Dear Governor Phil Murphy,
From the mid-1970’s, when I was age 12, I’ve had this vivid memory of watching my parents participate in a peaceful demonstration against the construction of a 12-story hotel complex just behind our backyard. In fact, on Wednesday, September 29, 1976, the local newspaper ran an article with a photo showing my mother and her protest placard. The memory of that flashed through my mind last summer when I first learned of, “Say ‘NO’ To 750 Walnut Avenue.” As a result, I signed up with the “Cranford Residents Against Overdevelopment” organization last year.
My father passed away last Christmas morning and just recently my sister and I were helping my Mom, Mrs. James F. Gray, go through things in the basement when we ran across that newspaper photo and caption of my Mom. We were living in a suburb of St. Louis, MO when that proposed hotel was to be built right next door to us. While I was still a teenager ready to enter college in the fall, my family moved to New Jersey, and then in 2006, when they couldn’t handle the hassles of congestion and high property tax, my parents retired to southern Virginia.
But with the outrageous and scary proposal of a 905-unit apartment complex down my street at 750 Walnut last summer, family calls to check in with each other most often centered on any new developments, what was being done in the community, how were any protests being carried out, etc. My Father reminded me that in St. Louis, they had succeeded in getting a 12-story hotel revised to a smaller development of a low-rise shopping center. They agreed with me and my Walnut Avenue neighbors that 750 was a terrible location, being more than 1.5 miles from Cranford town center and the commuter rail with only Walnut Avenue as the best direct route for 905 units! My Mom’s: “MORE TRAFFIC IS NO POLLUTION SOLUTION” is very 1970’s and it might have worked back then.
In today’s world, pollution is just a part of the larger, overall scope of necessary considerations. Let’s just look at the ‘math’ of it. Assume each unit will have 2 to 3 persons; yes, some may have just one; some may have four. We’re still looking at 1,900 to 2,850 individuals needing water and discharging used water. A sizable portion will need an education. There will certainly be 2,000 more vehicles on Walnut Avenue between Raritan Road and North Avenue East/ Springfield Avenue.
Recently, at around 1:00 p.m. on a day mid-June, I was following a mother with her stroller wanting to cross North Avenue East at Eastman Street while she was being shown the “Walk” signal and cars with a Red Light were continuing to move. She finally threw her hands in the air in exasperation. I stepped in making hand signals and mouthing the word, “STOP” repeatedly until the cars finally let her cross the street. The site of this proposed complex couldn’t be in a worse location. The coming and going of shuttle buses to the train station and town center, passing a grade school, two houses of worship, the library, and the community center is less than ideal – an accident waiting to happen.
Then, for a good stretch of Walnut Avenue we have the Rahway River – Cranford’s delight. A delight until it spills over. Having watched the damages of “Irene” and “Floyd” take its toll on the town and knowing that a flood control system is years away into our future, it is unimaginable that our police and fire departments can handle a new overload of 2,000 to 2,500 residents, with an old sewer overflow system backing human waste into our streets and front yards. “Superstorm Sandy” caused fallen trees especially on Walnut Avenue to knock out electricity to almost entire town for three straight weeks.
A retired gentleman from Linden that had worked for a local sewage disposal plant told me last fall that Cranford’s aging sewer system would not be able to handle the influx of so many new residents and all their gallons of added waste water. Let me cite reference to Wikipedia’s Mount Laurel doctrine “Some assert such developments could worsen flooding in an already flood-prone area that was ravaged by Hurricane Irene in 2011.” It is not a question of if it happens again, but more the question of when.
Thus, my question is why doesn’t Hartz Mountain Industries consider rebuilding a better commercial venue to attract 21st century e-commerce warehouse tenants? Or resell the property to Erich Schwenker, President, or Dan O’ Connell, VP of Cardinal Capital Management, Inc. of West Allis, WI? Call them, because they have been looking for a property for a modest Deaf & Hard-of-Hearing supportive/ elder care housing in this State. Then, perhaps the Mount Laurel doctrine would be a solution for everyone.
My sincere thanks for your time in reading this, Margo Gray, a concerned resident since 2004.