CARTERET—Last Friday, against a backdrop of outgoing traffic, Mayor Daniel Reiman welcomed state and county dignitaries, residents, and friends and family of the late Mayor Pete J. Sica, for a rededication ceremony honoring the local hero that has become immortalized in Carteret’s history, and the highway that is his namesake.
Pete Sica was the town’s second longest-serving mayor, completing four consecutive terms beginning in 1983, until he chose not to run for re-election in 1998. During his time in the local spotlight, he earned a reputation as being hard-headed and yet softhearted, fighting for improvements in Carteret, while selflessly giving help – and often money – to those in need.
Among his local achievements was the establishment of what has now been dubbed the Peter J. Sica Memorial Highway. In the early 1980s, Sica gained regional popularity by gathering local residents to blockade Exit 12 of the N.J. Turnpike, in protest of the truck traffic that plagued the town’s streets. The stunt also turned heads at the state level, and eventually earned the town funding that would allow for the construction of the industrial highway which now keeps truck traffic diverted from Carteret’s residential and retail districts.
On Dec. 14, an extension to Industrial Avenue, allowing to connect to and terminate in Woodbridge, was completed. The 1.4 mile extension was negotiated under the Reiman administration with Woodbridge Township as part of the Port Reading Industrial Park Redevelopment project in May of 2004. As part of the project Carteret received a $2 million federal grant for the construction of various upgrades and improvements along the roadway on the Carteret side. A range of conceptual plans were prepared over the years, but the project was not advanced due to budget constraints for both municipalities and lack of NJDOT funding.
Beginning in 2003, ProLogis (formerly Catellus Development Group) expressed interest in developing two large brownfields in Carteret, the former Reichhold Chemical, and Staflex sites (formerly part of the U.S. Metals Carteret Refinery) comprising 55 acres in Carteret, and the Beazer, PSE&G, and Oliver Block site in the Port Reading section of Woodbridge Township, comprising 235 acres. Joining with Carteret and Woodbridge, they developed the final plan to construct the IRE.
The private development project known as “Port Reading Business Park” was approved by both the Carteret and Woodbridge Planning Boards. The Carteret side of the project was completed in 2005 and the first building on the Port Reading side, fronting Port Reading Avenue was complete in November 2007. Six additional buildings are planned for Woodbridge consisting of 2.5 million square feet, with a total two-town build-out of 3.2 million square feet.
During the ceremony Reiman unveiled the “Peter J. Sica Memorial,” a tribute to the local legend as well as the project he began that has led to so much positive change in the town’s light industrial districts. The landmark is located at the corner of Industrial and Middlesex avenues.
Reiman, along with members of the Sica family, and dignitaries who remembered the charismatic honoree fondly, recalled memories, stories, and anecdotes, many of which surfaced in abundance in the months following his death in 1999, and which have been preserved through the years as part of his legacy. Also in attendance were State Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19), State Assemblyman Joe Vas (D-19), and former mayor and Assemblyman Thomas J. Deverin.
Among his many achievements, Sica owned and operated his own demolition business. He was known for his motivation and self-reliance, and chose to perform much of the company’s work himself. On Oct. 6, 1999, while demolishing a warehouse in Kearny, a section of concrete roof collapsed, crushing the cab section of his machinery. He died instantly. The day of the dedication, Aug. 8, would have been Sica’s 68th birthday.
Approximately 350 residents, family members, and visitors attended the ceremony.
“Today’s turnout is a testament to the popularity of a man who stood by his town the way he stood by his family,” Mayor Reiman commented afterwards. “He made a name for himself both in and beyond Carteret, by fighting for what he believed in and for those in need. This was a day of solemn remembrance, but also one of celebration. Last year’s completion of the Peter J. Sica Memorial Highway marked the continuation of a vision he shared, and a major leap forward for economic improvement in Carteret.”
“Regarding the traffic during the ceremony,” Reiman added, “Pete would have liked it. That’s the sound of progress, of jobs, of growth and ratables.”
Mayor Daniel Reiman presents a plaque to Barbara Sica, Peter Sica’s wife