RED BANK – November’s election sweep gave Democrats full control of the Borough Council, and Tuesday’s reorganization meeting was the ceremony that made it official.
After being sworn in for his fourth consecutive term by District Judge Susan Davis Wigenton, Mayor Pasquale Menna stepped back to observe the oaths taken by Red Bank’s newest council members Kate Triggiano and Hazim Yassin, who replaced outgoing Republicans Mark Taylor and Mike Whelan.
According to Menna, Yassin became the first borough officeholder to take his oath of duty on the Koran, an oath delivered by Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling (D-11).
“One thing that I take from my faith that I plan on applying is the concept that leadership is more about responsibility,” Yassin said to an audience that overflowed the municipal courtroom into the town hall lobby. “I know that we as a council are responsible to our residents and constituents. And I hope that I can live up to your standards.”
While juggling her young son Otto, Triggiano stretched to raise her right hand and place the other one on a bible and, after accepting an oath delivered by longtime former state Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19), she spoke appreciatively and directly to her neighbors.
“You are really what drove me to care about our town so much; the diversity of our town; the people of our town. I promise that I’ll always be accessible and transparent. Most of you know where I live and you can come knock on my door,” Triggiano said.
Triggiano was also appointed to serve as the police and fire commissioner, a title given to the council member who acts as the council’s emergency services department liaison.
Menna said Triggiano is only the second woman in borough history to serve in the role, following in the footsteps of Sharon Lee.
In his own address, Menna discussed the forthcoming redevelopment project on Riverside Avenue at the former Visiting Nurses Association headquarters and the positive impact its completion could yield for the borough.
“The adoption of this plan means, at the end of the day, in excess of $90 million in clean, new ratables,” Menna said. “New, clean, modern housing for our affordable housing obligation, which has been stuck in neutral for the past 20 years.”
Menna said the project is on property that over the past 30 years has contributed nothing to the borough in real estate taxes.
Additionally, Menna noted that the borough is working closely with NJ Transit to create a transit village concept near the historic Red Bank train station on Bridge Avenue and described a new working partnership among the borough, NJ Transit and private developers.
According to Menna, a “Shop Red Bank” program is also coming to the borough in 2019, which could result in real estate tax deductions for residents who frequent Red Bank businesses and restaurants.
It’s his hope that in the next month or two the council will have an opportunity to adopt this program.
Menna also commented on a controversial 2018 management enhancement review, a borough-commissioned study that described municipal operations as “ineffective” and “dysfunctional.”
Despite the scathing remarks in this 42-page report, Menna said the study was a positive during Tuesday’s remarks.
“As a result of that report we actually, at this time, have probably either perfected or are in the process of perfecting roughly 35 to 40 of the different recommendations made to catapult this municipality into the next generation,” Menna said, though no specifics were detailed.
This article was first published in the Jan. 3-9 2019 print edition of The Two River Times.