NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The plan to raze a city school and build the state’s first freestanding cancer hospital on the site has taken another step toward becoming a reality.
The Board of Education adopted a resolution Tuesday night authorizing the preparation and filing of an update to school district’s long-range facilities plan “that will recommend the replacement of the current Lincoln Annex School with a new school to be constructed on a different site.”
The resolution, which was read by board member and facilities committee chair Edward Spencer, also calls for the students of Lincoln Annex to be moved to the district’s facility at 40 Van Dyke Ave. while the replacement school is built.
The resolution was adopted 6-0. Board members Jennifer Shukaitis and Jennifer Sevilla abstained. Board vice president Dale Caldwell was not present.
The vote was taken after the board returned to the stage. It took a temporary adjournment after audience members – some upset that they didn’t get a chance to speak even though they had previously signed an attendance sheet or contacted business administrator Richard Jannarone – began to yell out toward the board.
When Board President Diana Solis stopped the public portion of the meeting after 1 hour and 36 minutes, a commotion started to spread inside the New Brunswick High School auditorium. Two members of the audience were removed by security. Twenty-three of the 33 people who signed up in advance were allowed to speak Tuesday.
By the time the board returned from the adjournment about 25 minutes later, about five audience members remained. The resolution was adopted and the board adjourned soon after.
It brought to an end another often contentious meeting in which several residents, activists and even a Lincoln Annex fourth-grader voiced their opposition to the plan and urged the board to halt it.
Mayor Jim Cahill, DEVCO President Chris Paladino and Dr. Steven Libutti, the Director of the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, unveiled a plan to build a 12-story, 510,000 square foot Cancer Pavilion at a meeting at DEVCO offices on Feb. 4
The pavilion would provide inpatient and outpatient care and provide space for state-of-the-art laboratory space to accommodate 10 new research teams – each dedicated to the search for new scientific outcomes and critical cancer treatments.
Paladino and Libutti made a presentation to the board at Tuesday’s meeting. Paladino revealed that, at the urging of the board, it also has looked at the 4.75-acre open tract at 50 Jersey Ave. as a possible site for a replacement school.
Several of the audience members told the board on Tuesday they’re not in favor of building a school at 131 Jersey Ave. because the ground is contaminated and would need to be remediated before construction. The proposed replacement school could also include some or all of 121 Jersey Ave.
Others said it would be a hardship to send their children to the facility because they don’t have a vehicle. Those parents wondered how they would get their children to school if they miss the bus.
Dozens of opponents to the plan met outside New Brunswick High School before the meeting. They chanted and held aloft signs that read, “Don’t Sell My School” and “Save Our School.”
Once inside, they held the signs up in silent protest while Paladino and Libutti gave their presentations.
The pending April elections served as a backdrop to Tuesday’s meeting. Three candidates running under the "Students First" platform – Linda Stork, Jerry Mercado and Reginald Parker – voiced their opposition to the plan to raze Lincoln Annex, at least until the replacement school is completed.
Incumbents Caldwell, Emra Seawood and Patricia Varela, who are running under the banner “New Beginnings For New Brunswick Schools,” have released an election statement on their website, www.newbeginnings4nbps.com.
The plan is to break ground on the Cancer Pavilion before the end of the year. Libutti explained at the Feb. 4 meeting that the clock is running to have the pavilion up and running before key accreditation deadlines. This would potentially make the campus eligible for millions of dollars in grants.
Libutti also explained that the Lincoln Annex site is ideal because it is just yards away from the cancer institute and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. Two sky bridges would connect the glass and pavilion to the legacy buildings.
As part of the $750 million plan, $55 million is earmarked for the replacement school. RWJ is picking up the entire tab.
The ultimate decision to include the Lincoln Annex School will be in the hands of the board members.
They didn’t indicate Tuesday how they feel, unless you consider their vote to adopt the resolution.
According to the resolution, “Once the facilities committee has selected the site, they will continue to work with the same working group in the planning and design of the new school.”
School districts are required to file long-range facilities plans with the state every five years. New Brunswick hasn’t filed one in about seven years.
Earlier this month, the City Council took the first official step to making the plan a reality when it voted to approve a resolution that refers a redevelopment plan to the Planning Board for review and report. The Planning Board would turn its findings over to the Board of Education.