Transcript & audio: Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ 2017 state of the city speech | Paterson Times Paterson Times

Transcript & audio: Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ 2017 state of the city speech

By Paterson Times Staff
Published: July 27, 2017

torres-state-of-city-2017

Good afternoon citizens of Paterson, members of the Clergy, Madame Clerk, Council President Ruby Cotton, appointed officials and distinguished members of the Paterson Municipal Council.

Esteemed Cabinet Directors, Division Heads, members of the press and invited guests, thank you for joining us. I would like to express my most sincere ‘thank you,’ to our invited clergy for your inspirational words. Thank you

Reverend Rios and Reverend Kuykendall.

Last year I addressed Paterson’s often remembered gilded, and prosperous past. We spoke of what we envisioned for Paterson at that moment.

Today, I want to talk to you of how we see Paterson moving forward … about our Vision of the Future.

The vision for a city that is moving forward, with programs and initiatives that will help families not have to go through foreclosures;

Of, an Administration that works …. Every … Single … Day, to encourage investment, and economic development opportunities to our City; so that Patersonians can benefit through jobs and a better quality of life;

A City that seeks safer neighborhoods by partnering with our bodegas, small businesses and private enterprises through our successful camera initiatives, “Eyes on Paterson”;

A city that is trying to reach, the police force numbers we once had, and deserve as one of the most important cities in this State; and a city that is doing all these things, while never forgetting its most vulnerable citizens.

In the past months, I had the privilege of holding six town Hall meetings. At these meetings, I had the opportunity of having a frank dialogue with Patersonians from all walks of life …

We spoke about the ills that affect us, as they do many urban cities across the nation. And, we also spoke about the future’ and our road to recuperation. Because for many Patersonian, as I, it hurts us to see young people in the path of danger and incarceration.

Many citizens were grateful for the positive results we have had in the reduction of crime thanks to our Hot-Spot Ordinance.

And, allow me to make a parenthesis and add to this point, that We are not at war with liquor store businesses.

But, the reality is that our neighborhoods, especially those most affected by poverty and disadvantage, need more libraries, pediatrician offices and recreation centers, rather than liquor stores!

We also spoke about our diligent and unwavering attempts to renovate abandoned buildings, and our committed efforts to attract homeowners and businesses to our city.

We informed the public that our state legislation recently allocated $105 million in tax credits for developments in Paterson!

Allow me to thank Madame BA and State Senator Nellie Pou and Assembly members Benjie Wimberly and Shavonda Sumter for sponsoring legislation last year that salvaged $105 million in tax credits.

This is a valuable and very necessary infusion of state funds to our city and we are very grateful to our Legislative representatives.

You know, I often ponder … that if I had told you three and half years ago, that the City would continue to be recognized nationally, for its continued reduction in overall crime, according to crime rate statistics; and that these numbers were the lowest they have been in almost 30 years;

That our Safe Cities initiative marked a turning point in our city’s history because, for the first time, in partnership with John Jay University, the city of Paterson brought together state and county law enforcement communities, key stakeholders and victims,

Who had the opportunity to offer guidance that would point young people in a different direction other than incarceration and violence.

That we commemorated the groundbreaking ceremony for Freedom Village Phase II so that our seniors could enjoy quality housing at an affordable price;

That we cut our overtime spending over the past two fiscal years. During Fiscal year 2015 we spent $5.98 million in overtime and in Fiscal Year 2016 we spent $4.3 million, a $1.6 million-dollar difference!

And, that through our Paterson Multicultural US Citizenship Campaign, we helped over 800 residents through the pathway to citizenship.

Maybe … you might say we set our sights a little too high; but, that’s exactly what we did! Together.

The Mayor’s Office has married 60 couples, we have cut the ribbon in new projects, and through our Office of Constituent Services have helped thousands of residents, with quality of life issues that affect them, as well as help them navigate the often-difficult government system.

