Oppose gentrification of Mine Street
As reported in the Daily Targum (March 13, 2014: “Apartment Building to Replace Abandoned Lot”), a commercial real estate developer, Construction Management Associates, is seeking approval of variances from the New Brunswick Planning Board for the purpose of building a four-story apartment building at 17 Mine St., the former location of the Catholic Center, in the heart of the College Avenue Campus.
The design and scale of this commercial project have alarmed the neighborhood. The enormous size of the proposed building dwarfs existing structures on Mine Street. It will fill the entire lot and extend to the street past the sightline of neighboring homes, necessitating the location of an electrical transformer at curbside behind a fence.
The proposed building with 57 units would house up to 140 people—almost double the existing population of the block. At the same time, the developer is seeking a variance to provide 60 percent less parking than required by zoning code: 43 spots, instead of the 106 spots required by code.
I share the concerns of our neighbors about the impact of this project on the quality of life for the College Avenue Campus. Our neighborhood is already congested with traffic. Parking for residents and visitors has become a competitive sport, leading to tensions over blocked driveways and unauthorized parking, and creating hazardous situations for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists. With other projects in progress or planned in the vicinity of College Avenue, the situation will only get worse for all who live and work in the area, including students, staff and faculty.
My greatest concern is for the handful of owner-occupants who reside in the Sixth Ward. Their continuing presence and civic involvement sustain these neighborhoods. They bring important diversity, which contributes to the quality of life for all. They are good neighbors, and they deserve our support and solidarity.
The Master Plan for New Brunswick documents a long-term trend toward a decreasing number of owner-occupants and expresses concern for the stability of the Fifth Ward and Sixth Ward as rental units crowd out owner-occupants. Almost 74 percent of the City’s occupied housing stock consists of rental units. The construction of massive apartment buildings in these neighborhoods will accelerate the exodus of owner-occupants, undermine the stability of the College Avenue area, and place serious obstacles to the Master Plan’s goal of increasing the number of owner-occupants.
We the Rutgers community will have an opportunity to ask questions and express our concerns in a time for public comments at the Planning Board meeting on Tuesday, April 8, at 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers on the third floor of New Brunswick City Hall, 78 Bayard St.
Please act on your concern: Your presence and voice will make a difference for the Mine Street neighborhood and the College Avenue Campus!
Reverend Gregory Bezilla is the Episcopal Chaplain to Rutgers University at the Canterbury House at 5 Mine St.