In a half-hour long speech Wednesday morning mayor Jose “Joey” Torres highlighted a series of tasks he has accomplished since taking office on July 1st.
“It’s been a busy one-hundred days,” said a re-energized Torres. The mayor began by addressing his silence on the shooting death of 14-year-old Nazerah Bugg, who was murdered on September 20th, 2014.
“Rest assured that while my office has been publicly silence on the matter, I was constantly engaged with the police department,” said Torres, speaking before a small crowd of mostly department heads and reporters.
Torres mentioned a 14-percent reduction in crime in the city. And stated he has hired a total 43 new police officers to plug the shortage of manpower at the police department. The mayor also cited the passage of a recent ordinance creating a special class one police force of 50 unarmed police officers.
“These 50 part-time officers will handle quality of life problems, freeing up regular officers to handle serious crimes,” said Torres. The mayor said he also plans deploy mobile precinct units.
Police director Jerry Speziale said, “We’ve deployed one mobile precinct that has been moved between first and fourth and the second wards.”
“We’re going to have a state of the art mobile command,” said Speziale. The director said police will take over the current, almost brand new mobile command, that the fire department has been using; however, that will happen around mid-November, said Speziale.
“That will be deployed throughout the city in hotspots,” said the director. Torres said the police are also opening a sub-station at the old Grand Street fire department office. “That will be a sub-station, a mini-precinct, which will have police personnel,” said Speziale. The director said it will increase police presence in the area.
Torres said he plans to bring the successful re-entry program spearheaded by former governor Jim McGreevey to the city’s 4th Ward.
Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman, said she’s happy the mayor brought the “new entry” as he calls it forward. “Sometimes people don’t like talking about ex-cons,” said Cotton.
Continuing on public safety, Torres called poor roads a major quality of life problem. “The road conditions in this city is one of the three top quality of life issues,” said Torres. “Bad roads, filled with potholes, are a huge deterrent to economic development.”
The mayor said under his administration red tape has been reduced. He cited figures from Community Improvement, the department that issues permits, stating “638 Permits [have been issued] and [city has] collected $488,000 in fees since I’ve taken office.”
Torres said the economic development department has brought in over $90 million in development to the city. Torres cited the recent hotel project by Medical Missions. Torres also took over an initiative pursued by the former mayor Jeffery Jones by stating an IHOP will arrive in downtown in the next year. “We put the finishing touches with T&D Partners to build an IHOP right here in downtown Paterson,” said Torres.
Besides public safety and economic development, Torres mentioned other initiatives his administration has been able to accomplish. He said there are plans to expand the city’s overcrowded Motor Vehicle Commission office to make it a regional office.
Torres also said the new firehouse in McBride Avenue is nearly completed. Fire director Glenn Brown said the building should open mid-November.
The speech appeared more like a pep talk to department heads and to build morale. Torres gave credit to department heads for their work in “getting things done.” The mayor said, “We’ve set the tone of a team that has hit the ground running.”
“I’ve attempted to build a team that represents not only my vision, but the values of Paterson,” said Torres. Yet, team work only seemed to be limited to his subordinates to some degree; only three council members attended the mayor’s speech.
Maritza Davila, councilwoman at-large, said the mayor is moving the city forward. “It was refreshing,” said Anthony Davis, 1st Ward councilman. “We still have a plan and we’re going to move forward with things.”