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April 20, 2009

ESSEX COUNTY EXECUTIVE DIVINCENZO DEDICATES "CONGRESSMAN DONALD M. PAYNE PLAZA" AT ESSEX COUNTY HALL OF RECORDS COMPLEX
Plaza between Veterans Courthouse and LeRoy F. Smith Public Safety Building Received a Comprehensive Facelift



Newark, NJ - Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. dedicated the "Congressman Donald M. Payne Plaza" in honor of Congressman Donald M. Payne of Newark on Monday, April 20th. The Executive also announced the $900,000 renovation of the Payne Plaza, located between the Essex County Veterans Courthouse and the Essex County LeRoy F. Smith Public Safety Building, was complete. The project is part of an aggressive initiative by DiVincenzo to overhaul the Essex County Government Complex and give recognition to the men and women who have helped shape the community.

"Donald Payne holds a significant place in our state and local history as the first African American Congressman elected in New Jersey. During his long tenure as a legislator, he has been a world-wide ambassador for the less fortunate, promoting human rights issues abroad and bringing attention to poverty, literacy, AIDS and environmental issues at home," DiVincenzo said. "Naming this plaza for Congressman Payne is a fitting tribute because his career started right here in Essex County and Newark," he added.

The County Executive noted various places at the Essex County Government Complex have been named in honor of people or groups of people. "The Veterans Courthouse, Rosa Parks Plaza, the LeRoy F. Smith Public Safety Building, Governor Brendan T. Byrne Plaza, the Joseph P. Lordi rotunda, the Charles Cummings Memorial and now the Congressman Donald M. Payne Plaza are named for people who have had a great impact on our residents and Essex County," the County Executive said. "Having their names etched in stone recognizes their contributions and raises awareness about our rich history. It provides our complex with an identity and helps build pride among our residents," he added.

"Very few people have demonstrated Congressman Payne's type of leadership in their lives. He is an extraordinary leader and visionary who knows what needs to be done and serves tirelessly on behalf of this country," said Governor Jon S. Corzine. "It is only fitting that we are here at this hall of justice to recognize Congressmen Donald M. Payne for his contributions," he added.

"Congressman Payne has been involved throughout the country helping people in need. He has saved the lives of tens of thousands of people," said U.S. Congressmen Steve Rothman. "He is an amazing individual who has inspired me and so many other people over the years," he added.

"We commonly express how well we are represented because Congressman Payne does so with distinction and loyalty. He has the courage and tenacity that is needed to face the difficult problems we face in life," said Freeholder President Blonnie Watson. "Congressman Payne does an outstanding job representing his constituents and it is only fitting that he be recognized in this capacity," she added.

Congressman Donald M. Payne was elected to the 10th Congressional District of New Jersey in 1988, becoming New Jersey's first African-American Congressman. In 2006, he won election to his tenth term to represent the 10th District (which includes parts of Essex, Union and Hudson Counties) in the 110th Congress. He is a member of the House Committee on Education and Labor, where he serves on the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections and the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education. He is also a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, where he serves as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health and as a member of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere and the Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight. On the international front, Payne has been a strong voice and supporter of efforts to restore democracy and human rights across the globe, including in South Africa, Namibia, Haiti, Zaire, Nigeria, China, Eastern Europe, Darfur and Northern Ireland. Congressman Payne also recently held meetings in Somalia with the President and other members of the new government.

"I always felt that it was important to speak out, which has guided me over the years to be an advocate for those in need throughout the Country. I want to thank the County Executive for this honor. I am proud to be in the company of such great individuals that also have locations throughout the County complex named in their honor. I have been blessed with great family and a wonderful staff that work diligently on my behalf and I will continue to serve the people of this great County, State and Country," said U.S. Congressman Donald M. Payne.

In 2003, President Bush appointed Payne as one of two members of Congress to serve as a Congressional delegate to the United Nations and reappointed him in 2005 to an unprecedented second term. In this role, he has met with the U.N. Secretary General and the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., and regularly attended sessions of the U.N. General Assembly and other high level meetings.

