Hackensack City Council Prioritizes Community Development, Fends Off Controversial Allegations

In a recent Hackensack City Council meeting, robust discussions unfolded as citizens and council members engaged on a range of topics, spanning city redevelopment, recreational programming, and escalating tensions over workplace allegations and racism claims.

The council opened the meeting by recognizing the city’s firefighters, particularly those involved in a recent major fire on the river, with a moment of silence held for two fallen firefighters. Mayor John P. Labrosse Jr. then honored Russo Development for their donation to the city’s Fourth of July celebration and their large-scale development projects along the Hackensack River. The Print House, Russo Development’s riverside project, was touted by Mayor Labrosse as “its own entity down there on the riverfront and it’s spectacular.”

Neglia Engineering Associates and Alfred Sanzari Enterprises were also acknowledged for their significant contributions to the Fourth of July celebration. In addition, Ralph Cantini, a Hackensack resident and soon-to-be President of Unico National, was recognized for his extensive service at all levels of the organization.

The city’s recent focus on diversified recreational programs was highlighted in the meeting. After the successful 2023 Baseball season, the city has introduced new programs like a summer baseball clinic run by Hackensack High School’s head coach, a tennis program, a volleyball program for kids and adults, and a pickleball program. Mayor Labrosse added that the public library also offers non-sports-related activities, such as arts and crafts, book fairs, and acting classes.

The City Manager reported plans for future programs, including karate, dance and tumble story time yoga, Zumba for children, and junior golf, as well as updates to facilities like Carver Park.

Several resolutions were passed by the council, including an update to provisions regulating parking, the approval of the 2023 Capital Improvements Budget, and authorizing a Redevelopment agreement with Mercer Urban Renewal Development LLC for 19 Mercer Street. The council also introduced an ordinance to update rules for abandoned and nuisance properties, specifically foreclosed, vacant, and abandoned properties.

Public comments were abundant, covering a range of issues from open spaces acquisition to concerns about traffic congestion and issues with public meeting accessibility and transparency. One particularly heated issue was the allegation of workplace discrimination and harassment at the city’s Recreation Park, leading to the resignation of an employee named Amani Pettaway. The council stressed that personnel issues should be handled by management, not the council.

Also noteworthy was the proposal by residents Sarah Russell and Mark Manessi to convert their manufacturing business into a cannabis business, with potential tax benefits for the city. The council expressed openness to discussing the proposal further.

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