East Orange mayor delivers State of the City

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EAST ORANGE, NJ — Mayor Ted Green gave his annual State of the City address in the auditorium of the Cicely Tyson Community School of Performing and Fine Arts on May 12, in person for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. After performances from students at the Marie Wildey School of Dance and Tyson’s high school choir, Green was introduced by preschool students from Althea Gibson Academy.

“I am excited about tonight,” Green said when he began his speech. “I am excited about all the wonderful things that we have done and will continue to do here in the city of East Orange.”

He began his speech by saying that he wants to build a diverse, thriving community by blending the best of the past East Orange with the best of the current East Orange, attracting new people to the city while also serving long-term residents.

While addressing public safety, Green said that crime in East Orange has consistently gone down in the last three years. But, even though statistics are trending down, Green wants to reach zero.

“Even if we have only one or two crimes, we are not done until there are zero crimes in the city,” he said. “Since 2017, overall crime is down 10 percent. We were one of the only cities in the state of New Jersey to repeat a reduction in crime in 2022. That’s because of the hard work of the women and men in the East Orange Police Department.

“We learned that 88 percent of residents feel safe during the day, and nearly 82 percent feel safe during the night,” Green continued. “We will not rest until 100 percent of our residents feel safe 24 hours a day here in East Orange.”

The mayor also spoke about use of force and deescalation, saying that he wants to make sure the EOPD knows how to handle an emergency call without it ending in unnecessary force.

“Shooting first and asking questions later should never be an officer’s first move,” Green said. “We want to set an example as the lowest level of misconduct investigations in the entire state. There has been progress.”

Green spoke about housing in East Orange as well.

“Housing in America should never be a privilege,” he said. “It should be a right. That’s what we are fighting for. When I walked in the door in 2018, we had almost 1,000 properties offline. Today we have just under 200 properties offline. All of those (other 800) properties are back on the tax rolls. We see how investors are eyeing our city for the long term. We’re excited to welcome new people to our city.”

In an effort to widen access to homeownership, East Orange hosts monthly homebuyer workshops, providing information to those who have never bought property before. So far there have been 125 participants, who are eligible to receive $25,000 in assistance. There are also assistance programs for residents who already own homes and want to make renovations to them. 

“We’re not pushing people out,” Green said. “We’re pushing people to stay. Right now, redevelopment is at an all-time high. Property values are finally making some longtime residents smile.”

In 2018, according to Green, there were blighted properties that had been abandoned for decades. Residential developments with both market rate and affordable housing have been built that are part of the community. Most of the developers and contractors that have ongoing projects in the city are black, which Green said is important to the community.

“We have several minority and women developers in the city,” he said. “They are working in a male-dominated field right in East Orange. And we’re looking for more.”

Despite the pandemic, which shut down everyday life for most of 2020 and through a lot of 2021, East Orange’s business community continued to grow. Green said 27 new businesses opened in 2020, 37 opened in 2021 and 13 have opened so far in 2022.

“The owners represent the broad diversity of our community,” Green said. “In the last three years, 77 businesses have made their way to this city. We have the potential to be a city where people all over the world want to come and live or own a business.”

He also spoke about code enforcement, parks and recreation, youth programming and the East Orange Public Library. The full speech is available to watch at www.facebook.com/EOCityHall.

“East Orange can be great,” Green said. “Together with the city council and our community partners, we will make East Orange an economic and social model of excellence that will be heard around the world. We are a city built on progress. This is who we are, and this is who we will continue to be.”

Photos Courtesy of John Henry