Communities, like the people who live in them, suffered from the recent economic crisis, dealing with budget cuts, layoffs, and reduced services.
“This may be the worst of times,” said Rhoda Schermer of the North Jersey Public Policy Network, sponsor of “Creating Thriving Communities in Challenging Times,” a special presentation Thursday at Bergen Community College where a panel of experts proposed solutions to help towns recover and thrive. Residents of various Bergen County communities as well as Sen. Bob Gordon, Freeholder Maura DiNicola, and public officials from Park Ridge and Little Ferry turned out to hear the proposals, which urged citizens and local governments to work cooperatively on projects that could save money and improve quality of life through better land use, more efficient transportation patterns, environmentally sound practices, and streamlined municipal administrations. “We have to restructure New Jersey,” said Gina Genovese, founder and director of Courage to Connect NJ, an organization that helps communities consolidate and share costly services such as fire, police, and sanitation departments. “The state cannot sustain its 566 municipalities.” Genovese was the mayor of Long Hill Township where a small population struggled to finance municipal services. She praised the 2011 consolidation of Princeton Boro and Princeton Township into a single municipality, a move expected to save Princeton $3.2 million a year.