While Tonnelle Ave. in North Bergen can be challenging to travel through at times, it is definitely safer now then it was years ago. I have been a resident of North Bergen for over 50 years and worked for over thirty years as a firefighter retiring in 2009. Residents that have lived in this area for many years have seen the changes that have taken place on Tonnelle Ave., the good and the bad. The changing ways of our economy that once supported the type of businesses that thrived in the past on Tonnelle Ave., now forced many either to shut down, move or file for bankruptcy. There was APA Trucking, Red Star Trucking, Owens Illinois, Crown Cork and Seal, Evan Picone, Consolidated Bleach and Nat Container all in the uptown area of Tonnelle Ave. Owens Illinois was one of the largest bottle makers in the country and APA was one of the biggest trucking companies in the country. Crown Cork and Seal was featured on the Discovery Channel. Sadly many people lost their jobs when these companies closed.
When these businesses vacated the area they left large empty useless buildings behind. A vacant neglected building is very dangerous to the public and firefighters. In September of 2000 at 7801 Tonnelle Ave. the old vacant Evan Picone building (which is now Lowes) had two major fires which resulted in six firefighter injuries. There were many hazards at this building. Vandals and homeless people were occupying it. The building was demolished. Lowes Home Improvement took its place.
These buildings were death traps and an eyesore to the community. Many of these old structures have been replaced with new buildings that have modern fire sprinkler and alarm systems making it safer for all of us. The Target and Wal-Mart type stores of today have replaced the old abandoned warehouses of the past. To develope these run down areas is a credit to the Township.
Years ago all the companies mentioned above generated hundreds of trucks, leaving and coming back to their facilities 24 hours a day. These trucks caused pollution and major traffic problems. As a firefighter we responded to many accidents on Tonnelle Ave. and some were horrific in those days. The North section of Tonnelle Ave. was not wide enough to support all the truck traffic coming from these facilities which was the cause of many accidents. The traffic pattern has changed since then from a major trucking route to a mostly car route and most of Tonnele Ave. is being widened. Tonnelle Ave. will always be a challenge to drive on but in my opinion it is better and safer now than in the past.