Home Government Evergreen Woods Residents Face Dwindling Options for Parkway Relief

Evergreen Woods Residents Face Dwindling Options for Parkway Relief

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Cars whiz by the Evergreen Woods development with only a thin layer of trees in between the highway and 2,000 residents' homes. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
Cars whiz by the Evergreen Woods development with only a thin layer of trees in between the highway and 2,000 residents’ homes. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Residents of the Evergreen Woods community are facing a dearth of options as they continue their fight for relief from what they say is unbearable noise and fumes from the Garden State Parkway due to a project to widen shoulders in the Brick area.

Residents of the condominium development have been successful in publicizing their fight, producing YouTube videos, appearing on radio shows, and garnering attention from the media both locally and on New York and Philadelphia television stations. But the New Jersey Turnpike Authority has consistently blunted the residents’ efforts to have a sound wall installed, claiming that widening the shoulders and removing thousands of trees does not constitute an actual widening of the road. Mayor John Ducey has advocated for the residents before the authority and in a closed-door meeting with state Transportation Commissioner Jamie Fox, in which Ducey said Fox told him he was against sound walls.

The homeowners have also said a lack of federal funding allowed the state to avoid what would have been their responsibility to conduct a sound survey to determine the need for a sound wall following the shoulder widening project. State officials say they complied with the law, but the residents claim they have been bullied by the Turnpike Authority, brushed off at meetings and treated unfairly. When Ducey tried to use state grant funding to replace some of the trees lost in Parkway project, the state Attorney General’s office stepped in and stopped him from doing so, refusing to grant a waiver to plant the trees on private property near the condominium complex.

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Residents are now facing a dwindling number of options, and township officials say their hands are largely tied as well.

“Is there anything that this council can do?” Evergreen Woods resident Lenis Morano pleaded at the March 17 council meeting.

Council President Paul Mummolo said despite the township’s advocacy, the state remains unwilling to fund the construction of a sound wall, and the township cannot spend taxpayer money to “fight just for specific people.”

Conceivably, the township could fund a sound study, but even that option presents a scenario where the findings would be challenged by the Turnpike Authority.

“We don’t know what [the readings] were before, so it’s hard to compare what it was before to the present,” said Mummolo.

Joanne Bergin, the township’s business administrator, expressed her own frustration with the process.

“The authorities that make these decisions are regulated above us,” Bergin said.

Now, she said, Evergreen Woods residents appear to be having difficulty finding help from their own homeowners’ association, which has chosen not to bring legal action against the authority. Bergin said she spoke with him at a recent authority meeting she attended to support the residents.

“He’s told me that the association has told him that spending more money on him is not something that’s important to them,” said Bergin. “The association has the ability to take this to a legal level, but they’ve decided that it’s not something they want to pursue.”

Michelle Spector, one of the most outspoken residents of the development, said she and her neighbors have brought a retired FAA scientist and a sound expert with them to a recent meeting and hope the authority will listen.

If not, the sleepless nights and smell of fumes will continue, the residents say. The only recent solace they had was when the Asbury Park Press decided to place an article on the issue on its front page. Most of the residents saw it early after the night they had.

“We were up all night, so the fact that it made the front page made us a lot happier,” Morano said.


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  • JerseyShoreLibertarian

    I wonder if it is possible to build the wall with private funds. I would make a donation.

    • Michele Spector

      That’s extremely kind of you, but the NJTA hasn’t agreed to do anything but put a sprig of trees here and there. East Brunswick had the bucks to throw at NJTA and now they are getting a wall after first being denied. NJTA are fighting Evergreen Woods because they know we qualify for the wall according to their formula and that they screwed up. And if we get one it opens up a floodgate for everyone else up and down the parkway. Perhaps a fundraiser would work. If only we could get Bruce Springsteen to do a concert and part of the funds go in a pot for affected communities.

  • Trevor

    This makes me physically sick. Another example of the turnpike authority ruining our town.

    • Michele Spector

      No real transparency or oversight. All other agencies are in cahoots with them.

