RARITAN, NJ - It's been about 16 months since the construction on the Crossings at Raritan began, and the project has started to take its toll on some nearby residents.
“The people in our town are pretty cooperative,” said Mayor Charles McMullin, “so if they complain we know something is wrong.”
At a recent Raritan Borough Council meeting, resident Paul Turriziai took to the podium to express his frustration.
“I just want them to work diligently,” he said. “Don’t inconvenience everyone.”
Turriziai, a 30-year resident of Raritan, said the crew has been beginning its work day an hour before the 8 a.m. ordinance allows, construction trucks have been parking for days in an area with a two-hour limit and management has been failing to clean the street weekly.
“I’ve gotten a flat tire and scratches on my car most likely from the construction site but, of course I can’t prove it,” said the 3rd Street resident.
The real concern arose, Turriziai said, when his wife encountered a construction vehicle traveling the wrong way down 2nd Avenue, a one-way street.
“Maybe we should rethink that street as a one-way,” said councilman Paul Giraldi.
McMullin explained that after numerous discussions with Turriziai about the Crossings situation, he spoke with borough construction official Lou Gara about making 2nd Street a two-way while St. Ann School is in session.
Borough engineer Stanley Schrek said he would advise against that option. He explained that to make it a two-way, the street ordinance would need to be changed and signage altered.
Instead, Schrek suggested instead hiring off-duty police officers.
McMullin acknowledged that if things don’t improve, that could be an option.
“They should have [off-duty] police there like every other job in town has,” said the mayor.
Things had been going smoothly at the construction site up until several weeks ago. When problems arose, McMullin spoke with the job foreman and the owner of Accurate Builders and Developers.
He added that he has had the building inspector out at the site, and the borough has hit the company hard with numerous fines so there have been improvement regarding the security fence, but road maintenance is still an issue.
Giraldi volunteered to discuss the off-duty police presence at the site with the police chief.
Police Chief Raymond Nolte said after the meeting that mandating the presence of off-duty police would be a last resort.
“We need to keep an open dialogue between us and the developer,” he said, “and we need to set ground rules.”
McMullin added that the borough has been heard.
“We're trying to work with them,” he said of the developer, “and at this point I think everyone gets the message loud and clear.”
The 276-unit transit village-style complex is part of the Somerset County Improvement Authority redevelopment project for Block 81, which is situated on 3rd Street between 1st and 2nd avenues. The developer’s plan includes a four-story building with rental residences ranging in size from studios to three-bedrooms, and amenities including a fitness center, business center, community room, a covered parking structure and bike-share program.
Once the apartment building is completed, the developer will add a sidewalk from the site to the railway station, which will be in line with an overall goal of reducing vehicular traffic.
According to the mayor, the population of Raritan is 8,000, yet 120,000 cars a day pass through the borough’s downtown.
Groundbreaking for the Crossings at Raritan took place in June 2018 and completion is scheduled for late 2019.
“It’s not that I want them to stop working,” said Turriziai. “I just want them to stop harassing the people that live here.”