News from Nearby

Cranford Planning Board Hears Redevelopment Study for North Avenue East

f65c0004ae7aa92d3d32_DSCN2566.JPG
Cranford residents and business owners addressed the planning board with numerous concerns about the report. Credits: Leah Scalzadonna
7b814c7b6cc985bab3d5_DSCN2565.JPG
Cranford residents and business owners addressed the planning board with numerous concerns about the report. Credits: Leah Scalzadonna
afa0b409c26adb312747_DSCN2572.JPG
Cranford residents and business owners addressed the planning board with numerous concerns about the report. Credits: Leah Scalzadonna
f65c0004ae7aa92d3d32_DSCN2566.JPG

CRANFORD, NJ – Furious residents and business owners filled the municipal chambers on Wednesday evening as the Cranford Planning Board heard a presentation from Harbor Consultants regarding the redevelopment of a portion of North Avenue East.

The redevelopment evaluation spans from Bar Americana to the Riverside Inn and includes the Cranford Fire House, Marino Seafood and more. Some of the included buildings and one parking lot are municipally owned. Others, like Swan Dry Cleaners, have been closed for years.

The study, posted on the township website on Monday, sparked strong protests on social media by including local businesses, particularly the Riverside.

Sign Up for E-News

“The commissioners specifically wanted Block 195, Lot 10 (the Riverside Inn) excluded from the study area,” Mayor Thomas Hannen Jr. said before the presentation began. “Unfortunately, an oversight resulted in it being included. I take responsibility as mayor for not going over each block and lot number to make sure that was not included. At some point in time, if the owner would like to be included for whatever advantages it may provide, they may reach out to either myself or Deputy Mayor Ann Dooley and we’ll be happy to include them.”

Hannen also asked that residents carefully review the study and provide feedback.

“Please allow us to go over this, give us your input,” he continued. “This is about your downtown. We’re looking to enhance that area so businesses like the Riverside and Chinese restaurants can be enhanced and enhance our downtown. Your input in this process will be very important.”

The study was presented by Harbor Consultant’s Michael Mistretta, who stressed that this is a draft study dating back to 1985.

“There’s documents dating back to 1985 that speak to a redevelopment of our downtown,” he said. “Our study piggybacks on 33 years of planning efforts that the township has spent hundreds and thousands of dollars on as to what our vision is for our downtown area.”

He cited reports stating a need for higher residential development, structured parking, affordable housing and repairs for flood damage from Hurricane Irene.

“You have a buildup of forces over the years that have led to tonight,” Mistretta said. “It’s all designed to meet as much as possible of the goals that we’ve been talking about as a community for over 30 years.”

Mistretta also questioned the exclusion of the Riverside, saying the township needs to look into property lines, titles, etc.

“If one got redeveloped, what’s the impact on the other?” Mistretta asked. “That particularly affects Bar Americana, the three properties in the middle and the Riverside.”

However, Hannen and Dooley repeatedly emphasized that the Riverside was not intended to be in the report.

“All five members of the township committee sat in that room and said not the Riverside,” Dooley said.

Others questioned why any of the operating businesses were included in the report at all. Business owners from Marino’s and Chapman Bros. addressed the board, expressing anger and disbelief that they were not notified of this report before it was executed and only learned of it this week.

“What does happen to us?” Michael Tears, co-owner of Marino’s, asked the board. “What do you want us to do? You’re going to buy us out?”

“We’re looking for you as a business owner to give us feedback on this plan,” Hannen responded. “Nobody’s looking to buy you out, nobody’s looking to close you down. But we need feedback. This is the area that you have chosen to make your livelihood. Help us make that neighborhood better so more people want to come into your restaurant. If you just leave it the way it is, you’ll continue to experience the business level that you have. If there’s a way that we can improve this, you’ll be making more money, as well as the other businesses in the area.”

“Let’s say you redevelop and make a much better building,” Tears rebutted. “You redevelop and everything’s great. What now? Whoever owns that now will raise our rent so much that we’ll go out of business. We’ve been here since 1945. I don’t think anyone on the board was living in 1945. But you guys want to just sell out, who cares? How are we going to work? I don’t understand what’s wrong with the building now.”

Jenny Smith, co-owner of Chapman Bros., echoed Tears’ concerns and said the fact that business owners were not notified of the report is “shady.”

Dooley agreed that the business owners not being notified was wrong, claiming it is an “embarrassment.”

“I will agree with every single person who said that it’s the first time that they found out as a property owner that this was happening,” Dooley said. “That’s an embarrassment.  I do know that our DMC [Downtown Management Corporation] wanted to go speak to the business owners as a first step and that did not happen, because while this was still in draft, people wanted it up on the website before it went to final. And that’s just how it happened. It was not a hiccup, it’s an embarrassment, and if I’m ever involved in anything like this again, I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen. I apologize to everyone in this room who has an ownership in this room, but let’s focus on what this is tonight, which is a simple discussion to see whether it should go past this report.”

Ralph Brunette, owner of 25 North Avenue East, was represented by attorney Rob Simons. Simons told the board he is surprised by the language in the report and that it is inconsistent with the law to designate the area as a “condemnation area in need of redevelopment.”

“We will vigorously and vehemently oppose any redevelopment designation for not only Mr. Brunette’s property, but this entire area,” Simons said. “It does not meet the statutory criteria. Certainly, if it comes to that, we will be prepared at the appropriate time with appropriate testimony and expert witnesses in support of our position.”

Other questions grew more contentious, accusing the planning board of conducting this process without putting the appropriate steps on meeting agendas and accusing Dooley of accepting $1,000 in campaign funding from Harbor Consultants and awarding them a no-bid contract after the election.

According to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, Harbor Consultants donated to both parties running for election to the township committee in 2016.

