The waterfront district receives 30,000 commuters during the weekday and serves as a residence for thousands more. But since getting around the complex has never been easy for outsiders, the buildings are slated to receive 200-plus signs and the system will lead vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
Cars approaching Newport will be directed with signs indicating the buildings in the area, and other signs will designate the offices in those buildings. Signs will also specifically mark parking, building entrances, and public transportation outlets.
The apparent increase in daily commuters has also made it necessary for the signage program to serve the large amount of pedestrian traffic traveling to the area each day. Lefrak representatives said the signs would assist these people around the complex and help them go to and from the PATH station, Hudson-Bergen Light Rail and buses.
While the Planning Board recognized the need for the signs, commissioners questioned the specific spots signs would be placed. The application included general areas, but showed no elevations that provided a visual peek of how the signs would look on a street corner.
William Wissemann, an engineer for Lefrak, said that he would provide specific information to the Planning Board after he worked with city traffic and engineering officials, who determine the best places for sign placement.
"Ninety percent of these signs look perfectly fine," said Bob Cotter, the director of the Division of Planning. However, Cotter was skeptical about plans to install a sign outside the Holland Tunnel exit that would direct people to Newport. He questioned if it was legal because it might be considered a commercial advertisement, something that is not allowed in that area.
According to Wissemann, the signage system will be completed by the fall of 2003.
Some residents voiced concern over the signs' aesthetic elements. "I'm concerned about the visual element of the [sign] package," said Dan Falcon, a Newport resident and creator of the web site www.newportcity.com. Falcon said Lefrak has rarely used aesthetics to proceed with its projects and cited the new tombstone-like structures in front of Newport office buildings that label the address. Instead of resembling a neighborhood, he said, the area looks like a corporate city.
"I don't trust that in the past 15 years we've really gotten what's best from the city," he said.
Also, the board approved a variance for the new Duane Reade in Newport to use a bigger sign than allowed. Unlike the signage program, residents came to the podium to praise Duane Reade as a long-awaited neighbor. "We've waited 15 years for this baby," said Marry Anne Tevis, a Newport resident. "I don't care what they do."