Former Decker’s Tavern demolished

The old Decker’s Tavern at West Inman and Jaques avenues was demolished earlier this month. The tavern had operated for 66 years until it closed in 2006 and will be replaced by an ice cream shop, Piece of Cake, which operates its manufacturing facility across the street.

The Zoning Board of Adjustment gave its approval for the new facility last month and it’s expected to be built and open for business by spring 2012.

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Here’s a story I’d been meaning to link to for awhile from The Star-Ledger/nj.com: “Summit considers charging for parking in free lots in downtown parking district.” It’s always curious to see what other municipalities are doing with their downtown in general, but especially when it comes to parking since that’s an integral part of it.

Amphitheater construction bid awarded, held up

Construction of a 1,300-seat amphitheater on Hamilton Street was on track to begin last week — until a competing construction firm filed an injunction over losing out on the bid. A judge is scheduled to hear the case on Monday, according to City Administrator and Redevelopment Director Peter Pelissier.

The Redevelopment Agency awarded a $4.8-million base bid to Berto Construction of Rahway and another $130,761 in additional alternate bids for a total $4.95 million. A lower base bid of $4.65 million by W.D. Snyder Company was rejected as a “deficient bid proposal” for a “material breach,” Pelissier said, and the Kenilworth-based firm filed an injunction. There was a third bid, from 3R Contracting for $4.89 million.

Bids were opened on Sept. 17 and City Engineer James Housten told the Redevelopment Agency at its meeting last month that construction was on track to begin the week of Oct. 11 and be completed by June 15, 2011 — in time to open by July 4, 2011. Architects were within 10 percent of the estimate — an exceptional result, according to the administration.

The largest items in the $4.8-million base bid are for concrete ($1.083 million), electrical ($708,315), and steel ($470,573). The $130,761 alternate bids include about seven options chosen, outside of the base bid. About $27,366 was included for concrete instead of grassy walkways. City Administrator and Redevelopment Director Peter Pelissier told commissioners that concrete would reduce maintenance needs and can be hosed down and eliminate the need for mowing. Another $36,300 was accepted for color-changing LED lighting, which Pelissier explained will add to the visual impact of performances.

Another $40,000 alternate bid was accepted for flood insurance, which would cover the costs of any damages should a flood occur during the construction, according to Pelissier. Flood insurance for the actual facility will not be needed since the facility is concrete, he said, adding that he will check with the city’s insurance broker once the project is completed.

An alternate bid of $82,000 was not included in the proposal for removable seats, which would account for 700 of the 1,300 seats in the facility and come in sections of five. Pelissier said it was unclear how the removable seats could be stored or how many people it would take to install them. “The logistics didn’t make sense,” he said.

The state Local Finance Board’s concerns about back-loaded borrowing by municipalities, according to this report last week on NorthJersey.com/The Record, would have no affect on the timetable for the amphitheater, Pelissier said. The City Council earlier this year authorized borrowing $8.5 million for construction of Arts District projects, including the $3-million amphitheater.

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Here’s another write-up of the New Jersey Hot Dog Tour, which stopped at Rahway Grill, this time a more detailed piece from Serious Eats, which called the Grill “a hidden gem.”

Mayoral candidate: Rick Proctor, Democrat

Note: The two major-party candidates for mayor were invited to submit a blog post (no more than 750 words) about their redevelopment platforms. Entries were edited only for spelling and style. Also on the ballot in the Nov. 2 election are three At-large City Council seats. Today’s post comes from Democrat Rick Proctor. Republican Pat Cassio appeared Monday morning.

Continue reading Mayoral candidate: Rick Proctor, Democrat

Mayoral candidate: Pat Cassio, Republican

Note: The two major-party candidates for mayor were invited to submit a blog post (no more than 750 words) about their redevelopment platforms. The entries were edited only for spelling and style, if necessary. Also on the ballot in the Nov. 2 election are three At-large City Council seats. Today’s post comes from Republican Pat Cassio. Democrat Rick Proctor will appear Tuesday morning.

Continue reading Mayoral candidate: Pat Cassio, Republican

Public hearing Tuesday on SID budget

The City Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget for the Special Improvement District (SID) at its regular meeting on Tuesday (not Oct. 5, as originally reported when the governing body introduced the plan).

The SID budget proposes to raise $131,565.94 in taxes, based on a rate of $3.34 per $100 of assessed value on about 138 downtown properties. The parcels have a total assessed value of $39.391 million.

About 31 individual lots pay at least $1,000 in SID taxes, and among those, at least eight properties would pay at least $4,000:
* Carriage City Properties, $10,923.13 [$8,192.35 for hotel + $2,730.78 for retail space]
*RSI Bank, 1500 Irving St., $9,671.97
* SDI Technologies, 1299 Main St., $7,278.53
* Rahway Office Center c/o Basad Realty Management, $6,220.08
* Raw Realty, 123 E. Milton Ave., $4,025.37
* MM Rahway Associates, 1537 Main St., $4,016.02
* The Center Circle, 1255 Main St., $4,008

This past spring, the City Council shifted the taxes collected through the Special Improvement District from the Rahway Center Partnership to the Arts District. (Contrary to some public perception, however, the Partnership has not dissolved but just no longer has any paid staff.)

