County dedicates new DFAB headquarters

Photo Courtesy of Essex County
At the dedication of the new Essex County Division of Family Assistance and Benefits building on July 27 are, from left, Sheriff Armando Fontoura, Freeholder Vice President Wayne Richardson, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr., Freeholder President Brendan Gill, Essex County administrator Robert Jackson, DFAB Director Kecia Burnett, Citizen Services Director Anibal Ramos, NJ State Sen. and Deputy Chief of Staff Teresa Ruiz, Chief of Staff Phil Alagia, and Public Works Director and county engineer Sanjeev Varghese.

NEWARK, NJ — Essex County officially dedicated the new Essex County Division of Family Assistance and Benefits — formerly the Division of Welfare — at 320 and 321 University Ave. in Newark on Monday, July 27. The 150,000 square feet of renovated office space provides employees and clients with modern and more welcoming accommodations. 

“We are always looking at initiatives to improve upon our delivery of services to our customers and save taxpayers money,” Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. said. “Consolidating our DFAB operations in one location provides a comprehensive and accessible one-stop center for those receiving public assistance and enhances the efficiency of our operations. In addition, with the county purchasing the former bank buildings, we will save about $6 million a year in rent previously being paid to lease space at 18 Rector St. This is a win-win for both our customers and employees who now have modern spaces to conduct their business.”

“The constituents who come to these offices are in need of assistance and this is a place where we can serve them with dignity and respect,” NJ State Sen. and Essex County Deputy Chief of Staff Teresa Ruiz said.

“I want to congratulate our county executive for completing another project that will better serve our residents. On behalf of the freeholder board, it is easy for us to support projects like this because of the positive impact it has one our residents” Freeholder President Brendan Gill said.

“To see this transformation and transition happen within a year and during the pandemic is outstanding. Our clients will have state-of-the-art facilities when they come to receive services and our staff who work here will have new offices they deserve,” Essex County Citizen Services Director Anibal Ramos said.

“I want to thank Joe DiVincenzo and the Board of Freeholders for all their support on this project so that we can help constituents in Essex County,” Essex County DFAB Director Kecia Burnett said.

Staff began moving into the new buildings in May and operations switched to 320-321 University Ave. on Tuesday, May 26. DFAB offices at 18 Rector St., the Essex County Hall of Records at 465 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Newark, and the Essex County One-Stop Center at 50 South Clinton St. in East Orange were consolidated to 320-321 University Ave. The DFAB call center remains at 50 South Clinton St.

The complex at 320-321 University Ave. also includes an underground parking garage, an aboveground parking garage and surface parking lot that can accommodate a total of 446 vehicles. Acquiring these parking spaces will save Essex County from having to lease parking spaces for employees in private parking lots.

Essex County purchased the two buildings that are connected by a walkway bridge over University Avenue for $26 million in August 2019. Located in Newark’s downtown, 320-321 University Ave. is just across the street from the Essex County Courthouse. The building is accessible by NJ Transit.

At 19 years old, 320-321 University Ave. is a relatively new building. However, the layout of the floors was retrofitted to accommodate the offices and work flow of DFAB. Flooring, HVAC and electrical systems also were modernized. Work began in August 2019 and was completed in 10 months, which was two months ahead of schedule.

Aecom from Clifton received a professional services contract for $650,000 to design the improvements to the building. John O’Hara Company from East Orange was awarded a publicly bid contract for $15,002,802 to perform the construction work. The Department of Public Works monitored the project to ensure delays were avoided.

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