Reverend Clergy, Justice Garibaldi, Members
of Congress, State Legislators, Members of the Board of Chosen Freeholders,
County Officials, Mayors and Council Members, Commissioners, other elected
officials, family and friends: On behalf of Beth and I, and on behalf of
County Surrogate Donald DeLeo, Freeholders
Bill O'Dea and newly elected Freeholders
and Brian Stack,
and in the name of the official family of Hudson County, I welcome you. And
to Freeholders Dugan, Liggio and Stack, let me say I am confident in your
leadership abilities and look forward to working with you in the years to
come. Welcome to the Brennan Courthouse. Welcome to this celebration of our
community and our Democracy. And welcome to the dawn of the new century, and
the new millennium. We gather today in this historic building, named in
honor of one of our most distinguished United States Supreme Court Justices
- William Brennan, who served in this very building nearly fifty years ago.
When Bill Brennan began his service here, Hudson County - and New Jersey -
was a very different place in many ways. Since then, we have been a part of
history. We have lived through war. Many of us saw the Berlin wall go up,
and we all witnessed the Berlin Wall come down. We watched the Civil Rights
movement fight for equal opportunity for all. We witnessed the
assassinations of several distinguished leaders of our generation - John and
Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Anwar Sadat and Yitzhak Rabin, just to
name a few. We witnessed the fall of the Soviet Empire and watched Communism
crumble and democracy and freedom prevail. We put a man on the moon, and
watched as the Challenger exploded in the sky. Within the 46 square miles we
call home, Hudson County has been and continues to be a gateway to the land
of opportunity and prosperity for millions of immigrant families, including
my own, and, no doubt, many of yours as well. Hudson County was – and is – a
community of tremendous diversity, but clearly, one of shared goals and hope
in the future.
Earlier this week, we all experienced a special moment in history as we
entered the new millennium. Throughout time, very few people have witnessed
such a momentous occasion, and it gives us the opportunity to reflect on
what this change means, and how rapidly change occurs. While it is easy to
say that it is just a new date on a calendar, it signifies so much more. The
new millennium offers us all an opportunity to change focus - to make a
fresh start. It reminds us that time does not stand still, and if we are
going to be a part of history, we must act now. As John F. Kennedy pressed,
"Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present
are certain to miss the future." We must look to the future or be swept
aside. An ancient Chinese wish says, 'May you live in interesting times'.
This, the last decade of the 20th Century, has certainly been "interesting
times." In the last 10 years, we have witnessed the most dramatic
transformation of our nation and our county since the industrial revolution
of the 19th Century. Globally, the Information Age has increased the pace of
change and challenged our institutions in ways that could not be foreseen
just a decade ago. Our ability to compete and our ability to cope have been
severely challenged and, at the same time, we have been given an opportunity
- rarely found - to make a real difference in securing a better future for
our children and for our communities. In fact, this work has already begun –
and all of you are a part of it.
On January 1st, President Clinton underscored the theme for the Millennium
Celebration "Honor the Past ... Imagine the Future". Let me take this
opportunity to honor those who made their contributions in the past decade
and who helped all of us in the progress made so far. Former Mayors Tony
DeFino, Bruce Walter, Frank Rodgers, Paul Amico, Tony Just, Stanley Iacono,
Tony Cucci, Dennis Collins, Rich Rutkowski, Pat Pasculli, Gerry McCann, Tom
Vezzetti, Dan Sansone, Tony DiVincent, Leo Gatonni, Nick Cicco, Pete
McIntyre, Leo Vartan, Ken Lindenfelser, William O'Donnell and Peter LaVilla.
Former legislators Chris Jackman, Lou Romano and Tom Cowan. Former
Freeholders Marilyn Roman, Lou Manzo, Hank Gallo, Frank Pizzuta, Ken Blane,
Anne O'Malley, Sam Kaye, Phil Connelly, Bob Drashef, Alex Locatelli, Mario
Hernandez, Angelo Cifelli and former Congressman Frank Guarini. I thank them
for their efforts at the close of the last century.
