LIVINGSTON, NJ — At the urging of township residents who have continuously commented on the state of the grass median at Livingston Circle—which has been overgrown for some time with weeds strangling the Juniper bushes, grass growling wildly high in some areas but missing in others and a handful of dead trees—is now being cleaned up by the State of New Jersey.
Among the residents who noticed that the vegetation at Livingston Circle was unkempt was Livingston Councilman Michael Vieira, who was determined to see it cleaned up. When Vieira noted at a recent township council meeting that the Livingston Circle looked disheveled, his fellow council members agreed to request that the New Jersey’s Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Good Neighbor beautification program fix up the median.
“It was a town council team effort,” he said. “Everyone knew something had to be done. The council relied on my expertise from years of working for Essex County’s Transportation Service.
“The Livingston Circle is the gateway into our town as well as the exit. We want it to look nice because it’s the first impression visitors get of our town.”
The grass median at The Circle is owned by the State of New Jersey, which means that Livingston is not legally allowed to maintain it. Fortunately for Livingston, however, Vieira is the County of Essex Director of Transportation Service and has a personal connection to the Commissioner of County Transportation, Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti.
After Mayor Al Anthony called Gov. Phillip Murphy, Vieira said he saw Guierrez-Scaccetti in Atlantic City at a Transportation Convention in March and was able to speak further with her about the patch of land.
Following the state’s budget approval on July 1, Vieira heard from Zenobia Fields, Director of Government & Community Relations New Jersey Department of Transportation, that the state had approved Livingston’s beautification request. The state began trimming at the Livingston Circle shortly thereafter.
“I’m so happy to see the governor’s office and NJDOT delivering on a promise they made earlier this year when we requested the Livingston Circle—which is located on a state road—be regularly maintained by the state and also be enrolled in the state’s Good Neighbor program, which includes further beautification projects,” said Anthony.
The landscaping makeover officially began on Aug. 19, according to the township. Trees have been pruned, weeds have been cut away from the Juniper bushes, grass seeds have been scattered, new bushes have been planted and dead/diseased trees and poison ivy have been removed. Workers also mulched around the trees, and the vegetation has since been coiffed as part of the transformation.
“It will be much easier to maintain now,” said Vieira. “Maintenance workers couldn’t even maneuver the lawnmowers into the middle of the median because of all the overgrown vegetation.”
Vieira added that the members of the governing body have received many messages from residents who are delighted that the land has finally been tended to.
“I’m happy that I was able to use my connections to get The Circle clean up done,” he said. “I enjoy doing whatever I can to help improve Livingston.”
Under Vieira’s leadership of the Department of Transportation, several programs have been established to help people who need transportation, including a shuttle for seniors, disabled individuals and economically disadvantaged people.
Through “Essex Night Owl,” a service that began about 15 years ago, buses now transport residents from Newark, the Oranges and Irvington home from jobs at Newark Airport and also to take people home from Penn Station from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. In fact, former president Barack Obama mentioned “Essex Night Owl” in one of his televised speeches, and it has since become a model program for busing around the country.
Vieira also serves as the state president of the New Jersey Council on Special Transportation (NJCOST), a statewide organization with about 400 members that specializes in community transportation for senior, disabled, economically disadvantage and (in some counties) general public transportation.