My Cabinet, city employees and all those who make up city government are dedicated public servants, on their behalf, and as the City’s Chief Executive Officer, Jam here to report that we are making progress.

BUSINESS ADMINISTRATOR

With the dedicated leadership of our Business Administrator Nellie Pou, and her very capable Division Directors, the city of Paterson successfully negotiated outstanding union contracts, and Reduced the Fiscal Year 2017 tax levy by $5 Million.

This means we were able to reduce it from $154.6 million to $149.2 million, while cutting variable operating costs by 16% across the board and eliminating 60 vacant positions.

And, our Purchasing Department, diligently worked to lower costs by considering Multi-Year Leasing Plans as a means of acquiring Capital Assets, as leasing is a lower cost alternative to straight purchasing.

PUBLIC WORKS

The Department of Public Works is led by the very capable Manny Ojeda.

I am happy to report that through Phase lJ of our Road resurfacing project, dozens of miles of Paterson main transportation arteries, residential streets and smaller streets have been resurfaced in all city wards.

To date, 20 miles of city-wide resurfacing has been completed, with 10 miles of street resurfacing under construction and 13.5 miles pending; and, I am very proud to report that this is an Administration that invests in Parks. Through Community Development Block Grants, we were able to put Federal funds to good use by creating three new parks:

We also added four new sweepers to the DPW fleet in order to better serve and improve street cleaning for our City residents.

Unfortunately, and as I’d mention last year, Paterson like many older, urban areas around the country, has been struggling with the challenge of addressing its combined sewer overflows (CSOs). This system uses one pipe to carry sanitary and storm drainage, so when we are subject to significant precipitation events, the excess water, along with other pollutants are discharged through overflow points in the system to the [Passaic] river.

The city started out with 32 overflow points. Nine have been eliminated, 18 have had netting facilities constructed, and we are seeking funding for one from the State and one is under construction.

It has taken us nearly 15 years and over $40 Million dollars to get to this point and the biggest part of the challenge is still ahead of us because the overall cost of complying with these new mandates will be in the range of $3-5 billion, statewide.

For Paterson alone this is projected to be in the $300 to $400 million-dollar range.

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

Over the past year the Department of Health and Human Services under the very capable leadership of Director Donna Nelson-Ivy continues to provide excellent health care services throughout the region.

In a very successful partnership with the City’s Department of Public Works, a former lab area on the second floor of the Division of Health, was transformed into spacious office spaces, which will be home to the Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey.

Our Division of Health continued to provide excellent health services to the residents and surrounding municipalities.

And, allow me to congratulate Division of Senior Service~ Director Hilda Diaz, and her teams’ unwavering service for the elderly.

Thanks to her proposal for new transportation buses, the City recently received a brand new bus in June of2017, and we expect another bus in the near future. Director Diaz has been consistent and now our seniors will reap the benefits, congratulations.

FIRE DEPARTMENT

Our Fire Department, under the excellent leadership of Fire Chief:Michael Postorino, has become a national model for efficiency.

Sadly, in 2017 the Department identified its 28th Line-of-Duty death with the official Federal acknowledgment of firefighter Scott Rogow, who died as a result of complications from injuries sustained at a fire.

Recently, we lost Firefighter Kerry Rivera, a 13-year member of the Paterson Fire Department.

At this moment, I kindly request that we pause for a minute of silence in their honor.

The Fire Department’s Communications Division Dispatched 43,640 calls for service in 2016, keeping in line with the prior year’s surge in emergencies.

POLICE DEPARTMENT

The Paterson Police Department under the very dependable leadership of our three Deputy Chiefs: Troy Oswald, Heriberto Rodriguez and Mike Baycora, received the prestigious NJ State Association of Chiefs of Police Law Enforcement Accreditation Award.

Led by experienced and regarded Director Jerry Speziale the city of Paterson saw a 71% decline in shootings in the “Hot Spot” areas, and expanded its Community Policing Unit to ensure a continuous and positive police community relationship.