While we may not have always agreed on one issue or another, each of these
men and women labored long and hard on behalf of the people they served. I
want to make special mention of those who leave office this month - those
who were and are a big part of the success story that is Hudson County
today. Freeholders Vince Ascolese, Neil Carroll and Neftail Cruz, and
Assemblyman Lou Romano - each of you has given much to your constituents
through your service and I thank you on their behalf and on behalf of
generations yet to come. And I would be remiss if I did not give a personal
thank you to Justice Garibaldi, who will soon begin a well-deserved
retirement. For more than 17 years, you have brought pride and distinction
to the Supreme Court, and the Court will not be the same without you. In
1988, you launched this administration, and have shared every success with
us along the way. Thank you for being there, and, just as importantly, thank
you for being here today. And let me extend a heartfelt thank you to those
who serve Hudson County and our municipalities today, and who, along with
those taking the oath of office tonight, will lead Hudson County into the
new millennium. Mayor and Assemblyman Joseph Doria, Mayors Joseph Smith,
Robert Sabello, Ray McDonough, Anthony Russo, Bret Schundler, Alberto
Santos, Mayor and Senator Nicholas Sacco, Mayor Dennis Elwell, Mayor and
Assemblyman Rudy Garcia, Mayor Richard Turner and Mayor and newly elected
Assemblyman Albio Sires; State Senators Edward O'Connor and Bernie Kenny,
Assemblymembers Joseph Charles, Anthony Impreveduto, and Joan Quigley. We
have a great future ahead of us, and together, we can accomplish all our
Just 12 years ago, I stood in this very chamber and took the oath of office
for the first time. Students enrolled in the Hudson County Community College
last September were 1st graders then. Freshmen at the Hudson County Schools
of Technology were infants. Our parks and roads were crumbling, our schools
ailing, our unemployment and welfare rolls swelling, our jails dangerously
overcrowded, and our bureaucracy bloated. We were in desperate need of a new
energy and a new vision - not of the Hudson County of the past, but of a
Hudson County of the new century. Not what Hudson County was, but what it
could be. Change did not come easily, nor overnight, but change we did and
the results are evident and abundant.
Our waterfront - the Gold Coast - has been transformed, attracting
high-profile firms Merrill Lynch, Dean Witter, Paine Webber, Bankers Trust
and now Goldman Sachs.
We've rebuilt every County park, and added the first new park, Laurel Hill
in Secaucus, to our neighborhoods in 80 years. Our Affordable Housing Trust
Fund has financed the construction of more than 2,000 units of affordable
housing, far more units than any other county in the state.
Where we used to have blighted abandoned factories, we now have sprawling
market-rate residential developments. Where we used to have an education
system in shambles, with declining registration and inadequate programs, we
now have high schools dedicated to technology programs and the fastest
growing community college in the state. And where we used to have a soaring
unemployment rate due to a lack of qualified candidates and jobs that pay a
living wage, we now have well-trained employees and nearly enough jobs for
them to fill.
We have reduced our welfare rolls by more than 50% to a 30-year low. Our
crime rate has dropped more than 29% since 1990; the lowest point in a
generation, leading the state in crime decline. Building permits in Hudson
are five times the state average. New housing construction is growing at an
average of some 20% a year, outpacing the rest of New Jersey by a 10-1
ratio. And, we lead the state in the construction of commercial office
space. In fact, the Eagleton Poll last month reports that the rebirth of
Hudson County ranks amongst the state's top success stories of the last
decade. Elections are a choice, and the 1999 elections were no different.
Our voters made a choice on Election Day - they chose a county government
and a egislative delegation who have labored on their behalf and have
brought them through difficult times - a body of people who have a depth of
commitment to community and to our continued progress. Of this, I am very
proud. Any election is about two very important issues - past performance
and a vision for the future. While the past cannot be altered, the future is
a choice we can and should make together. Imagine what our future can be.
During the 1999 campaign, I was often asked, "What's next?"
After 12 years in office, it's a reasonable
question. Will we choose the comfort and complacency of more of the same?
Or, should we challenge ourselves to ever better performance, ever greater
progress, and to reach for the future with optimism and confidence?
So, rather than a recital of accomplishments of the unchanging past - a
practice of mine familiar to all of you, I thought I would take this
opportunity to answer that important question - What's Next? And in
addressing this question, I will focus on three areas of emphasis:
education, quality of life and economic opportunity.
For the past few years, I have stood before you and stressed that our largest
accomplishment has been in education, and this is no less the case this year.
The Schools of Technology, Hudson County's secondary schools, are thriving.
Enrollment and test scores are up, and our students want to learn. We have truly
reinvented Hudson County's education system. The United Negro College Fund's
theme is, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste," and it surely is, especially in
the century to come. I can't think of any comment closer to the truth. The best
way, indeed the only way, to prepare for the changes America and the world are
about to face is through education. Our children deserve a top-notch, diverse
education which will prepare them for adulthood.
The Schools of Technology, born a mere 5 years ago, is well on its way to
becoming the school of choice. Our High Tech High School, County Prep and
Explore 2000 Middle School are recruiting Hudson's top students in record
numbers. In fact, enrollment is up 40% since 1996.
