Dear Mr. Mayor and City Councilpersons,
We strongly oppose the city’s plan (proposed City Ordinance 23-027) to permanently close St. Pauls Ave. to eastbound traffic between Tonnele Ave and Kennedy Boulevard. The plan overlooks the detrimental impact to residents and businesses in the immediate area as well as to the greater Journal Square area. There is no acknowledgement or recognition of St. Pauls Ave’s function (since the 1930s) as a vital east-west thru street that directly connects the Pulaski Skyway and Witt Penn bridge Hackensack River crossings to Jersey City. It is an ill-conceived plan that will make our neighborhood less safe, increase congestion, harm businesses on Newark Ave. in India Square and introduce inequity into the neighborhood.
Our principle objections are:
- Ill–Conceived/Insufficient data and analysis. Given the impact of the proposed change to the community, there is inadequate safety and traffic data to justify the change. For example, the city has not provided safety data demonstrating significant safety issues on this section of St. Pauls. Notably, St. Pauls is not identified as a High Injury Network street in the City’s Vision Zero plan. It is a low pedestrian traffic area compared to other streets in the area, especially Newark Ave in India Square, which is identified as a High Injury Network street. Moreover, effective traffic control measures have already been implemented that improved safety but still allow eastbound traffic to flow efficiently to Kennedy and the 139 Upper Roadway. The current route is not broken. It works. Likewise, the city has not provided actual traffic data (volume) on the current routes or the proposed new routes. Nor has it quantified the amount of “cut-thru” (Holland tunnel bound) traffic on the current route. To our mind, traffic destined for anywhere in Jersey City is, by definition, local traffic. While there is traffic going to 139 Upper Roadway, it connects to (among many other destinations): Summit Ave., the County Courthouse, Central Ave. Shopping District in the Heights, Dickinson HS, Christ Hospital, or one of the many new housing developments on the south side of 139U.
- Less Safe. The plan will create more safety problems than it will solve. The plan will divert all eastbound traffic from the St. Pauls-Tonnele intersection onto a small side street named Van Winkle Ave. and/or Newark Ave. Both streets have many times as many pedestrians as St. Pauls. Van Winkle at Liberty Ave. is part of the Newark Ave. shopping district in the heart of India Square. Shops and restaurants line Liberty to the corner of Van Winkle. And Van Winkle already has its fair share of eastbound traffic coming from Newark Ave. Car safety: instead of traffic proceeding straight up St. Pauls, it will now need to take multiple turns back to St. Pauls, including a difficult (and dangerous) left hand turn into on-coming traffic on Tonnele. There is no light there. Moreover, the traffic will now have to turn thru four crosswalks to get back to St. Pauls. Now: Zero. We are not traffic planners, but common sense tells us traffic is safer going straight thru intersections vs turning into multiple crosswalks. Finally, with increased congestion on all surrounding streets, it will make it much more difficult for the Fire Department, Police or Emergency Medical Service vehicles to reach destinations on Newark Ave., Van Winkle and Tonnele.
- More Congestion/Gridlock. The plan will cause severe congestion on Tonnele Ave. southbound between Tonnele Circle and Newark Ave. All the eastbound traffic will now need to go south on Tonnele before taking the difficult left hand turn onto Van Winkle. There is already a lot of traffic on Tonnele in both directions. In addition, it will force more traffic onto Newark Ave. in India Square, which is already highly congested. During the pilot last year, the traffic diversion to Van Winkle created backups on Tonnele and gridlocked the St. Pauls – Tonnele Ave. intersection. Congestion and idling cars creates pollution, frustrated drivers and horn honking. Now, there is no gridlock on any segment of the existing route.
- Negative Impact on Newark Ave. Businesses. The plan will severely impact the Newark Ave. business and shopping district in the heart of India Square. This shopping district is probably the busiest, most congested two-block shopping district in the whole city. Unlike St. Pauls, it is already highly congested with shoppers and deliveries. The City’s Vision Zero Project identifies this specific stretch of Newark Ave. on its High Injury Network. The change will force more traffic onto Newark making an already bad situation worse. Even today, it is not a viable thru street to Kennedy Blvd for eastbound traffic. Indeed, it’s the reason that many eastbound travelers coming up Newark Ave. from the Witt Penn avoid the area by using Van Winkle to get to Kennedy.
- Inequity. Per the plan, traffic will be reduced by approximately half on the three block section of St. Pauls. Ten parking spaces will be gained. Great. BUT, for everyone else, it’s bad news. Tonnele south of St. Pauls will double its traffic. It will lose parking. Van Winkle will double or triple its traffic. And lose parking. Why are the 500 or so residents of St Pauls being favored over the 10,000+ residents in the immediate surrounding neighborhoods? Or the 60+ businesses in India Square? Are the residents on Tonnele and Van Winkle in a different category that makes it OK to inundate these neighborhoods with traffic? And how about everyone else in the surrounding neighborhoods and beyond who will have a difficult journey to home or work, battling congestion and gridlock just to get to Kennedy? The plan will benefit a few and punish the many.
Finally, let’s consider the bigger picture. Like it or not, St. Pauls is a vital thru road for local traffic. The only open exit from the Pulaski Skyway to Jersey City directly connects to St. Pauls. The new Witt Penn bridge has a dedicated exit ramp to St. Pauls. The Tonnele Circle South exit also directly connects to St. Pauls. And it’s hands down the safest and the best route east to Kennedy and the 139 Upper roadway. This is not new. It has served this function for at least 90 years. This stretch of St. Pauls is a major asset to our area. To cut off this route and make it miserable and more difficult (and dangerous) to get to the JSQ area to live, work and play just does not align with the unprecedented development in the immediate JSQ area and points beyond. It is simply counter to all the tremendous efforts the city and council have made to revitalize the JSQ area.
We urge you to vote NO on this initiative.
David Stewart – President
201 St. Pauls Condominium Association, Inc.
303 Condominium Units
Meenu Gupta – President
10 Huron Condominium Association, Inc.
Brunswick Towers Condominium Association, Inc.
146 Condominium Units
Renee Bettinger- President
225 St. Pauls Condominium Association, Inc.
271 Condominium Units
Michael Shuchman –Vice President
Canco Lofts Condominium Association, Inc.
202 Condominium Units
Representing Newark Ave Business District