Students discuss impact of construction projects
Rutgers has been no stranger to ribbon-cutting ceremonies this year, with several new projects in progress across all five campuses. And although everyone has seen the construction, not everyone has seen what the construction is doing to the City of New Brunswick.
Rutgers Department of Planning and Development has started several new projects on campus, including The Yard @ College Avenue, The Global Village Learning Center on Douglass campus, the classroom building next to the Honors College on the College Avenue campus and the new home of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology on Busch campus.
This is all following the completion of the Honors College, which is housing students for the first time this school year.
Despite excitement from construction, there has been question about the consequences of all of this rapid development. Construction will affect New Brunswick residents not affiliated with the University, in addition to Rutgers students and faculty.
“The academic building will help to consolidate different units in the School of Arts and Sciences under one roof ... this way they’ll be able to operate more efficiently,” said Frank Wong, executive director of Facilities Planning and Development.
Amie Baldwin, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, lives in the Honors College and sees construction from her window. She said she feels students have not been adequately notified of the undergoing construction.
“I feel like there’s only been one time when we’ve been notified about construction,” Baldwin said.
Devon Smith, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said he was not adequately informed about the construction. He lives on College Avenue and said the construction has always been relatively “hush-hush.”
“When they first started doing the construction (about a year ago) we all thought ‘What the hell is that suppose to be? What’s going on?’ And a year or two before that they kicked off all of the Grease Trucks out of that location. And no one knew why, or what they were going to do with it,” Smith said regarding the space that is now The Yard @ College Avenue.
Students should feel informed because “all significant projects” can be found on the Rutgers Facilities website, in addition to the fact that they are also presented to the Rutgers University Student Assembly, Wong said.
One reason that students may not be informed is because construction projects are often many years in the making, and Wong said there is an information lag between the students that were enrolled when projects were being planned and the students that are still enrolled when construction begins. These are often two completely different groups of people, he said.
But as inconvenient as the construction is for students, it is more problematic for residents, Baldwin said. With the speed and scale that Rutgers is building at, it could be seen as isolating the citizens in New Brunswick.
“It’s gentrification,” said Baldwin, who works as a tutor at the New Brunswick Public Library.
When tutoring children, Baldwin said they often view Rutgers negatively.
Baldwin believes that about 90 percent of the children’s parents she works with only speak Spanish, and Rutgers has not been accommodating of that when doing construction.
“(For example) the signs on Rutgers things are all in English, whereas in the heart of Downtown New Brunswick things are bilingual,” Baldwin said.
Rutgers forgets about the cultures of the families that already live here, Baldwin said.
Smith said he sees similarities between the changes happening in New Brunswick and his hometown of Jersey City, which has also been struggling to balance improving the city and pushing lower-income residents out of the area, according to NJ.com.
When improvements are made to the Rutgers community, it also indirectly improves New Brunswick, but the University is mindful of their role as neighbors to people that live and work in town, Wong said.
Rutgers tries to keep citizens informed with outreach by meeting with the City Planner of New Brunswick and making presentations to the planning board. And although there hasn’t been a town hall “in a while,” Rutgers plans to have more in the future, Wong said.
But Baldwin hasn’t seen much connection between the University and New Brunswick community.
“How often do you see people that aren’t Rutgers students, and people living in New Brunswick not going to events in New Brunswick, because they feel like they’re not part of the Rutgers community,” he said.
Baldwin believes the University could do more to work with New Brunswick residents and already existing developments.
“We’re replacing their community with ours, when we should be building alongside them,” he said.