Weehawken, West New York mayors spar

Turner says Roque was 'absentee' in bus negotiations

It was 'he said-he said' in bus negotiations with NJ Transit. Photo provided by Shutterstock.
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It was 'he said-he said' in bus negotiations with NJ Transit. Photo provided by Shutterstock.

When it comes to recent improvements to NJ Transit bus routes in West New York and Weehawken, conflicting narratives leave commuters wondering what to expect.

West New York Mayor Felix Roque said that more buses were coming as a result of meetings he held in April with NJ Transit officials. Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner begs to differ, saying that he and other elected officials secured more bus routes with NJ Transit in January of this year, but no new bus routes have been created in North Hudson since then.

According to Turner, no service changes have taken place in several months. He said that Roque was an “absentee” in the negotiations made between NJ Transit and elected officials in North Hudson.

NJ Transit weighs in 

A statement from NJ Transit Chief of Staff Justin Davis reads:

“NJ TRANSIT added five bus runs on Boulevard East in January 2019 following adding four additional runs on River Road in 2018. In each case, NJ TRANSIT heard from Congressman Sires and Weehawken Mayor Turner about crowding on the bus lines and subsequently worked to better align service with demand.”

In recent years, an industry-wide shortage of bus drivers has been cited as a cause of crowding and delays, despite an increase of more than $300 million in state funding allocated Gov. Phil Murphy’s most recent budget.

Roque: ‘I did this last week’

Roque held a press conference on April 30 at the bus stop at the intersection of 60th Street and Boulevard East, to announce to commuters that NJ Transit is increasing the number of express bus routes from eight to 13 per hour, as a result of negotiations he engaged in the previous week.

Roque said the meeting was with two NJ Transit officials, Senior Director of Legislative Relations John Del Colle, and Deputy General Manager Robert Bigg Jr.

“I am proud to report that NJ Transit has agreed to supply express bus service from this location during the morning commute to ensure that our residents will have a seat to sit on and the availability to commute into NYC on time,” Roque said in a statement. “No longer will they have to look at full buses passing them by. Specifically, bus Route 128 now has 13 express buses starting at this location.

Roque also said that more bus shelters would be coming to town.

“We are in the process of working with authorized NJ Transit dealers to devise a plan to obtain larger bus shelters to accommodate our residents,” Roque said. “I will continue to monitor our community’s transportation needs and work with NJ Transit to provide our residents with better service.”

Turner: ‘No, he didn’t’ 

Turner said that the statement made by NJ Transit’s Chief of Staff was the most recent development on the bus service front.

“None of these changes were recent,” Turner said. “We spend 12 to 18 months in discussion with NJ Transit, and these additional groups of buses went on long before any political differences or splits took place. These additions date back to January and late 2018. NJ Transit is a very large bureaucracy.”

Turner said that Roque had “zero” to do with negotiations with NJ Transit. He said that refiguring the agency’s bus routes can’t be done by “waking up one morning and deciding to change everything in a week or two. You have to work through break schedules and other regulatory schedules put in place for everybody’s safety.”

Turner said that other officials are working to build more bus stops on Boulevard East, which they hope to install by the end of the month,k noting that negotiations for additional bus service, between elected officials and NJ Transit, have been ongoing for years. He remains optimistic that more buses can be secured for North Hudson’s streets.

Roque is seeking a third term in the May 14 municipal elections with a full slate, running against Commissioner Gabriel Rodriguez’s full slate, which has the backing of Congressman Albio Sires.

For updates on this and more stories check hudsonreporter.com or follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mike Montemarano can be reached at mikem@hudsonreporter.com.