July 22, 2018 | ° F

Rutgers to construct parking lot on Skelly Field

Photo by Karl Hoempler |

Skelly Field on Cook campus will soon become a parking lot to accommodate for the construction of the new Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health.

Rutgers plans to proceed with construction of a parking lot on Skelly Field despite an existing controversy over whether or not the development would be necessary.

Students and faculty involved in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences Governing Council have argued the construction would destroy wetlands and claim the University community can park in existing designated spaces, according to a previous article published by The Daily Targum.

According to a letter of interpretation from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection issued on June 26, freshwater wetlands and/or state open waters are not present within the limit of disturbance of the site plan for the Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health and its parking lot expansion.

The letter did note that freshwater wetlands exist on the property outside of the proposed area of construction. NJDEP has determined that the wetland located south of the existing parking lot onsite is a swale of ordinary resource value.

Priya Sundaram, a representative from NJDEP, explained that swales, low tracts of marshy land, are an ordinary resource value, and the one by Skelly field does not have a buffer.

“Whatever they are doing, they are not going into that swale,” Sundaram said.

A buffer is usually located between the wetland and land close to the wetland, Sundaram said. It is used to protect the wetland by letting people approach it without getting too close to the actual wetland.

“When it comes to swales, they really don’t need a buffer,” she said. “I guess because they’re usually man-made and used for drainage, or they may just be a natural depression. It may not have any significant value, so that is why there is no buffer against the swales.”

Sundaram said any building in the designated area would not affect the swale or disturb any of the surrounding area in any way.

E.J. Miranda, director of Rutgers’ Media Relations, said the expansion of the existing parking lot is proceeding to accommodate the construction of the new Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health.

“The expansion will address the impact of losing existing parking and will do so without having any effect on any wetlands, buffers or other sensitive land,” he said.

Antonio Calcado, vice president of University Facilities and Capital Planning, said a part of the project includes an expansion of the existing parking lot. The parking lot will be expanded because the Food Science Building displaced 131 parking spaces.

By expanding the parking lot, Cook campus will not regain all 131 of those lost parking spaces, but will create approximately 60 to 90 spots depending on the design and layout.

“We’ve displaced people now. There’s no doubt about that, and we’ve pushed parking from all those 130 spaces, and they’ve [gone] to other places,” Calcado said.

He said Lot 97, the parking lot next to the current Food Science Building, is fully occupied most of the time, and finding a parking space is next to impossible.

“I can’t speak for what is further away, but we have to remember that we’re adding people to this building as well,” he said.

When Rutgers opens the institute, he said it would create a significant need for parking again.

Willets Health Center will also move from its Suydam Street location to be embedded into the new Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health. Calcado said this would generate an even greater demand for parking.

He said the Department of Transportation Services has conducted several studies and deemed that more parking spaces are necessary.

“Right now, it is programmed as part of the project, and the project was approved by the board,” Calcado said. “The parking lot will only be built as the building is going up.”

He also said Rutgers would consider building an environmentally responsible parking lot

“We take pride in ourselves, not just at Cook campus, but across the University of being sustainable and environmentally friendly,” he said.

He said all of the University’s landscaping practices are environmentally friendly. Rutgers also has one of the highest recycling percentages in the country for any university or college.

“We recycle over 67 percent of our waste,” he said. “I think very few can say that. … So we take great pride in that.”

By Danielle Gonzalez

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