  • Stephen Brill

    A little bit of clarification is needed, trees could be planted at Evergreen Woods, the town has received over $500,000 for this area and others. The problem is that the town refuses to accept an easement. Accepting the easement obligates the town to care for the trees indefinitly. When I brought up the use of public money being used on private property when the mayor was a councilman he said it could be done with an easement. You remember that conversation Mr. Mayor! So as a result of this inaction that money will instead be used in Brick’s parks. You know, everything is going to the dogs!

  • #@#.com

    Plant a couple of rows of Leland cypress trees and the problem solved.

    • Michele Spector

      If only it were that simple. They cut down 100 foot wide swathe of trees in the center median. It is gone. Our communities and many others are now at the mercy of horrendous noise, fumes, and loss in the values of their homes. We are the sacrificial zones. Make the parkway safer and preserve water quality are all bogus verbiage meant to mislead and misinform the general public. We have all been had and they want us to just take it–NOT!!

  • SB

    Even if the town can’t use their employees to plant the trees on private property, couldn’t they provide the trees to Evergreen Woods and allow them to hire someone to plant them? It’s sickening how bureaucracy makes everything so difficult. They have no problem ripping up beautiful trees and ruining property values. It’s so easy to be dismissive when it doesn’t affect them. They’ll soon be onto the next project, destroying beauty somewhere else. Sad.

  • Mac

    If it wasn’t for America’s smallest minds needing a place to collect public welfare for little or no return to the public, then the overstaffed and overstuffed executives of the NJ Turnpike Authority would serve no purpose at all. One needs just three characteristics to be employed as a ‘titled executive’ by the NJT: arrogance, professional ignorance and a honed ability to only serve oneself. No exceptions are tolerated and have remarkably never been experienced.

    • Michele Spector

      That they serve themselves only is very apparent in all our dealings with them. They treat anyone who isn’t them with disdain.

  • Jon Koehler

    Parkway was there 50yrs before Evergreen Woods, the developer was greedy and built right up to the allowed set backs and the Township planning board reviewed and approved.. People bought and to bad if they didn’t do their research

    • Michele Spector

      A lot of backroom deals happened back then. According to some seniors living here at Evergreen Woods there was an agreement with the old Highway Authority that the parkway would never come too close to the community. This was told to people to buy here that worried about the eventuality of the parkway growing to their front door as it is today.

      • Mac

        when dealing with either the Parkway or Turnpike promises, new or old, always remember that the check is already in the mail

    • SB

      What a ridiculous statement. I wonder if you’d be singing the same tune if this affected you.

      • Jon Koehler

        Haha nope I was a original resident before the Condo, my Grafather was the owner of the property hs name was Henry J Herborn,

      • Michele Spector

        The Parkway then was two lanes going either way, with lots of shoulder and a wide center median of old forest to boot.

      • Michele Spector

        Uh, it has. I’m not making excuses for all those deals that happened. That was how it was back then. I live right next to the parkway my dear. I was just saying that when I walked around getting signatures for a petition to get a wall here at Evergreen, some folks that were here 25+ years said there was some such agreement with the Old Highway Authority. But now we have the unapproved version of them called the NJ Turnpike Authority. That’s where we started this whole thing for getting a wall, just walking around and talking to people. These residents were actually told that the parkway wouldn’t come very close, and that’s the only reason they moved here.

  • Michele Spector

    Did you all know that the only reason the center median was plowed down on the Garden State Parkway was for those basins? The NJDEP directed the NJTA that they had to install them for water quality. Well, if you read the NJDEP Best Practices manual it actually says these basins are for water quality at sewage treatment plants and dams. So if there’s a flood at sewage treatment, yeah, you need somewhere to store everything until it’s up and running again. But they had no authority, and actually subsumed authority, to install them on the Parkway. When I asked for a copy of this manual from them, they said they had NO copy at all. And the NJTA deferred to their consultants on this matter. Well some of the contractors now enjoying extremely lucrative contracts with the NJTA on the Parkway and other places are on the committee who changes the rules of the manual. This manual tells the NJDEP how and where to install basins. Sense a conflict of interest here? New Jersey corruption and stupidity at its best.

