“Bayonne and You, Perfect Together?”

Development executive suggests need for the city to brand itself

With an air of uncertainty in the room following the previous night’s mayoral/council elections and resulting stalemate, two business leaders and a local doctor addressed three dozen people at the Bayonne Chamber of Commerce’s member breakfast on Wednesday, May 14 at The Chandelier restaurant.

Mayor Mark Smith and his five-member city council slate were stopped on May 13, at least temporarily, from retaining their various municipal seats. Councilwoman Agnes Gillespie was the only one to actually lose her post. The mayor and four remaining Moving Bayonne Forward council candidates have runoffs on June 10 against Police Capt. James Davis and his Moving Bayonne in the Right Direction ticket.

The keynote speaker was Doug Stern, president of SilkLofts, LLC, a high-end residential apartment complex under development on the city’s east side, not far from the 22nd Street Light Rail station.

Residential development was one key issue of the mayoral campaign, with the mayor’s opponents criticizing what they said was his attracting too many residential projects to the city.

Stern spoke positively and honestly about his efforts to bring his Brooklyn-style loft apartments to Bayonne at the old Maidenform factory site, and how the development almost did not come to fruition here.

Stern said he closed on the property in 2009 after three developers walked away from it, including one who had put down a $500,000 deposit, “because they felt they couldn’t make it in Bayonne.”

“I almost became that fourth failed developer,” he said.
But after touring the site with a local realtor, Stern said he was convinced he should proceed, and now feels he will be completing the “finest development of its type within 100 miles.”

Stern talked about how Bayonne can undergo a renaissance by luring the same type of New Yorkers who have relocated to Jersey City and Hoboken. But to do that, Bayonne must first get into the conversation that the other municipalities are already involved in.

He said that as business leaders, they must help answer the question, “Why Bayonne?”

“The first critical item that needs to occur is to get Bayonne in the options list,” Stern said. “If they don’t consider Bayonne, then it’s not on the list.”

Stern said the city is a natural for further development, with the nearby highway retail developments, excellent schools, and low crime rate. Adding destination restaurants to the mix would further entice others who aren’t yet—but might soon be—interested in moving here or doing business here.

“It’s incumbent on all of us to ask that question, ‘Why Bayonne,’” Stern said. “How do I get that fine restaurant in, like Jersey City? How do we get that person here?”

Stern said that a branding campaign for Bayonne, similar to that of former Gov. Thomas Kean’s “New Jersey and You, Perfect Together” should be instituted to help the city to continue its recent successes.

“Put in place something like that to help brand Bayonne and create that image,” he said. “Accentuate the positives, so people also are now putting Bayonne on their list of potential places.”
Stern said there was strong interest in his development from renters, including as much as 50 percent of the inquiries from Bayonne residents.

The good doctor

Earlier Dr. Michael Rushnak, also an author of medical mystery thrillers, spoke about the current state of health care in America.

Rushnak said that while the responsibility for health care decisions had shifted strongly to employees, employers are still strongly interested in having a healthy workforce.

A product of St. Vincent’s Grammar School, Marist High, and St. Peter’s and Rutgers universities, he said he had recently returned to his former passion of writing.

Information backup and security

Following Rushnak, representatives of Blue Diamond Solutions of Pine Brook, an information systems and security company, addressed the gathering.

Jim Loizides cautioned that all companies should be preparing for the next Hurricane Sandy, warning that 90 percent of those that lost their data for 10 days or more after that storm went out of business within a year.

“Not planning for a disaster is not an option anymore,” he said.

Patrick Carlile cautioned that safeguarding a company’s information should be a primary concern.

“You want it that when you log off, no one can see your information,” he said. “And make sure you are fully backed up, and make sure you have an infrastructure someplace else.”

Joseph Passantino may be reached at: JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.

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