EAST BRUNSWICK – Informing residents about East Brunswick’s past accomplishments, present goals and future plans, Mayor Brad Cohen delivered his annual “State of the Township” address on Jan. 27 during a Township Council meeting.
“This new year of 2020 marks the beginning of a new decade and with that comes dreams, aspirations and excitement for the view of what we call the future,” Cohen said. “In our own little corner of the world, I can feel the buzz of excitement and the anticipation that our future is about to explode. I hope this address gives some clarity to that momentum and a picture of that future with 20/20 vision.”
Cohen said the area for which the township has spent the most time and attention has been redevelopment.
“From the start of my work as your mayor, the township has been working on this important project as the changes to come will redefine our most important commercial corridor for at least the next half-century,” he said. “Laying the groundwork has been time-consuming and tedious, but we are about to hit the gas in 2020.”
Last year, Cohen said, the township was able to accomplish several redevelopment goals that include:
- The submission, review and selection of a developer for the Route 18 properties that go from Ruth Street to Lake Avenue. The area previously housed the Gap, the Wiz and Loehmann’s Plaza.
- The purchase of the former David’s Bridal store and the adjacent properties along Ruth Street.
- Demolition began at 110 Tices Lane, the former Wonder Bread factory.
- Officials declared property next to the Middlesex County Landfill on Edgeboro Road as an area of redevelopment and secured a developer to construct a 500,000-square-foot fulfillment center in the area, which will bring tax revenue to the township.
Cohen said that on Feb. 4, officials will hold a press conference to celebrate the signing of a redevelopment agreement for the Route 18 site.
Cohen explained that the developer has already begun the process to acquire property. This project will be done in phases and will provide a downtown transit oriented development. It will include residential space, commercial space, a hotel, a bus depot/parking deck, a medical arts complex and community space.
The application for the project on 110 Tices Lane has been received by the Planning Department. Officials expect construction to begin in the spring. The area will host residential space, commercial space and the township’s first ice skating/hockey rink.
“Let me start by thanking our wonderful directors as they set the bar very high for the entire staff, and their work ethic is extraordinary,” Cohen said.
The Planning/Engineering/Construction Department, Cohen said, saw four senior members retire last year. Directed by Keith Kipp, the department was quite busy, he said.
Cohen said the township continues to see new businesses coming to East Brunswick, a process that has been occurring over the past three years. He said 2018 saw 94 new businesses, now to be exceeded by 2019, which saw 103.
The 2019 Road Pavement Management Program repaved 4.8 miles of road at a cost of $2 million. Plans for 2020 call for doubling the budget and repaving about 40 township roads.
“The Department of Public Works (DPW) is combined with our Water and Sewer Utility and is managed by Dan Losik,” Cohen said. “The responsibilities of DPW extend to road maintenance, snow and ice removal, solid waste and recycling, storm water maintenance, and repair and maintenance of all township buildings and vehicles.”
Cohen said the township completed its water rate study, which resulted in new rate schedules. He encouraged residents to visit the township’s new website and review the presentation to the council regarding the water rate changes.
The East Brunswick Public Library “launched an initiative with Rutgers University Graduate School of Social Work to have an on-site graduate school intern providing social work services for free. Just for the Health of It continues a relationship with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to provide many health initiatives, all provided through a generous grant,” the mayor said.
Cohen said the library processed almost 10,000 passports and said that is a source of income for the library. The library debuted its Pop-Up Library at the East Brunswick Transportation Center so commuters can now access eBooks and download them to their own devices.
“Last month, Jennifer Podolsky, the library director, announced she will be leaving in February to take a position as the director of the public library in Princeton,” Cohen said. “We wish her success. As the library board starts its search for a new director, Melissa Kuzma, the assistant director, was named interim director until such time that a new director is found.”
With the retirement of the entire command staff, including former Police Chief James Conroy, Cohen said the Department of Public Safety saw the greatest changes in 2019.
“Following the settlement of contracts and the retirements, the department saw 21 promotions to and among the superior officer staff. We hired eight new patrolmen and selected Frank LoSacco as the new chief.
“This was the single greatest number of promotions, retirements and organizational changes in the department’s history and it occurred seamlessly. A debt of gratitude is owed to the retired command staff for preparing these professional men and women for the roles they now serve,” he said.
Bringing attention to some of the township’s newer boards, Cohen said the East Brunswick Arts Coalition (EBAC) helps raise money through private donations and grants to support the township’s Human Relations Council, Historical Society, Arts Commission, museum and Playhouse 22.
“They help to provide funding that would ordinarily need to come from the township budget. Our goal with the EBAC is to never have to say no to a group that has great ideas or programs due to a lack of money,” Cohen said. “This past week, the EBAC awarded stipends to each of the other organizations they support, resulting, in some cases, in a quadrupling of their normal budgets for the year.”
Regarding the Mayor’s Charity Fund, Cohen said the fund was established in 2019 and raised about $75,000 at the first Mayor’s Gala in October.
“As I speak to residents, students, business owners, clergy and visitors to our township, I get a palpable sense of hope and optimism. None of this is done alone. We have a tremendously talented and motivated staff.
“All of these folks are part of a team, but managed under the watchful, protective and skillful eye of Joseph Criscuolo, our township business administrator. My wife reminds me each morning to say, ‘Thank God for Joe.’
“It is an honor to serve the township as your mayor. I do not take that honor for granted and work to earn your continued support. We have accomplished so much, but there still is work to be done. As always, we will do this together and with 20/20 vision,” Cohen said.
Contact Vashti Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org.