The new Hudson County Schools of Technology (HCST) complex is expected to break ground in Secaucus in September, said Sal Vega, HCST representative to the freeholders, at a freeholders’ meeting last month.
The $160 million project will take an estimated three years to build. The current school building in North Bergen will be sold, except for the parking lot area, which will be used to accommodate the school fleet.
The new school is slated for county-owned property near Laurel Hill Park.
This will replace the 100 year-old building on 85th Street in North Bergen, which has operated as the county high school since 1988.
“Traffic is a nightmare now, and I can only imagine what will happen when Palisades Avenue is closed.” – Junior Maldonado
State aid is expected to pay for almost 60 percent of the construction costs on the new building.
Freeholders balk at tourist pilot program
“Build it and they will come,” is a classic line from the movie “Field of Dreams.”
Unfortunately, drawing tourists from abroad is a bit more complicated. At the July meeting, the freeholders balked at approving a $34,000 grant that would establish a one-year pilot program to help direct tourism to Hudson County.
Julie Armstrong of Brand USA said the program would create a website designed to draw international tourists to Hudson County, highlighting some of the attractions as well as resources the county has. This would allow tourist agencies elsewhere to help lure potential tourists to Hudson County rather than New York.
“New York City is the main gateway for us,” she said. “There are more than 12 million international tourists going to New York each year out of a told of 56 million for the rest of the United States. This accounts for about 20 percent of all spending.”
She told the freeholders that Hudson County could draw some of these tourists by savvy marketing through this global network.
“Hudson County is only minutes away,” she said.
Freeholder Bill O’Dea said the marketing was too narrow, and that North Jersey should be marketed as a whole to avoid having one section competing against other.
“Hudson County, Newark, Liberty International Airport should be marketed as an area,” he said. “We want to become complementary, not competitive.”
Hotel rates are cheaper on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, but he said more hotel rooms need to be built.
“I’m also concerned that a grant covers the cost of this only for the first year,” he said. “After the first year, we have pay for it, and if we don’t keep it up, we’ve just wasted the initial outlay.”
A change of use for HCIA program
Norman Guerra, executive director of the Hudson County Improvement Authority (HCIA), wants to expand its little-used economic development function.
The HCIA is more or less the environmental branch of county government, in charge of recycling and a number of other related programs. It has also become a kind of bank for municipalities, using its resources to offer loans.
But its economic development portion has been somewhat limited.
“It’s not been very active,” Guerra said. “We’ve given out a few loans. We have talked about disbanding it. It has a 501c3 not for profit status.”
He said the HCIA could expand the program to include more economic and community development. In the past, the HCIA has used its revenue to help municipal and other governments with loans, often allowing governments to use municipal buildings as kind of collateral to help bridge short time revenue issues. Bayonne balanced one budget using its Central Garage for such a loan. Union City in the late 1990s did something similar with its city hall.
The HCIA helped finance the construction of a parking lot for a professional soccer stadium in Harrison. But the proposed change would go beyond just helping municipalities, and delve into housing and other fields of development.
“This could include the development of affordable housing, including veterans’ housing, as well as other types of projects,” he said. “We could provide financial assistance that would not otherwise be available.”
O’Dea volunteered to chair a freeholder committee to oversee this project.
“This is my area of expertise,” he said. “But a change of mission would mean a change of structure. We would need to seek someone to run it, someone with skill sets in that area.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.