By Ron Leir
NORTH ARLINGTON –
Redevelopment of the borough’s meadowlands acreage will be “the first priority” of the incoming administration of Republican Mayor-elect Joseph Bianchi.
In a recent interview with The Observer, Bianchi – who, along with his Borough Council running mates, defeated the Democratic team led by incumbent Mayor Peter Massa in the municipal election Nov. 4 – said he’d like to take a cue from the borough’s southern neighbor Kearny in Hudson County.
“I’ve been very impressed with the way Kearny is developing their portion of the meadows district off Rt. 7 and elsewhere and I’d like to see development on our 50 acres of meadows,” he said.
There has been some activity already, with the new owner of the old Bergen County Utilities Authority property having leased the facility to PSE&G to use as an equipment storage site and staging area for upgrades to its regional high tension wires. But to stir more interest in the area by prospective investors and job creation, Bianchi said he intends to revive a municipal redevelopment board and hire a “specialist who knows the meadowlands and how to market our properties.”
The board that he envisions would have eight members – appointed by the mayor with consent of the Borough Council – “from all walks of life.” Bianchi said he would look to these board members – all of whom would serve as volunteers – and the “part-time” specialist – who would receive a “small stipend, maybe $25,000 and no benefits” – to come up with a redevelopment plan for the meadows area which would then be brought before the mayor and council for deliberation and, ultimately, adoption before it could be implemented. “No town or town council can do this,” Bianchi said, because “they have enough to do running the town.” While the borough has struggled to find additional revenues in recent years to offset tax hikes, Bianchi insisted that it should be seen as a community on the rise.
“North Arlington is strong and healthy and our future is bright,” he said. “We have an excellent Police Department [even though, with a force of 25, it falls 10 short of its T.O.] which is doing a wonderful job and our Volunteer Fire Department and Volunteer Emergency Squad, with the finest equipment available, are among the best in the USA.
“Our Public Works Department has 10 men and we do the best we can plowing and patching the streets, cutting down dead trees and grinding stumps – working very hard,” he added.
“Our recreation program is filled with volunteers who donate their time to coach and educate our kids,” Bianchi said. “There was a time when we didn’t have enough places to play but now we have a brand new county park and new high school field accessible to the community for exercise and walking, along with Zadroga Park for soccer and Alan Park for girls’ softball.”
As mayor, Bianchi said, “My thought is I’m willing to allow the girls from the high school to practice [softball] at Alan Park but to play their games at the county park” to allow enough playing time for the girls’ recreation softball program.
Bianchi, a hair stylist by trade who has served as a volunteer firefighter for the past three decades, thanked Mayor Massa “for his service to our community” along with the borough residents who voted for Bianchi as mayor after his having served seven years on the Borough Council (leaving a vacant seat to be filled) and 25 years on the Planning and Zoning Board.
Bianchi said he was “very humbled by the overwhelming show of support I received from the voters and I will work every day to live up to the confidence they showed in me to lead our community,” Bianchi said. Being given such an opportunity is “one that I will respect and cherish every day of my tenure.” He’s looking forward to working with his running mates Kerry Cruz and Dan Pronti and the rest of the council.
“We have a lot of work to do to revive our town and get it moving in a positive direction and I am counting on the support of – not only the Borough Council – but the residents as well. North Arlington is home to many intelligent and caring people and I hope to call on them to help me make decisions that will positively impact the future of the borough.”