Redevelopment took a back seat to parks upgrades and other initiatives related to the arts during the 2014 State of the City address last night.
Interim Mayor Samson Steinman, who was appointed in September after the resignation of Rick Proctor, briefly mentioned several projects aiming for completion in 2014 (Meridia Water’s Edge and Metro Rahway) and others that could make significant progress this year (Meridia Lafayette Village and The Brownstones). A former City Councilman who also serves as Democratic municipal chairman, Steinman is expected to run for a full, four-year term as mayor this year.
In remarks that ran about 20 minutes, the most prominent announcement was a major upgrade of Rahway River Park, Greenfield Park (in front of Rahway Middle School) and the field behind Madison School over the next three years as a result of a partnership with Union County and the Board of Education. The mayor never mentioned any details on the total price tag but asked during the reception after his address, Steinman estimated the city’s share of the improvements could run about $2 million. Part of the county park improvements likely would be funded through dollars raised through the Union County Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund.
Rahway River Park, a county facility, essentially would become the new home for Rahway High School athletics, with an aim to become a state-of-the-art facility that would draw countywide events. A new lighted, turf football field would be surrounded by an eight-lane track with an area for field events, concession stands, restrooms and 5,000-seat bleachers. Veterans Field on Central Avenue, which is prone to frequent flooding, would still be used but would not be the primary football or baseball facility. Groundbreaking is anticipated in the fall. For many years, Meisel Avenue Field in Springfield, a county park, served as the football and baseball homefield for Jonathan Dayton High School, until a land swap and renovations about a decade ago.
At Greenfield Park, adjacent to Rahway Middle School at Westfield and Madison avenues, two fields would be turfed for soccer, football and rugby, in addition to a request from the mayor to the county for a T-ball field. The project would be scheduled to begin next year. The field behind Madison School would get revamped tennis courts and a redesigned softball field.
Among the other plans announced by the mayor Wednesday night included:
* An upgrade of the city’s website and development of a Rahway mobile app;
* Creation of an AM radio station to provide information during critical times like Hurricane Sandy. More details on station and frequency will be announced in the coming months.
* As part of the “second phase” of Rahway’s arts planning, the Rahway Fringe Festival will be Sept. 25-28. A spinoff of the original Fringe Festival that has spawned others in cities around the world, the event would emphasize Rahway as a “prime tourism destination for anyone interested in artistic innovation.”
* After an absence of several years, Fourth of July fireworks again will be hosted in Rahway.
“Rahway’s best days are ahead, but there’s still a ways to go,” Steinman said, but the city’s investment in the arts is paying dividends. “Rahway is no longer an emerging arts district,” he said, but an established hub for the arts.
“I understand we still have our challenges but we’re not a city to rest on our laurels,” Steinman said. “I look forward to building our future with you, people who care about our city.”