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A& E and EDUCATION
NEWS & EDITORIAL Editor’s Note: This column by Third Ward Councilman Neil F. Sullivan is another look at the discussion about the parking situation in downtown Westfield. A column by First Ward Councilman Carl A. Salisbury on the same topic appeared in the May 18 issue.
* * * * *
By NEIL F. SULLIVAN
It’s time to act on a comprehensive parking plan.
“If it wasn’t clear enough from the excellent report on the parking situation this council received earlier this year . . . the three most important downtown issues this council needs to address are: 1) Parking. 2) Parking. 3) Parking. “
You might think these words were written in recent weeks, but in fact, I wrote them in March 1996, after the council received the work of thenMayor Bud Boothe’s Main Street parking commission, and the RBA Group, a national parking consulting and engineering firm.
As Yogi Berra would say, “It’s deja vu all over again.”
Now we have another mayoral parking committee study, aided by another prominent consulting firm, Rich and Associates, which has as its cornerstone a 1,300 space South Avenue parking structure.
Originally planned and funded by a grant as an economic development study, the final product has disappointed many in this community in its singular focus on Mayor Thomas C. Jardim’s special committee’s scheme for a southside railroad lot deck.
This choice of the South Avenue deck is not supported by the information contained in the report, let alone the wide gaps in information left out of the report.
The plan is fundamentally flawed in that it fails to recognize that there is not a homogeneous parking problem in Westfield. Each user group — the shopper, the employee and the commuter have different needs and different consumer behaviors that need to be addressed to fit their need.
It’s time for the council to act to put in place a comprehensive parking plan, recognizing that there is not just one “parking problem” — and therefore is not one “parking answer” (such as a 1,300 space South Avenue deck) — based on a vision for our downtown that our entire community will share.
We need to identify the several types of parking and traffic and pedestrian flow characteristics and needs (commuter, employee, shopper) in the many different zones in the downtown area, and determine the optimal solution for the near term, the mid term and the long term, including allocation of the existing supply. These may include “outside the box” reforms, including jitney or shuttle bus service.
We need to start talking about that issue first, and defer talk about a parking structure (where, who uses, who pays, offsite impacts, etc.) until we have that comprehensive plan. Rather than place all other issues on hold
Parking Plan Must Recognize Different Needs of Community
until a deck is agreed to, as the council’s deck supporters would propose, we should act to implement reforms today.
Immediate improvements, which are possible in a matter of weeks or months should not be deferred while that discussion and consensus building on a comprehensive plan is occurring:
1. Better monitoring of the oversell in the rail commuter lots — both South Avenue and Waterson. Frankly, we have done a poor job in adjusting the numbers of permits sold since hitting the 660680 mark in 1998 after the last Transportation Parking and Traffic committee review in 1998.
2. Pass an ordinance to allow employees (with a “free” permit) to park in the South Avenue Railroad lot after 10 a. m. and better promote and encourage the use of this option and the Christian Science Church lot.
3. Better oversight of the distribution of parking passes and a comprehensive license plate check of every car in the commuter lots. (Also check on the users of unofficial spaces — Lord & Taylor and nearby streets to determine whether these vehicles are owned by residents of Westfield.)
4. Reallocation of the existing municipal lot spaces in the downtown north of the tracks to better reflect the reality of downtown, including a “seasonal” change from long term to short term.
5. Implementation of pay for use and graduated rates to permit legal parking for more than two hours in downtown.
6. Use of a centralized pay station at long term and pay for use lots. An immediate benefit would be the collection of at least $600 per week in ordinanced, but uncollected daily fees ($ 3 versus $1).
7. Meter feeding enforcement on Saturdays, since the “no alternative parking” argument is invalid (although if we did a better job of allocation and were a little more creative in our supply, I think we should enforce MondayFriday now). We must always view Saturday results for what they are — there is a different work force (albeit overlapping) in town on Saturdays.
8. Revise the Land Use Ordinance to create an “in lieu parking fee,” which will require future development, which will increase parking demand, to pay for additional supply.
9. Reshape and restripe our lots, and acquire, where feasible adjoining property to increase the number of spaces.
10. Pilot programs for commuters, employees and shoppers using shuttle or jitney service that fits the needs of these groups and mitigate the parking and traffic issues we face in downtown.
