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Harrison's Kingsland Avenue Closure: A Test of Community Resilience

Apr 25, 2024
Road Closed Sign

Harrison's Mayor and Council approved a periodic closure of Kingsland Avenue, effective January 1, 2024. The Mayor & Council have now approved a Total Closure of Kingsland Avenue to vehicle traffic including no parking on the street and driveways effective Monday, April 29, 2024. This decision, stemming from a need to facilitate sewer line rehabilitation by the Passaic Valley Sewerage Authority (PVSC), has ignited widespread concern among residents and business owners.

Previously subjected to only partial and periodic closures, Kingsland Avenue now faces a full shutdown for an estimated four months. The project started in January 2024 and was promised to be completed in eight months. The implications for daily life are significant, not least because residents can no longer use their driveways for parking, compelling them to seek alternatives.

The project, a collaboration between PVSC and Montana Construction Company, includes placement of onsite equipment that was not part of the original plan but was later endorsed by the Mayor and Council. Despite assurances from Montana Construction that these changes will expedite the project, the lack of specific details and written documentation at public meetings has done little to ease community trust.  Residents are looking forward to getting their neighborhood back to normal but are wary of the project going longer than promised and having to park on Supor Blvd which has no residential buildings and lighting at night is less than that on Kingsland Avenue.  Seniors and disabled persons are worried about their ability to traverse a longer distance to and from their homes.

Conflict of Interest Raises Eyebrows

The closure has also spotlighted potential conflicts of interest involving Councilman James Doran, who also serves as the Commissioner of the PVSC and Director of Personnel for Harrison Public Schools. Doran's dual roles have raised ethical questions, particularly as he did not abstain from voting on the closure, which directly benefits PVSC — an organization that also compensates him. Doran also discussed with the Mayor & Council about the placement of equipment not originally contemplated in the construction contract onsite stating that its placement would speed up the project. There was nothing provided to the Mayor & Council or the public in writing at the Mayor & Council where it was informally agreed to.

Residents and Businesses Bear the Brunt

The shutdown affects a key artery between Harrison Avenue and Hamilton Street, disrupting not just local traffic but also the livelihoods of nearby businesses. The timing of the construction, predominantly during peak business hours with significant economic repercussions.

In an attempt to mitigate parking woes, the Mayor and Council have designated alternative parking spots with the addition of parking along Joseph Supor Blvd. However, concerns about inadequate lighting in this area remain unaddressed, adding to safety worries.

Communication and Accountability Concerns

While PVSC and Montana Construction have issued apologies for the inconvenience and directed residents to contact details on the Town of Harrison's official website, the efficacy of these communications is questionable. The town's efforts to inform and engage with the community, including holding a Special Meeting of the Mayor & Council on Tuesday, April 23, 2024, and failing to update the Town of Harrison official website calendar to provide notice to the public, have been criticized for their inadequacy.

The Road Ahead

As the project continues, the residents of Harrison are bracing for months of inconvenience and disruption. The balance between necessary infrastructure improvements and the well-being of the community continues to challenge local governance. With the project already underway, the focus shifts to how effectively the town can manage the fallout and whether it can maintain the delicate balance between progress and preservation of community life.

In the meantime, Harrison’s residents and businesses are left to navigate the challenges of a major thoroughfare's closure, hoping for swift and transparent actions from their local officials to minimize the impact on their daily lives and economic activities.

The Harrison Police Department who was given the task and responsibility to communicate the total closure of Kingsland Avenue put out a Press Release on social media indicating that effective Monday, April 29, 2024, Kingsland Avenue would be permanently closed until further notice. Residents were asked to remove all vehicles from the roadway and driveway. The statement went on to state that “Vehicles will not be allowed to access Kingsland Avenue.” The Harrison Police Department Special Operations Community Policing Unit can be reached by phone at (973) 483-4510 and by email at [email protected] if you have any question about the closure and special parking permits.

Articles of Interest:

Kingsland Avenue Closure: Tough On Residents

Tensions Simmer in Harrison Over Red Bull Arena & Toxic Sludge Plant

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