I am very happy to report that in Fiscal Year ’2017 my Administration, increased our police force, with 49 new police officers. This was accomplished through federal hiring grants, at no additional cost to the taxpayer.

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

Under the expert management of Director Barbara McLennon Community Development has put its fiscal house in order, and has made significant quality of life investments to local agencies for public services that benefit low and moderate income persons:

Community Improvement’s CDBG Program also funds the Paterson Homeowner Rehabilitation Program; paid for site-clean up and construction of a Salt Storage Facility and Recycling Center; and provided for park improvement projects.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Under the leadership of Ruben Gomez, the city continues to focus its efforts on helping small businesses grow, encourage investment and strive to reduce barriers to growth.

Over the past year, over 150 minor and major applications for work in four historic districts were reviewed.

I am very happy to report that in partnership with various consultants and government agencies, the City of Paterson awarded construction contracts to begin work on two major projects in the Great Falls Historic District.

Both Hinchliffe Stadium Phase I construction and Overlook Park’s will begin in early August of this year. This work represents $5 Million in rehabilitation and remediation, the first major construction project of this scale in over 25 years!

The City was also awarded $1,000,000 in funding from the NJ Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres program to acquire land along the Ryle Avenue corridor. This blighted land will be converted into public open space as the gateway to the National Park.

And, as well, the City was awarded $100,000 from the Passaic County Open Space and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund for preliminary development of the new, eight-acre Paterson Vistas Park.

The addition of this amount of contiguous open space to Paterson has not occurred since the purchase of East and Westside Parks in the 1890s.

The Community Improvement division, charged with the objective of eliminating blight throughout the vacant and abandoned properties, in the past 12 months has issued 9,131 of building, fire, electrical and building permits.

Has issued 178 licenses, 353 commercial certificates of occupancy and a total of 8,785 UC inspections, and generated $1,768,028. dollars in fines and fees. And Alteration costs were equal to $33,40,497.90 in improvements.

The city’s UEZ has been significantly successful this past year enrolling 73 new members, which accounted for 514 full time employees and 83 part-time employees.

We are very pleased with the city’s Division of Multicultural and Community Affairs led by the energetic Marcia Julian — has helped host nine city-wide events in conjunction with community and neighborhood groups and continues to serve as link between city government and the many communities that make up our city.

As well as with the Division’s Neighborhood Assistance Office; led by Ms. Nancy Grier, which has helped thousands of residents, block associations and families throughout the city.

DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE

Our Finance Department, with Director Marge Cherone at the helm, for the upcoming Fiscal year is working to implement an online tax payment system, so that taxpayers will be able to view their account for billing information while also being able to process payments from the convenience of their own homes.

DEPARTMENT OF LAW

Our Department of Law, with the expert management and vision of Corporation Council Domenick Stampone has made notable achievements.

This year’s focus on “in rem” foreclosures, which seeks to acquire delinquent tax properties rather than selling tax certificates, resulted in the collection of more than $2M in back taxes including $300,000 in interest.

The current state law does not allow our city, because we are not considered a Category I city, to set different operating hours for bars and liquor stores, but a proposed Ordinance questions this preference shown to cities with a population of 150,000.

These antiquated laws are being challenged by our capable Law Department, in order to help our plan to improve our quality life.

The Legal Department has crafted legislation to bar liquor store owners from selling beer and wine after 10 p.m. This is a very important initiative for the city, and will voted on this evening by our Municipal Council.

PARKING AUTHOJUTY

The Parking Authority, under the experienced leadership executive Director Tony Perez, is currently working on Phase III of the Center City Mall expansion for an estimated $140 Million; the Authority is also working on a Ward Street transit oriented project estimated at $36 Million; a lower Market St. parking project estimated at $26 Million and; the Madison Ave. Passaic-Bergen-Hudson Light Rail Station, with a project estimate of $4l Million.

All these projects total a $303 Million investment in our city.

