They came from the Boulevard, Avenue A, Margaret Street and other thoroughfares, complaining about vibrating houses, loud noises in the night, breathing difficulties, and parking problems.
The one thing these dozens of residents had in common was their proximity to the Bayonne Bridge and its roadway-raising project currently under way, which they say has diminished their quality of life.
Dozens of residents descended upon the city’s new downtown constituent office at 174 Broadway to voice their displeasure with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey-sponsored project.
Among those representing the city at the event were Mayor James Davis, City Council President Sharon Nadrowski, First Ward Councilman Thomas Cotter, whose ward encompasses the project area, and Donna Russo and Sue Ferraro from the city’s Law Department.
Nadrowski said the meeting was called because the project has been an issue of great concern for residents since its inception. The roadway of the bridge is being raised to allow for the bigger ships now servicing the Panama Canal to pass through the Kill Van Kull on their way to Port Newark.
Mayor Davis said that the buck stops with him, and that he is the new conduit for concerns, rather than the Port Authority contact they had been dealing with until this point.
“I’m the connection. You call me,” David said. “Don’t forget, I’m from that neighborhood. My parents still live there.”
The mayor said he met with the Port Authority on Friday, and that many of the residents’ gripes about the project were communicated at that time.
Nadrowski said the gathering was “not a P.R. meeting. We want to hear the concerns that you have that aren’t being addressed.”
The council president lives on 5th Street and Kennedy Boulevard and near the bridge herself, so she empathized with the attendees.
Cotter said the meeting was to note the environmental, noise, flooding, parking, and other issues, so that a collaborative effort could be made in approaching the authority.
“I know the summer’s here; are you even able to use your pools?” he asked.
For many the answer was no.
Frank Nestico of Kennedy Boulevard has lived in his house for 38 years. Problems that he never dealt with before are now a regular occurrence; a shaking house, black dirt in his pool, and loud noises in the night.
“Boom, boom, boom,” he said. “Sometimes it’s midnight.”
But that’s not even the worst of his bridge-related problems.
“My tenants are going to move out, and I don’t know if I’m going to be able to rent it,” Nestico said.
His neighbor, Santiago Fernandez, has felt the shaking, but is also dealing with another issue.
“There’re chemicals behind our houses,” he said. “Arsenic, they told us. So now we’re dealing with these problems every day.”
Lucia Frazier, who lives on 4th Street and Avenue A, says her entire house has been damaged, including the shaking and cracks in doorways. But worse than that, she said the health of her and her family has been affected, with her, her two grandchildren, and her daughter in law now suffering from asthma when they had not before the Bayonne Bridge project had begun.
“I’m really more interested about what we’re breathing in,” she said. “We really don’t have quality of life anymore downtown.”
Property values and parking
Tracey Fiuza was worried about the property values of her house and others in the neighborhood.
Pat Byers of Linnet Street said that since a building in her neighborhood has been used in tandem with the construction effort that parking on her street has all but disappeared.
“Cars are waiting to take my spot when I leave in the morning,” she said. “It’s a nightmare since they’ve taken over that building.”
Fewer fields of dreams
Bayonne Little League board member Mike Conway said his organization is down to two fields for 500 children to play on, and that has affected the number of games each team can play.