PATERSON, NJ - On Tuesday the Paterson City Council is expected to vote on a proposal advanced by 6th Ward Councilman Al Abdelaziz to make a section of 21st Avenue, one way and replace the current parallel parking with angled parking.
“This idea has been around for decades,” Abdelaziz told a crowd of about 30 business owners and residents at a public meeting he hosted on April 24. “It was brought up to me immediately after I was sworn in to the Paterson City Council and it is a plan that I plan on seeing executed quickly.”
While the plan that will add 65 parking spaces, and, according to its advocates, help improve the flow of traffic, appears to have the support it needs to advance, as well as from Mayor Andre Sayegh who said that same April night that his Administration wants “businesses to thrive all over Paterson, including 21st Avenue, and this plan will help achieve that,” it won’t be without opposition from local residents.
Bill Priestly, President of the Safety Committee of the Paterson Governor Towers apartment complex, and a 72-year resident of 20th Avenue, along with neighbors Martha Arencibia and Christine Miller, shared their concerns about the proposal with TAPinto Paterson saying they believe it will put them and their neighbors in danger from increased traffic.
When the city council first took up the proposal in May Miller was on hand to present a petition that she said had garnered 240 signatures of residents. That same petition, they added, now includes “200 more.”
The three residents turned traffic activists plan on attending Tuesday’s meeting as well, with Priestly predicting that they’ll have as many as 100 senior citizens from the area with them.
“There have been six people hit by cars between those two crosswalks in the last five years,” Priestly stated, while standing in the complex’s spacious courtyard and pointing to 20th Avenue. “There are three tall buildings here, 560 apartments in which 900 people live, 100% of them are senior citizens, and many are handicapped.”
In just a short amount of time the trio stood with TAPinto Paterson for this story numerous cars indeed, despite signs warning of potential fines, stopped between the two crosswalks to either drop off passengers or deliver groceries.
Cameras installed by the city designed to detect violators have done little to curb the problem, according to Priestly, Arencibia, and Miller.
“Any warnings are virtually ignored,” Priestly stated. “Today (early Sunday evening) is perhaps the quietest time of the week for this street.”
Adding to the traffic congestion are several schools, the residents said. On school days 20th Avenue is jammed with traffic with the worst times being 7:30-9:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m-1:00 p.m., and 2:30-5:00 p.m.
“Philip’s Academy is right around the corner,” Miller offered. “On weekday mornings, there is such a traffic jam that parents pull their cars up on the sidewalk of the complex, get out, and run with their children to make it on time.”
With city bus stops on either side of 20th Avenue, Arencibia added that many seniors use the crosswalks every day and necessarily utilize canes, walkers, wheelchairs, or carts, for assistance.
“They care more about businesses than the safety of our elderly,” Priestly suggested. “20th Avenue is a thoroughfare for police vehicles, fire trucks, ambulances, trucks, city and school buses. With all the new stores on 21st Avenue, traffic has gotten worse. During the week, trucks constantly double park to unload goods.”
Priestly also said that on weekdays, buses from twenty to thirty care centers access the back parking lot of the towers to provide transportation for 100-150 seniors for doctor’s appointments and other engagements.
Miller said that with heavier traffic there will be more late busses, forcing seniors to wait longer for public transportation which would be particularly difficult during rainstorms and winter months.
Asked about the concerns at a recent press conference on a different topic Abdelaziz said that he held four town hall meetings on the issue, adding that “the Paterson Parking Authority and the City of Paterson have already approved this.”
“There is a plan for 21st Avenue and the one-way but there is no plan for 20th Avenue,” Abdelaziz’ colleague, 5th Ward Councilman Luis Velez, stated. “My constituents and also 6th Ward residents that live along the borders of these streets, especially the seniors, are expressing concern. There is already heavy pedestrian traffic and on the side streets, buses run. Also, there are a lot of kids who go to school in the area as well as four traffic lights which adds to the congestion.”
Velez said he has personally chartered three 25-person busses, each to provide transportation to the council meeting for residents from the Governor Towers.
Miller also raised her concern about the increase in large truck traffic on 20th Avenue if the one-way system goes into effect.
“21st Avenue is the first street off the expressway,” Miller said of the nearby Route 80. “Now after unloading their goods, semis will turn onto the connecting residential streets and turn onto 20th Avenue to get back to Madison Avenue and the highway.”
The Paterson City Council meeting will be held on Tuesday at Paterson City Hall, 155 Market Street, and begin at 7:00 p.m.
Know a story we should share with readers? Email editor Steve Lenox and tell him about it.