Master Plan for Bloomfield’s future discussed

Photo by Daniel Jackovino
Residents discuss their vision for Bloomfield during a master plan workshop at Town Hall on Saturday, May 13.

BLOOMFIELD, NJ – Township residents had the opportunity Saturday, May 13, to provide their input about Bloomfield’s future during a master plan workshop which was held at Town Hall.
Thirty-three people attended including the six council members. The workshop was managed by Paul Phillips, a planning and real estate consultant for Phillips Preiss.

Everyone seemed to have ideas for what was needed and all had the opportunity to be represented. But much of what residents wanted fell outside the ultimate purview of land use and housing needs, the goals of a master plan. This was pointed out by Phillips and Councilwoman Nina Davis. But Phillips, at the wrap-up, said everything mattered.

Before the workshop started, several citizens spoke with this newspaper.
Susana Sotillo, a resident of Halcyon Park, wanted a safe infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists. She was concerned with the impact of truck traffic on her residential area and wanted Spanish documentation for Spanish-speaking residents.

“We’re worried about truck lanes,” she said. “The zoning board approved a warehouse several months ago, a warehouse on Watsessing Avenue. The trucks will interfere with the driveways on Lexington Avenue.”
Diane Doherty, of Collins Avenue, was also concerned with traffic.
“I don’t think this town has done anything for ‘Safe Routes to Schools,’ she said about a state initiative promoting bicycle riding and walking to school.

Doherty also said there was a need for composting.
“We need town wide composting,” she said. “My neighborhood did it as a neighborhood initiative.”
It stopped, she said, because the person coordinating the program moved away.
Broughton Avenue resident, Jane Califf, said she would request solar panels for school and municipal buildings and Mo Stewart wanted Bloomfield development to be capped.

The 33 people broke into smaller groups each with a chairperson, who kept the conversation moving, a recording secretary, who summarized the topics for presentation and a council member.

The groups had to ponder five questions: What are Bloomfield’s greatest assets? What are its most pressing issues? What might be its biggest challenges in 5-10 years? What is your vision of Bloomfield in 5-10 years? Are there additional topics for discussion?

In summary, Phillips noted that the diversity of its people was a Bloomfield strength. Other strengths included proximity to New York City, downtown growth, Oakeside Cultural Center and walkability.

Pressing issues included water safety, school crowding, rodent control, vacant storefronts, overdevelopment and need for renewable energy. The biggest future challenges included low income housing, school crowding, parking, aging population, rodents, stormwater management and impact of the proposed Greenway, which is a linear park along the abandoned Norfolk Southern Railway line cutting through the township.

The vision people had of the future included more composting and solar panels, an attractive, ethnically diverse downtown and the preservation of historical sites. Additional topics included PSE&G not cleaning up after itself, the impact of the Greenway on property and the aesthetics of new developments.

Three of the council members at the workshop are running unopposed for reelection and did not think the lack of a second political party in town made any difference when discussing a master plan. Councilwoman Sarah Cruz said the issue was quality of life.

“I’ve heard a lot of positive things that Bloomfield has already,” she said.
Councilman Nick Joanow said issues being discussed were local issues and partisanship had no relevance.
“If you want to call taxes a political issue, so be it,” he said. “The master plan is a vision. Could there be partisan priority issues? I guess. But the council and the administration determines the priorities. People with different ideologies look at the world differently.”

Councilwoman Jenny Mundell said she thought everyone at the workshop was there for what was best for Bloomfield.
“I don’t think the party is driving this,” she said. “Competition keeps everyone on their toes, but no one here is campaigning.”

However, Reilly said yes, two political parties would produce different workshop results. Sotillo also said yes, but only if the Green Party was part of the administration and had a say.