September 16, 2019 | 62° F

Proposed Mine Street construction spurs controversy

Photo by Yingjie Hu |

A plan to build an apartment complex on the abandoned lot of 72 Mine St. is facing major opposition from New Brunswick residents, who say the project will be a stain on the city’s historic buildings. The city’s Planning Board is postponing the construction so it can hear more testimoney from the public.

People crammed into New Brunswick City Hall on Tuesday to further air their grievances about the building of an apartment complex on Mine Street.

At the last meeting in March, the New Brunswick Planning Board announced it would hold off on construction to hear more testimony from the public, which overwhelmingly opposed the construction.

Private city-based attorney Thomas Kelso represents the construction company — Construction Management Associates, LLC — set to build on Mine Street. New Brunswick Today editor-in-chief Charlie Kratovil questioned whether it is ethically appropriate for Kelso to represent the construction company, citing Kelso’s position as Middlesex County council as a conflict of interest.

After an agitated Kelso reacted and had to be calmed by board members, Kratovil asked the board to look into the matter, but the subject was not pressed any further.

Mine Street resident Jennifer O’Neill testified that any new construction should match the architecture of already existing homes and buildings on the street.

Her father, Kevin O’Neill, agreed.

“Any new buildings must follow guidelines,” he said. “They must visually match existing infrastructure.”

Kevin O’Neill cited plans from the Rutgers College Avenue Redevelopment Initiative, stating the lot at 72 Mine St. provides only for the expansion and preservation of single and double family homes by prohibiting apartment buildings.

“Only Rutgers has the right to build and run an apartment on the lot where 72 Mine St. is located,” he said.

Elizabeth Ciccone, secretary and treasurer of the Friends of The William H. Johnson House, Inc., said her organization works to support the restoration, preservation and maintenance of the historic William H. Johnson house. She said the construction of an apartment building on Mine Street would tarnish the historic streets, buildings and sites in New Brunswick.

“Large-scale projects affect the historical past of New Brunswick,” she said. “Everyone is impacted by the destruction of New Brunswick’s history.”

Local residents are worried the development of the apartment building will add to New Brunswick’s notorious traffic and parking issues.

Gregory Bezilla, chaplain of the Episcopal Campus Ministry at Rutgers, said students and visitors have to compete for space.

“Sometimes students will do things out of desperation,” he said. “I’ve seen students park in front of driveways just so they’re not late for class.”

Union Street resident Abdul Khan said his street has similar parking conditions to Mine Street, which is perpendicular to Union Street.

“If you find a parking spot, you are lucky, and you keep that spot for days. Sometimes, students even sell their spots,” he said.

The controversy is far from over — the Planning Board will reconvene on May 13 at 7:30 p.m. to listen to more testimony on the construction on Mine Street.

Jillian Pastor

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