A group of residents who have long-advocated for New Jersey officials to build a physical barrier between their community and the Garden State Parkway following its expansion have launched a new effort to raise funds to hire an attorney to represent their interests.
For years, residents of the Evergreen Woods condominium development, which sits between the Parkway and Herborn Avenue in the northeastern-most section of town, have attended township council meeting to plead for assistance from officials in obtaining a wall. Former Mayor John Ducey brought the issue up as high as the state’s former Transportation Commissioner and the governor’s chief of staff, but to no avail. The New Jersey Turnpike Authority, which has jurisdiction over the Parkway, has said the area does not qualify for a sound barrier because its widening project along the highway included the expansion of shoulders and other road features rather than the addition of lanes themselves. The residents have long disputed the state’s given answer, though their development’s association declined to take legal action themselves.
One of the most prominent advocates of the sound wall, Michele Spector, has been a fixture at both local and state meetings. She said recently, following another year of noise, the rattling of windows at night, and the straw that broke the camel’s back – a Jan. 2022 fire that closed the highway for 10 hours due to arson – led her and some other neighbors to begin seeking ways to pool their money to hire an attorney. A GoFundMe page has been started, which has raised just under $100 of its $200,000 goal.
The residents claim the law is on their side, and hold that wealthier communities able to hire experienced legal counsel have gotten sound walls after challenging the state’s data. The residents, Spector said, have data of their own which was officially collected by professionals.
“The data we have illustrating that we qualify for a wall fills volumes,” Spector said in a letter read at a recent meeting of the township council and distributed to the media. “The average acceptable decibel level is 65. But our noise levels reach 82 decibels. We even made a video illustrating how loud it is here.”
That video is embedded below:
“According to the science of noise, 70 dB over a prolonged period of time is enough to cause hearing loss,” said Spector. “Stemming from 2010, after the parkway widening, my hearing has gotten progressively worse. And according to my ENT, this is attributed to highway noise. Our quality of life has diminished drastically. Children and families are still suffering daily. We are suffering from sleep deprivation from the intense noise from the 24/7 traffic.”
Cherrywood Farms, a condominium community directly across the lanes of the Parkway off Lanes Mill Road in Brick, did receive a sound wall after conceding parcels of land to the state for access points. Another community in North Jersey received a sound wall after agreeing to pay for it themselves following a similar decision by the state to deny one under its criteria.
Calling New Jersey by its infamous nickname “the Soprano State,” Spector said that “only the wealthier communities get sound walls. Either they pay for it themselves or get a lawyer to represent them.”
Spector, along with her neighbor and partner in the long-term fight for a sound wall, Stephen Brill, have asked residents to contact state Sen. James Holzapfel, asking him to allow the state to earmark federal infrastructure funds for sound wall projects. But the fundraiser to hire an attorney is the top priority.
“We are appealing to those communities whose families are suffering with the intense noise, to join with us,” she said. “We decided that since nothing is getting done to remedy this, that we needed to raise the money for a lawyer ourselves.”
Editor’s Note: the GoFundMe page can be found at this link.