In the ongoing dispute between residents of the Evergreen Woods condominium development and the New Jersey Turnpike Authority over noise pollution and the removal of trees as a result of the Garden State Parkway shoulder widening project in Brick, it appears there are some glimmers of hope for relief after a years-long stalemate.
Still, some residents say their voices were not heard when authority and township officials met with the condominium development’s board recently.
Evergreen Woods residents have been lobbying the Turnpike Authority – to no avail – for a sound wall since trees that shielded noise from the highway for more than 25 years were cut down to make room for the wider lanes. The request has fallen on deaf ears, with residents of the neighborhood saying they cannot afford to hire an attorney to force the state’s hand. Turnpike officials have said the area does not qualify for a sound wall.
After Mayor John Ducey and Township Administrator Joanne Bergin intervened in recent months, authority officials finally agreed to come to Brick for a meeting with the Evergreen Woods condominium board. At the meeting, the authority for the first time admitted there could be an issue with the widening project and proposed planting about 200 trees this fall that would help block the noise and shield the residents from exhaust fumes from the Parkway.
“We had the executive director of the Turnpike Authority, their attorney, the association president, their attorney and the property manager at the meeting,” Bergin said. “What they came back with is a plan where they had the actual drawings – types of trees, where they want trees located, trees that have leaves that fall or other types.”
The plan to plant trees will go before the condominium board, which must vote on the species of trees and where they should be placed.
“Depending on what happens there, the Turnpike Authority said they would be willing to have a remediation plan,” Bergin said.
But some residents are not satisfied with the tree solution, and still hold out hope for the construction of a sound wall.
“The Evergreen Woods association never really backed our wanting a wall,” said Michele Spector, an Evergreen Woods resident who has been vocal about the plight of her neighbors and attends every Turnpike Authority meeting. “We refuse to accept trees in lieu of a wall. We’re going to keep pushing for a wall.”
As for why trees will not suffice: “It’s going to take a while for them to grow and actually affect the noise level,” Spector explained, if they are successful in reducing the noise and air pollution at all.