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City program connects mayor with students

New Brunswick Mayor James Cahill sat at a table for about two hours inside the Douglass Campus Center to answer questions from passersby regarding community concerns and happenings.

The table, a part of the New Brunswick and the University’s “Student Connections” program, was designed for the city to have a “town hall on wheels,” so students who want to attend city hall meetings but cannot make the meetings can voice their concerns about the community, said Kyle Kirkpatrick, New Brunswick community development administrator.

But some did not even notice the mayor’s presence.

“At first I didn’t recognize who he was,” said Elizabeth Davis, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences first-year student, who was born and raised in New Brunswick.

One concern shared by students and residents of New Brunswick is parking, Cahill said.

The city is building additional parking decks and is working with residents with parking passes to ease the situation, but the city is looking to promote bicycle riding, he said.

Cahill said the city plans to build a bike trail from the College Avenue campus to Douglass Campus, which is expected to cost the city about $8 million. The city is applying for grants with the N.J. Department of Transportation for money to fund this initiative.

Another concern of the city, especially with the upcoming move-out for students living in off-campus houses, was the bulk trash moratorium, Cahill said.

Students will still have the opportunity to call the Department of Public Works and have three bulk items to be picked up during regular trash collection time.

The University also will arrange two drop-off centers on Douglass Campus and the College Avenue campus for bulk items, Cahill said.

Security was also a concern that students expressed, Kirkpatrick said.

Crime in the city has gone down, Cahill said. For the last 20 years, the crime rate was cut in half.

“There was a spike in crime in 2011, but it’s going down,” Cahill said.

He said the city created a community volunteer task force, which helps to improve the relation between the city and the New Brunswick Police Department.

Cahill said the city is also engaging in more bicycle patrols and encouraging residents to know their community liaison, who is a non-police officer for those who do not feel comfortable speaking with the police.

Giovanelli’s late-night hours also became a security concern, which were brought to the council’s attention last month when crime rates in the area were high.

Despite the concern over late hours at this local business, the New Brunswick Diner opened this month on a 24-hour schedule.  

“There’s a difference — one draws in a larger crowd during lunch, while the other draws in a crowd at night,” Cahill said.

Because the 24-hour-diner is still new, the council will take action if any concerns are brought to its attention, Cahill said.

The “Student Connections” program also administers surveys about the city asking students if they had any issues, in order to find out more about student concerns, Kirkpatrick said.

Another feature of the survey is a portion where students can indicate their interest in being contacted about their particular issue, so someone with the city can reach out to them to address individual concerns, Kirkpatrick said.

The “Student Connections” program will travel to the rest of the University campuses for the next four weeks, Kirkpatrick said.

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