And, the demand for our adult programs at the Schools continues to outpace
capacity. Last June, we graduated more than 400 adults, the largest class for
the Schools yet, and, I might add, the largest ever from an Adult High School in
the entire state.
Through a cooperative public/private partnership with Bell Atlantic, we have
created an interactive network at the Schools of Technology, affording even more
students access and opportunity for education and skills acquisition. This
interactive television network links the Schools with 4 colleges in Hudson, and
every high school in our 12 municipalities.
And the Schools of Technology have achieved all this without increasing the
County tax levy in the past three years. Now that's responsible government.
So, what's next?
Building on our successful model of "schools within a school," I will recommend
to this Board and to our communities that we recognize the challenge we face and
the growing waiting lists of students - both school age and adults - which have
accumulated over the past 3 years and that we act. I will call upon you to
commit to a dramatic increase in our award-winning Hudson County Schools of
Technology - its classrooms, its offerings, including a school for the
performing arts, and it's excellence. We should not, indeed, we cannot, respond
with indifference or with "more of the same" to those thousands of students
seeking the skills which will be required in the century ahead, by saying there
is no more room at the Inn.
Instead, we need to build a larger Inn, equip our facilities with the best
teachers and equipment, connect it all to the Internet, and share our successes
with every school in Hudson County through our inter-active system.
I will also ask the Schools of Technology Board of Trustees to begin this
process this year by incorporating a feasibility study into their budget. And, I
will ask the Board of School Estimate and this Board of Freeholders to approve
this first investment in our future.
Hudson County also has a success story on the college level. The Hudson County
Community College has grown from a neglected institution into a sprawling,
comprehensive urban community college. President Gabert and the Board of
Trustees have devoted countless hours to the school and its students, and I
commend them for their dedication.
Their efforts have helped the Community College become the fastest growing
institution of higher education in all of New Jersey, and for that they should
be very proud.
In addition to this achievement, they have also boosted enrollment to record
levels, opened new academic buildings like the Joseph Cundari Center on Bergen
Avenue, and added more programs to the curriculum. Hudson County Community
College has become a viable open access and affordable option for our residents
who are serious about furthering their education, upgrading their skills or
launching a new career.
So, what's next?
This year, working in partnership with the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency and
Planning Board, the College Trustees and Administration, and this Board of
Freeholders, we will forge an agreement and finally launch the largest single
campus expansion project in the history of our Community College at Journal
Square. This $20 million investment will not only more than double our college
capacity, but will also leverage another $80 million in private investment
dollars, and will reshape both the face and the future of Journal Square - the
transportation hub of our County and an inner city neighborhood and shopping
district that needs a second chance. This project will make that dream come
Once underway, I will ask the college trustees to complete their search for the
permanent site of the college's North Hudson Center - centrally located and
accessible to our northern multi-lingual community. The current facility is
obsolete and hopelessly overcrowded. If we wish to continue our commitment to
open and affordable educational opportunity for all residents, regardless of
race, color, creed or language spoken at home, this step must be taken, and
Educating our children and adults is the only way to prepare them for the
future. They must have the skills to compete, and, after a decade's hard work,
they can now get these skills here in Hudson County and improve their quality of
Quality of Life
Quality of life is difficult to define, but certainly includes recreational
space, transportation improvements and options, housing opportunities and health
care, just to name a few. Each of these has been and should continue to be a
primary focus of our community-based agenda for the coming term.
As you know, working together, we have rebuilt every park in the County, and we
have added to our open space, in the midst of the most urban county in New
Jersey, by building the first new county park- Laurel Hill Park in Secaucus - in
80 years. Still, our residents continue to be short-changed in recreational
space and options in our county. The Parks Master Plan, adopted by the Board of
Freeholders last year, points the way to a better environment and a better
So, what's next?
Just last week - and without press fanfare - US Secretary of the Interior Bruce
Babbitt visited Hudson County. He and his senior staff toured the western
section of Lincoln Park with an eye toward funding that would empower us to
transform the abandoned landscape into a passive environment center and an
active park as well. Later this year, I will seek approval of the Board to begin
this project, once again funded by a proposed $6 million grant from both the
state and federal governments and coordinated with the Bay Keeper, the River
Keeper, and our environmental partners.
In addition, I will seek funding for a substantial expansion of our new park at
Laurel Hill. This asset, with its boat launch ramp and new canoe availability,
has provided access to the Hackensack River for residents of Hudson County for
the first time in generations. And, I will recommend that the Board adopt a
resolution in support of an initiative which will designate the Hackensack
Meadowlands as a federal environmental preserve, protecting this magnificent
environment in the heart of our urban center for future generations.
