North Arlington Mayor Daniel H. Pronti delivered an optimistic outlook for 2022 and review of 2021 when the Borough reorganized last week. The meeting, originally slated to be in-person, took place solely virtually because of the increase in COVID numbers locally. Newly re-elected Councilmembers Brian Fitzhenry and Allison Sheedy were also re-sworn in to their new terms.
Here’s the mayor’s speech in its entirety (we thank the mayor for providing the text to us.)
Welcome to our 2022 reorganization meeting. Each year we take this opportunity to lay out the groundwork for the upcoming year as it pertains to cohesively running our Borough. The people you see in these zoom boxes, who ordinarily would be seated at a formal deus, are the people who oversee the process. Over the course of the evening, you will hear the names of the professionals, the volunteers and the appointed residents who put in the time to make sure our plans are successfully carried out.
For those of us who have lived in North Arlington for some time, we know there was a time when it wasn’t as bright and positive. We hit somewhat of a dark patch for a number of years and watched as surrounding towns grew around us and left us as the lesser-desirable place to live, work and raise a family.
Changes needed to be made as we appeared to be spiraling downward. Businesses were closing. Municipal taxes were soaring, and property values were dropping. It seemed as if nothing was being accomplished. Our roads needed repairs. Our young athletes were not very proud of our home fields and our recreation programs were suffering as a result.
As we began assembling a team of dedicated residents, we immediately began to see progress. The desirability of North Arlington has been on the uprise since that time. Each year, we seem to be making more and more upgrades, whether to our infrastructure, our roads, our parks, the areas along our waterfront or to our professional services.
When I first ran for office in North Arlington, I was troubled by the number of vacant storefronts that sat along Ridge Road. The businesses along our main thoroughfare had no chance of surviving. Successful mom and pop stores were few and far between. If a new place opened, it appeared to close a short time after. We had to make the appropriate changes that made our main street our lifeline.
Since that time, North Arlington has undergone a renaissance. We have been recognized in national periodicals as being one of the most desirable places to live, one of the best places to raise a family and one of the best places in proximity to a major city.
These changes have been a direct result of the many decisions made by the people who run this borough on a daily basis. These changes are a large reason why many newcomers have chosen to make North Arlington their home over the past few years. There is still room for improvement and we currently have the personnel in place to keep the momentum going. Together, we will accomplish great things for this community. I welcome all of our new residents as well as our existing residents to this meeting.
A very big part of what we do here in North Arlington is a result of the guidance of Steve LoIacono, our Borough Administrator. His years of experience and his willingness to give advice has been more than helpful.
Tonight we are celebrating the re-election of Councilman Brian Fitzhenry and Councilwoman Allison Sheedy. This past year we celebrated 125 years since the incorporation of the Borough of North Arlington. Being the type of year it was, much like 2020, we had to get extra creative in ways to get our community together and keep them safe when we encountered spikes in our COVID numbers.
We wanted to run a formal gala in honor of our anniversary, but due to the times, it was not possible. When times are tough, this group has been known to get innovative. We can’t even get frustrated anymore, we just shake it off and move on to something else.
You may have noticed the large celebratory cake on the front lawn of Borough Hall. That cake was made by volunteers from within our community. Council President Mario Karcic assembled a team that spent their time making it a reality. That cake came complete with light-up candles and gave our residents a physical remembrance of what we celebrated all year. Residents were coming up to Borough Hall and taking photos of themselves and their families around the cake. It was definitely a community-driven opportunity.
In celebration of our 125 years, we also hosted a number of “Pop-up” parties throughout the borough. I didn’t know what a pop-up party was, but Councilwoman Allison Sheedy assured me it was going to be fun and she was right. As a result, we surprised our residents, of all ages, at recreation sporting events, senior citizen gatherings and other events. We brought balloons, cupcakes and other treats for everyone to enjoy. As those in attendance not only had fun, they were also reminded of the reason for the celebration, to celebrate North Arlington.
In 2021, we were able to successfully hold our second “Celebrate North Arlington” event despite up and down covid interruptions and a forced “off” year in between. This is an event the entire council gets involved with and we partner with local businesses and merchants to show why we love this community. It’s an opportunity for the entire population to interact with each other, with our local talented kids and local businesses and see what everyone has to offer.
Over the past few years, North Arlington has been thriving, despite this current pandemic. As we continue on our upward swing, we continue to see Ridge Road become a vibrant main street, which is the key to a successful community. North Arlington is very attractive to developers as well as to new businesses. With the most recent addition of culture and tasteful streetscape art, we began adding selected paintings along Ridge Road. We have two other locations currently undergoing design ideas to keep with the times.
As our Ridge Road Redevelopment zone continues to flourish, and businesses are beginning to thrive, we are able to simultaneously maintain our quaint, close-knit community.
At the bottom of our Western Slope, we have been working diligently on improving the River Road section of town. Many properties have already been revitalized and we still have some work to do.
We continue to move ahead with our plans for senior and veteran housing, despite setbacks due to ever-so-long closures and backups in the state as a result of the pandemic. We are not backing off this project. Our seniors and our veterans need this to be accomplished and we will remain focused until it is complete.
Under my Mayor’s Beautification program, artistic upgrades haven’t only been along Ridge Road. Our NA Rocks, in our most picturesque area of town, along the river, have proven to be a hit with our residents. We not only bring art and culture into our community, but we acknowledge worthwhile causes at the same time.
The eastern cliffs of North Arlington have seen upgrades to our antiquated infrastructure, while removal and updates to several blighted properties have been noticeable. Over the next year or so, we will start to see several other areas start to develop into single- and two-family houses, rather than commercial eyesores.
All of the success and upgrades we have seen over the past several years could not have been accomplished without the hard work and dedication of our borough employees, our borough administrator and our Borough Council. Our great accomplishments have been done with absolutely no increase in taxes to our homeowners. In addition, I want to commend our borough employees who continued to work as our Borough Hall remained open for business throughout the entire pandemic, bringing full services to our residents.
Our roads have never looked better. Our property values have risen. Our community is getting green again. Under my plan, we have planted roughly 600 new trees within the borough, since Earth Day 2017. We will continue to beautify our borough with the help of our DPW and Mark Cunningham as their leader.
Additionally, our roadways have become safer over the past few years. With the implementation of all-way stop intersections, speed-calming devices and targeted enforcement by our hard-working police department, we have been able to make residents, students and crossing guards breathe a little easier when crossing the street. Yes, there is still work to be done and we plan on doing it, one area at a time.
In addition to congratulating our two Council Members on their re-election, I would also like to congratulate George McDermott on his re-election to the North Arlington School Board. As you know, the Board of Education has elected officials who act independently to the Mayor and Council to control the school budget and the decisions made concerning our students. We look forward to assisting George and the NA Board of Ed, as well as Superintendent, Dr. Stephen Yurchak with any and all issues facing our community.
Also in attendance tonight (I believe) is our County Commissioner, Steven Tanelli, who also won his election this past November. Congratulations to him. They are doing quite a bit of work down at County Park and we look forward to seeing a finished product very soon.
I want to thoroughly thank every one of our community volunteers, whether they serve as firefighters, CERT members, EMS, board commissioners, board members, coaches and anyone else who puts in their precious time for the betterment of North Arlington.
In closing, I hope I summed up our past year and touched on each aspect of our day-to-day operations as we move forward into 2022. We have many exciting plans for this upcoming year, including community trips, new signage, redevelopment projects and some parking relief. I will keep everyone updated as we progress.
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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.