UNION, NJ – About 30 Union residents attended a community meeting hosted by and held at Kean University on Wednesday evening to discuss the University’s plans for a new dormitory building on campus.
The residents, mostly from the area surrounding Kean University, particularly Woodland and Lowden Avenues and Summit and Palisade Roads, expressed frustration over the lack of prior communication from the University regarding the proposed six-story dormitory, as well as quality of life issues regarding Kean students in the adjacent parks and neighborhoods.
“After speaking with several residents who reside within the vicinity of Kean University,” said Township of Union Mayor Suzette Cavadas, “they expressed their concern for the new dormitories and how Kean University has never taken the time to speak with them with respect to this project or any other project.”
“I am glad that with the assistance of administration, we were able to make it possible for the residents to meet with the President of Kean University to express their concerns and questions,” Cavadas continued.
Dr. Dawood Farahi, Kean University President, said, “we will try to make sure that anything that we can do to make life easier and much more comfortable for you, we will.” Regarding the dormitory project, Farahi said they have changed the plans multiple times based on the Township’s suggestions. He said the dormitory will now house close to 400 students instead of the original 800 and the dorm has been moved closer to the center of campus, as far as possible from residential areas.
A representative from Netta Architects outlined the project, including the interior and exterior design and how the building will be situated on the University’s property. The distance between the building and Woodland Avenue from the closest tip is 550 feet.
“Could you explain to me,” said Union resident Devon Bennett, “as a corporate member of the community, why did the corporate body feel it was okay to ignore us and not say anything. That’s the feeling I have. The community feels disrespected by Kean.”
“My comment about being disrespected, is that it’s not true,” said Farahi. He said the University, as part of the state system, has different zoning and approval processes, without going through the township.
Several residents complained of Kean students littering throughout the neighborhood and in the Kennedy Reservation, including drug paraphernalia, having sex in cars on the streets and in the woods, and urinating in the bushes.
“Kean University police need to go into those areas and take care of these problems,” said one resident. “It’s disgusting.”
Residents brought up the problem of delivery trucks travelling on Woodland Avenue, against township ordinance. “We can certainly reach out to the enterprises that are scheduling deliveries,” said a University representative, “and have them come in the correct entrance.”
In addition, residents expressed frustration over increased traffic, the stadium loud speakers and lights, property values, and nighttime noise.
“We’re sick and tired of having to clean this reservation,” said a Lowden Avenue resident. “I’ve seen it myself and you’ve heard it tonight. How are you going to address that? I don’t want to be handed a card and be called back later. This is something we need to know. You’re not handling it now.”
Fahari responded that he will coordinate with the University police chief to work with Union’s police chief to review and address neighborhood issues and the patrolling of the area.
“What was the purpose of this meeting,” said resident Colleen Zaccaria, “because our position is that no one’s cared all along. We’re good people and we’ve been really patient with the garbage and the nonsense that comes out of this University.”
“I don’t want the polite crap,” continued Zaccaria. “I just want an answer. How is this going to impact our neighborhood positively? What are you going to do differently that you haven’t done thus far?”
“I think the information we received tonight will be put into action plans that can affect some change,” said Felice K. Vazquez, Special Counsel and Vice President of Planning in the Office of the President at Kean University. “Certainly the partnership is something we agree with. You’ve heard more than once that we’ll get together with the business administer and talk about how we solve some of these issues.”
“I hope that from here forward,” said Mayor Cavadas, “Kean will be a good neighbor to the surrounding community and be more readily available to communicate with the residents.”
Construction on the dormitory is expected to be completed by August, 2018, with freshman students moving in for the fall 2018 term.