WEST ORANGE, NJ – The West Orange Pedestrian Safety Advisory Board has unveiled its plan for the Main Street Road Diet to the Downtown West Orange Alliance (DWOA) and will soon undergo review by the town council.

According to West Orange Councilman Jerry Guarino, who announced these plans during a recent council meeting, Sustainable New Jersey recently awarded the DWOA with a $10,000 walkability grant in order to install more sidewalks within the township.

“This is another grant that we’ve taken in to make West Orange a ‘walkable’ community; to make it more accessible to all our residents,” said Guarino, adding that he hopes the board will receive another grant before its upcoming meeting in April.

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West Orange resident Khabirah Myers said that after attending a recent meeting by the Pedestrian Safety Advisory Board, she was excited to learn that new sidewalks are being proposed.

“I’m really excited about that—especially because I was advised that there would be some new sidewalks installed on Marion Drive in June of this year, so I wanted to thank Councilman Guarino in advance for being part of that,” said Myers, explaining that the topic is significant to her because neighbor was killed on Marion Drive due to a lack of sidewalks on the street. “I look forward to seeing more sidewalks.”

Myers also brought anti-eviction legislation from Seattle, Wash. to the council’s attention so that the governing body would be aware of the issues that residents across the country, including in West Orange, face.

According to census data, 30 percent of the township’s housing units are rentals; but with more than seven percent of West Orange’s population living below the federal poverty level, Myers said this means that a percentage of West Orange residents are having difficulty covering the costs of necessary items like food and housing.

Guarino responded that pedestrian safety has always been a “big thing” for the township and that the upcoming ordinances will request that the State of New Jersey increase sidewalks all along Mt. Pleasant Ave and Pleasant Valley Way as well as other streets, including Marion Drive.

In response to Myers’ suggested housing legislation, Council President Michelle Casalino said that “it’s great to get a lot of great ideas from other towns or cities” and that the township will attempt to move forward with any initiatives that might work. She added that the council must first bring it to the attention of the township’s legal department to see if the legislation “makes sense for West Orange.”

“What’s great about moving our library to Executive Drive [is that] we’re going to enable 64 senior housing units right across the parking lot [from town hall], which is much needed,” she said.

Casalino also added that among the resolutions unanimously adopted during the meeting was a resolution that focused on street improvements throughout the township for 2020.

Also during the meeting, the council contemplated changing the township’s ordinance on liquor consumption so that businesses that serve alcohol could remain open for an extra hour, extending closing times from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

“There aren’t a whole lot of towns around us who have the extra hour from 2-to-3 a.m.,” said Councilman Joe Krakoviak. “It would give the owners of our establishments’ management the competitive advantage because they would be open an hour later, and the people who wanted to visit these establishments—some of which serve food, too—would have that advantage.”

Krakoviak added that although some of his colleagues maintained concerns about increased traffic and increased instances of drunk driving, members of the West Orange Police Department (WOPD) have stated that they do not have a problem with the proposed change. He suggested that the council be prepared to change the ordinance again if any problems arose.

Council members Guarino, Casalino and Cindy Matute-Brown were not in favor of the proposed change, with Matute-Brown commenting that she did not believe the “risks outweigh the benefits” for adding an extra hour.

“My concern is young kids coming from other bars late at night and driving,” said Casalino, who, as a mother, had trouble being supportive of this measure. “If the majority of towns were going to 3 [a.m.], then we’d all be consistent…I always like to be supportive of our businesses in town.”

Guarino added that since most bars close their kitchens at 10 p.m., it "doesn’t feel right" nor does it "do any good” to have the bars close an hour later.

When Krakoviak asked for the measure to be put up to a straw poll, the council voted 2-3, meaning that the proposed ordinance would not be moving forward.