Keep Our Town Safe and Quiet
It seems that every few months our town faces yet another crisis that we are forced to deal with. From Stop & Shop to the very recent Mack-Cali apartment development, we are victims of our own success. Everyone wants to be here. Now, we are facing a new challenge that promises to intrude upon the tranquility of our weekends and significantly increase traffic into our already very trafficked town. This will prove to be detrimental to our families and our entire community.
There are two competing weekend Chinese schools that are vying to secure space in our taxpayer-funded school buildings. The Chinese schools are being proposed for Millburn High School and Millburn Middle School. Both of the Chinese schools are regional schools drawing students from other towns and counties throughout Northern and Central New Jersey. These schools will attract hundreds, and potentially thousands, of additional cars driving into and out of our town on Saturdays and Sundays to drop off and pick up students at the schools.
The management of both of the rival Chinese schools have been involved with the Livingston Huaxia Chinese School, a regional Chinese school operating on weekends out of Livingston’s Mt. Pleasant Middle School. That school boasts an enrollment of over 1,000 students coming from all over New Jersey. There is good reason to believe that the Millburn Chinese schools enrollment numbers will be the same.
We don’t have to look any further than Livingston, a much larger town, to see what is in store for Millburn with the opening of the proposed schools. During session, the abutting neighborhoods to the Huaxia Chinese School are clogged with traffic and parking has continued to be a problem. Quality of life in those neighborhoods has suffered and township costs have risen to manage the added traffic. Complaints about the traffic and parking caused by the Huaxia Chinese School are many and is a common topic at Livingston BOE and Township meetings, but without any resolution. This has been ongoing for years.
After over a year of analysis and review, the Millburn Township Committee recently launched its Complete Streets Initiative meant to address pedestrian safety, vehicular circulation and economic vitality in the downtown. This initiative was based upon existing traffic and does not take into account the impending blitz of out-of-town traffic heading for the Chinese schools. Millburn is investing nearly $9 million dollars of our tax dollars to support the Complete Streets Initiative. The opening of the Chinese schools will effectively make this investment of our tax dollars a waste and the Complete Streets Initiative moot because the traffic realities will dramatically change.
Old Short Hills Road is already crowded on a good day. Adding more vehicles will force cars into the residential neighborhoods lining Old Short Hills Road and create problems for those areas. Add to that the vehicles heading to the Paper Mill Theater and lower Old Short Hills Road will become impassable and affect the future feasibility of our Theater. Downtown businesses, especially the restaurants, will also suffer with the added vehicular traffic that will block actual customers from getting into town. There are no assurances that those coming to town for the Chinese schools will shop at Downtown Millburn businesses.
The Stop & Shop traffic studies, centered a short distance from the High School, have already shown us what added traffic in that part of town will do to the community. Traffic heading to the Chinese school at the High School will similarly affect the area.
While we applaud the ambitious plans of the Chinese schools’ management, Millburn simply does not have the infrastructure to support the vehicular traffic that these schools require. Millburn is a small town with narrow streets. Even our main roads are narrow with most being just two lanes. The rental fees that the District may gain from renting out the facilities will be dwarfed by the costs and losses that will be foisted upon the entire community, both residential and business. Given the damage that the traffic will cause the town, there is no economic basis to rent out the schools.
The Millburn Board of Education is currently considering the requests to rent out our buildings to the two Chinese schools. Please speak out now and let the BOE know that this does not make sense for our town. The BOE plans on making a decision on this matter in the beginning of May, so time is of the essence.
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