Summit Council Takes First Step to Bringing High Line to Hilltop City

Summit Fire Chief Joseph Houck announces Battalion Chief David Guida's Fire Chief's Award as the deputy chief looks on. Credits: Bob Faszczewski
Summit Police Officers Brian Werthmann and Jon Garcia receive Police Chief's Special Recognition Awards. Credits: Bob Faszczewski

SUMMIT, NJ - The Hilltop City’s governing body wants to bring a taste of one of New York City’s more attractive natural wonders to Summit.

The New York City High Line is a linear park which is built along the Lower West Side of Manhattan along a 1.45-mile stretch of real estate formerly occupied by a section of the former New York Central Railroad.

Now, in a great part due to the groundwork of Summit City Council President Robert Rubino, the Hilltop City may gain a similar attraction—along a one-mile stretch of abandoned railroad property once belonging to the former Rahway Valley Railroad, a former freight-hauling operation—stretching from Briant Park to the Salerno-Duane Automobile Dealership on Broad Street.

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About a month ago, following up on some early research done by Mayor Ellen Dickson and others, Rubino approached the city’s legislative delegation and Union County officials for their backing and, last Thursday, received a verbal commitment from the New Jersey Department of Transportation for the idea.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, City Administrator Christopher Cotter noted that DOT had to be onboard because it controls all abandoned railroad rights-of-way in the state.

First Ward Councilman Albert Dill, Jr., who is on his second go-round on the governing body after an absence of many years, said the suggestion to acquire the property was made several years ago, but NJ Transit, which then was in charge, was not enthusiastic about the idea.

He added the city a few years ago escaped having a freight line run through it during the wee hours of the morning when a plan was floated to reactivate the railroad. That plan was abandoned  after the backers of that proposal decided not to go forward with a proposal they had presented to the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

At the council meeting on Tuesday a resolution to notify the DOT of the city’s formal interest in the idea was introduced by Councilman-at-Large Gregory Drummond and seconded by Second Ward Councilman Richard Madden. The measure received unanimous support from the council.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Dickson, Fire Chief Joseph Houck and Police Chief Robert Weck commended fire department battalion chief David Guide and police officers Brian Werthmann and Jon Garcia for their swift efforts in saving the life of a woman who was having difficulty breathing on June 23 on Euclid Avenue.

They administered CPR and first aid and helped transport the woman to the hospital.

Guida received the Fire Chief’s Award, while the two officers were given Police Chief’s Special Recognition Awards/

On another matter, former Councilman Michael Vernotico, a resident of Blackburn Road and a youth sports coach, urged the governing body to support the efforts of hot dog vendor Chi Shin Yang, known as “Mr. Chi” to sell his products in the evening and on Sundays without being subjected to summonses and fines.

Vernotico noted that the vendor is a fixture at most of the youth sporting events and many high school events held around the city and, especially, with the lighting for evening games at many Summit fields, he depends on those events for much of his livelihood.

Summit Junior Baseball League representative Christopher Chang added that Mr. Chi was a Summit resident who supports the city with his taxes and depends on his businesss for his family’s livelihood.

Although generally supportive of Mr. Chi, Dill noted that a change to the existing ordinance to help him might bring in a great deal of competition from larger operations that may be detrimental to the local vendor. He said the possibility of a larger vendor from Linden bringing in a number of hot dog trucks and carts was the motivation behind the ordinance restricting vendors and their hours of operation that was passed several years ago.

Vernotico, however, said the Linden operator was dissuaded from coming into Summit, not by the ordinance, but by the smaller market, which is more favorable to Mr. Chi.

City clerk David Hughes also noted that Mr. Chi currently is permitted to solicit business at one of four permanent locations in the city. However, once he moves away from this permanent location to solicit business elsewhere he faces greater restrictions.

Dill said, however, the council law committee could look into possible modifications of the vendor ordinance.

In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, the governing body adopted an ordinance to allow the Summit First Aid Squad to use a cut-through on the traffic island across from the Salerno-Duane property at 213 Broad Street while it uses that facility during construction of its new headquarters.

Also adopted were bond ordinances were improvements to a number of city roadways and allocating $900,000 as the city’s share of the cost of improving joint meeting sewerage facilities and an ordinance appropriating $740,000 from capital surplus for equipment purchases for several city departments and improvements to city facilities.

Also adopted was an amendment to the salary ordinance that will make police captains’ salaries equivalent to those of a deputy fire chief and do away with certain retiree health benefits for new employees hired after July 1 of this year.

Another bond ordinance appropriating $4,170,000 for various improvements, including a portion of the cost of renovating the community center, was introduced with a hearing date on that measture set for Tuesday, July 29.


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