Before being elected Congressman, he served on the Newark Municipal Council, the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, as an executive of the Prudential Insurance Company, Vice President of Urban Data Systems, Inc. and an educator in the Newark public school system. A former national President of the YMCA, he was Chairman of the World Refugee and Rehabilitation Committee. He also has served on the board of directors the Congressional Award Foundation, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Newark, the Newark Day Center, the Fighting Back Initiative and the Newark YMCA. Payne, a widower, is the father of 3 and grandfather of 4.

"Congressman Payne continues to put his life on the line for those in need, regardless of race, religion or location. Wherever there is a problem he goes right there to help rectify the situation," said NJ Senate President Richard J. Codey. "He began serving the people on a local level and has since become known on the international front as someone who will fight for those who are underprivileged and underrepresented," he added.

"Congressman Payne is a living legend in his own time," said Newark Council President Mildred Crump. "He is an incredible leader in our community and on behalf of the City of Newark, we are happy to celebrate this recognition with you and congratulate you for all the good work you continue to do for people," she added.

"The motto of the Elliot Street School my brother and I attended was ‘give to the world the best that you have and the best will come back to you,' and I know that he continues to work to make this a better world for all people," said Deputy Chief of Staff Bill Payne.

"If I can be half the man my father is I will consider myself a success. He is the reason I am involved in public service today," said Freeholder/Newark Councilman Donald M. Payne, Jr. "It is incredible to realize all the things he has accomplished and it is an honor for me, as well, to know that the County Executive and this community think enough of my father to give him this lasting tribute," he added.

Facelift for Congressman Donald M. Payne Plaza

The Congressman Donald Payne Plaza was redesigned to complement the upgrades made to the Rosa Parks Plaza, located on the eastern side of the Veterans Courthouse, in 2006. Ornamental brick pavers, granite walls, landscaping and a fountain were installed. Improvements were also made to enhance Nelson Place to link the Congressman Donald M. Payne Plaza with the new Essex County Veterans Memorial Park that is currently being developed. Work on the plaza started in July 2008.

Hatch Mott MacDonald of Millburn designed the improvements under an existing contract with the County. Zenith Construction Service, Inc. of East Newark was awarded a competitively bid contract for $901,500 to perform the construction work. The Essex County Department of Public Works monitored the project to ensure delays are avoided. The improvements were funded through the Essex County Capital Budget.

Revitalizing the Essex County Hall of Records Complex

The Essex County LeRoy F. Smith Public Safety Building, which is the former Essex County Jail, is undergoing a renovation that will transform the structure into an office building. The 14-story building will house several chambers of judges of the New Jersey Appellate Division of the Superior Court and offices for the Essex County Sheriff's Office, Essex County Prosecutor's Office, Essex County Vocational Technical School's administrative offices, the Essex County Superintendent's Office, the Essex County Improvement Authority, the Essex County Utilities Authority and record storage. It is scheduled to be opened by the end of 2009.

Beginning in 2006, the DiVincenzo administration started a comprehensive initiative to upgrade the County's government complex. Modern office space has been created for the Superior Court administrative functions and Prosecutor's Homicide Unit; comfortable accommodations were developed for the Petit Juror and Grand Jury Assembly areas; a new public entrance was created to enhance access to the Essex County Veterans Courthouse; and a 1,000-car parking garage and upgraded surface lot were developed. A landscaped promenade from Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard to Howard Street was developed and named in honor of former NJ Governor Brendan T. Byrne. Prior to that, the plaza in front of the Veterans Courthouse received a complete makeover and was named in honor of Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks.

The Historic Essex County Courthouse was renovated and reopened in 2004. Work to restore the building was stalled for over 12 years until DiVincenzo took office and moved the project along. In just 24 months, the project was completed.

In 2003, the employee parking lot on West Market Street was repaved and reconfigured, and a renovation project to the first floor lobby of the Hall of Records restored many of the historical features. Other projects include facelifts to the Freeholders' Chambers on the fifth floor of the Hall of Records, the County Clerk's Office on the second floor and the public cafeteria on the third floor.

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