Other NJ News

Tensions Flair at Millburn Township Committee Special Meeting on Complete Streets

Millburn Township Committee meets for Special Meeting on Thursday. Credits: Karen E. Hughes
Millburn residents and merchants sit in the gallery at the Township Committee Special Meeting. Credits: Karen E. Hughes

MILLBURN, NJ - The Millburn Township Committee met for a special meeting to discuss authorizing a revised construction plan for the final part of Complete Streets Phase 1. The changes impact the intersection of Douglas and Millburn Avenue continuing to Spring Street widening the sidewalks by two feet, referred to as Plan B. The Complete Streets project continues to garner strong opinions from advocates, detractors, merchants and residents. This special Township Committee meeting was no different. 

The meeting started at 8:00 a.m. with the Township Committee going into a closed session to discuss contract negotiations for the proposed changes, leaving members of the public dismayed at the unclear timetable for the committees return for the public session. Individuals voiced their frustrations from the gallery area. Committeewoman Dianne Eglow voted against going into closed session with the rest of the committee voting in favor.

Upon returning, Millburn Township attorney Christopher "Kit" Falcon read the resolution in full detailing the actions under consideration.

Sign Up for E-News

"The negotiations between Bowman Consulting Group and Flanagan Contracting Group did not result in a change order for the work detailed in implementing Plan B for the work area; Whereas, in the absence of a negotiated change order, the Township Committee authorize the issuance of a work change directive ordering Flanagan Contracting Group to construct option B."

Before the vote proceeded, Committeewoman Eglow indicated she had a prepared motion and after a discussion of procedure since a motion was already pending, Eglow shared her thoughts on the resolution on the table.

"I do not believe there should be any sidewalk addition on the north side of Millburn Avenue from Douglas Street to Spring Street." Eglow said. "Even though it is 2 feet, I believe it is an impediment to what the ultimate goal is to safely and effectively return two lanes of traffic into Millburn Avenue."

Mayor Cheryl Burstein, having listened to the recordings of the last two Complete Streets Ad Hoc Committee Meetings, said "It was made abundantly clear that with option B, that there no issue with widening. If there is a determination down the road to widen the streets to two lanes, that with Option B as planned that would easily be done." 

Eglow countered " I was never given clear and final clarification on the specs." regarding the impact of the 2 feet sidewalk widening. 

Committeeman Tillotson, also a member of the Ad Hoc committee, stated, "I knew prior to the vote of the Township Committee, I very specifically remember that we discussed Plan B at the Ad Hoc Committee; and it did in fact include, and I was well aware, that they included enough lane for two lanes of traffic which was the primary objective of Plan B. I was at the same meeting, and I was very clear on that."

Deputy Mayor Jodi Rosenberg stated "At the meeting that we voted on Committeewoman Eglow's resolution for Plan B, we were given these schematics, not just on the Ipad and that was the main reason I voted for Plan B over Plan A. Because we do work for the residents and the residents do seem to want to explore two lanes. Plan A did not give us the option for two lanes." Rosenberg continued, "Today what we are doing is just effectuating the motion that Committeewoman Eglow has put forth two weeks ago."

The vote began with a no from Committeewoman Eglow, but was interrupted from a resident. "Is there an opportunity for public comment?" After clarification that public discussion would follow, the vote continued passing 4-1. 

The public comments opened with resident Sarit Catz voicing her frustration. "It's outrageous the way this process happened in front of our eyes before we had an opportunity to even say anything. Maybe those are the parliamentarians rules, but it's absolutely antithetical to representative government." Katz said. "The way this township committee disrespects that tax payers of this town is absurd."

"In the most respectful way, you must all live in an opposing reality to the rest of us." Cassie Fishkin, owner of Tinga Taqueria, said. "As merchants, we came to you six months ago, and we warned you of how this downtown would look. It's dried up. It's the desert we promised you it would become. Stop this madness please, return this to a functional downtown. Invite people back."

