BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Unchallenged primary winner Carlos Pomares, a Democrat with no Republican adversary in the November elections, is expected to depart the Bloomfield Township Council on Jan. 1, 2018, to become an Essex County freeholder for the 5th District. The councilman-at-large will represent Bloomfield, Glen Ridge, Montclair, Belleville and Nutley as a freeholder.
But there are several township projects Pomares would like to see under way before he goes. He is finishing the first year of his second consecutive term. He is also employed in New York as the executive director of the Cuban Artists Fund and as an adjunct professor of history and political science at Hudson County Community College.
“Personally, I want the efforts of the arts and culture to continue, especially the Bloomfield Morris Canal Greenway. I never expected it completed in two terms. I want to give it a boost to see it continuing. It’s a multidimensional effort. As freeholder, I’ll do whatever I can.”
Pomares advocated for creation of a canal greenway committee to develop public recreational space along the former route of the Morris Canal. The parkway was constructed on the roadbed of the canal. And the councilman serves as the council liaison to the committee.
“I’m not walking away from the project,” he said. “There is also an opportunity to expand the project. It’s statewide. Hopefully, as freeholder, I can help other Essex County municipalities to identify the effort. Maybe as a freeholder I can share the spotlight.”
Pomares said there is not much effort by Essex County towns, other than Bloomfield, to use remnants of the canal, or its history, as an attraction.
“It’s important to stress that we want other groups to join the effort,” he said. “We don’t want to be the only ones.”
Another step was taken Tuesday, June 13, to create points of interest along the old canal route for pedestrians. Pomares said that he, along with township engineer Paul Lasek and Bloomfield Recreation Department Director Michael Sceurman, planned to visit the intersection of Liberty Avenue and JFK Parkway to determine the logistics for installing the first 25 to 30 Morris Canal Greenway historical signs, which were purchased with a $25,000 state grant matched with $21,000 from the township.
“We’re going to make sure the site is okay,” Pomares said.
A second set of signs are being planned with an additional state grant.
“We’re putting in a lot of signage but it goes through five miles of town,” he said.
The signs, according to Pomares, will have QR, or Quick Response, Codes — square barcodes that can be read by smartphones. By processing the QR Code through the smartphone, an individual can connect to the Morris Canal Greenway website for various visual, and audial, historical information.
“There’s more information than you can put on a sigh,” Pomares said. “The sign is to help you navigate the path of the canal. It connects to the website and relates other points of interest like the Oakeside Cultural Center or the historical district.”
He said the signs were not meant to be isolated from other points of interest. It was hard to tell, he said, but he hoped all the signs would be installed by the time he leaves the council. He said five signs will be installed at a time.
“This is a project of the Bloomfield Morris Canal Greenway and the recreation department,” he said. “It’s not dependent on me. These signs will happen.”
Another project Pomares would like to see started and finished is the mural proposed for the facade of 609-611 Bloomfield Ave., the site of the former Heartbreaker’s Gentlemen’s Club. There were 10 submissions for the painting, and the winner has been selected although not notified as yet. The painting will be of a vintage Bloomfield postcard. Pomares thought the facade lent itself well to a mural.
However, when the mural, at a cost of $1,000, was first proposed several months ago during a council conference session, Township Administrator Matthew Watkins said the building was to be demolished.
“We’re not sure what is going to happen to the building,” Pomares said adding that he did not think it would be demolished this year.
But he said the mural idea may have a life of its own anyway: A business owner offered the side of his building for a mural. Pomares said the Heartbreakers mural should be done by September.
“It’s our building,” he said. “It depends on the schedule of the artist.”
Once he departs from the council, Pomares said he may join a board in Bloomfield.
“My goal as freeholder is to be very engaged,” he said. “I’ve met with other freeholders, to find out what their experiences have been. And I’ve met with the county engineer. I’m doing what I normally do but beyond Bloomfield.”
The Essex County engineer is Sanjeev Varghese. Pomares had spoken to him regarding using county property to connect two sections of the Morris Canal site along JFK Parkway.
As for being a freeholder, he was not sure how much he will be paid but said he had heard between $30,000 and $35,000.
“It’s part-time but you have to dedicate a lot of time if you want to do it right,” he said about being a freeholder. “I’m not doing it for the money. I really enjoy public service. I never grew up wanting to be in public service, but it’s here.”