Key Mayoral Initiatives

Renaissance of the City


Improving public safety, controlling spending, improving city services, and bringing low rise housing, hotel, office building ratables and a new supermarket to the Downtown

Private and public-private developments in Englewood during Mayor Rothman’s tenure were all in keeping with the city’s diverse, cosmopolitan low-rise, tree-lined, residential character. These included 339 residential townhouses constructed on the former golf course, more than 50 residential townhouses built throughout the community, 30 low-rise office buildings along the Grand-Engle, Dean Street corridors, and a 200-room hotel on Englewood’s abandoned garbage dump.

Record newspaper clipping on Mayor Rothman’s tree planting in Englewood, May 30, 1985

West Street ShopRite Public-Private Partnership proposal, 1986

The revitalization of Englewood’s Downtown was another focus, with investment to improve the area’s sidewalks and curbs, trees, lighting, store façades and rail crossings. Mayor Rothman led the effort to attract a new supermarket and other much-needed stores and facilities to an under-developed section, and helped organize a $22 million public-private partnership that ended Englewood’s time as a “food desert” by bringing a supermarket compex to the West Street area in need of redevelopment. The project was a huge success, drawing shoppers from all over Englewood and surrounding communities to the area.

Mayor Rothman led the effort to fix the city’s school buildings and classrooms, replace damaged trees and for better compliance with property maintenance codes in Englewood’s neighborhoods.

Robert Benecke, Englewood’s Chief Financial Officer when Rothman took over and a Republican, commended Mayor Rothman’s “hard-nosed, let’s-get-the-job-done” management style in dealing with the city’s challenges.

Norman Davis, Former Englewood City Council President, Englewood School Board President, Englewood Economic Development Corporation President and Englewood Historical Society President described the “revitalization of Englewood under Mayor Steve Rothman in the 1980s” as “effectuating one of the most significant and important changes in Englewood’s history”.

Commitment to Education & The Library

Mayor Rothman demonstrated his strong commitment to education and the library while in office. During his first three months as Mayor in 1983, he visited every public and some private school classrooms in Englewood.

Englewood Public Library Director, Pat Anderson, reviews library expansion plans with Mayor Rothman in front of former Engle Street School, 1985

In 1987, Mayor Rothman devised a five-year improvement plan for Englewood’s public school buildings funded by the $4.3 million sale of the long-vacant Roosevelt School that he championed. He also established The Mayor’s Wedding Scholarship Fund for graduating seniors at Dwight Morrow High School, funded by donations and a voluntary $10 officiating fee for civil marriages. During his tenure, Mayor Rothman officiated over 400 civil marriages, about a third of which were conducted in Spanish.

Quarles Elementary Schoolchildren, 1983

As Chairman of the Englewood Board of School Estimate, his negotiations led to the sale of the long-vacant Engle Street School for $1.1 million in 1984. Almost all the proceeds of the sale were spent on public school classroom repairs and maintenance throughout the Englewood school district. $160,000 were devoted to making long-anticipated renovations to Englewood Library. The sale also provided the library with the use of the School’s parking spaces, doubled the number of existing spaces; added desperately-needed library storage space in the basement of the School; and provided essential funds for the complete renovation of the Library roof and the book acquisition fund.

Mayor Rothman conducts wedding ceremony in Englewood City Hall, c. 1987


Commitment to Civil Rights

Mayor Rothman presents key to the City of Englewood to civil rights icon Rosa Parks at Englewood’s Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, May 21, 1983 

Mayor Rothman is a strong supporter of civil rights; for example, he spoke and lobbied for the passage of a federal law to make the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. a national holiday. During his time as mayor, and beyond, he was a guest speaker at all Houses of Worship in Englewood, speaking at Englewood’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, in particular, every year from 1982 to 2016 on King’s birthday as well as on many other occasions.

Mayor Rothman presented the key to the City of Englewood to civil rights icon Rosa Parks in May 1983, and to legendary musical artist Ray Charles in October 1988.

In 1985, Mayor Rothman nominated Jack C. Drakeford to be Englewood’s City Manager, the first African American to hold the position in Englewood and New Jersey history.

In March 1987, a group of delegates from the Soviet Union sponsored by Bridges for Peace met with 400 Englewood third, fourth and fifth graders. Presenting the key to the City to one of the Russian delegates, Mayor Rothman said that Americans longed for the day when their “friends in the Soviet Union” had “the same rights and freedoms” as them.

Libyan Government Acquisition of Englewood Property

Record newspaper article on the purchase of an Englewood estate by the Libyan government, 1982

In December 1982, just before the start of Mayor Rothman’s first term, the Libyan government acquired a five-acre estate “on the hill” in Englewood and there was widespread concern within the local community that the then dictator of Libya, Col. Muammar Gaddafi, would take up part-time residence in the Englewood mansion.

Mayor Rothman went to Washington, D.C. to lobby the Reagan State Department to use the newly enacted federal “Foreign Missions Act” and restrict the use of the estate to the Libyan Ambassador and his immediate family. The Foreign Missions Office of the State Department announced its decision to implement the Act in June 1983 forbidding any other use of the estate by the Libyan government.

When it was later discovered that Gaddafi was significantly renovating the Englewood mansion and grounds in the summer of 2009 to be used as one of his homes, Steve Rothman, at that time the U.S. Congressman for the 9th Congressional District of New Jersey, worked with the Obama State Department to continue the 1983 conditions for the Libyan government’s use of the Englewood estate. Those renovations ceased and Gaddafi never set foot on the Englewood property.

Other Englewood Mayoral Initiatives

Mayor Rothman on the steps of the Englewood City Hall, 1985

Mayor Rothman with Clifford Mental Health Center Counselor, 1985

In 1984, Mayor Rothman led the effort to save the regional Community Mental Health Organization (CMHO), a state and county-funded agency based in Englewood. The CMHO served 180,000 people in the area, including many Englewood residents. State and county support was being threatened by a $200,000 shortfall in the organization’s accounts. Mayor Rothman organized a successful fundraising effort by eleven Bergen County mayors and helped the CMHO achieve sustained support, promoting a change of private managers and making it part of another county mental health agency while it remained in the same Englewood building.

Rothman was invited to be the new President of the Bergen County Democratic Mayors Association and was sworn into that position in May 1985.