank Tony Gonsalez and all of his great volunteers at the South Amboy Youth Athletic Association for all the work done for our youth programs. ”

Henry stated that the all the Senior programs that we’ve had in the past from the Stevens Center will continue. The local YMCA will expand opportunities for all of our residents and we have made an investment in resurfacing the Sixth Street Tennis Courts. The South Amboy Historical Society will hold its 4th Annual Open House in the Senior Center on Saturday, April 30th. Guest speakers will discuss the railroad and its influence of South Amboy over the years. Old photos, artifacts and much more will be on display. “Anyone with old photos of the City can bring them in to be scanned so that you can help share your part of the history of South Amboy.”

“The Memorial Day Parade will take place on Saturday, May 31st and I encourage all to come out to honor those who made the supreme sacrifice for our country. Come out and show our servicemen and women the respect that they earn and deserve.”

Henry then quoted President John F. Kennedy: “A Nation reveals itself, not only by the men it produces, but also the men it remembers.”

He thanked Mickey Gross and the Parade Committee for another great St. Patrick’s Day Parade. He was happy to announce that Mickey Gross will also chair the South Amboy portion of the Independence Day Fireworks Display in which they will again partner with Perth Amboy on Friday, July 1st (rain date Saturday, July 2nd). He thanked Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz and Perth Amboy’s Chair, Barry Rosengarten.

Henry was happy to announce that Council President Mickey Gross will be honored May 4th by the YMCA with the prestigious Peter J. Barnes Award for Community Work and Volunteerism. “Mickey is very active with Frog Hollow, The South Amboy Library and the YMCA. I would like to thank Elaine Gaber and the Library Board for all they do for our citizens. They host many events throughout the year and are open and free to the public. We will be increasing our library’s allocations to allow for the expansions for programs for young and old alike. We will continue having our street fairs many other related seasonal events. The projects I mentioned require a lot of money. Last year, Moody’s gave us an upgrade in our bond rating and we have had surpluses for the last couple of years. The City’s net worth has grown by over $50 million. Our tax rate will increase by only one cent. We showed a surplus of $1.3 million at the close of 2015. This has been a positive effect on our bond rating and our credit rating. We are a fiscally responsible administration.”

Henry thanked his team which includes B.A. Camille Tooker, CFO Angel Albanese and the City Council. Last but not least, he thanked his secretary and personal GPS Stacey Kennedy. “She is the one who does a great job of keeping me on track and is extremely professional. We are working to create the designated Arts District in South Amboy. This will offer Arts Education, Performances and Wellness Programs to the community and surrounding areas. We want to build South Amboy’s identity and image as an Art’s rich community that includes music, film, performing and visual arts.”

“It’s never easy to run a local government. It’s an ongoing challenge with more goals to achieve, but we are here to work hard for what is right for the citizens. Last year, I said that if we work together and everyone does their job, we will get positive results.”

Henry then quoted JFK: “Things do not happen. Things are made to happen.”

Henry continued, “We have made things happen and I believe that we are on the right path. We will continue to do what is in the best interest of South Amboy and its residents.” He thanked all those present for being here,

In parting Henry, thanked the clergy (Fr. Dennis and Fr. Stan) for their presence. Henry thanked his mother, Ann and all of his relatives who were present, and some who could not be there. He mentioned his father who had passed away 10 years ago and how he believes his father has been watching and guiding him along the way. “I thank him and my mother for giving me a sense of love for my community and the character to do the right thing.”

Henry thanked his wife, Linda for her support and encouragement, letting her know that it is a great comfort to him. He sweetly said to her, “From the bottom of my heart, I thank you and I love you, Mrs. Mayor.”

In conclusion, Henry stated, “May God bless our troops and keep them safe wherever they are serving to protect us. And may God bless America and our great City of South Amboy.”

Mayor with mother and wife carousel

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