Triangle Inn comes down

If you’ve been a reader of the blog for any extended time, you know how much we like taking photos of buildings getting knocked down.

The old Triangle Inn finally came down last week, along with several homes along Monroe Street. The properties will make way for Renaissance at Rahway, a five-story, 88-unit rental complex with ground floor parking. The development will take up the the portion of Montgomery Street between East Grand Avenue and Monroe.

Board rejects splitting St. Georges Ave. store

The Planning Board Tuesday night unanimously rejected an application to divide a St. Georges Avenue furniture store into three parcels. The application, which originally proposed to split the property into four commercial spaces, was continued from the June meeting when board members had too many questions to vote.

The revised application, though, still had too many questions for Planning Board members, and too many concerns about the impact on parking and traffic in the neighborhood. The rear lot, off Union Street, has about 15 parking spaces, which rarely have more than a handful of cars parked, according to the applicant. The application needs a parking variance since zoning regulations normally would require 32, though it is a pre-existing issue.

The improvements proposed in large part are required anyway, said Planning Board member and City Code Official Richard Watkins, and zoning enforcement could rectify issues with buffers, lighting and signage.

Resident Stefan Williams testified that the application would further aggravate parking problems along the 700 block of Union Street. Parking at the site could increase with additional tenants, but also once business improves, creating more competition for parking along Union Street, he said, which already deals with alternative side parking and a dearth of on-street residential parking.

Williams said there already is an unreasonable amount of traffic on Union Street and the applicant failed to show an exceptional or undue hardship. Board members seemed to agree that a weak economy didn’t justify the relief sought by a variance. Williams testified that the property currently is a viable commercial space and would be better than two vacant spaces, since the property owner testified that he hasn’t yet recruited potential tenants.

“The place is a mess,” said board member William Hering. “I don’t know that this’ll help the site. At the last meeting we said it’s too much on too little, and it still is.”

Cops apply for red light cameras

The Police Department received approval from the state for a red light camera pilot program at Routes 1/9 and East Milton Avenue and also will seek cameras for East Grand Avenue.

City Council discussed the proposal during a meeting earlier this summer. Requests for Proposals (RFP) will go out after the pilot gets approval and vendors will vie to install the cameras. But tn 18 months since the state program started, none have been installed yet because of court battles, according to Police Chief John Rodger. “I’m sure there will be test cases played out in the courts on this,” he said.

Rahway is in the second cycle of approvals by the state Department of Transportation and towns that were in the first cycle are not yet installed. “We will continue to pursue it until it gets done,” he said.

A survey by the Police Department indicated as many as 60 violations per hour at Routes 1/9-East Milton Avenue. Eight summonses issued per hour would project a total of almost 200 a day, or 70,000 per year. By comparison, an average motor vehicle stop takes 20 minutes so one officer could theoretically complete three an hour — if assigned to nothing but traffic enforcement, Rodger said. The department averages between 10,000 and 12,000 violations per year, he added, with about 6,100 this year through mid-August.

Revenue from the fines, which are doubled because the area is a state-designated “Safe Corridor,” is shared between the state, county and town, according to Rodger.

Trees make way for 50 units at St. Georges site

If you’re wondering why all those trees were cleared this summer along St. Georges Avenue, across from Stone Street, you’re not alone. Site work will begin next week for a 50-unit, three-story apartment complex. Jim Sisto, president of Westfield-based Sisto Realty, expects the foundation will be poured in the next month and construction completed by the spring.

If I read the zoning maps and application correctly, the building will be located near the center of the 5.13-acre site — perpendicular to St. Georges Avenue — with parking on either side (a total 98 spaces). The project needed variances for lot coverage (9.2 percent of the lot would be covered by the building) and parking. Of the 50 apartments, 37 are two-bedroom units and 13 are one-bedroom units, according to Sisto.

The story goes back several years. The project wasn’t very popular among neighborhood residents, at least according to minutes of the March 2003 Zoning Board meeting (.pdf). At that time, the board rejected a 60-unit application by a 6-1 vote. Sisto appealed to Superior Court, which remanded it back to the Zoning Board, according to city Construction Official Richard Watkins.

The amended application was approved as a 50-unit apartment building in 2004, with extensions granted by the Zoning Board each year through September 2009 as the developer had been waiting for approvals from the state Department of Environmental Protection and state Department of Transportation.

Of the three lots (Block 168, Lots 23, 24 and 25), property data was available for only one (23.02), which indicated an assessed value of $306,100 for 3.3 acres and property taxes of approximately $15,000. The address will be 1319 St. Georges Ave.

Station stairs to be reconstructed this fall

In case you missed last week’s Re-Tweet, NJ Transit issued an advisory that construction on the east stairs of the eastbound train platform will being Oct. 19. The stairway is expected to reopen in mid-November.

If the job is anything like the East Milton Avenue stairs done earlier this year, which were pretty much closed for the second half of 2008, it probably took some time to go out to bid and will cost about $100,000.

Rahway River, Milton Lake favorites by far

It’s no surprise that two of the largest parks in Rahway led the way in our latest poll, which collected only 64 votes (must be summer…):

What’s your favorite park in Rahway?
Rahway River Park, 34 percent (22/64): St. Georges Avenue and Parkway Drive.

Probably the most utilized park in the city, it can get pretty busy on a summer day, between the loop, pool, ballfields and tennis courts. It’s also got it’s fair share of wildlife, with the geese and a pond.
Milton Lake Park, 28 percent (18/64): Midwood Drive and Madison Avenue.
Probably my personal favorite because it can be fairly picturesque, and it’s a lake plunked down in the middle of a nice neighborhood. Not much in the way of active recreation but you can always find someone fishing and one reader even mentioned it’s good for kayaking!
Tully Field, 9 percent (6/64): Grove Street and Russell Avenue.
This looks like a solid neighborhood park: It’s got a basketball court, a variety of playground equipment and some green space.

