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Kingsland Avenue Closure: Tough On Harrison Residents

Dec 21, 2023
No Parking Anytime Street Sign

The recent decision to close Kingsland Avenue for eight months for sewer line rehabilitation has sparked a wave of discontent among residents. The move, sanctioned by the Harrison Mayor & Council in their meeting on December 19, 2023, allows for extensive construction activities by the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission (PVSC) in collaboration with Montana Construction, Inc. But at what cost to the local community?

The Burden on Residents and Commuters

The closure of a major thoroughfare like Kingsland Avenue, a key connector between Harrison Avenue and Hamilton Street, is not a minor inconvenience both in terms of traffic flow and parking spaces. Scheduled to start on Tuesday, January 2, 2024, the project anticipates around eight months of construction, including the removal and replacement work and the cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) lining work. While the PVSC assures that sewer services will not be interrupted and that the work is necessary for the PVSC Kearny-Harrison-Newark (KHN) Branch Interceptor Sewer, the duration and timing raise eyebrows.

A Conflict of Interest

A significant point of contention in this scenario is the role of James Doran, not only a Commissioner of the PVSC but also Harrison's 4th Ward Councilman and Director of Personnel for Harrison High School. He was the Superintendent of Harrison’s Public Schools but the Board of Education created the position of Director of Personnel when then Governor Chris Christie put in place a salary cap for Superintendent of Schools. Doran’s role, as Commissioner of PVSC  raises questions about potential conflicts of interest, as a “Yes” vote for closure of the street benefits one of Doran’s employers, PVSC. Doran did not abstain from Voting on the resolution and voted Yes.

Commute Chaos and Economic Impact

The project's timeline, running predominantly during peak business hours (7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.), is set to cause significant disruptions. Motorists are advised to expect delays and seek alternate routes, but the reality is more grim. For local businesses, the prolonged construction could mean a sharp decrease in foot traffic and a potential hit to their livelihoods. Residents will be unable to park along Kingsland Avenue and will have to traverse a Construction site to get to and from their homes. The project is starting in the middle of Winter which raises concerns about public safety especially if it snows and snow removal operations cannot be done by Harrison’s Department of Public Works because of construction operations. A springtime start of the project might have been a better plan.

Communication: Adequate or Lacking?

The PVSC and Montana Construction have issued statements of apology for any inconvenience and have provided contact details for representatives handling the project on the Town of Harrison's official website. However, is this enough? With residents and business owners bracing for eight months of disruption, the question arises: Were all stakeholders adequately consulted and informed?

Seeking Accountability

As residents grapple with the impending changes, the need for accountability and transparency from both PVSC and Harrison’s local government is paramount. With the closure set to commence soon, it is crucial to monitor the project’s impact on Harrison’s daily life and economy. The balance between infrastructural necessity and public convenience remains a tightrope walk for the authorities involved.  Although the Town of Harrison scheduled a meeting on very short notice for residents to advise them of the project, there was very little publicity of the meeting and it is not clear whether any residents learned of and attended the meeting and what was discussed.  The Mayor & Council upon the passage of the resolution authorizing the closure of Kingsland Avenue had very little discussion and the discussion that did occur did not lead to any council member providing definitive answers.  The resolution passed unanimously nonetheless. It is very rare for an individual or a couple of council members to Vote against a Resolution put before them.

While the need for sewer line rehabilitation is apparently necessary, the methodology and its repercussions demand a critical examination. The Kingsland Avenue closure is more than a mere inconvenience; it is a test of effective governance and community resilience.  More communication with the residents of Kingsland needs to happen to alleviate some of the stress brought about by a dramatic change in resident’s access to their properties, street parking, and construction mayhem.

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