Thank you, Tony, for your diligence and commitment to the city’s economic future.

PATERSON HOUSING AUTHORITY

The Paterson Housing Authority, under the nationally renowned leadership of Ms. Irma Gorham, has had major accomplishments in 2016. Under her leadership the city’s senior community and families have had a champion. The Authority completed the construction of the first 16 units of the 25-unit HOPE VI Homeownership Phase (IV), and also closed on the financing for Parks Crossing on June 30, 20 16 for an additional 63 affordable senior rental units. The revitalization of this area of Governor, Harrison, and Straight Streets is very important and key to the redevelopment of the 4th Ward.

The Authority has leveraged funding for a 63-unit elderly project, to add a 7th Phase to HOPE VI. This would mean an influx of $17.2 Million dollar for this revitalization project. Following the steps of other housing authorities nationally, the Housing Authority has moved away from building large complexes in favor of smaller affordable housing properties.

I am happy to report that the Riverside Terrace Revitalization effort is underway; for a total reconstruction of 259 units, a $28 million investment.

This is very good work, congratulations Ms. Gorham!

LIBRARY

Under the very capable leadership of our acclaimed Librarian Ms. Cindy Czesak the city of Paterson has had many accomplishments.

In the fall of 2016, there was a ribbon cutting at 77 Ellison Street, the Virtual Library, thus offering an additional location for internet access in the City of Paterson.

Thanks to a $50,000 grant from the NJ Department of Labor, the Library was able to hire a Librarian to provide assistance to those looking for jobs, careers or training.

The Library also received an $80,000 grant to offer ESL classes to Paterson residents. Nearly, 150 people have been able to take advantage of this tutoring, enabling them to obtain driver’s licenses, look for jobs and pursue higher education.

I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate Cindy on her well-earned retirement.

It is a major loss, and a sad day for the City of Paterson to see you go, but please know there are deep bonds of affection for you here in this city and in our hearts.

You will be missed as a professional and friend, and we wish you continued success in your future endeavors.

MUSEUM

Jack DeStefano, knowledgeable and proficient director of the Paterson Museum, has worked hard for Paterson’s history to be recognized and memorialized. It received two grants from the Passaic County Cultural & Heritage Commission for special exhibitions; and presented two special exhibitions celebrating Alexander Hamilton and Paterson’s 225th Anniversary funded by the Hamilton Partnership for Paterson.

CLOSING

Our state legislation recently allocated $105 million in tax credits for developments in Paterson. These developments are:

I: The Center City Phase III expansion, which includes 70 thousand sq. foot of new retail, plus a 12,000-seat arena and the Ward Street garage site project.

II. The continued expansion in South Paterson, where we are looking at approximately 25 thousand sq. foot of ground floor commercial space, and an 800-space parking garage for St. Joseph ‘s Regional Medical Center area, along with a mix of residential and retail properties; and

III. The Great Falls National Park area, where we expect to provide the construction of the Visitor Center, parking garage and 50 thousand sq. foot of commercial and market rate housing.

Since I came into office in 2014 we persevered and fought for the possibility of providing energy power through our Great Falls micro grid. We were recently awarded by the NJ Board of Public Utilities a $173,000 dollar grant to conduct a Feasibility study, which will allow us to be ‘black-out-free’ in areas of our city;

In 2016 a regional mass transit network in Norther New Jersey was formed, with a focus on connecting communities in Passaic, Bergen and Hudson counties through the existing aligriment of the New York Susquehanna & Western Railway.

The City of Paterson and County are collaborating on refining the redevelopment vision around this project, which would include a future rail stop based on Madison Avenue Study.

And, in response to the national opioid crisis, and considering that because of it we have lost more lives than in the last three wars. And, because we, as a city, have been stretched to the limit and direly affected by it, we will seek to join other municipalities across the country, in a Class-action suit against opioid-manufacturing pharmaceutical companies for contributing to this crisis, with fraudulent claims of low addiction risks and aggressive marketing.

