by Interim Mayor Samson D. Steinman
Thank you Assemblyman Jerry Green and Council President Dave Brown, good evening.
Honored guests, elected and appointed officials, dedicated members of our boards and committees, hardworking city employees, members of our business community, friends in the press and last but certainly not least, the residents of this great City of Rahway.
Nothing brings me more pleasure than to stand here tonight as your Mayor. Although Rahway has quite literally navigated rough waters through our Country’s national recession and some difficult weather events in recent years, I truly believe that our city’s best days are ahead of us. We have a long way to go, but I am confident that we are moving in the right direction.
Take where we sit tonight. We are on the site of the old Hamilton Laundry. Contaminated land that through vision, dedication and strategic partnerships has been transformed into a premier theater, concert and teaching facility with hundreds of performances each year.
This is what Rahway is about. Respecting its rich history and shaping the future. This is what Rahway has always been about. Take a look at the slide before you. They are all Rahway’s own.
Each one of these individuals has a connection to our great city and each one of them can serve as a reminder not only of where we have been but also as a guiding example of the infinite possibilities for the future.
So tonight, I am going to use the help of Rahway’s past residents to tell the story of our future.
Nikola Tesla, despite facing incredible adversity including severe illness, theft, abuse and poverty; Mr. Tesla choose Rahway as his new home to continue his pursuit of life-long learning and technological advancement.
The best way to accomplish a lifetime of learning is to visit the Rahway Library. This year we will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of our library.
Throughout 2014 we will be celebrating the 10 years in service with a series of events starting with an anniversary celebration on March 22. Please come out and join us.
In the pursuit of technological advancement in 2014 we will be upgrading our website and exploring a Rahway application to provide easier access to information for both our residents and our visitors. Providing information is the best way to strengthen our community.
And speaking of strengthening our community, this year we will be launching an AM radio station which can provide critical information in times of emergency. In today’s digital society we are constantly in contact and often have information overload but when it fails, we can be paralyzed.
Many of us found this out the hard way after SuperStorm Sandy, when it took days or even weeks to restore power.
The city is currently in the process of purchasing an antenna and establishing this frequency which will serve to disseminate information in the event of an emergency and provide another outlet of town information at other times. Residents can use battery powered radios or even go out to their cars to receive these updates should we face another situation where we no longer have power. Look for our station frequency in the next few months and tune in to find out important alerts and information about the City of Rahway.
John Frazee, Dory Previn and Kurt Sutler. What do these three artists have in common? You guessed it. They were all born right here in our city. They serve as a reminder of the importance of fostering arts and cultural programs.
Rahway’s major investment in the Arts District is paying dividends. Tonight we declare that no longer are we an emerging district. We are an established Arts District. National endowment for the arts Chairman Rocco Landesman called Rahway “the model for the country on how to use arts as a catalyst for economic development”. Sustainable New Jersey awarded the City of Rahway its innovation award for our pursuit of an Arts District. Rahway is now home to the American Theatre Group, Steven Schwartz of Wicked, Pippin and Godspell fame, the New Jersey Youth Symphony Orchestra from Berkley Heights, American Repertory Company from Princeton, NJ and I am proud to announce that for the next three years Millburn’s Paper Mill Playhouse Summer Camp will call Rahway their home.
Our investment in the arts has been matched by the Geraldine Dodge Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts Our Town and Jazz Masters Programs, EJ Grassmann Trust, Cestone Foundation, Community Foundation of New Jersey and RSI Bank – the greatest supporter of the Arts in Rahway.
I am proud to announce that this year, Rahway will be home to our first ever Fringe Festival. Started in 1947 in Edinburgh Scotland, Fringe Festivals offer the opportunity to showcase a huge array of original material focused on the performing arts over the course of several days. With low production and an open format, these events foster a culture of inclusiveness and offer artists of all types a stage. The New Jersey Fringe Festival will emphasize Rahway as a prime tourism destination for audiences and participants interested in experiencing arts innovation and new forms of artistic expression. A partnership with government, non-profit and for-profit organizations, the Fringe Festival in Rahway will be held from September 25-28 and we hope to see you there.
We also hope to see many of our residents and neighbors in and around town at other events. There will be the Taste of Rahway on April 9 at our Recreation Center, Hot Rods and Harley’s and the Mayor’s 5k Run in May and I am happy to announce that 4th of July Fireworks will once again be hosted right here at home. These are just a few of the many wonderful cultural events to look out for this year.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of our community building efforts for our Senior Citizens. I truly believe that Rahway has some of the most dynamic and interesting seniors who are the backbone of our community and our programming should reflect that. To that end, we will be expanding our tax preparation and computer classes at our Senior Center and introducing movie programs there as well. I am excited to say that in May we will be holding a Senior Prom at our Recreation Center.
I want to take a moment to mention some of Rahway’s artists who are here with us tonight. As you were coming in you may have passed some representatives — Donna Stevenson and Jennie O’Hara from Wine and Design a new business in town where even the most novice among us can take a stab at art. Or you may have met Angela Pryor of Again off the Beaten Path and be sure to take a moment to observe the art on display in the lobby from Mr. Andrew Garcia Phillips of Chartball, right here in Rahway. Congratulations and good luck on your new business ventures in the City of Rahway.
Some of Rahway’s newest stars, Earl Clark, Forward, for the NBA Cleveland Cavaliers and Antonio Garay, NFL Nose Tackle and part of the 2006 NFC Championship team. Both of these men attended our Rahway High School. Kids who participate in sports attend school more, are more community and civic minded, and tend to be more successful in the workplace. It is my goal to ensure that all youth sports in Rahway have a home. This is why I am so proud to announce new improvements in our parks over the next three years.
