mayor & council
Honorable Jay Coffey
First, I want to say Happy Birthday to Lauren Davis, a third grader at Wolf Hill School, who told me that her birthday was the same day as the Borough Council's Reorganization Meeting!
A lot of amazing things happened in 2016: the Cleveland Cavaliers won a championship, the Chicago Cubs won a championship and Donald Trump was elected President. If you had bet $100.00 on that trifecta at the beginning of 2016, you would have won a LOT of money. Really amazing stuff.
Quietly, off the national radar screen, on the very local level, some other amazing things were happening: Councilman Joe Irace sat in for me at a FMERA meeting and nobody got hurt. In fact, he actually complimented the FMERA staff and Board. Oceanport's Emergency Services Providers saved a man's life in such an amazing fashion that they were awarded the "Call of the Year" by the EMS Council of New Jersey. Our own Judge John D'Amico was given the 2016 New Jersey Law Journal's Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his years of outstanding public service. The Borough of Oceanport re-established its relationship with Monmouth County, resulting in a $250,000.00 grant from the County in furtherance of the potential purchase of land at the former Fort Monmouth site, and also re-kindled its relationship with the Borough of Shrewsbury, resulting in an extension of the use of their court facilities and the initiation of some shared services agreements designed to save both boroughs money. Thanks to Councilman Briskey, we actually got some movement on the Lake Oceanport problem over on Main Street at the Conrail easement. The Fort Monmouth Ad Hoc Committee, with Patty Cooper, Ray Poerio, Marc Lower and Wayne Mackenrodt at the helm, got us all the way with FMERA to the point where we can actually consider whether we want to re-locate our municipal complex to the Fort property off of Main Street. And the County of Monmouth stepped up to the plate and funded the purchase of the entire Oceanport section of the Fort by FMERA from the federal government, thereby removing a substantial layer of bureaucracy from the development process.
But make no mistake about it, Oceanport is still a small town with some big city issues. The redevelopment of Fort Monmouth is our long term issue. The rehabilitation of our school infrastructure is our mid-range issue. And the continued sustainability of Monmouth Park is our near term issue. But I believe that Oceanport is uniquely prepared to handle each of these matters and that, in the long run, Oceanport will not only survive, but thrive, by approaching these issues not as "problems", but as opportunities.
We're already doing that at Fort Monmouth. Nobody was more opposed to the legislation that set up the FMERA than I was. I still believe that all 430 acres should be Oceanport's to develop, but that's not going to happen no matter how much I stomp my feet or Councilman Irace holds his breath. So, we're looking at it now as an opportunity. An opportunity for Oceanport to better its lot, improve its position and protect its standard of living. Although Oceanport has only one vote on the board at FMERA, I can assure you that our voice on the FMERA Board is going to be heard and that we will be an active participant in all matters involving Oceanport going forward.
As for the rehabilitation of Wolf Hill and Maple Place, that is up to the Board of Education. But this Governing Body expects that we will be working WITH the members of the Board of Education to fashion a solution that is amenable to as many people as possible. The Board of Ed and the Borough of Oceanport are two separate entities. But, to the taxpayer, we're just two different pockets on the same pair of pants: the taxpayers' pants. This is an opportunity for both the Board of Education and the Governing Body of the Borough of Oceanport to show the taxpayers that we can work together, explore various options, provide information and solve problems to the best of our abilities.
As for Monmouth Park Racetrack, well, Governor Christie has fought the good fight for us with respect to the legalization of sports gambling, I will give him that. But until our legislators pass legislation that allows New Jersey's Horse Racing industry to compete on equal footing with Pennsylvania and New York --- whether it's by purse supplements or, preferably, on-site slots, VLTs or other casino type gaming at Monmouth Park --- Monmouth Park and our entire horse racing industry will remain second tier and on the cusp of extinction. How it is that they can't see the opportunity that is Monmouth Park is beyond me. The most beautiful racing facility on the East Coast, bar none, located on the Jersey Shore, five minutes from the Parkway, two minutes from the beach, fifty feet from Mike MacStudy's house, smack dab in the middle of the state, blessed with plenty of parking, its own NJ Transit stop and the capacity to hold over 40,000 people and they don't think that people wouldn't flock there to gamble during the summer and year round? People drive from New Jersey to PENNSYLVANIA to gamble in January, February and March! And they don't think they would drive to Oceanport? And what most people don't know is that Monmouth Park is already open year round because of Off Track Wagering. This is an opportunity that is too good to pass up and I can assure you that this Governing Body is going to be front and center in connection with any and all legislative efforts to capitalize on this incredible asset.
While Oceanport is certainly confronted with myriad fiscal and developmental challenges, by virtue of the fact that we have now identified the issues, analyzed potential problems and strategized potential solutions with educated professionals and local, county, state and federal stakeholders, I am confident that we are now uniquely positioned to ensure that we are actively engaging our problems and that we will emerge from this period of uncertainty a stronger, larger, more stable community much better equipped to deal with 21st century problems.
Honorable Jay Coffey
Mayor, Oceanport Borough, NJ