Doria said Bayonne's future is bright, that the city has made steady advances, and that projects such as the proposed mall on Route 440 and the development of the former Military Ocean Terminal will generate taxes and jobs needed to help keep the city running.
"My role today is to talk about where Bayonne is and where we may be going," Doria said.
In paraphrasing President Abraham Lincoln, Doria said people need to adopt a positive attitude toward the future.
"We need to work in a positive manner; we need to have a positive attitude," Doria said. "We need to make sure that we can work together to succeed. If we don't work together, we cannot achieve the greatness that is our potential for the future."
Bayonne's economy needs to grow, Doria said, and this has been accomplished in a variety of ways.
"Working together with the UEZ (Urban Enterprise Zone) over the last year, we've been able to create 500 new jobs for the people of the city," he said.
This is important, Doria said, because most of the manufacturing jobs of the past are gone, as manufacturing moves out of the region. While Bayonne still has large companies such as IMTT, CSG chemicals and Gordon Paint, many more are no longer in Bayonne.
"We've been able in the last year to attract new industries," Doria said, "such as banks."
Service-oriented jobs are replacing the manufacturing jobs, and are part of the city's economic future, he said. "This is true not only of Bayonne and New Jersey, but of our nation," he said. "We need to move forward in that area. We need to see an expansion of business. Imperial Bags is in the process of adding onto its facility."
Bayonne Golf Club, he said, not only cleaned up a contaminated site to create a tax-paying property in the city, but also provides jobs to local residents.
"Then when you look at the potential for our new Power Center, the shopping mall on Route 440 with more than 350,000 square feet of commercial retail space, and the proposal by ShopRite to build a brand new facility, all of that is a positive thing for the future of Bayonne," Doria said.
Broadway still remains a vital part of the community, Doria said.
"Not many communities have a three-mile-long shopping strip," he said. "Well, there are those who say it's not what it used to be. But none of us are what we used to be. Time changes all of us and Broadway has changed. It's no longer made up of the mom-and-pop stores that were there in the past. It's becoming much more service-oriented."
The vacancy rate along Broadway is less than 10 percent, Doria said.
"That says something about the vibrancy of our community," he said, attributing part of the success to the Town Center Management Corporation, which has helped maintain Broadway. But Doria said this has to be extended beyond the existing blocks.
He said the UEZ program - which allows sales taxes to be returned to the shopping area - has allowed the city to keep those blocks clean and hire police to keep it safe.
More construction than ever
Construction has grown in Bayonne over the last year. For the third consecutive year, new construction has exceeded $50 million. In 2006, Doria said, the city saw $61 million in new construction and renovation.
More and more new homes are being constructed. Two of the three Baker Industry projects are finished, with a third ready to start at the former Hi Hat site uptown. Other projects, such as the St. Mary's project, are also done and a project slated for the Knights of Columbus site is underway.
"We have more than $200 million of upcoming construction projects that have been approved by the boards," Doria said.
Around town, homeowners are fixing up their homes on a steady basis, Doria said.
"For a town like Bayonne, that says something positive," he said. "It says that people are proud of their homes. They want to maintain their homes."
Some of the repairs have been done through Community Development Block Grants to residents who fall within the income guidelines. In 2006, the city gave out more than $1 million in grants. The city gave $307,000 to social organizations for various programs, such as the day nursery or the Police Athletic League recreation programs.
Property values are on the upswing, Doria said. Since 2002, property values in Bayonne have risen by more than 140 percent.
But Doria said the Master Plan Committee - working currently on an update of the city master plan - is concerned about the tearing down of older homes, and is looking for ways to preserve some of the more historic structures.
The city is helping to transform several vacant properties into 17 affordable housing units through the Bayonne Housing Authority, nonprofit groups, and Hudson County.
"Affordable housing is a big issue," Doria said. "In this day and age with housing costs going up, it becomes more and more difficult to find decent housing that is affordable. The city needs to be involved in it."
The Zito housing project off Avenue A is scheduled to open in the spring. The Housing Authority is also working on homes for first-time buyers on Avenue C, which should be available this year.