In just a couple of months we will be re-opening the gym at our Recreation Center. Additionally, I am pleased that through partnerships with the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Rahway School Board of Education, some of whom are in the audience tonight, we will upgrade and improve the playing fields at Rahway River Park, Green Field and the park behind Madison School.
First I want to speak a little bit about our High School Football team. For too long they have been playing at Veterans Field which is subject to severe flooding. It is not fair that our team cannot reliably plan to have home football games which not only serve the football players, but band members, cheerleaders and members of the community. This is what happens to our home field now.
This is why I am thrilled to announce that through a true shared service with our friends at Union County we will be upgrading the current field at Rahway River Park to include turf, an eight lane track, lights, areas for field events, bleachers for five thousand (5,000) spectators, a press box, two team pavilions, a concession stand with bathrooms and fencing. The end result will look something like this.
This will make Rahway River Park one of the premier facilities in the County and give our football, track and soccer teams a home. Additionally, I envision it being home to many County- wide meets and other events. We anticipate ground breaking on this project by the Fall.
On behalf of the City of Rahway I would like to thank the Union County Freeholders for also improving Green Field in front of our Rahway 7th & 8th Grade Academy. As many of our residents know, this is quite a busy park in town and the ability to host more teams and activities will help serve all of our residents.
This plan will turf and light this field which will be lined most likely for soccer, football and rugby. Further, there will be additional parking through a proposed partnership with the Rahway Board of Education. Additionally, they will add a homerun fence for the baseball field and I am asking that they consider putting a T-ball field on the southwestern corner of the park. This project is scheduled to begin next year.
The final cog in our park improvement wheel will be the improvement of the field behind Madison School. For too long our young women have not had a softball field that they can be proud of and 42 years after Title IX was signed into law I think it’s about time we change that. Once again in a true shared service fashion between the city and the Board of Education with a generous grant from the Kids Recreation Trust Fund we will be upgrading that softball field as well as the tennis and basketball courts at that location. It should look something like this.
With these improvements, the City of Rahway will be home to state of the art regulation sized basketball, football, baseball, softball, rugby, soccer and track facilities. I am going to enjoy being the envy of our neighbors.
Again, I want to stop and take a moment to thank the Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Board of Education for their partnership and dedication to these projects.
For the first time in U.S. history, American children are on track to live shorter lives than their parents due to the childhood obesity epidemic. Last year we formed a committee to start planning our city efforts and tonight I am proud to unveil the LiveWell Rahway campaign.
This will start as a year-long effort to encourage our residents to become more aware of their health and take action to improve it. Outside today, I have pledge forms and I encourage each and every one of you to take the Mayor’s Pledge for a Healthy Lifestyle by committing to improve one aspect of your health over the next year. We will send you emails of encouragement along the way and it will all lead up to our annual health fair in October where everyone who successfully completes the challenge will be entered to win prizes and a new outlook on life.
For that reason, you can already see my pledge hanging on the wall and I hope you join me. For those of you watching at home, you can sign up by visiting our city website or by calling or visiting our recreation center at 3 City Hall Plaza or 732-669-3600. And let me take a minute now to recognize the members of the LiveWell Rahway committee who have joined us tonight. Please stand. Thank you for your efforts, I look forward to working with you throughout the year.
Before we end tonight, I have a few additional efforts I want to tell you about.
We will also continue our efforts to fully recover from Superstorm Sandy. As recently as last week our teams were meeting with FEMA and other representatives to get the funding we need to correct past damage and prevent future loss. We have also requested reimbursement from FEMA to repair sidewalks damaged from the storm, so look for those improvements this spring.
Every municipality is unique and must find its own path to redevelopment. Public and private investments have provided a strong foundation for our future.
Several new projects have begun and will open in 2014. These include the development behind City Hall, Merida Waters Edge and Metro at Rahway on Campbell Street.
In addition, there are exciting plans which will begin construction this year. We will finally see the redevelopment of Meridia Lafayette. This project will eliminate a dilapidated block and reinvigorate the surrounding neighborhoods.
We will continue to use the transit-oriented development approach as a model for our city. The easy commute to New York City, the expanding cultural arts, and housing development will bring new residents, vitality and energy to our city.
Finally, I would be remiss in discussing the state of our city without talking about how to finance our initiatives. Since September, City Council and my Administration have advocated and secured over five million dollars from outside sources to improve our parks, to improve our infrastructure, provide recreational programs and workforce training. These sources are State of New Jersey, NFL Snowflake Foundation and the County of Union.
It was once said to “Take pride in how far you’ve come and have faith in how far you can go”. Our great city has so much to be proud of and I have faith that years from now the dedicated and talented students we have seen tonight – our High School Jazz band, our Marine Corps Junior ROTC members, our talent show winners, our NAACP Youth Choir and our High School Musical Theater Class will be more notable faces in the collage of Rahway’s own.
I believe the state of our city is strong. I understand that we still have our challenges but Rahway is not a city of people who rest on our laurels. We stand out among the crowd.
This evening we explored our past and how it set the path for our future. I look forward to building that future, together, with our great residents. Rahway’s own.
Thank you and I hope to see you around town.
Interim Mayor Samson D. Steinman was appointed to complete the term left vacant after Mayor Rick Proctor resigned in September.
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