NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – It appears that delay tactics orchestrated by dozens of opponents of a plan to raze Lincoln Annex school and build a cancer hospital in its place stretched Monday’s Planning Board meeting into Tuesday morning.
Even though the meeting clocked in at 6 hours, 43 minutes from roll call to adjournment, Cancer Pavilion Redevelopment Associates LLC and its expert witnesses are scheduled to return Nov. 9 to resume the application for preliminary and final major site plan approval.
Traffic engineer Daniel Disario is scheduled to testify next month after architect Ken Drucker and civil engineer Christian Roche spoke about the plans to build the 11-story, 519,500 gross square foot Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey Cancer Pavilion.
Much of the marathon meeting consisted of members of the public asking questions of Drucker and Roche that didn’t focus on their testimony, wasn’t within the scope of their expertise or wasn’t relevant to the application.
For instance, at 11:52 p.m., one member of the public began to ask Drucker about the nuances of photon therapy for cancer patients.
A few minutes later, the architect was asked if he lived in Middlesex County.
That was after he was asked if signage on the building would be distracting to helicopter pilots.
If the plan was to frustrate the board members and the applicants, it didn’t seem to work even though Planning Board Attorney Aravind Aithal, Suzanne Sicora Ludwig, who chaired the meeting, and Charles Liebling, the attorney for the applicant, were often forced to ask members of the public to keep their questions focused on the application.
Finally, late in the meeting, one of the members of the public revealed that the meeting was largely a concerted effort in “time wasting.” Many members of the public seemed intent on using their allotted five minutes to cross-examine each expert and five minutes to make public comment at the end of the meeting.
Others, however, asked pointed, probing questions that resulted in new information being revealed about the project that was first unveiled Feb. 4. That day, Dr. Stephen Libutti, director of the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, Chris Paladino, the president of the New Brunswick Development Company (DEVCO) and Mayor Jim Cahill presented the plan to build the state’s first free-standing cancer hospital to journalists at the DEVCO offices.
One of the most interesting pieces of information divulged during Monday night’s/Tuesday morning’s meeting came when Drucker said that other sites had been considered for the construction of the pavilion, including “one to the east.”
Also, Liebling said that the plan for now is to start excavation work on the cancer pavilion in early 2021 and have it finished by summer 2024.
Opponents have voiced various concerns over the plan to move the students from Lincoln Annex to the Pathways Campus on Van Dyke Avenue while a $55 million, three-story replacement school is built at 50 Jersey Avenue.
Many who cross-examined Drucker and Roche continually asked about the six-megawatt power plant, the nine-story parking garage and loading docks that have been attached to the plan.
Liebling often interceded, pointing out those projects were not part of Monday night’s/Tuesday morning’s application. He said the applicant would make it a condition of preliminary and final major site plan approval that the power plant, parking deck and loading docks would also be approved.
When Liebling was asked why those components could be presented separately, he said, “We can’t get through all of this simultaneously. We can’t have split screens dealing with one and dealing with the other. So that is why we agreed to make it a condition of this approval because that is the closest you can get to approximating that.”
The 60-year-old, faded beige-bricked Lincoln Annex would be torn down to make room for the hospital that will be adorned by a handsome red-bricked terra cotta and glass façade.
One of the unique features of the pavilion’s plans is a second-floor pedestrian sky bridge that would extend over the north driveway and connect to the parking deck. A separate second-floor pedestrian bridge is proposed on the southeast corner of the hospital and will extend over Somerset Street and then continue over Little Albany Street to connect to the existing Cancer Institute of New Jersey.