Moving forward we will also host a seminar for Paterson residents who are facing difficult times and want to save their homes from foreclosure, or are interested in purchasing a home. This is a partnership with the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, NACA, and local realtors.

As well, soon we will be instituting a Customer Service monitoring service, in order to ensure residents, receive prompt and professional service from our personnel.

As Mayor of Paterson, and most specially as a father, it affects me deeply to see shrines raised throughout our city, especially those of young people in the cusp of their youth and with a bright future ahead of them.

I’ve requested my staff review the current state law, and asked our Municipal Council to help me establish a Mural Advisory Committee, for the purpose of starting a city of Paterson mural Art program, similar to that established in the City of Philadelphia.

This program will consider several important aspects: the social practice of public art; the education of public artists and setting visual timelines, and most keenly, will be made up of city residents most affected by these tragedies.

This is a sensitive subject that affects us all, and I am diligently working on finding a remedy, and would like to inform you that our first meeting will be in August.

All, these are important initiatives we will be seeing in the very near future, which propel our city towards a healthier environment, economic progress and prosperity.

In closing we are a city that recently celebrated its 225th Anniversary, how many people can boast that, right?

We have the distinct honor of being founded by the great Alexander Hamilton. As a regional industrial epicenter, we became the birthplace of many ‘firsts’ including, the first steam and electric powered model trains.

After the Civil War, we became the greatest manufacturer of silk in the entire world, thanks to John Ryle’s ingenuity, thus earning our name as the ‘Silk City.’ And we became the center for the fabrication of steel, the place where the submarine and the colt revolver were invented.

We are a fortunate city indeed to have been established by such an extradentary man as Hamilton, who not only envisioned Paterson’s future, but who also had compassionate interest for others having been one of the founding members of the New York Manumission Society, an early abolitionist group created in 1785. Along with his wife and their friends they would later endow a trade school for free blacks.

Therefore, it is this extraordinary brain full of ideas and innovation and a heart full of compassion for others that sets the stage for the kind of city we would become. An industrious city, filled with hard working, and socially conscience people, inventors, entrepreneurs, historians, writers and poets, and many more.

A city built on the ideals of hard work, an ‘Open Doors’ philosophy and of brotherhood. At a personal level, I am honored to work, with such capable professionals and staff.

God has blessed me immensely with the life he’s given me. He has given me a wonderful family. I have drawn strength from a remarkable wife, Sonia, daughters Clarissa, Amanda and Joely and brothers and sisters.

I have drawn strength from an energetic and remarkable cabinet. With, whom I’d like to share the following words, I recall reading not too long ago: “Success always comes at a price.” That is a lesson I learned a long time ago. My father taught me that a person can pay now and play later, or he can play now and pay later.

Either way, he is going to pay.

Creating a climate for potential leaders also requires a leader to pay a price. It begins with personal growth. The leader must examine himself, ask himself the hard questions, and then determine to do the right thing regardless of atmosphere or mood. Emotion-based companies allow the atmosphere to determine the action. Character-based companies allow the action to determine the atmosphere.

I consider you all to be a character-based Cabinet, Professionals and people of conviction … Perpetual learners, who have given the best of themselves for this City … and for this I am deeply grateful.

I have also drawn strength from a remarkable staff, who has shown dedication, a keen focus, intelligence, and humor: Alana, Aracelly, Arsenio, Horatio, Loris, Omar and Patricia —  thank you.

I have drawn strength from living in a city of tolerance, with good people, of all faiths, who do the Lord’s work each and every day.

Who teach us that in a city built by immigrants, we welcome the stranger.

This has been a wonderful year I am optimistic about our city’s future.

Ultimately, this is about something bigger than ourselves. It’s about the citizens of the great City of Paterson — one of the most important cities in the Great State of New Jersey.

Thank you, may God bless you. God bless the great City of Paterson!


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