Secaucus officials have launched a series of town hall meetings this year to give local residents the opportunity to meet their elected ward representative and air any concerns or issues. The first of these meetings was held on Jan. 29 at the Xchange Development, which is located in the 3rd Ward by the Secaucus Junction train station. Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli, Councilwoman Susan Pirro, Councilman William McKeever, and Bill Hayes from the Xchange development all took residents’ questions. While many concerns pertained to traffic, idling trucks, and slippery sidewalks on the nearby Red Bridge, a number of residents expressed how difficult it has been to get certain issues taken care of because of confusion over who has jurisdiction in their area, whether it is the town, the county, New Jersey Transit, or the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.
Despite the concerns, residents expressed satisfaction at how the mayor and town responded to the extended power outage that affected them during Hurricane Sandy and said they appreciated the chance to address their concerns. A few residents said the town hall meeting was the start of a good dialogue.
Sidewalk falls through the cracks
Several residents complained about the dangers of walking across the narrow pedestrian sidewalk on the vehicular Red Bridge, which serves as the main road in and out of the Xchange development and links commuters to the train station. They said it often doesn’t get salted or shoveled when it snows.
Last year neither New Jersey Transit nor Hudson County would take responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep for the bridge, which was built by NJ Transit and has a county road that crosses over it. Following calls and a report from the Reporter, both entities stepped in to repair missing red safety screens that residents said created a dangerous situation. However, the sidewalk’s shoveling remains an issue.
Gonnelli said that while the town cleared the sidewalk after receiving recent complaints from two women who slipped and fell on it during icy conditions, it is still not the town’s responsibility.
“You will see a lot of changes.” – Michael Gonnelli
Town Administrator David Drumeler said last week that it is the town’s understanding that NJ Transit is responsible, “because there was never a signed agreement,” for the county to take over the bridge.
“We don’t care who does it,” said Drumeler. “The mayor would just like it to be done for the safety of everyone...we will stay on the case.”
Resident Elizabeth Glover said after the meeting that a couple of weeks ago, after a snow storm, the stairwell that leads to the train station from the bridge was heavily salted, and the bridge roadway was clear but the sidewalk wasn’t. She was forced to walk in the street alongside traffic.
“It is always nobody’s job,” said Glover. “Nothing is under their [the town’s] jurisdiction and there doesn’t seem to be any connection between [one entity] and the next.”
She expressed frustration at the issue not being addressed. Since 2008 Glover and her husband Robert have attempted to have the Red Bridge safety screens replaced and sidewalk shoveled.
Gonnelli said that the Xchange complex is within the town’s jurisdiction, but once you “step out of the ‘gate’ it is all county.”
“Everyone is well intentioned, so that is a good start,” said resident Ray Krozac following the meeting. Krozac also raised the sidewalk shoveling issue and expressed that he would like to meet the county representatives. “It would be nice if they were here,” he said.
“I wish it was a more self-contained community,” said Krozac. He said that he used to live on the Hudson River waterfront were he could walk out to restaurants and other businesses, and he hoped Xchange would have similar offerings.
Another resident added that it would be nice to have a nail salon.
“As far as being self sufficient, I can’t agree with you more,” said Gonnelli in response to Krozac.
Xchange still doesn’t have a supermarket in the area. One was scheduled to arrive last fall but has hit a number of delays and is stuck in negotiations.
The Xchange developers have had a difficult time luring a supermarket into the commercial spaces, given the development’s secluded location.
Gonnelli told the residents that they will see transformation not only of Xchange but especially of the industrial spaces throughout town.
“You will see a lot of changes,” said Gonnelli. He said properties may become hotels or other types of developments. “Xchange was the seed.”
Traffic patterns, idling trucks, shuttle service
The town has addressed a number of concerns that were raised during the meeting regarding traffic signage, idling trucks, and shuttle service. The town has placed a yield sign on County Road for traffic coming from Jersey City on County Avenue. They have also posted truck idling signs in the area and served the trucking company next to Xchange with the local ordinance that says truck idling is limited to three minutes.
The town has also asked county engineers to address the intersection by the train station that prohibits a left turn into the Xchange development. Residents asked for a legal way to make a left turn directly into the development. The town has also added the Xchange development to the community shuttle route to and from the center of town and via the train station.
Praise for Sandy help
“The mayor and the two council people here did a fabulous job,” said one resident at the meeting about the hurricane response. “They came and fed us, brought us water, [and] gave us electricity.” The Xchange development residents were left without power for an extended number of days beyond what the rest of what the town experienced. Officials explained that the power lines run underwater through the meadows. PSE&G sent out divers to untangle wires and restore power. The Xchange developers are installing permanent back-up power generators that will provide electricity to main rooms, hallways, and provide heat during any future emergency outage.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.