Bloomfield Council Approves BCA Budget, Considers Designation as “Welcoming City”

The Bloomfield council approved a $590k 2017 budget for the Bloomfield Center Alliance at Monday night’s council meeting.

Ollyn Lettman, Director of the BCA, presented the organization’s plans for 2017. He stated the emphasis in the coming year would be on marketing and advertising the businesses in Bloomfield Center, as well as continuing to hold events to promote the area. Lettman cited last year’s successful block party as an event that they would repeat in 2017. He also said the BCA plans to work with store owners to utilize empty storefronts for temporary “pop-up” shops or galleries in order to entice more people to come to the Center.

Lettman said the BCA plans to initiate a Gateway to Bloomfield project at Parkway Exit 148. He said he was thankful for the help of the township, which provided $70k to pursue this project, allowing them to hire a consultant to design the plan.

The BCA is a non-profit organization that manages and promotes the Bloomfield Center business district. The majority of the BCA’s budget comes from a tax assessment on businesses in the Special Improvement District in Bloomfield Center.

Councilman Carlos Pomares thanked Lettman for coming before the mayor and council. He said that as he is the new liaison to the BCA, he would like to suggest that the BCA work closely with various Bloomfield arts and cultural associations (such as the Bloomfield Cultural Commission and the Oakeside Cultural Commission) and look for synergy that may be achieved by working together. Lettman agreed and said he looked forward to Pomares’ help in making those connections.

The Council voted 6-0 to approve the budget. Councilwoman Wartyna Davis was absent.

At the beginning of the meeting, the council made two proclamations, declaring February both Black History Month and American Heart Month.

Municipal Clerk Louise Palagano announced a Green Acres grant had been awarded to the town to help convert the open space at the former Lion Gate site into a park.

During public comment, two residents of Halcyon Park talked about parking issues in their neighborhood. One requested signs indicating permit parking, and the other, Dr. Susana Sotillo, asked the town to designate the neighborhood a no parking zone during snowstorms. Mayor Venezia said he would have the police department check into the situation.

Sotillo also brought up the need for police presence, signage and security cameras at Watsessing Train Station. She pointed out that with 8 new apartment buildings in the area, Watsessing is becoming a popular station, but that it can be a dangerous place after dark. She said residents will not be willing to pay high rent for the apartment buildings if they don’t feel safe. She cited a recent mugging incident and said that many neighbors in Halcyon Park take the train station to Manhattan and are concerned.

Mayor Venezia said that the town has “picked up the police presence” in the area and that they have spoken to New Jersey Transit to make sure they’re doing their job as well.

Moira Nelson, a resident of Carteret Street, asked whether there were plans to declare Bloomfield a sanctuary city, pointing out that Mayor Fulop of Jersey City recently issued an executive order designating Jersey City as a sanctuary city, and said she hoped Bloomfield would follow suit. “I feel I needed to speak out to support those who may be affected,” she said.

Mayor Venezia stated that all towns in New Jersey are considered sanctuary cities, but that the term is very loose. He said the township’s police department is making sure everyone is safe, including immigrants. Venezia said that the council would be considering a designation as a “Welcoming City” at the council conference meeting on February 13, which would be a commitment to support immigrants in a number of ways. Montclair is also being urged by residents to designate itself as a sanctuary city.

The council passed several ordinances on first reading on 6-0 votes, including one establishing a budget cap bank. Township Administrator Matt Watkins said this preserves the funds in the township’s cap bank that have accumulated over the years for use in case an emergency arises.

The council also passed an amended version of the township’s Feral Cat ordinance, which will enable the implementation of a new Trap-Neuter-Return program for outdoor cat colonies.

The council passed several consent resolutions, including:

  • Award of a contract for water system fittings and supplies
  • Approval to submit an application and execute a grant contract with the NJ Department of Transportation for the Watsessing Station Safe Streets Improvement Project
  • Several appointments to the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee (two reappointments, one new member and the council liaison); and
  • Authorization to move forward with the award of a professional service contract to Millennium Strategies as the township grants consultant.

They also approved a resolution appointing Steven Martino as the Assistant Director of Law and two resolutions of support authorizing Sustainable Jersey Grant applications.

The next council meeting will be a conference meeting to be held on Monday, February 13, 2017, at 7 p.m. in the 2nd floor conference room in the Law Enforcement Building.

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