These steps are not a panacea. They are not a substitute for a comprehensive plan and better management. But they are essential to begin addressing the parking and traffic and economic development issues in our downtown.
MAYDAY . SOS
Rest easy! We are not sending out distress signals, but merely advising you that the subjects of today’s sleuthing are two international distress signals used by ships and aircraft in distress.
Mayday is an international signal given by aircraft and ships. It has nothing to do with the month of May, and is, in fact, simply an anglicized version of the French words venez m’aider, meaning “come help me.”
SOS, according to noted etymologist Eric Partridge, is used by ships in distress, because it is easy to transmit and receive. SOS is not an acronym for Save Our Ship or Save Our Souls. It was derived, indirectly, by international agreement in 1908 as a signal made up of three dots, three dashes and three dots (. . . _ _ _ . . .). By coincidence, this signal is translated in Morse code as SOS.
SOS is also used colloquially today as “any call for help.” We shall therefore send out this SOS to enlist your help by telling your friends about The Word Sleuths.
Letters to the Editor
Westfield Rec. Commission, Department Created Fair Method for Pool SignUp
It was slightly more than a year ago when Westfield’s community pool sold out of memberships. For the first time in the 30year history of Westfield Memorial Pool, no new memberships were available to anyone — from those who usually leisurely registered after the season had begun to those who had just moved to town. At its current size, the pool accommodates a maximum of 9,000 individual memberships. Based on the possibility of everyone reregistering for the pool membership, Recreation Department personnel were faced again with telling scores of disappointed people “Sorry, no room.”
So the Recreation Department, along with the Recreation Commission, began to think of different ways to fairly register those who wanted to be members of the town pool. There was talk of a lottery, among other ideas, but ultimately the decision was to make everyone register in person in “waves.”
The first wave and priority was given to existing pool members who live in Westfield. Up to 60 percent of the pool membership capacity, or 5,400 individuals, was made available for this group to register during the month of March.
The second wave of opportunity was given to everyone in the Town of Westfield up to 80 percent, or an additional 1,800 individuals. This group was able to register during the month of April. Lastly, Westfield and nonresidents up to 100 percent, or an additional 1,800 individuals, registered during May.
This represented a radical change in procedure for the Recreation Department, which previously permitted mailin registrations. But the Recreation Department did everything it could to notify residents and let them know that the procedure would be different this year. The department sent letters to everyone in the town, ran advertisements and pa tiently explained over the phone that procedures had
changed. Given the tough situation they faced, the Recreation Department and Commission should be commended for creating a very fair and equitable method for pool signups. The commission tried hard to accommodate the public by extending hours to some evenings and Saturdays. And on the day of signups, staff moved the sometimes long lines along as quickly as possible and attempted to politely serve an anxious public.
Yes, there were long lines and some people felt they needed to secure a spot at the wee hours – one as early as 4: 15 a. m.
And, of course, there were still complaints and grumbling by those who didn’t understand the necessity for the change in procedure and did not realize that the pool was full to capacity. Some also complained that the new inperson procedure discriminated against those who go to work early in the morning and not return to town until after regular business hours. And still others viewed the new inperson requirement as a Recreation Commission and Department ploy to enlighten the public about the importance of enlarging the complex.
It is not easy to run a town recreation department and, particularly, a popular, public pool complex. The Recreation Commission has been criticized in the past for not listening to the public and, instead, charging ahead with projects. When it came to the pool this year, however, the Commission and Recreation Department have displayed a respect for the public.
Despite any missteps with the public in the past, the Recreation Commission and the Recreation Department seem to be back on track a deserve a pat on the back for a job well done in managing the town’s popular pool.
For more than a decade, the National Debt Clock in Times Square has been a New York City landmark. With its 306 light bulbs, it was a glaring reminder to all taxpayers of the mounting federal debt.
But now that the days of deficit spending are behind us and the federal government is actually paying down the national debt, they will be pulling the plug on the debt clock.
That’s a welcome sign for all taxpayers. As a member of the House Budget Committee, I am proud to have played a leadership role in ending three decades of reckless deficit spending in Washington. To date, we have paid off $256 billion of the national debt and are now on a course to retire the entire $3.6 trillion publicly held national debt over the next 12 years.