    • Mac

      organized corruption passed off as stupidity

  • Michele Spector

    We have a petition online for all affected communities. I don’t know if you can link to it from this, but you can cut and paste and put in your browser. http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/destruction-of-nj-garden

  • #@#.com

    Radical, environmental, whacko activists and their liberal democrat politicians have made laws that mandate destruction of natural water run off basins, by clear cutting trees and digging and creating huge man made drainage basins that are not needed.
    The Parkway has never flooded in 60 years of operation. Trees and natural sandy soil drainage worked fine.
    The new systems are just make work for politically connected lawyers and engineers to make millions and millions of dollars.

    • Mac

      and to create more unnecessary shadow government jobs – when this favorite son construction job is finally finished, expect the Turnpike Authority to create a mosquito commission to deal with all the new mosquito nests this project is blessing the future of these bugs with

  • #@#.com

    Politicians say ” lets cut down all the trees and then build concrete sound barriers”. No one in their right mind would do that.

    • Michele Spector

      Too late, trees are down, now we need that wall. Trees can go in after to make it pretty again.

    • Mac

      you’re so, so right but the voters reelect them time and time again regardless

  • #@#.com

    The original parkway plan was to build a raised road and use the center as a natural drainage basin. It worked perfectly. Then the corrupt politicians, enviro whackos and lawyers and engineers got involved.
    Why do you think it takes 5 years to replace a 20 foot long 150 year old wooden bridge over a stream? CORRUPTION and red tape.
    What would take 10 Amish farmers 2 weeks to replace a small bridge, takes the modern bureaucrats 5 years to replace.

  • Michele Spector

    And here’s the petition for a sound barrier wall. http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/destruction-of-nj-garden

  • Michele Spector

    I hope more people from all the affected communities will go the NJTA Commissioner’s meeting this March 31st. It would be great if more folks would come and fight with us. Here’s the info:

    Meeting Schedule

    Meetings of the Board of Commissioners are open to the public. Unless otherwise noted, they begin at 9:30 a.m. in the Executive Boardroom of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority Administration Offices, 581 Main Street, Woodbridge, NJ.

    MARCH 31, 2015

    Agenda

    Minutes

    Note: Change Of Start Time Notification

    March 12, 2015
    NOTICE OF CHANGE OF START TIME
    OF REGULAR MEETING
    OF
    THE NEW JERSEY TURNPIKE AUTHORITY’S
    BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
    NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the Regular Meeting of the New Jersey Turnpike
    Authority’s Board of Commissioners scheduled for Tuesday, March 31, 2015, shall
    begin at 9:00 a.m., rather than 9:30 a.m. as previously noticed. Immediately following
    the start of the meeting at 9:00 a.m., the New Jersey Turnpike Authority’s Board of
    Commissioners shall enter into a closed session for the purpose of discussing contract
    negotiations and collective negotiations as permitted by the Open Public Meetings Act
    pursuant to N.J.S.A. 10:4-12b(7). It is anticipated that the Public Session ofthe Regular
    Meeting shall reopen at or after 9:30 a.m. The Regular Meeting shall be held at the New
    Jersey Turnpike Authority’s Administrative Offices, First Floor Board Room, 581 Main
    Street, Woodbridge, New Jersey.

  • #@#.com

    Evergreen woods was built in the 70s. Parkway the 50s. Here’s a nice bird’s eye view.

    Enjoy…http://www.historicaerials.com/

  • JW P

    When I moved to the Herbertsville end waaay back in the day, the parkway shoulders, off ramp and entrances were all a lot more barren as I recall. A few smallish trees and some overgrown weeds was all there was- definitely less greenery than today. In fact, a lot of Bricktown’s now open spaces were like that too when people still farmed chickens, cut lumber or just dug holes and charged people to dump stuff in them no questions asked. Anyway, nature always finds a way. Leave it alone for a while and it will start to look ‘natural’ in due time.