The parking lot will address Secaucus Junction's biggest perceived shortcoming - a lack of parking - and may finally boost ridership at the station.
When it opened in 2003, state transit officials saw Secaucus Junction as a transfer station for commuters coming from central and southern New Jersey heading into New York City. The station was planned without parking, since it was assumed that commuters would not be driving to Secaucus Junction.
Yet the lack of parking may actually be deterring commuters who would otherwise use Secaucus Junction. The station enjoys brisk business during morning and evening rush hours, but during off-peak hours there is far less foot traffic, and several people have described it as a "mausoleum."
The lack of parking could also threaten the success of Transit Village, a planned 2,035-unit housing development near the train station.
Many Transit Village residents will likely work in Manhattan, and Secaucus Junction could be an attractive commuter option. The train station is too far to walk to on a daily basis, however. And Transit Village residents may be interested in driving to the station, parking their cars, then taking the train into the city.
The first phase of Transit Village is nearly completed and will be ready for occupancy this summer.
With the approval of the amendment to the redevelopment plan, Edison can now apply to the NJMC for a zoning certificate to build a parking lot, and the Newark-based company is expected to do so soon.
The lot will be a surface-style parking facility, not a multi-level tower, according to NJMC spokesman Brian Aberback. He added that the lot is "an interim use facility that will expire in seven years. We cannot speculate on what might happen [to the facility] after seven years."
Mayor changes his mind
Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell, who spoke in favor of the parking lot at a public hearing in March, initially opposed parking at Secaucus Junction. In 2006 he even rallied the Meadowlands Mayors Committee to oppose a 3,600- to 4,300-car garage at the station.
In the winter 2007 edition of the Secaucus Scene, the mayor said, "There's a need for far more detail to protect our community from overdevelopment. We're not going to be the parking lot for North Jersey."
Elwell changed his position after Edison modified its original proposal.
The Meadowlands Mayors Committee has approved the revised plans for the lot.
NJMC tax-sharing formula reexamined
Recently, the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC)approved a resolution to study the agency's controversial Intermunicipal Tax Sharing Plan.
The NJMC oversees regional development, zoning, and environmental planning in portions of 14 towns in the Meadowlands district. In an attempt to balance out land inequities among the 14 towns, the NJMC developed a complicated tax sharing formula so that every municipality in the district contributes a share of money, and then receives a proportionate share of ratables from all the new development in the region.
"As part of its Master Plan, the NJMC is required to periodically review its tax-sharing formula," NJMC spokesman Brian Aberback said. "The resolution passed at [the] commission meeting allows the NJMC to enter into an agreement with the Institute for Meadowlands Studies at Rutgers University for the Institute to analyze the tax-sharing formula. The municipalities have been invited to participate in this review of the tax-sharing formula."
But some mayors in the Meadowlands district, including Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell, have been dissatisfied with the NJMC's oversight of their towns.
Secaucus will send an estimated $3.3 million in tax dollars to the NJMC this year, more than any of the other 13 towns in the agency's jurisdiction.
And according to Elwell, Secaucus has already sent more than $63 million in tax dollars to the agency since it was founded in 1969.
In March, Elwell sent a letter to Gov. Jon Corzine requesting that Secaucus be removed from the NJMC's jurisdiction. The tax sharing formula, which Elwell considers unfair to Secaucus, was among the reasons the mayor cited. - EAW