UNION, NJ — At Union Township’s reorganization meeting on Friday, Jan. 1, which was held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Michele Delisfort was unanimously voted to her third consecutive year as mayor of the township. Delisfort was also nominated chairperson of the Township Committee by Committeeman Manuel Figueiredo, with Committeeman Clifton People Jr. seconding the motion.
During her speech, Delisfort addressed the leadership that has been displayed during the COVID-19 crisis and the transition the township was ready to undertake this year.
“Author Jonathan Lockwood Huie once said, ‘Celebrate endings — for they precede new beginnings,’” Delisfort said on Friday, Jan. 1. “I stand before you today, with the Township Committee, prepared to not only transition from the challenges of last year, but to celebrate the many moments of 2020, community strength and pride, and to welcome a new year, filled with hope, promise, optimism and new beginnings.
“It is our community’s tradition, on New Year’s Day, to share the state of our township address,” she continued. “To celebrate our community’s progress and to reaffirm our commitments to our township and to one another.”
Delisfort acknowledged the strength during adversity exhibited by Union Township in the past year and asked for a moment of silence to recognize all who lost their lives to COVID-19 in 2020, including 76 residents in the community.
Delisfort also recognized all of the heroes within the township, highlighting first responders, the municipal staff, the health department, the Union Public Library, the school district, Union County and the unsung heroes throughout the township.
“Hard times don’t create heroes,” Delisfort said, quoting former Alabama Gov. Bob Riley. “It is during the hard times when the hero within us is revealed.”
She continued with her own words. “I don’t think that I’ve ever been prouder of the great township of Union than I was in 2020. I bore witness to the hero in all of you during a period of unprecedented fear, uncertainty and pain.
“As the pandemic unfolded, staff and members of our community continued to rise to the challenge by distributing countless masks to residents; hosting numerous food pantries; donating hundreds of hot meals to seniors, first responders and hospital employees; and instituting a townwide Senior Citizen Wellness check, during which members of the administration and numerous residents volunteered to grocery shop, deliver medication and fellowship with our senior community, throughout the year, to provide them with much-needed assistance, personal care and companionship,” she added.
Deputy Mayor Joseph Florio was also sworn into the Township Committee by Committeewoman Suzette Cavadas, who nominated him as committee vice chairperson.
“I would like to nominate someone who is a mentor to us on the Township Committee,” Cavadas said on Friday, Jan. 1. “Someone who has brought to the Township Committee great knowledge and experience and someone who has always listened to our residents and has always worked hard for them.”
“The mayor and her family wish to congratulate Joe Florio on his reelection,” township attorney Daniel Antonelli read from an acknowledgement. “It is an honor to work with a person who dedicates so much of his time to his constituents. Joe epitomizes the definition of a great public servant. He leads by example, he listens to others and he’s committed to improving the lives of every single resident of Union.”
According to the township website, Florio has served on the Township Committee since 1997. During that time, he has also served four terms as mayor. Florio has a long history of service to his community, which includes serving as a member of the Planning Board and the Board of Adjustment, and as co-chairperson of the Study Commission for the Board of Education Adult Advisory Committee.
Florio made a motion to appoint Cassandra Corbett as municipal court judge for the township of Union. All committee members were in favor.
Delisfort’s traditional year in review cited the completion of the township’s Master Plan, Parks Master Plan and Parking Study, all while discussing the township’s plan to strengthen inclusiveness, diversity and public engagement; the improvement of the infrastructure of the township by investing in the townwide Comprehensive Road Reconstruction Program; the promotion of the economic development cornerstones of revitalization and redevelopment throughout the community; and the prioritization of responsible financial planning, top-notch public safety operations and efficient and effective public works operations.
The infrastructure projects within the township included reconstruction of more than 60 roads, completed renovations of basketball courts and new playgrounds, holiday banner decorations in the township, an addition of Kean University street banners along Morris Avenue as a collaborative effort with the university, and a park dedication to honor former state Sen., Mayor and Township Committeeman Anthony Russo.
Among the many redevelopment projects that are underway, Delisfort also mentioned Vermella, which was rated the No. 1 best new development by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.
“This project has been a game-changing development for the township,” Delisfort said. “Open spaces, prime retail and modern amenities abound in this first-class project. Most impressive is that it offers an open-space component that is accessible to the community at large. Additionally, this project is the first of its kind, in our township, to offer a homeownership component, in addition to retail and rental units. The project is on target to be completed by winter 2021-2022.”
Other projects mentioned included the Route 22 Gateway Project, which will include two development initiatives at the site of the former Garden State Motor Lodge and the Hi-Way Bowl; American Landmark: a transformation and modernization project, which will solidify the renaissance of Union Center; the Children’s Specialized Hospital, which will be opening this year on the site of the former Money Store; and the support of small businesses and local eateries by creating and expediting outdoor dining permits.