EAST ORANGE, NJ — East Orange Mayor Ted Green and his leadership team addressed constituent concerns at a citywide community forum in Cicely Tyson School Performing Arts Center on Thursday, Oct. 10.
According to Connie Jackson, the East Orange public information officer, the forum was well attended and included a virtual audience via the city’s official Facebook page livestream. As people entered the venue, they were asked to write their questions on notecards for the question-and-answer segment of the forum.
“Mayor Green demands accountability from his team and I think the overall positive feedback and energy in the room is a reflection of that,” Jackson told the Record-Transcript on Wednesday, Oct. 16. “The community forums are an extension of the mayor’s daily efforts to keep our citizens fully engaged and informed, as we work together to make East Orange stronger.”
From redevelopment, parking and public safety to property maintenance, homelessness and the overall cleanliness of the city, the forum covered a wide range of topics and what the Green administration is doing to improve the quality of life across the city.
“Transparency is critical to the ongoing progress of my administration and I am always eager to hear feedback and address concerns from our residents and community stakeholders,” Green told the Record-Transcript on Monday, Oct. 14. “I never say this is ‘my’ city. This is ‘our’ city and we need everyone to work together to improve the quality of life for everyone who lives, works and plays here.”
Green also talked about his “Mayor on the Block” initiative, which allows him to engage with residents.
“Mayor on the Block has been around since 2017,” said Green in a phone interview on Monday, Oct. 14. “It’s an engagement between the residents and the administration. Instead of people going to City Hall, we bring government to the front door of our residents.”
During the forum. Dan Jennings, the city director of policy, planning and development, shared plans for major development throughout the city, with investments totaling more than $1 billion, including plans to renovate Brick Church Plaza and upgrade the existing ShopRite. He added that the mayor and East Orange City Council have worked to ensure that at least 20 percent of the residential units on Brick Church project would be designated for affordable housing.
Director of Public Safety Dominick Saldida and police Chief Phyllis Bindi ensured residents at the forum that the EOPD is focused on maintaining the city’s decreased crime rate with increased patrols, proactive community policing and intelligence-led data.
“Overall, we know that people are feeling safer in East Orange, but we know there is always more we can do,” said Saldida in a quote sent to the Record-Transcript on Wednesday, Oct. 16. “Our community surveys are a good tool we use regularly to gauge and address resident concerns, but the community forums give us excellent one-on-one feedback about issues that need immediate and direct attention.”
Fire Chief Andre Williams announced that the East Orange Fire Department has received several federal grants, one of which will make East Orange the first city in the nation to launch a smoke alarm campaign for the hearing impaired.
“I am proud to say that, in 2019, we’ve received more than $200,000 in federal and private grant funding to enhance our efforts to protect our East Orange residents,” Williams told the Record-Transcript on Wednesday, Oct. 16. “The city is making significant investments to take advantage of technological advances in firefighting. We are currently updating our equipment with state-of-the-art models, including self-contained breathing apparatus and diesel exhaust extraction systems, both essential to the health and safety of our firefighters.”
Another topic discussed at the meeting was the East Orange Parking Authority’s initiative to create a new comprehensive parking plan that will alleviate longtime parking challenges, such as overnight residential parking, commuter parking and parking permits.
Completing work on the city’s streets was also discussed. With more than $1 million in municipal aid from the New Jersey Department of Transportation reported, the city has begun work on paving some of its most worn streets and curbs throughout the city, including South Burnet Street, Eaton Place, North 18th Street and Tremont Avenue.
The Mayor’s Office of Employment and Training program was also discussed at the meeting. It will be increasing its summer work employment for students by 33 percent, hiring 419 high school and college students in 2019.
The new partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Newark was also touched upon, as it will give eligible senior homeowners funding for critical repairs to their homes.
Finally, it was announced that East Orange has received more than $4 million in federal grants to help protect children and families from lead-based paint and home health hazards.
The mayor also noted at the meeting that it’s important for residents to come out, become involved, help clean up, mentor young people and be a part of moving the city forward.
Photos Courtesy of Connie Jackson