disasters on film and in reality Looking back on 2005

For Bayonne residents, 2005 was a year that began with both real and imaginary disasters – and a pulling together of resources to help those affected by national and international tragedy.

In late December of 2004, a tidal wave of monstrous proportions struck southeast Asia. Several Bayonne residents were in that area at the time, and local relief efforts were organized here because residents felt sympathy for the thousands of victims.

By the end of the year, many groups in Bayonne were raising money and collecting donations in response to a closer tragedy – two monumental hurricanes that struck the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Bayonne would also become home to people displaced by the disasters, as the IMTT company brought the families of workers north from the disaster area.

In separate IMTT news, the company made a $3 million environmental cleanup settlement in May that would contribute to the development of the North 40 Park’s construction.

Bayonne on film

Early in the year, the filming of “War of the Worlds,” a summer blockbuster depicting an invasion from space, wrapped up operations in Bayonne. The project left many residents breathless as Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise and other stars swept through the city, leaving behind a rebuilt Little League ball field and many fond memories.

“War of the Worlds,” plus several other movies, used the city’s studios on the former Military Ocean Terminal.

Bayonne in May would also see its first movie theater in many decades as the Frank Family – one of the founders of the movie industry – took over the shell of a theater along Route 440 and opened their theater in time to unveil “War of the Worlds” and the new Star Wars film.

Local filmmakers also achieved success. Resident Paul DeAngelo premiered a film partly shot in Bayonne at that theater in October, called “Destination Fame.”

Other stars such as Robin Williams popped into Bayonne this year for a day or two of film shooting. John Ratzenberger, best known as the mailman from Cheers, brought his “Made in America” TV show to the Holiday Tree & Trim store in early October.

Bayonne also had to bid good bye to one of its own when actress Sandra Dee died in late February.

Steven Roberts, who earned his fame as a top news correspondent, returned to Bayonne in May to talk about the book he had written about growing up here.

Equally painful for many in Bayonne was the passing of Pope John Paul II in late March, leaving many residents with intense memories as some met him when he came here in 1980, and others worked with him in Rome over the years.

The city would also see a visit from The miraculous myrrh-weeping icon of St. Anna, drawing crowds to St. Sophia’s church in Bayonne for several days in September.

Development made giant strides

Redevelopment became a huge issue in 2005 as the city began to unveil plans that would help generate interest in abandoned or underused properties.

This effort resulted in the first stirring of development on the former Texaco oil property with the rebuilding of a pier into Newark Bay. But other redevelopment plans also moved ahead, such as plans for a big box store development along Route 440 and establishing a redevelopment zone near the 22nd Street Hudson Bergen Light Rail station that city officials hoped would begin revitalization of the traditional shopping district along Broadway.

By the end of the year, the city had also unveiled a plan for properties scattered throughout the city. Bayonne would also see the approval of its first hotel in many decades for the north end of the city.

The Boat Works townhouses began to sell on the shore of Newark Bay and Baker Industries broke ground on a second project.

But the most stunning progress was along the shore of New York Harbor, where the first concrete steps towards development of the former Military Ocean Terminal were taken with the awarding of the first development plan there. Ultimately, the Peninsula development could have as many as 6,700 housing units, 1.5 million square feet of office space, 345,000 square feet of retail space, 750 hotel rooms, 465,000 square feet of entertainment and cultural space, and up to 245,000 square feet of civic space.

Development steps included the demolition of military housing called Goldsborough Village. “The significance of this demolition is that it paves the way for the development of the Harbor Station South district,” said Council President Vincent Lo Re.

In conjunction with the promise of development, the city adopted a five-year plan that would provide tax relief to current taxpayers by using future development sales.

Bayonne Medical Center got a boost

Bayonne Medical Center had a significant year – although in turning around its economic situation, it came into dispute with some members of the community. The facility opened and closed 2005 by becoming part of significant cardiac care pilot programs, allowing them to get a jump start over many other community hospitals throughout the state.

But the facility was forced to cut back on senior care, psychiatric and other programs, bowing to new insurance reality and competition with smaller health care providers.

Iraq war brought out support

The war in Iraq would become very personal for many families in Bayonne as loved ones shipped out. Several groups, including the city, began to set up programs for sending packages or providing care for families while husbands, sons or daughters served.

Bayonne lost one of the great military heroes of World War II with the passing of Medal of Honor winner Stephen R. Gregg.

Bayonne received a gift from Russia, a tear-drop memorial to the victims of 9/11, and a visit in September from Vladimir Putin, the president of the Russian Federation.

“The terrorists want to stop us from living our lives,” Putin said. “We can’t let this happen.”

Cruise shipping

Cruise shipping also proved a significant boon as Bayonne had the second highest number of cruise passengers sailing out of any port in the northeast.

The year 2005 also saw the reopening of a Red Cross office here after a nearly 17-year absence.

Other significant moments

The Fire Department added new members. The Police Department issued promotions. Robert Kubert, who had served as acting chief for almost two years, was finally sworn in as chief of police.

In May, Mary J. Donohoe would be named as one of the state’s most improved schools, a feat that Philip Vroom School would repeat later in the year.

Acting Gov. Richard Codey visited Bayonne twice, once in June to promise $100,000 for the upgrade of the Community Mental Health Center, and then again in October to deliver the check.

“I think we all agree for too long people have swept the problems of the mentally ill under the carpet,” Codey said.

As part of his campaign for governor, U.S. Senator Jon Corzine paid a visit to Bayonne in October.

Contact Al Sullivan at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com


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