Rosenberg pointed to a downfall in retail nationwide, "I work and live in the town as well. Retail, unfortunately on Madison Avenue in New York is down, you can't blame that on Complete Streets." and was met with vocal opposition from the gallery one resident commenting from their seat, "That is inappropriate, you can not compare the two. We are talking about Complete Streets and what you guys have done down here." 

David Emma, a member of the South Mountain Civic Association, pointed to the political implications of the Complete Streets project in his comments to the committee, "The originators of Complete Streets were voted out of office last November because of widespread dissatisfaction with Complete Streets Phase 1 as it currently exists. It is obvious that some of our very loud and dissenting voices have not been heard, even though they have been expressed." Emma continued, "If our voices are not heard now, or in the coming weeks, I can assure you they will be heard this November in the voting booth."

Following a comment by Layni Rothbort, that she felt the residents were given the impression that there would be no further narrowing of Millburn Avenue and therefore no sidewalk widening at the last Township Committee meeting, she said "There was either a mistake or a misunderstanding that full information was not given to everyone on all the committees to mislead them into misleading the rest of us."

Mayor Burstein replied to Rothbort saying, "I do not believe there was any misleading, certainly no intentional misleading, of the citizenry and the plans clearly showed that were voted on, that did show the widening of the sidewalks." 

Cary Heller, resident and business owner, questioned the timing of the start of the construction as the new school year looms on the near horizon. "I think this is a travesty," and cautioned against beginning work that could bring more traffic problems to downtown.

After public discussion had closed, Committeewoman Eglow presented her motion to the committee. "I move that Arterial be directed to prepare a revised plan for the portion of Phase 1 Complete Streets project at the corner of Douglas to Spring Street along Millburn Avenue to depict the curb lines to show a reduced two feet back to keep the existing curb line as is."

Mayor Burstein called for a second, hearing none, the motion failed amid further vocal objections from some residents in the gallery. The meeting adjourned, and the next regular Township Committee meeting is scheduled for August 15 at 7:30 p.m. 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News


Students Lead ‘Die-In’ at Congressman Lance’s Westfield Office; Summit Boy Arrested

June 13, 2018

WESTFIELD, NJ — Seventeen-year-old Summit High School student Ben Schachter was taken away in handcuffs Tuesday during a gun safety “die-in” protest led by local high school students at Congressman Leonard Lance's Westfield office. Lance was not present at the office at the time.

“We are organizing this ‘die-in’ at Congressman Lance’s ...

Get Empowered to Help Prevent Suicide

June 9, 2018

Over the past week social media and the news have been filled with stories and articles encouraging people to seek help if they’re in emotional distress. There have been countless articles about the need to break the silence around the topic of mental health and suicide, and I am encouraged by the support people are extending to others.

Often, the death by suicide by prominent ...

Gov. Murphy still pushing a millionaire's tax, won’t say when he'll sign sports betting, weed bills

June 8, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - With a showdown on the state budget looming just 22 days away, Gov. Phil Murphy today re-emphasized his call for a tax on the state’s wealthiest households while hoping to avoid another shutdown of state government.

“Do I still want a millionaire’s tax? The answer is ‘yes,’ “ Murphy said at a press conference at the John ...

Beatles Lecture @ Union Public Library

June 18, 2018

The Union Public Library will be hosting an interactive lecture about the early years of the Beatles on Monday, July 9th at 6:30 p.m as part of its “Libraries Rock!” summer series.  Presenter Paul Groom, who lived the first 17 years of his life in Liverpool, England and went to some of the same schools as the Beatles, will discuss the lesser known Beatles story about their days ...

Upcoming Events

Mon, June 18, 7:45 AM

17 Kent Place Boulevard, Summit

Monday Morning Yoga

Health & Wellness

Mon, June 18, 9:00 AM

The Cora Hartshorn Arboretum and Bird Sanctuary, Short Hills

June Mini-Camp at the Cora Hartshorn Arboretum - ...

Education Green

Mon, June 18, 9:00 AM

The Cora Hartshorn Arboretum and Bird Sanctuary, Short Hills

"Pre-summer" Camp at the Cora Hartshorn Arboretum ...

Education Green