As you know, I have called for the completion of the Hudson River Walkway over
the past six months. I am happy to report the meetings with officials
representing our riverfront communities and property owners have proven
fruitful. Currently, we are working on an agreement between Hudson County and
the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection which will designate
Hudson County as the lead agency for implementing new open space initiatives,
including our walkway - a unique linear park on the banks of the Hudson River.
Given the extraordinary level of positive partnership surrounding this plan, I
expect to bring a proposed agreement to this Board for review and approval
during the Spring of this year.
On the transportation side, we will have an exciting year indeed. Within 90
days, the dream of a decade and more will become a reality. The dawn of the new
century will welcome the largest single public works project in state history -
the $1.3 billion Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, linking our communities and planting
seeds of renewal at each and every station along the way. Not only do we welcome
the advent of this transportation asset, but we also commit ourselves to the
second and potentially third phase of the program. This is a breakthrough
project which will help define our county for the next hundred years and add to
our economic opportunity in ways that have yet to be imagined. Imagine the
future -- Roadways that will receive necessary attention in the coming year
include River Road in West New York and North Bergen, the 15th Street extension
in Hoboken, and the triple benefit of the long-awaited over-passes at Secaucus
Road, Paterson Plank Road, and at 69th Street in North Bergen.
In combination with the Kearny Connection already in service, the Secaucus
Transfer under construction, the re-design of the Tonnelle Avenue circle, and
the Light Rail, more than $2 billion has been committed toward unlocking
gridlock, improving traffic flow, providing inter-modal transportation assets to
our landscape and improving our air quality.
There is no place in this state as committed to the right to safe, clean, and
affordable housing than Hudson County. This past October we reached the goal we
set 7 years ago. That goal, to build 2000 units of affordable housing not only
has been met, but has been exceeded. I am proud to say that more affordable
housing has been built in Hudson County that in any other county in New Jersey
through our efforts, particularly Susan Mearns, in partnership with the
non-profit community and private housing developers. The numerous awards won by
our Trust Fund, working in combination with the federal HOME grant program,
State Balanced Housing program, and leveraged with federal tax credits, are
making a difference in the lives of our residents and can be found in every
municipality in our county. Still, we must do more. Our current housing market
is still short some 12,000 affordable units and we must re-double our effort in
the months ahead.
Health Care for children is another challenge we must face. Just one year ago,
we launched "Hudson Cares For Kids." This aggressive program aimed at enrolling
some 20,000 eligible kids throughout Hudson County has made great strides. In
fact, since this effort began and in cooperation with dozens of non-profits and
every Board of Education in our towns, I am proud to announce that we have
increased enrollment from 1,100 to more than 5,058. Although this 460% increase
is indeed impressive, we cannot be satisfied until each child in need of health
care is enrolled and each family protected.
With every passing day, more children are needlessly at risk of an unattended
illness and more families risk their fragile economic status to pay those
uninsured and unmanageable medical bills, and that's just wrong. I pledge to you
that this effort will succeed, because it must succeed. I will again be seeking
approval from this Board to continue this effort, an effort to save our
As you all know, Hudson County is in the midst of a transformation that has
not been experienced since the Industrial Revolution of a century ago. You
and I are presently charged with the stewardship of the hottest piece of
real estate in New Jersey. A few years ago, Kevin Costner's "Field of
Dreams" popularized the phrase, "build it and they will come." Though part
of a fictional movie, this phrase might very well be the reality we have
experienced during the past 5 years. Though defying logic, not to mention
the bedrock theory of the certainty of economic cycles, it seems our current
boom has no end in sight. Our job is to encourage others to join in our
unprecedented growth and become part of Hudson County history. And, to take
the necessary steps to be sure our residents are prepared and equipped to
take advantage of the new jobs growing in our landscape.
With financial, media, and high-tech companies locating and growing in our
county, there is new demand for qualified employees. Given the hot real
estate market, construction and tradespeople are in demand. And, with
increasing population and the strains on our present infrastructure, there
are multiplying opportunities in the service industries. Taken together, it
is estimated that we will need an additional 20,000 qualified workers in the
next 5 years alone. We must do more to prepare Hudson County's residents for
these jobs. And we have already begun to respond to this challenge.
When the bus companies that operate in Hudson told Freeholders Neil Carroll
and Bill Braker about how the lack of bus drivers was hurting their
business, we set up a program for residents to obtain their commercial
When 21st Century Rail needed tileworkers to complete the Hudson Bergen
Light Rail stations, we joined hands with Tileworkers union and trained
residents for these positions.