Stein Field, 3 percent (2/64): Jefferson Avenue and Murray Street.
Maybe it’s just me, but this seems to have a striking resemblance to Tully Field.

Berzenic Park, 6 percent (4/64): St. Georges and Central avenues. Built on the former site of the public library, which was flooded during 1999’s Tropical Storm Floyd, Berzenic has tennis courts and a playground.
Madison Avenue/Greenfield Park, 6 percent (4/64): Madison and Westfield avenues.
Another county park that was refurbished a few years ago when a fieldhouse was added. You’ll routinely see the soccer fields being used, and it also sports playground equipment.
Bezega Park, 1 percent (1/64): Allen and Union streets.
One of the many sections of the county’s Rahway River Park, it’s a little more secluded than most. In fact, one reader emailed his vote for this small park near Rahway Animal Hospital claiming to have seen an eight-point buck there.
Brennan Field, 1 percent (1/64): Regina Avenue and Ferndale Place.
Off New Brunswick Avenue, this one has a ballfield and basketball court.
Flanagan Field, 1 percent (1/64): Wall Street and East Milton Avenue.
Not unlike the other small neighborhood parks, it has a playground and ballfield, sandwiched between homes and an industrial area near Linden.
Hart Street Park, 1 percent (1/64): Hart Street.
You wouldn’t think much of a park that’s sandwiched between a go-go bar, a sewage treatment plant and water tower, but it hosts quite a few community picnics and the like.
Howard Field, 1 percent (1/64): Stockton Street.
Not much too it, but another good-looking neighborhood park with playground equipment, ballfield and picnic tables.
Riverfront Park, 1 percent (1/64): Lawrence Street near East Hazelwood Avenue.
Access via Lawrence Street doesn’t look like much when you park in the lot, but follow the boardwalk along the river and you’ll see some views of the incinerator that you’ve never seen, and of the Rahway River too, of course.
Ross Park, 1 percent (1/64): Essex and Johnson streets.
The newest addition to the city’s park system, it opened in May and adds to the greenway along the Rahway River. It appears to have been built with the nearby Golden Age Towers in mind as the exercise stations seem geared toward seniors.
Skarrow Field, 1 percent (1/64): Montgomery and Washington streets.
This was one that I didn’t know about. There’s a playground and field behind Cleveland School, which fronts East Milton Avenue.

Several parks in our poll received zero votes:
Kiwanis Park: St. Georges and Central avenues. Across St. Georges from Berzenic Park, it’s a little swath along the Rahway River.
Madden Field: Capobianco Plaza. The ballfields are home to many of the youth athletic leagues.
Wheatena Park: West Grand and Elizabeth avenues. In the rare instance when I feel like running, I like to take a route through Wheatena and follow the sections of Rahway River Park up the river along River Road and back.

Thanks to reader Matt for finding this map of Union County parks (.pdf), where you can see some of the ones listed above. I came up with this Google Map with placemarks for each park. Also, a big thanks to Mr. Rahway for help in compiling the list of parks.

Deal$ in line to replace Drug Fair space

I know you all wanted a grocery store, but don’t hold your breath. It’s not quite another dollar store, but Deal$ looks like it will replace the former Drug Fair space by September, according to their Web site (follow the link to the “Coming Soon!” box at the bottom of the page; it’s a .pdf). No word from the landlord, Millburn-based Gelber Associates, on details of the lease.

UPDATE 8/20: New signage for the former Drug Fair space went up this week (photo at right), confirming that Deal$ will be taking over the location.


Interesting story recently in New York magazine about the condo bust in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I’m not comparing Rahway to Williamsburg, to be sure, but maybe parallels on a smaller scale to some extent.

In transit village news, here’s a report last month from on Morristown’s new development ready to start selling units (at some, um, interesting prices).

Iraq memorial to grace train station plaza

What may be the first monument in the state dedicated to those killed in Iraq will be installed at train station plaza later this month.

The Broken Hearts Memorial will be installed by Aug. 29 with an opening ceremony planned Sept. 12.

Local artist Jim McKeon said there are monuments to individual soldiers killed in action in the Middle East but “nothing on this scale dedicated to all of them.”

McKeon is founder of the rahway art hive, an art studio and co-op gallery on East Cherry Street, where he and others have been working on the monument this summer. He’s been mulling the idea for about a year after conversations with friends who have family serving in Iraq.

The monument features 19 interlocking, nine-foot panels that stretch more than 36 feet when fully assembled. Each panel has a silhouette of a soldier covered with 127 hearts, totaling more than 4,000 — one for each U.S. soldier killed in Iraq. The wall is shaped like open hexagons — “vulnerable when standing alone but strong when placed back to back.”

Each heart will bear the word “MOM,” McKeon said, making an “iconic tattoo image into something powerful.” A heart will be added for each soldier killed, making it a kind of living tribute.

The memorial is constructed to be permanent or temporary. McKeon expects it might be in the plaza for about a year and hopes to make it a traveling exhibit to display in other towns. Between volunteer time and some contributions from the city for materials, he estimated the monument cost about $7,500. But the Broken Hearts campaign is also aiming to raise $43,000 for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, for a new hospital in Bethesda, Md.

A ribbon cutting ceremony will be Sept. 12 when the public will be invited to participate by painting one of the thousands of hearts, with the word “MOM” already stenciled in. After the opening date, public participation will be accepted on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and by appointment.