NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - About 30 members of a community watchdog group dedicated to stopping the sale of an elementary school are planning to step up their efforts in the days before Rutgers' governing board meets next month.
Much of Monday night's meeting of the Fifth and Sixth Ward Neighborhood Association centered on brainstorming ways the group could apply pressure on various government bodies, religious institutions and other groups, including the university's Board of Governors.
The group's goal is to halt the sale of the Lincoln Annex School on Somerset Street - at least until a new school is built first.
Rutgers' Board of Governors is scheduled to meet Feb. 18 at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey - just yards away from the school that has been at the center of a controversy since New Brunswick Superintendent of Schools Aubrey Johnson revealed in September that there was interested in buying the school.
The potential sale of the Lincoln Annex School, which is home to about 750 students in grades 3-7, was confirmed by Board of Education President Diana Solis, who said at October's meeting that administrator/secretary Richard Jannarone and district director of facility design and construction Frank LoDolce had previously met with a representative of the New Brunswick Development Corporation (DEVCO).
In June, RWJBarnabas Health and Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, in partnership with DEVCO, announced plans to build a $750 million, free-standing cancer pavilion. The precise location of the pavilion was not known when the plans were unveiled at a press conference attended by State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford), Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge), RWJBarnabas Health CEO Barry Ostrowsky, DEVCO president Chris Paladino and other major power brokers from across the city and the state.
Focusing on Rutgers' involvement in the deal, members of the Fifth and Sixth Ward Neighborhood Association used Monday's meeting to hatch strategies that included everything from launching emailing and phone call campaigns aimed at the 15-member Board of Governors to handing out flyers in front of the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital to picketing outside the hospital on the day before and the morning of next month's meeting.
And, of course, they plan to address the Board of Governors during the public comment portion of that meeting.
Monday's meeting attracted members of several other civic groups, such as New Labor, Food and Water Action and Cosecha as the Fifth and Sixth Ward Neighborhood Association attempts to enlist allies in their fight.
It also seemingly attracted more people from outside the Fifth and Sixth wards as it did from inside it. Some people at Monday's meeting came from Monroe, North Brunswick and Carteret. Others were from other sections of the city. There were Rutgers professors and students, a retired New Brunswick public school teacher and a woman who sometimes serves as a substitute teacher at the Lincoln Annex School.
The meeting was attended by four parents who have children attending Lincoln Annex School and one student.
They are all opposed to the sale of the school that the city purchased in 2013 and used $22 million in tax money to refurbish.
Others spoke about their annoyance in what they perceive to be Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital's widening footprint on the city.
In a report published Monday by mycentraljersey.com, Paladino revealed that two sites are being considered for the cancer pavilion and that "we're completing our analysis and final design options for the cancer pavilion, which we expect to be completed in the next 30 days."
The Ronald McDonald House is situated across the street from Lincoln Annex School.
By Paladino's timeline, those design options would likely be complete by the time the Board of Governors meets in February.
The Fifth and Sixth Ward Neighborhood Association members not only plan on addressing the Board of Education at tonight's meeting, but they also discussed plans to appeal to the Diocese of Metuchen.
Records show that when the Diocese sold the school to New Brunswick, it included a deed restriction that calls for it to be "solely used for education purposes" for 50 years.