And when local restaurants told us they didn't have enough qualified chefs,
we expanded the culinary program at the Hudson County Community College,
which has turned into such a popular program that most students are offered
jobs even before they graduate.
These are good examples of customized training and responding to the needs
defined by our growing economy. But, it is just the beginning. This spring,
I will call together leaders in our training programs and our education
institutions along with our planners and the Hudson County Chamber of
Commerce to craft a new strategy to meet the new demands of the new Hudson
So, what's next?
Armed with a new Strategic Revitalization Plan adopted by this Board and the
NJ State Planning Board just last year - the only county-wide adopted plan
in NJ - we have the framework for sustainable growth in the years ahead.
Soon, we will begin the operation of the Office of Strategic Revitalization
to carry out the goals of the plan and to help our municipalities gain the
financial support and grant dollars they will need to make their own plans
for the future a reality for their residents and our constituents. This
office has the responsibility to keep Hudson County on track and to advance
the day that all of our goals are realized. The map has been drawn, the
groundwork laid and the next few years will see our neighborhoods uplifted
and infused with both hope and opportunity.
The Office of Strategic Revitalization will focus on 2 specific areas: the
Light Rail, which will give us "strategic economic centers" at each station.
Each station will provide economic power and vitality by creating
opportunities for small businesses, developing previously neglected real
estate and by creating jobs for our residents; and brownfields, long
abandoned and unproductive, will be assessed, resources for clean-up
committed, and sites aggressively marketed - all with grant dollars, in
order to recycle these assets back into productive use as ratables for our
communities and as job centers for our residents. This year, we will double
- from 4 to 8 - the number of municipalities targeted for this assistance.
From the beginning, this administration dedicated itself to fulfilling the
pledge I made when I first took office in this very chamber 12 years ago; to
grow our economy and create opportunity for our residents; to better educate
our young people and train our adults for the jobs of the new millennium;
and, to provide for the basic needs of our community. Over these 12 years,
we have worked together hand-in-hand to make this pledge a reality. Much
progress has been made, but more needs to be done. I thank all of you who
have been so much a part of this growing success story - especially our
Mayors, our Legislators, our US Senators and our Congressional Members. All
of you have contributed greatly to our community. To my Administrators, my
Chiefs of Staff, and my Directors - Department and Division heads, each of
you have given much and performed well. And a special thank you to someone
who is very dear to me. Someone who has shared it all - the good days and
the bad; the challenges; the successes and the failures. A person who has
worked as hard as anyone I know in advancing the cause of Hudson County -
Beth Janiszewski. She has been there every step along the way, and I want to
thank you for all of the faith and hard work you have given on behalf of all
By accident of birth, happenstance of history, and through commitment and
hard work, each of us has been given the unique opportunity to lead Hudson
County into the new millennium. With thanks to all of those who have gone
before, we accept this challenge with both compassion and commitment. We are
the architects of the 21st Century and the choices we make today will be
Hudson's legacy tomorrow. The decisions we reach together will shape and
form the foundation for a new generation of Hudson's residents- our children
and their children as well. I take this responsibility seriously and welcome
the opportunity to serve. When people look back on this day 100 years from
now, let it be said that in the 21st Century our children learned more,
accomplished more and reached higher because of the work we did here. Let it
be said that our diverse communities lived better and prospered further
because of the foundations we laid today. And, let it be said that we
planned well, and set the stage for managed and sensible growth that served
our communities at the dawn of this, the Information Age.
Just a few moments ago, I took the oath of office for my 4th term as your
County Executive. More than a millennium ago, the ancient Athenian
city-state instituted another oath to be taken by those in service to the
public. The oath concludes, "We will transmit this city not only not less,
but greater, better and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us." Let
each of us today take this ancient sacred oath to heart as our own
commitment to the future, to our people, and to generations yet unborn. A
commitment to excellence, to service, and a pledge to our children, our
grandchildren and their children that our gift to the future will be to
transmit into their hands a Hudson County better for our having been here,
brighter in prospects through our efforts, and prepared for their successes
in the decades to come through our caring intercession.
Some may view the agenda I outlined today overly ambitious. I view it as
progressive and, more importantly, necessary for the well-being of our
people. And, no matter how aggressive it may seem, we will succeed if we
have the faith that we can, the commitment to do so, and the will to make it
happen. Winning, whether in the last century or in this century, begins with
one's own belief and confidence that we can. I tell you today that we can,
and with your help, we will open a gateway to Hudson County's future,
building on our heritage, treasuring our history, and shaping a new
Thank you, God Bless, and a Happy New Year!