County Executive Bernard Hartnett helped usher in a new era in the Hudson County Improvement Authority (HCIA) on Feb. 21 by expanding the board from seven to nine members. Hartnett said the board was expanded to help bring more voice to different parts of the county where major projects are underway.
He said in appointing and reappointing the members of the HCIA, he was drawing on remarkable talents to work on perhaps the most important public body in county government
"The HCIA plays a vital role in the developing the county," he said. "When I first came on the job, I made a point of visiting all the mayors. Everyone of them asked me to have a representative on the HCIA."
Although the HCIA was founded in the 1970s to provide management for solid waste, household hazardous waste collection and recycling, its role has grown over the years into providing education programs, transportation management, an affordable housing trust fund, and a pooled loan program.
The last is one of the critical elements that has allowed local government access to the HCIA's ability to leverage large amounts of money, effectively reducing interest rates for municipal loans.
The HCIA was subpoenaed last year in connection with grants given to a waterfront walkway project for a private development in Hoboken. The developer, the Applied Companies, is being probed as part of an investigation into former County Executive Robert Janiszewski.
Currently, the HCIA is helping to fund to major development projects in the county. One is a project in Harrison along the Passaic River waterfront that would bring the Metro Stars soccer team to a stadium there. There also will be development along the riverfront to complement the area near the Performing Arts Center in Newark, and waterfront housing that would double that city's population.
Most of the area currently has unused warehouses, and it will become a residential area. Some of it is currently owned by Hartz Mountain Industries.
The Bayonne project is one of the largest in the county and will encompass an area the size of Hoboken, Hartnett said. It will add a new community with residential and retail buildings and open space.
"This project will provide residents and business people skyline views of Newark Bay, and transform the area into a great place to do business," he said.
Some communities, Hartnett said, had had no vote on the HCIA in the past. "Now they will have more of a voice, as many more municipalities look to the HCIA for assistance," he said.
Hartnett said that by increasing the number of seats on the HCIA from seven to nine, he was able to give Hoboken, Bayonne and Harrison sorely needed representation.
Jersey City, which had three seats, was cut back to two, thanks to an agreement with Mayor Glenn Cunningham.
The appointments were also staggered. This means that the five-year terms of office will not all expire at once.
The re-appointments were: John Shinnick of Secaucus, a Hudson County Community College administrator; John Duffy, North Bergen secretary of schools; James Byrnes of Kearny, a retired Jersey City Battalion fire chief; and Frank Vaccarino, Union City's assistant superintendent of schools.
Shinnick, who also serves as the Director of Human Resources and Communications at Hudson County Community College, was re-elected the HCIA chairman.
New members are Dr. Carolyn Fair, an editor with the Urban Times News weekly newspaper, and retried detective Frank Lorenzo, both of Jersey City; marketing executive and former Harrison Councilman Peter Higgins III; Nicholas Chiaravalloti, executive director of the Bayonne Redevelopment Agency; and Fred Bado, Hoboken's community development director.