To the Editors of TAPinto Westfield:
We write in response to the Garwood Borough Council’s letter dated June 4, 2019, to Mayor Brindle and the Westfield Town Council regarding the Westfield Rink. As ardent supporters of the rink, and who saw firsthand the many recreational benefits that the rink provided last winter, we commend the Garwood Council for recognizing the importance of recreation. However, we’re struggling with how to interpret the Garwood Council’s stated concern for the quality of life in the Gumbert Park neighborhood in light of its support and approval for the significant residential and business development in this area abutting Gumbert Park and in other areas of Garwood.
The Westfield Rink’s location, in a section of Gumbert Park, abuts a state highway (Rt. 28), Garwood’s ShopRite intersection and mixed retail developments. Over the years Garwood supported and approved the addition of the ShopRite store, The Lofts with 24 residential units and bustling retail businesses, and the Pointe with 44 townhouse units – which has all brought increased population, traffic, congestion and noise to this neighborhood, but has also benefited the local community with the addition of the fantastic retail businesses.
In addition, in August 2012, the Garwood Council voted 5-1 to develop the Garwood Sports & Recreation Complex despite understanding that it directly bordered a Cranford residential neighborhood (in addition to Garwood residential neighborhoods), increased traffic and noise to the area, would be used significantly by non-residents, included a concession stand, changed the park from dawn-to-dusk to having activity and lights on until 10 p.m. and increased taxes significantly. That said, the Garwood Town Council approved what is a wonderful recreational facility that is actively used by its residents and people throughout the County, including Westfield soccer teams.
Westfield Local News: Westfield Recreation Says Gumbert Park Again for a Winter Ice Rink
Westfield Local News: Westfield Recreation Commission to Vote on Return of Controversial Ice Rink
Most recently, the Garwood Town Council has approved a development on South Avenue that will add a massive residential and retail complex near downtown Garwood, including 300-400 residential units which will increase Garwood’s population by over 13% and will add significant traffic and congestion to an already overpopulated area. Instead of using this land for recreation or open park space, it chose instead to pursue the option that would generate tax revenue for the Town.
In all of these situations, the Garwood Council analyzed the benefits vs the drawbacks, including impact on the neighbors, and determined to move forward with development for what it viewed as the greater good of the Garwood community.
This is similar to the decision on the Westfield Rink. While the Town of Westfield reviews the active Parks & Recreation survey and decides whether and where to put a seasonal ice rink each year, the Gumbert location is the only location in town that doesn’t require significant development costs. It has allowed the Town to prove out the concept with zero net financial impact to its residents. As demonstrated this past winter, the ice rink was a highly successful recreational facility — actively used for public skating and youth hockey with more than 22,000 uses, including more than 11,000 by Westfield residents.
As Garwood’s Council has done over the years, weigh the pros and cons, but vote for the good of the broader community. We urge the Westfield Council to vote FOR the Westfield Rink, quickly determine the right long-term spot for the ice rink, and work with the management company to make further improvements in the near-term while in the Gumbert location.
John McDevitt & Matt Dunn