by William Clarke, CASID Director
As the deadline for New Jersey’s next state budget nears, elected officials across New Jersey continue to debate the merits of the Urban Enterprise Zone program. On Thursday, May 26th, Central Avenue SID President Michael Yun, District Manager David Diaz and Director William Clarke traveled to Trenton to advocate for the program before the State Senate Committee on Community and Urban Affairs . Senator Jeff Van Drew of Dennis Township in Cape May County chaired the committee session while committee members Senators Ronald L. Rice, Sr. of Newark, Dawn Marie Addiego of Medford, Christopher J. Connors of Forked River, and Teresa M. Ruiz of Newark were also in attendance.
People from across the state attended the hearing to voice their support for the UEZ program and give detailed expert testimony on the program’s substantial positive impact in their community. Among a number of experts and elected officials to testify before the committee were Jersey City’s own Mayor Jerramiah Healy, who described the UEZ program as “a wise and sound investment [in] programs that are making our cities so much better.”
Others to testify before the committee were Mayor Chris Bollwage of Elizabeth, Mayor Wilda Diaz of Perth Amboy, Jersey City UEZ Director Roberta Farber, Dr. Seth Grossman of the Ironbound Business Improvement District in Newark, Alfa Demmellash of Rising Tide Capital, and CASID’s own David Diaz.
As in the state assembly hearing that preceded it, “Amend it, Don’t End It” became the theme of the senate hearing. Many of those who testified acknowledged that while the UEZ program is not perfect it remains an effective tool to enhance economic opportunity and provide much needed capital to cash-strapped urban municipalities, businesses and business districts while also attracting new businesses to New Jersey’s increasingly dynamic urban and downtown areas. Many agreed that to end the program in the midst of the Great Recession would be the absolute worst time to deny businesses and business districts in New Jersey’s Urban Enterprize Zones access to the almost 95 million dollars in annual UEZ tax revenues.
The Central Avenue SID has received UEZ grants throughout its eighteen year existence and would stand to lose a significant source of annual revenue were the UEZ program abolished or UEZ revenues otherwise withheld. Many of New Jersey’s Special
Improvement Districts or Business Improvement Districts face similar shortfalls should UEZ revenues be retained in Trenton for a second consecutive year. Senator Van Drew voiced his own commitment to ensure the program’s survival and insisted that “we have to make sure that the money generated in the community comes back to that community.” Following the hearing, Senator Van Drew graciously stood for a photo with CASID President Yun while holding up a “Save the UEZ T-Shirt.”
The Central Avenue SID will fight to preserve the UEZ program and stand up for Central Avenue’s businesses, shoppers and neighbors and we encourage you to voice your support for the UEZ program and contact your local elected officials to make your voice heard.