“The Democratic Committee gets that money, I do not get that money,” Dooley said. “Don’t know about it, never met Mike Mistretta before this year.”

Members of the audience began to trickle out as the time neared 10 p.m., three hours after the meeting began. According to Hannen, the next step is for the DMC to review the report, engage with the business owners, and determine whether it should go forward.

After the DMC completes those steps, the report will go back to the planning board, which will make a recommendation to the township committee, which will then make a decision.

“We won’t talk about it anymore until the DMC has an opportunity to review it and give the planning board some suggestions,” Hannen said. “I’m sure they’ll have a sub-committee come back to the planning board in a public meeting and tell us what they like, what they don’t like and so forth.”

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Berkeley Heights

TAPinto Spotlight on Business Features New Providence Dentistry

July 17, 2018

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - TAPinto "Summer Spotlight on Business" features local businesses and their owners who are important to our communities. Follow this column to receive a fresh perspective on small business owners and their unique needs while shining a spotlight on their stories.

This edition features New Providence Dentistry, operated by Dr. Beth Herko and her staff of ...

Avoiding 10% Tax Penalty

Do you want access to money from your retirement accounts but aren't sure of the real costs involved?

Most retirement accounts have a set age requirement you must reach before making penalty-free income distributions, which is usually 59.5 but can sometimes be as early as age 50. If you decide to access your accounts earlier, you could face penalties ranging from 10%-25%, which is not ...

Enjoy a Lifetime of Discovery in Union County Parks

July 18, 2018

July is National Parks and Recreation Month, and Union County residents are invited to celebrate this year by exploring “undiscovered” programs and activities found throughout the nearly 6,200 acres of the Union County parks system.

“Union County was one of the very first counties in the United States to establish its own county-based park system for nature conservation and ...

Union County Honored for History Projects

ELIZABETH, NJ - The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders is pleased to announce that two national achievement recognitions for history projects have been presented to the Union County Office of Cultural & Heritage Affairs, a division of the Department of Parks and Recreation.

“Union County is rich in history, and this Freeholder Board is committed to engaging the public with ...

Union County College Foundation’s 3rd “Close the Gap” Campaign Surpasses Goal

CRANFORD, NJ – With over 150 guests and volunteers in attendance, the Union County College Foundation surpassed their goal and raised nearly $55,000 at their 3rd Annual Close the Gap Campaign cocktail reception. Held on July 11, in the Richel Student Commons at the College’s Cranford campus, this campaign was developed by a small group of dedicated community volunteers to support the ...

ReNew Salon and Spa Welcomes Senior Stylist Joan Mormilo

GILLETTE, NJ - ReNew Salon and Spa welcomes Senior Stylist Joan Mormilo to their staff. Mormilo brings with her over 20 years of excellent customer service in the salon and spa industry.

She has extensive product knowledge, focuses on keeping up-to-date on industry standards and practices, believes in mentoring young stylists, and is a team player who strives to ...

Geoffrey the Giraffe Moves In To New Brunswick Children's Hospital

July 12, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Over a stretch of nearly 70 years, Geoffrey the Giraffe at Toys R Us stores was the symbol of happy times for generations of children, and now he may provide those same feelings for children coming to a hospital.

"From this day forward, Geoffrey stands tall in our lobby to encourage our smallest patients to smile when they enter our facilities," said John ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_c8cb6b45d2b342be3cbb_nancy_ori

Sat, July 21, 10:30 AM

New Providence Memorial Library, New Providence

Cuba: Observations of a Photographer

Arts & Entertainment Travel

Sat, July 21, 10:30 AM

New Providence Memorial Library, New Providence

Cuba: Observations of a Photographer at NPML

Arts & Entertainment

Sun, July 22, 2:00 PM

Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, Bernardsville

NJ Audubon: Moths and other Pollinators

Education Green

Carousel_image_634bcda860ed17650f72_93a8625c-ce9d-413f-a61e-4b2df4fe0604

Tue, July 24, 3:00 PM

Grillestone Restaurant , Scotch Plains

Hear the Story of Amelia Earhart, America's Most ...

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink

Carousel_image_e6c7d5b8a558926ee4c5_8e2f7c3f3d7547130a87_swim_team_2

Tue, July 24, 5:30 PM

Summit YMCA, Summit

Summit Area YMCA Swim Team Tryouts July 24th

Health & Wellness

Special June Episode of 'Berkeley Heights Here & Now' Features 6th Annual Street Fair

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – The Berkeley Heights Communications Committee (BHCC) today announced a special edition of Berkeley Heights Here & Now is available on the Township website, www.berkeleyheightstwpnj.gov.

 

The special episode features the 6th Annual Berkeley Heights Street Fair held on June 24 and includes onsite interviews with attending residents/visitors, event ...

And Over Here is the Dining Hall 2

My very first job in admissions was while I was still an undergraduate myself as a tour guide.  Very early on they indoctrinated us with some tricks of the trade.  It’s a dining hall, not a cafeteria.  A residence hall, not a dorm.  If you have to divulge some negative bit of information, sandwich it between two positives.  There were instructions for glossing over ...

Women Have Special Financial Needs That Advisors Overlook

Women have special financial needs that advisors overlook in two ways: 1) advisors don’t always acknowledge the different planning needs women have and 2) advisors don’t always communicate well with female clients – especially if the client comes to a meeting with her husband. It’s very common for a male advisor to spend much or most of the face time in meetings talking to ...

5 Simple Ways to Save Water this Summer

According to the L.A. Times, the average American uses an estimated 98 gallons of water EACH day.  

Here are five simple ways you can save water, to help you conserve water this summer and take some pressure off of your drains.

1. Unless you are using it, turn the faucet off. How many of us still leave the water running while we shave or brush our teeth?According to ...