BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Children bearing homemade signs asking the council to "Pave our road now!" among other messages, joined their parents to express their frustration about the dangerous condition of a two-block section of Garfield Street.
Six adults, Laurie and Jimmy Carbone, Karen Bauer, Shirley Delia, Michelle Liss and Jane Esnes, attended the council meeting Tuesday night, July 18, to find out why the section of the street on which they live, walk and would like to ride their bikes, was not paved when the rest of the street was milled and repaved earlier this year.
The signs carried into the meeting by the seven children reflected their concerns about the road and they brought the signs up to the front of the room so the council members could see them while the adults spoke. One of the signs they brought to the meeting read, “I’m Scared to Ride my Bike,” another, “I Want to Ride My Bike Like a Normal Kid!” Other protest signs read, “We can’t play on the road. I tripped in a hole. Please pave our road!!!”, “I want to push my baby brother’s stroller, but I can’t because the road has too many holes!”, “2 Years ago my brother fell off his bike and scraped his whole side of his body. He was bloody! Please pave our road! We want to stay safe!”, “I fell while riding my bike. I got hurt real bad,” “Pave our road now! So we can run and not fall! and ”I want to eride my bike and play cops ‘N’ robbers.”
Bauer told the council, “Conditions on our street are unacceptable. We have called year after year after year,” to complain about the street. Not only is the road full of holes and patches, it’s so dangerous at least three children have sustained injuries after falling from their bikes, she explained.
Laurie Carbone said after a third child was injured in a bike accident, “I called Bob to come and look at our road.”
He knew the road's condition and Carbone said he told her, “Our side was rated poor,” … “the opposite side, the area after Shirley Delia’s, from the pedestrian walk-path down to Mount Carmel, that was only rated fair,” but that entire area was repaved. She asked when the rest of the street would be paved.
It was not an idle question, Delia said it has been 25 years since the road was paved. The township had originally scheduled the paving to be done four years from now, in 2021, but had moved it up to fall, Township Administrator Bussiculo told the residents. There is money in the budget to do the road. Earlier in the year, the move was made to include funds in this year's budget pave all the roads previously scheduled for 2018, which means the township is at least one year ahead of its previous paving schedule.
Mayor Robert Woodruff referred the question to Bussiculo who said, “They have been told they will be paved in the fall.”
Carbone responded, “No, we haven’t. Every time we call we get another answer.”
Bussiculo repeated his answer and Bauer asked, “Will that be September in the fall or October or ?”
Bussiculo said it depends upon “when the contractor is available, etc., etc.” and returns to the area, it could be September, or another date.
There were more questions, including how are decisions made on which sections will be paved, why one section with a better rating would be paved before one with a lower rating and why sections are split up.
No specific answers were given except that the Garfield Street area isn’t unique – other roads are paved in sections, also.
Bauer said whatever the reason, Garfield Street is so bad that “right in front of my driveway there are 11 patches. The kids can’t go any place.”
The paving contractor is not in town anymore, so it will be sometime in the fall before the work can be done, but there are no guarantees.
Woodruff said, “Our intention is to do it in the fall, unless we don’t have the money, you are on the list to be done in the fall.”
After the meeting Bauer said, "We have voiced concerns for years about the poor condition of our road. As our kids have gotten older, they too realize that they still can't ride bikes and enjoy the neighborhood." She added that concern increased after they realized the township had milled and paved all but the two block section of Garfield Street on which they live. To help them express their frustration she said, "I held a pizza and poster party for the neighborhood kids to voice their concerns and (express) what they felt was important about our situation. They were hoping to make a difference and they sure did."