By Donald Wittkowski
With just four weeks to go before the election, Mayor Jay Gillian broadly sketched out the accomplishments of his eight years in office during a speech Thursday that highlighted the “best” of Ocean City.
Gillian did not mention his opponent in the mayoral race, former Councilman John Flood, but his campaign speech before the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce had clear political implications leading up to the May 8 municipal election.
He delivered his remarks at the new headquarters for the American Legion Post 524 at 46th Street and West Avenue. The project, which culminated about five years of fundraising and construction, gives local veterans the “spectacular building” they deserve, the mayor said.
“This new post is a perfect example of what happens when the entire community works together,” Gillian told an audience filled with veterans, business leaders and political figures. “There was a lot of fundraising and a lot of volunteers coming together from every part of Ocean City to get this job done.”
“For the eight years I’ve been mayor, I’m proud to say that’s what we’ve been all about,” he continued. “We’ve put aside petty differences, rolled up our sleeves and gotten down to work.”
The American Legion, meanwhile, will celebrate the grand opening of its new headquarters with a ceremony this Saturday.
Prompting applause from the audience, Rob Cozen, the American Legion’s fundraising chairman for the new building, said the project would not have been possible without support from the mayor, his administration and members of City Council.
“It wouldn’t have happened without any of you,” Cozen said, while also praising the leadership of American Legion Post 524 Commander Bob Marzulli in getting the project done.
Gillian touted the partnerships he said he has built with groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, the American Legion and City Council during his two terms in office. He also said he has worked closely with property owners and residents from all parts of town to accomplish “more in the past several years than ever before.”
“The things we’ve accomplished together are the reason why people love Ocean City so much. The best beach, the best downtown, the best Boardwalk, the best place for women-owned businesses,” Gillian said. “Year after year, it’s the same story of success.”
His remarks also focused on a series of construction, drainage and road projects he has launched or completed during his five-year, $100 million capital plan to overhaul the city’s aging infrastructure.
“Neighborhood drainage systems are being vastly upgraded, roads and alleys are getting repaved, the Boardwalk has been rebuilt, the beaches and dunes are restored and the bayside dredging program has restarted,” he said. “We’re adding popular new facilities like the skateboard park and pickleball courts. And we’re improving our existing resources like the downtown and the Community Center.”
Gillian revealed in his speech that the city has finally acquired a key piece of property that is part of broader plans to create a more inviting entryway for visitors arriving in town on the Ninth Street corridor. The city is paying $650,000 to buy the former Getty gas station site at the corner of Ninth Street and Bay Avenue, City Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson said.
The formerly blighted Getty property will be combined with land next door, once the site of an abandoned BP gas station, for a landscaped park to help beautify the Ninth Street gateway. The city paid $475,000 to buy the old BP site in 2016 and has been negotiating to acquire the Getty property for about two years.
“We’re working hard on the gateway to Ocean City,” Gillian said of the landscaping plans for the Ninth Street corridor, the main artery in and out of town.
During his remarks, Gillian also announced that the city has secured a crucial permit from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for a dredging program to clear out sediment-choked lagoons along the back bays. At the same time, the city is awaiting approval for a federal dredging permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
When combined, the state and federal permits will allow the city to dredge the shallow bayfront from “tip to tip – an amazing feat,” the mayor said.
Gillian has scheduled a town meeting at 10 a.m., April 28, at the Ocean City Tabernacle to announce the new sites for the 2018 dredging program. He encouraged the public to attend.
Wrapping up the accomplishments of his administration, Gillian said he is proud of the work he has done and wants to continue as mayor. He easily won election in 2010 and 2014.
Gillian’s 2018 election clash with former Councilman John Flood, a prominent commercial real estate developer, pits two high-profile politicians with longtime business ties in Ocean City. Gillian is the owner of Gillian’s Wonderland Pier amusement park on the Boardwalk.
“Eight years ago, I ran on a platform of ‘Unity in the Community,’” Gillian said. “Now more than ever, that rings true. Together, we’re getting a lot done. And together, we will make Ocean City the best it can be – for us and for all future generations. I hope you all will join me in this important mission.”