A bridge too far?
Meeting with Port Authority leaves many residents unhappy
Oct 08, 2014 | 4186 views | 0 0 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HUGE UNDERTAKING – The massive project of raising the roadway on the Bayonne Bridge 65 feet to allow for larger vessels has taken its toll on area residents, they said at a recent meeting.
HUGE UNDERTAKING – The massive project of raising the roadway on the Bayonne Bridge 65 feet to allow for larger vessels has taken its toll on area residents, they said at a recent meeting.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey held its latest public information session on Sept. 29 regarding its Raise the Roadway Bayonne Bridge project, but many of the city residents affected by the construction work left the meeting feeling less than informed, and not at all happy.  

The event, attended by 60 or so people, was held at the St. Andrew the Apostle auditorium on Broadway.

Council President Sharon Nadrowski, First Ward Councilman Thomas Cotter, whose constituents are affected by the project, and other city officials attended.

Similar meetings have been held previously in Bayonne and in Staten Island, N.Y., on the bridge’s other side.

Joann Papageorgis, program manager for the Bayonne Bridge project, was the Port Authority presenter. Question-and-answer session and panel discussions addressed topics which included noise reduction, air and soil monitoring, and property damage claims from the work.

But residents attending claimed that nothing much had changed in regard to their complaints about the project and the remedies they sought from the authority.

“It was basically the same lip service we got at the other two meetings,” said Ray Francis, who lives at the corner of Avenue A and Fourth Street. “There was really nothing new, other than they would be working more during the day than night.”

Francis, whose house is not vibrating now because work is being performed down the street from him, said a lot of “little things” still exist. He cited cement being dumped in the nearby Best Foods lot and not being able to keep windows open because of airborne sediment from the work. He also worried about the arsenic readings in his neighborhood.

“They say that arsenic levels are at acceptable levels,” Francis said. “I’m sure they wouldn’t be saying that if it was their neighborhood.”

Bob Herrick of Fourth Street, a vocal critic of the project, said he doesn’t feel the Port Authority appreciates the plight of nearby residents.

“We are collateral damage; we don’t count around here,” Herrick said. “They are not recognizing the people that live here.”

He said that when he entered the meeting room over an hour late “it looked like a funeral.”

His complaints mainly focus on the damage being done to his residence, even though it is a brick house. Drilling nearby caused vibrations to his house that knocked a cross off a wall and onto a table, he said.

Cotter said that the meeting was successful in letting the Port Authority know how serious affected residents are about the problems they are experiencing and solving them.

“I think the biggest thing to come out of the meeting with the PA was that they now have a perception that Bayonne people are passionate about where they live,” Cotter said. “They got a perspective of what the people are going through now.”

He also said that breaking up into smaller groups after an initial half-hour question-and-answer session was detrimental to the meetings.

“It’s kind of avoiding the issues,” he said. “People in these groups really can’t answer the questions.”

Cotter said he told Papageorgis that residents need Port Authority officials with the power to make decisions to attend the meetings. Residents are frustrated, he said, and getting more and more vocal.

“I had no satisfaction leaving the meeting,” Herrick said. “We’re citizens paying taxes here, but we’re prisoners here.”

Francis said that most residents leaving the meeting did not leave in a pleasant state of mind.

“I can tell you that there wasn’t anyone there that was happy,” he said.

Cotter said the Port Authority will meet with Bayonne representatives next month in City Hall in a regular update briefing.

A request for an interview with Papageorgis was not granted to the Bayonne Community News, and a list of questions submitted to the authority for answers was not returned.

E-mail joepass@hudsonreporter.com

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