I believe that the greatest legacy we can give our children and our grandchildren is to leave them debt free. That is why I have not only spearheaded the efforts in Congress to reduce the debt, I have made a personal contribution as well. Every month, since October of 1995, I have returned to the Treasury five percent of my take home pay to help retire the national debt.
In the last few months, Congress has continued its commitment to fiscal restraint and lower taxes. Specifically, we have:
Voted to Eliminate the Marriage Penalty. More than 800,00 couples in New Jersey alone are forced to pay on average $1,400 a year in higher taxes simply because they are married. The bill — passed by Congress and now awaiting action by President Clinton — would end the inequity and provide significant tax relief to working couples.
Lifted the Social Security Earnings Tax. President Clinton recently signed legislation, which I enthusiastically supported, that lifts the Social Security Earnings Limit. From now on, seniors will be able to continue to work after reaching retirement age without losing any of their Social Security benefits.
Increased Funding for Special Education. For a number of years, I have been spearheading a drive in
By Congressman Bob Franks
NEWS FROM WASHINGTON
Seventh Congressional District
Retirement of Debt Clock Signifies Good News for New Jersey Taxpayers
the House Budget Committee to force the federal government into honoring its commitment to special education. As a result, over the past four years, special education funding has increased by 115 percent or $2.6 billion. But even with those additional funds, the federal government has never kept the commitment it made in a 1975 law to pay for 40 percent of the cost of educating children with disabilities. In fact, currently the federal government is only paying 12.6 percent of the cost of special education, forcing local property taxpayers to finance the remainder of the expenses.
Earlier this month, the House passed legislation that would fully fund special education by no later than 2010. The legislation – which provides for annual increases in funding — marks an important advancement in ensuring that children with special needs receive the quality education they deserve without overburdening local property taxpayers.
President of SP Business Association Disagrees With Recent Editorial
Reader Says Former Zoo Burden to SP
In 1998, Scotch Plains Township knew that it could not win the battle to confiscate the old Terry Lou Zoo. Now, after two years and countless thousands of dollars in legal fees the intelligentsia on the Township Council will pay $800,000 in taxes to take a ratable off the tax rolls.
When will the taxpayer be spared all of this burdensome government?
Frank J. Festa, Jr. Scotch Plains
Group Thanks Those Who Helped With Annual Fundraising Drive
Fanwood Clean Community Group Thanks Those Assisting in Event
Letters to the Editor
In response to the editorial that appeared in this newspaper regarding the “hedge” property in downtown Scotch Plains I would like to address a number of points in the editorial which I feel need correction and clarification.
First of all, local officials are hardly “barreling ahead” with this project. It has been looked at and evaluated for at least six years and the council has only taken the first small step that is necessary to properly evaluate the project further.
The second erroneous point in the editorial is that “parking . . .is already tight.” We are not Westfield, we do not have a parking problem in Scotch Plains. In addition, Mayor Marks made it clear that a completed parking study outlined how enhancements to the current area, which would be paid for with money from the sale of the property, would in fact add 30 or more additional parking spaces.
According to the editorial the township does not need an additional $50,000 in tax revenues because it already collects $9.2 million in property taxes. Isn’t that $9.2 million made up of many smaller payments? I don’t know of any town that couldn’t use an additional $50,000.
The town recently lost property tax revenue from the old zoo property which now has to be supported by taxpayer dollars. Additionally, this proposed commercial development does not place any
of the burdens on the community like residential development does.
No new streets have to be built and plowed. No children will be moving into the stores and putting additional pressure and expense on our school system.
Th editorial also speaks of “putting up a building in the wrong place.” We are talking about a piece of property directly in the center of the main business district with no impact to the residential community or to usable recreational space.
Finally, it is not true that there has not been discussion as to the types of businesses we would prefer to have in these proposed new stores.
Many committees over the years, and the current Downtown Task Force, have discussed preferred businesses and if and when this project makes it to the development state I am confident that the sale will be as specific as to use as is legally possible.
However, as Councilman Bromley so eloquently said at a recent council meeting “we have to let the free market system work.” Do we really want government dictating specific use of property?
