RAHWAY — It seems the third time was a charm for Mayor Samson Steinman who had to battle one snowstorm after another before the state of the city address could finally go on as planned last week.
As the weeks wore on, snowstorms seemed to descend on the area constantly, forcing the mayor to cancel the event multiple times. However, last week, when it appeared there would be a break in the weather, Steinman decided to schedule the event for Feb. 18 and hope for the best. This time he was lucky.
At 7:15 p.m. at the new Hamilton Stage on Hamilton Street, Council President and Master of Ceremonies David Brown kicked off the program that included the Rahway High School Jazz band, Rahway High School Marine Corps Junior ROTC, a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King by the NAACP Rahway Branch Community Youth Choir and a musical interlude by the Rahway High School Musical Theater Class.
When Steinman stepped to the podium he confessed that nothing brought him more pleasure than to stand there that night as Rahway’s mayor.
“Although Rahway has quite literally navigated through rough waters, through our country’s national recession, and some difficult weather events in recent years, I truly believe our city’s best days are ahead of us,” said the mayor, noting “we have a long way to go, but I am confident that we are moving in the right direction.”
Steinman then brought up the fact that on this evening, the state of the city address was taking place on the site of the old Hamilton Laundry.
“Contaminated land that through vision, dedication and strategic partnerships has been transformed into a premier theater, concert and teaching facility with hundreds of performances a year,” he said. “That is what Rahway is all about. Respecting its rich history and shaping the future. That is what Rahway has always been about.”
Steinman pointed out that in the pursuit of technological advancement the city will be upgrading its website and exploring easier access to information for residents and visitors. One of these advancements will include an AM radio station which, he explained, can provide critical information in times of an emergency.
“In today’s digital society we are constantly in contact and often have information overload but when it fails, we can be paralyzed,” Steinman said, using as an example superstorm Sandy, when it took days and even weeks to restore power.
The city is also in the process of purchasing an antenna and establishing a frequency that will serve to distribute information in the event of an emergency.
“Residents can use battery-powered radios or even go out to their cars to receive these updates should we face another situation where we no longer have power,” the mayor said, adding that residents can look for this new AM radio station in the coming months and tune in to find important alerts and information about the city.
Steinman also pointed out that Rahway’s major investment in the Arts District “is paying dividends.”
“Tonight we declare that no longer are we an emerging disict. We are an established Arts District,” he said, adding that National Endowment of the Arts Chairman Rocco Landsman called Rahway “the model for the country on how to use the arts as a catalyst for economic development.”
Steinman said Rahway is now the home of the American Theatre Group, Steven Schwartz of “Wicked”, “Pippin” and “Godspell”, the New Jersey Youth Symphony Orchestra from Berkeley Heights, American Repertory Company from Princeton, and for the next three years, the Papermill Playhouse Summer Camp.
Steinman was especially proud to announce that the city would be partnering with the county to upgrade the field at Rahway River Park to include turf, an eight lane track, lights, areas for field events, bleachers for 5,000 spectators, a press box, two team pavilions, along with a concession stand with bathrooms and fencing.
The mayor said for too long the high school football teams have played at Veterans Field which is subject to severe flooding.
“It’s not fair that our team cannot reliably plan to have home football games which not only serve football players but band members, cheerleaders and members of the community,” the mayor said.
Steinman said this will make Rahway River Park one of the premier facilities in the county and give the city’s football, track and soccer teams a home field to play on. The mayor said he anticipated ground breaking would take place in the fall.
The mayor said the city will also be undertaking improvements to the softball fields behind Madison School.
“For too long our young women have not had a softball field that they can be proud of and 42 years after Title IX was signed into law, I think it’s about time we change that,” Steinman told the audience.
With these improvements, Rahway will be home to state-of-the-art regulation size basketball, football, baseball, softball, rugby, soccer and track facilities.
“I’m going to enjoy being the envy of our neighbors,” the mayor quipped.
Steinman said he would be remiss in discussing the state of the city without talking about how to finance these initiatives.
“Since September the city council and my administration have advocated and secured over $5 million from outside sources to improve our parks, to improve our infrastructure, provide recreational programs and workforce training,” the mayor explained.
“It was once said ‘to take pride in how far you’ve come and have faith in how far you can go,’” Steinman said, adding that he believed “the state of the city was strong.”
“I understand we still have our challenges but Rahway is not a city of people who sit on our laurels. We stand out among the crowd. This evening we explored our past and how it set the path for our future. I look forward to building that future, together, with our great residents. Rahway’s own,” the mayor said, ending the state of the city address.