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The New Jersey Hot Dog Tour earlier this month included a stop at Rahway Grill on East Cherry Street, where The Star-Ledger/nj.com called it “old-timey…with its screen door, booths, swivel stools, coat racks and Rhapsody II Stereophonic jukebox.” Apparently, their chili was a big hit with the tour.

Check out how the Rahway Grill did in our polls for favorite burger and favorite breakfast place.

Guest blog post: ‘Change’ that works?

Note: This is a guest blog post submitted by a reader under the pseudonym, Silence DoGood. While I may frown on anonymous comments on blog posts, this is not anonymous; I know who the writer is, however, they hope the merits of their arguments (not their identity) will carry the day when it comes to passing judgment on what they present. And in case you’re wondering: no, the writer is not me, nor is it anyone running for office. Both major party candidates for mayor have been invited to submit a guest column in the coming weeks.

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Dear Neighbor,

Perhaps you had the benefit of receiving a letter from our fine City Council At-large members and our county freeholder, Rick Proctor, seeking support in the Democratic primaries in June. I don’t normally take to commenting on things but it seems like with all things in life, there is a time and a place. This time it came to my mailbox and while I realize that the challengers lost, I think this will be a similar argument against the Republicans or any other challengers to the established Democratic Party candidates.
A great many things have occurred to me recently but I will get to those in due time. For now, two items catch my notice. First, the letter described what can only be conflicting if not altogether hypocritical stances. “We are proud of the accomplishments and represent ‘Change that Works for Rahway,'” and yet just a few lines down, they note “now is not the time for on the job training.” So what type of change do we need here? Or is this similar to — and I hate to use this as a reference — Fox News (9:10 of video), which slams polls when they support Obama and then touts those same polls when they serve their interests, like stopping universal health care.
Secondly, “Change that works”… yes, we do have a hulking new hotel downtown, and certainly there are other projects that were built over the past eight to 10 years or so, like the parking deck across from the refurbished train station. But are they all working for Rahway? The mailing mentioned three items/issues that Democrats appear to have a handle on: stable property taxes, economic growth, and preservation of quality of life.
Stable property taxes
Does anyone remember the sewer fees that were separated from our property tax bills that were supposed to save us tax hikes — but left us with quarterly bills for water and sewer charges that, according to my math, are actually a hike? Check your old property tax bills against your last year’s worth of sewer bills if you don’t believe me.
Economic growth
What about the heap of dirt that sat across from the unfinished construction on Main Street, which at one time eventually became covered with grass and weeds because it sat so long. I hear we have a great new piano for loan but hardly a pedestrian on the street to listen to it, even if it was played. And do you recall the lawsuit with overzealous developers just across from the library that leaves the city and us taxpayers holding the tab for street improvements?
Quality of life
I know it is subjective but could an uglier building (the new hotel) have been built, any more out of scale with the downtown? One that I hope won’t become public housing considering lawsuits, lack of residents and possible foreclosure. I believe it took three years for sidewalks to go back on Main Street in front of the rusted steel fingers pointing to the sky, as if asking when they will be covered with walls and a roof.
Perhaps less subjective is the lack of attention to the repair of the steps at the NJ Transit train station. Why aren’t our city representatives being more proactive on our behalf to have this fixed?
A pocket park on the corner of Monroe and Essex? Maybe I’m not as progressive as some, or don’t quite think we have the same feel as say Brooklyn, or am I just not impressed with the other pocket park across the street from the arts center — which cost taxpayers a pretty penny. Smells more like a favor to a political supporter…
Or is this the change that all incumbents say you shouldn’t offer their opponents? To be honest, I can’t remember a time in the recent past when times weren’t a little difficult for the average citizen in this country. I’m not sure their opponents can do a better job and, to be fair, there have been accomplishments to the town that I have overlooked. But is it really fair to claim that change that works for Rahway means not giving someone else a chance to serve our community? Have they cornered the market on good change?
I have other thoughts, but I will save them for another day and another letter.

Sincerely,
Silence DoGood

Piano Conservatory opens

Conservatory: Piano, Hi Fi and Modern Home opened its doors Friday night for a “sneak preview” at its new home next to the Union County Performing Arts Center.

The conservatory will feature educational programs, a piano showroom, state-of-the-art audio equipment, vintage jazz and classical vinyl recordings, and recording studios.

Friday’s event included performances on pianos from the Klavierhaus collection as well as demonstrations of the equipment. “Our new multi-faceted space has been created for the pursuit of fine living through musical education and the leisure of experiencing music in the home,” said Peabody Award-winning and Latin Grammy-nominated radio and record producer Jim Luce of Piano Culture.

Renovations to the single-story building at the corner of Irving and Coach streets, which once housed the Rahway Alternative Education Center, could run upward of $20,000 once the HVAC system is replaced, according to Mayor James Kennedy, who also serves as a board member of UCPAC and the unpaid executive director of the Rahway Arts District. The arts center owns the building and will cover the cost of renovations, which included a new roof, he said, while leasing it to Luce and his partners.