The city is also continually upgrading and adding to parks and continues to pave the streets in the city. Last year the city filled 1,820 potholes using 258 tons of asphalt, Doria said. The city painted lines on 250 driveways, trimmed several hundred trees, and carried out more than $1 million worth of street paving in 2006, Doria said, paid for by revenues other than local tax revenues. The construction of water parks throughout the city was completed last year.
"We're also working on parking," Doria said. "Parking is a problem. Everybody complains about parking. Nobody can do much about it. Yet the Parking Authority has increased the number of parking lots."
The library parking lot is expected to open shortly, and the city is looking toward uptown for a possible location, although the cost of land is a problem. So is finding a place downtown.
Doria said the pedestrian bridge over the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail tracks will be rebuilt thanks to grant money. Cash has also been allocated through the state to continue the Light Rail from 22nd Street to Eighth Street, where a new rail station will be constructed that is modeled after the historic station that used to be located there.
"This is a $100 million project," Doria said. "The New Jersey Transit Board approved it. The engineering is being done right now, and it ... will be completed by the summer of 2009. This connects the Bergen Point section of Bayonne to the Light Rail. This will improve property values and give people living downtown better transportation options."
The Bayonne Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA) has just completed a new pump station, and is currently working on new water mains to help improve water pressure along the city's east side. The MUA is also seeking ways to eliminate flooding in various areas such as First Street.
"Unfortunately, in the past, homes have been built without realization that the sewers could not handle them," Doria said. "Let me assure you that all new building - before it is approved - is reviewed by the MUA."
The city also faces high costs to meet federal clean-water standards because the city has a combined storm-water and sewerage system.
"This is a very costly situation that we will have to deal with over the next 10 years," Doria said.
The MUA, Doria added, is looking at ways to save money, such as the development of alternate sources of producing energy.
Future of Bayonne hinges on MOTBY development
Redeveloping the former Military Ocean Terminal (MOTBY) is one of the keys to future economic growth in the city, Doria said.
Last year, the Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority (BLRA) designated two developers for a portion of the MOTBY.
"We're very optimistic that by the spring we'll be in the ground," he said. "But there are so many other things going on down at the Peninsula. We're building highways and roads. You can see them coming into shape." Recently, the city got its first highway access permit, a critical permit needed to allow development at the MOTBY to continue. Work also includes stabilizing the shoreline at the base, demolition of old military buildings and the installation of landfill. He said the base once had over 100 buildings and, to date, about 30 have been demolished.
"We have a lot more to take down before development can take place," Doria said.
Meanwhile, he said, the BLRA is renting space on the base to movie companies, the Dry Dock and others generating revenue.
The USS Intrepid is slated to go into the Dry Dock shortly. The facility has also been servicing many military ships involved in operations in Iraq.
Movie filming, other programs
The new "Bourne" movie with Matt Damon is currently being filmed in the MOTBY studios. The cruise port has been a success, with more than 300,000 passengers traveling through Bayonne last year, Doria said. Bayonne is the third busiest cruise port on the east coast, he said.
"In April we will start the first year of year-round sailing out of Bayonne," he said. "That will assure us to keep at number three."
The MOTBY is the site of new soccer fields for local sports programs, as well as a new park. Last year, a monument to the victims of 9/11 was unveiled, as was a monument to the Marines who shipped out from Bayonne to Korea.
The city saw the celebration of the 100th anniversary of its first fire department this year, as well as the opening of the fire museum. The City Council just authorized the use of UEZ money to help hire 12 new firefighters. The city used its new emergency phone system this year. Statistics show crime dropped by 8.4 percent in 2006. The Police Department saw its first police dog this year, and the installation of a new communication system. The school system became the biggest non-utility company provider of electricity on the east coast with the installation of solar panels on the schools. The district also saw additions to two schools as well as the construction of a new P.S. No. 14 - none of which were paid directly by local taxes.
Bayonne has 9,000 students in its school system, up from 6,400 in the mid-1980s. Doria said the average age of a school building is 85 years old - but the district maintains the buildings well and still function.
"I am committed to bring about economic development, stabilize taxes and improve the city's infrastructure," Doria said. "We have an infrastructure that is well-maintained: our buildings, our roads and our parks. We maintain them, but it costs money. We will continue to maintain them. We cannot allow things to fall apart. We also need to maintain the character of our city. We do not want to become like any other city. We want to be what we are, and that's Bayonne."