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Harrison's Firehouse Plan Sparks Debate Over Community Needs

Nov 27, 2023
Proposed EPA Toxic Sludge Plant Map

The Harison Mayor & Council will be holding a meeting on Tuesday, November 28, 2023, at 6:30 p.m. at the Harrison Town Hall, 318 Harrison Avenue, 3rd Floor to pass a resolution to make an application to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs for funding through the Resilient Communities Grant Program to build a new Firehouse.

Although the notice of the meeting does not state the street address of the proposed Firehouse, it does state the Block and Lot of the proposed site which is Block 174 Lot 1.03. A search of the Town of Harrison lot and property map reveals that Block 174 Lot 1.03 is a property owned by Advance at Harrison but has no property address associated with it in the Harrison Property Tax database. The next lot at Lot 1.02  is the property located at 1000 South Frank E. Rodgers Blvd.

The proposed Firehouse is across the street from the proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) toxic sludge dewatering plant that Mayor James Fife continues to NOT oppose.  Would it be better to use New Jersey Department of Community Affairs funding to build a new Harrison Firehouse and a new Community Center and Park in the former PSE&G Gas plant across the street from 1000 South Frank E. Rodgers Blvd?  Such a proposal would in effect stop the EPA from building their dewatering and concrete plant (for encapsulating for transport the worse toxic Passaic River sludge) on the property.  Mayor James Fife could also request funding for the Route 280 & Cape May Street interchange that was promised as part of the Harrison Redevelopment Plan but not built.

Steelworks Luxury Apartment Building

Opponents of the EPA Sludge Dewatering project highlight that the proposed site of the EPA sludge plant is now a residential community and that the EPA should not be placing cancer-causing dioxin-laden Agent Orange in what is now a residential community.  The Town of Harrison Redevelopment Zone having been transformed from its former industrial self which was contaminated with toxic soil from its former industrial uses should not be forced to enter a new era of toxic chemicals.  Ironically, the EPA forced PSE&G to clean up its property at a $357 million dollar cost to now turn around and dump toxic sludge on the same property at the PSE&G property.

Critics note that there is a lack of adequate communal spaces and recreational areas in the redevelopment zone. They argue that a Community Center, Path drop-off U-Turn, and Park would not only provide much-needed social and recreational amenities but also foster a stronger sense of community and belonging among residents, and improved traffic flow.  A toxic sludge dewatering plant does none of the above but rather poses a high risk that the community would be once again burdened with toxic chemicals.  The Town of Harrison has transformed its historic industrial past into a new vibrant community and developers have invested in the community.  The EPA’s toxic sludge dewatering plant puts those developers’ investment at risk.  Even just the prospect of living next to a toxic dioxin-laden sludge dewatering plant (with a built-in concrete plant) can lessen the appeal of living in Harrison’s luxury apartment buildings. Harrison residents deserve that the catch phrase, Environmental Justice, means something.

We Do Not Want To Return to Harrison's Industrial Past

The Mayor and Council are being urged to oppose EPA’s plan to use the former PSE&G Gas Work plant property by amending the proposed site for the new Harrison Firehouse to across the street to the proposed site for EPA’s dewatering and concrete plant. The council reserves the right to enter a closed executive session and thus could discuss the latter suggestion and amend the Resolution to broaden its contents to send a message to the EPA.  Residents are urged to attend the Tuesday, November 28, 2023, Mayor & Council hearing and urge during the Public Session that Mayor Fife and Council members change the site of the Firehouse across the street and add a request for a Community Center and Park.

Public comments can be made at the meeting. Written Public comments will also be accepted until December 12, 2023.  Details on submitting comments can be obtained from Paul J. Zarbetski, Town Clerk by emailing him at [email protected]

As Harrison stands at a crossroads, the decisions made in this meeting could significantly shape the town’s future. The question remains: Will Mayor Jame Fife and the members of the Town Council take a stance that will enhance the quality of life for its residents? 

To Read More on EPA's plan to dewater toxic sludge in Harrison and link to the video where Mayor Fife made the statement on EPA's plan click here.

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