If anyone had any doubt about how involved Mayor Brian Stack is in the day-to-day activities of Union City, they would just have to look into his third floor City Hall conference room and office. If plans for a current project aren’t already spread out over the long conference room table for him and his staff, Stack is hurrying around to find all of them in nearby rooms. Nearly everything he envisions for the immediate future in this city of 80,000 people can be found at a moment’s notice.
New and rebuilt parks on the agenda
During an interview last week, Stack had, on hand, plans for a future groundbreaking for a new passive park at Paterson Plank Road and Second Street. This is to be a joint project between Union City and Hudson County for a largely-unused portion of Washington Park.
Although originally proposed more than a year ago, backhoes recently began to till the earth for the installation of benches and other features.
“We believe in community policing and energizing the public.” – Mayor Brian Stack
Last year, Union City and Weehawken pushed ahead to open up the former United Water reservoir on Palisades Avenue as a walking park. Some residents have asked for the park to include a dog run, so this year, Stack said the city plans to install one in a corner of the park.
“We’re also considering stocking the reservoir with fish,” Stack said. He anticipates local kids enjoying an annual fishing event similar to the fishing derby Secaucus holds every year.
Perhaps even dearer to his heart will be the redevelopment and rededication of the Police Memorial Park on 11th and West streets. While this is a small park often referred to as a “pocket park,” it is also a tribute to the Union City police officers who have died in the line of duty, and will feature designs for the kids’ playground that emphasize law enforcement themes.
“We hope to pay for it using some state Green Acres grant money and some (Hudson County Trust) Open Space funds,” he said.
Open space like parks is vital to a city considered to be one of the most densely populated in the nation. Providing greenery to go with it is also important.
“We plant between 500 to 1,000 trees every year,” Stack said. This year will mean more of the same when spring rolls around.
Repaving is an annual ritual
Residents can look forward to many streets being repaved this year, part of an annual program that targets a group of streets throughout the city. The program is designed to make sure that over the course of several years, streets in different parts of the city get their fare share of upgrades.
“When we repave, we also redo the sidewalks,” Stack said. The repaving crisscrosses the city and uses combined funding, in particular funds given to the city from the state Department of Transportation.
“Because this comes from the state gas tax, it is has been less than in the past,” Stack said.
Community Development Block Grants also account for some of the funding. The city has for the first time bonded funds to cover some of its costs.
“Once a street and sidewalk is done, it should last 10 to 20 years,” Stack said.
Community meetings will continue
Stack and the police spend a lot of time walking around town. He sees this practice continuing into the new year and cites the police footwork as part of the reason Union City has seen a sharp decline in crime over the last few years.
“We believe in community policing and energizing the public,” he said. “We want people to call us if they see something they think of as suspicious.”
“Last year  we had 85 community meetings,” Stack said.
While these do not happen on every block, they take place nearby so that people throughout the city get a chance to meet with Stack, the police chief, or a police representative, who encourage people to report anything that seems suspicious. Dispatchers are trained to receive calls in both English and Spanish.
“People don’t have to give us a name, but they should give us as much information as possible so that we can follow up,” Stack said.
Stack has been holding community meetings since he became mayor 15 years ago. Some meetings are larger than others, but generally they are well attended.
Community outreach, Stack said, has been a staple of his administration, whether community meetings or the hundreds of phone calls from constituents he gets each week.
“I don’t see that changing any time soon,” he said.
New home for the DPW
Three years ago, the city learned that the former bus terminal it used for Department of Public Works operations had become unsafe.
“We’re 90 percent out of that building,” Stack said. He said the DPW currently operates from large tents located near Summit Avenue and Secaucus Road.
He said in the near future, a cooperative agreement with Hudson County government will allow DPW operations to share a new county site on Tonnelle Avenue in Jersey City.
Stack meets with Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise about twice a month on a number of issues from parks to public works, and this is one of the agreements worked out.
“We just don’t have space in Union City,” he said.
Old fire house will serve as temporary housing for fire victims
Union City, like parts of Jersey City, has an aging housing stock. This means that many buildings are at risk of fire. The city often has to help residents who become displaced.
But often the city is forced to house fire victims temporarily in motels along Tonnelle Avenue in Jersey City. This disrupts a number of daily routines, including getting kids to and from school.
“This is only temporary while we work to get these families new permanent housing,” Stack said. “But driving around the city one day, I wondered if we might find a better way, a location here in Union City that would allow families remain near to the services they use.”
A fire house on 46th Street has largely been empty since Union City became part of North Hudson Regional. The space had been used for a police gym for a time. But now, it will be converted into a temporary housing, including living room space and such.
“This will allow people to continue on with their lives while we work to get them more permanent housing,” Stack said.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.