Roxbury's Oldest Development Readies for Half-Million-Dollar Facelift

Trees line Nixon Drive in Hercules Park on a spring day
Hercules Park residents meet with Roxbury officials to discuss the town's big plans for their little neighborhood Credits: Lindsay Ireland
An old swamp maple on Nixon Drive, marked by Roxbury for removal

ROXBURY, Nj -  The long-discussed revamping of roads and sidewalks in the historic Hercules Park development in Kenvil will begin as soon as next week and might continue into September, said Roxbury Public Works Director Richard Blood at a meeting Thursday.

The $440,000 project was discussed by Blood at an informal public session. About a dozen people attended, most showing support for the township's plan even though it will entail cutting down many old trees now lining the narrow streets.

“Trees are a good resource,” said Blood. “I don’t take them down because I want to.”

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Township workers recently went around and marked trees to be removed from the neighborhood, which is nestled between Corwin Street, North Hillside Avenue, Kenvil Avenue and Hunt Street. The trees were planted about a century ago shortly after Hercules Powder Co. built the development as housing for its workers.

"If they have to go, they have to go," reasoned Bent Street resident Dan Dubek, referring to the doomed trees. Roxbury plans to remove about two dozen of the trees, particularly those that are on the same side of the street as utility lines and those that are heaving sidewalks.

“If we have to disturb the roots to get the sidewalk by, then obviously it creates an unsafe tree and it has to come down,” Blood said. “I know that that’s a concern for everybody."

About six residents at the meeting said they want the town to look at a few other trees they said are showing signs of disease and might need to be felled.

Blood said construction will take place daily from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., but he warned that paving might last later on some days. Removing the pothole riddled paving and laying new material is expected to take three days, Blood said.

The more lengthy aspect of the project will be installing new curbs and sidewalks. The plan is to remove sidewalks from one side of the street - the side without utility poles where possible. Blood said the sidewalk and curb improvements will take about six weeks.

He said he recently measured all driveways in the neighborhood and told the residents that most of their driveways will remain at their current widths. Blood warned that residents might not be able to use their driveways when the curbs are being replaced but he said that once the workers rip out the old curbs, they’ll fill in the trenches so people can drive across.

“Once they start trenching and forming, yes, you will be stuck on one side of the driveway or the other," Blood said. "I’ll make sure that they are knocking on doors and letting people know.”

Although Bent Street and Chase Drive are narrow, people who park on the street often drive their vehicles up and over the current low curbs in order to park on the streets without blocking them too much. This will not be possible with the new, taller curbs, Blood said. Answering a question posed by Chase Drive resident Tina Chrisafis, Blood said there are no plans to widen the streets.

"Everybody asked me about that," he said. "We're doing a remove and replace. You'd have to move fire hydrants, telephone poles ... so, no. We just can't do it."

Parking in general will be a problem during the project, Blood acknowledged. He said he will talk to Roxbury school officials and Roxbury police to see if Hercules Park people can leave their cars at Lincoln-Roosevelt School. 

One resident asked about getting to work when the roads are being paved. Blood said people should not plan to use the streets until the pavement work is finished, warning that the tack oil applied prior to the pavement will get all over their vehicles if they do.

Some at the meeting asked how the changes will affect their taxes and property values. “I would think your property value would go up,” said Roxbury’s new township manager, John Shepherd. “It’s going to look great. It would only help if you’re looking to sell your home.”

He noted the township is getting a property value revaluation next year.

Those at the meeting thanked the town officials for keeping them informed. “This is a first for the township — this size project for a whole neighborhood," Blood said. "So we wanted to make sure that everybody knew what was going on.”


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