I congratulate and thank the four council members who voted in favor of taking this project to the next stage and fully support them on this issue which I truly believe is beneficial to the entire community of Scotch Plains.
Ray Pardon President,
Fanwood’s 11th annual “Clean Communities Day” was a great success thanks to the efforts of many. Over three tons of litter and debris was removed from borough streets, parks, public areas and the railroad tracks by over 115 volunteers with assistance from Department of Public Works employees and NJ Transit.
The Fanwood Lions Club also participated and cleaned the entire length of South Avenue as part of their Adopt A Highway commitment. Fanwood businesses once again signed Clean Communities Pledges to keep their properties litter free all year.
Each volunteer received a Fanwood Earth Day Tshirt and refreshments were graciously donated by Fanwood Bagels & Deli, A Tasteful Touch, Dunkin’ Donuts, Lenny’s Bakery and The Corner Store. Thanks also to Parker Greenhouses for donating flowers and to Jesse Spaden for planting them at the train station and in downtown planters to commemorate our Earth Day activities.
We thank all those who participated and urge all residents and businesses to
help keep Fanwood litter free everyday.
Fanwood Clean Community Committee Greg Cummings
Editor’s Note: Also signing this letter was Ray Manfra, Bob McCarthy, Pam & Peter Sayles, Ruth Samuelson and Linda & Dean Talcott.
Kudos is Due Local Symphony
Congratulations! Bravos! Bravissimos! To the Westfield Symphony Orchestra for a magnificent performance of Madama Butterfly on May 13.
Rita Applebaum Union
On behalf of the Father John S. Nelligan Council No. 5730, Knights of Columbus, representing the Township of Scotch Plains and the Borough of Fanwood, I would like to once again thank the residents of both Scotch Plains and Fanwood for their generous support of our annual fundraising drive to aid retarded citizens and those with learning disabilities in the state of New Jersey and, in particular, within Union County.
This year’s drive, our 25th, which took place on the weekend of April 26
30, was, again, highly successful, thanks to you, our neighbors and our friends.
We also wish to thank The Times of Scotch PlainsFanwood for your announcements that provided important advance information to your readers concerning the dates and goals of this most worthwhile drive.
Frank A. Russo, Chairman, Council Retarded
Citizens Drive Scotch Plains
Dog Bite Prevention Awareness Program Held by Postal Service
For every letter carrier bitten, hundreds of children needlessly suffer the pain and trauma of dog bites. Whatever the reasons for them, dog bites are a serious problem for the entire community, not just our letter carriers trying to deliver your mail.
Nationwide, Postal Service carriers suffered 2,725 dog bites last year (an average of nine dog attacks every delivery day), and that figure does not include the number of threatening incidents that did not result in injury. These numbers pale in comparison with the more than 2 million children who fall victim each year.
During the week of May 2127, the Postal Service is holding a National Dog Bite Prevention Awareness Program. As part of the program, the Postal Service offers the following advice.
If a letter carrier needs to deliver a certified letter or package to you, put your dog into a separate room before opening your front door. Dogs have been known to burst through screen doors or plate glass windows to get at strangers.
Nationally, the number of carriers bitten by dogs dropped from more than 7,000 in 1983 to 2,725 by 1999. This is because of greater cooperation from dog owners, stricter leash laws, and steppedup efforts to educate letter
carriers and the public about dealing with the problem.
Our carriers are vigilant, and we may choose to stop mail delivery at an address if they are threatened by a vicious dog.
Dog owners should remind their children about the need to keep the family dog secured. We also recommend parents ask their children not to take mail directly from letter carriers. A dog may see handing mail to a child as a threatening gesture.
These simple reminders and helpful tips can reduce the hazard of dog bite attacks. Help us to help you this spring and summer.
Carmen Del Sole Acting Postmaster Scotch Plains
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SP Letter Carriers Thank Public
The National Association of Letter Carriers Branch No. 4102 would like to thank postal customers of Scotch Plains for their help May 13 during its food drive. Letter carriers collected 9,500 pounds of food left by customers at their mail boxes and houses.
Emil Anthony Coordinator
Food Drive Branch No. 4102
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