Union Mayor complains about new dorms

Kean University's Board of Trustees met yesterday in Kean Hall to vote again on a resolution from 2014. Credit: Rebecca Panico

Credit: Rebecca Panico

By Joshua Rosario | Published April 7, 2017

The mayor of the Township of Union addressed Kean University’s Board of Trustees at its public meeting on Monday, March 6, about the university’s plans for construction of new residence halls on the grounds of the Campus School North buildings.

Suzette Cavadas spoke against the University’s plans, claiming that the university did not inform her about the plan. Cavadas said she first heard about the plans from Bloomberg News.

“Kean has overspent and overbuilt in no regard to your neighbors,” said Cavadas. “ As mayor I should not come to this meeting and ask for information. As I stand here today, I have no idea the height of this project is, the exact location,and the impact of the community.”

Cavadas a Kean alumna, continued to say the University’s administration has made no time to organize a community meeting, nor did they conduct an outreach to Union township or its residents to address the quality-of-life concerns over this project or any other project. Cavadas also expressed concern over the way Kean University had planned to fund the new dorms.

“Your plans for funding are baffling, and has flooded my colleagues with more questions than answers,” said Cavadas. “Why has Kean chose to partner with a developer with a Triple B minus rating?”

Cavadas also questioned whether it was necessary for the university to build more dorms given that Kean’s enrollment is down and the majority of students commute.

According to Kean’s website, out of the 15,221 total student population only 1722 of them are on campus residents.

Cavadas asked the Board of Trustees if their project can be grounded for the time being. So Cavadas, the township, and the community can learn about the project and have a dialogue with Kean University about the impact on everyone.

She also asked if all relevant information and documentation be provided within the next two weeks in order to give the township a considerable amount of time to review all the information. Cavadas stated she wanted to give the university the chance to “make things right.”

Kean University President Dawood Farahi responded to Cavadas by citing that the Union Township Engineer has been provided with designs of the structure on a regular basis and the Union Township fire department has been involved with every stage of inspection of this project and many other projects.

“This conversation has been going on to begin with Union township for over three years,” said Farahi. “ We will send you all the information that we have provided to Union Township. We will provide you with all the minutes of the conversation that has taken place with Union township and there’s many of them.”

Farahi explained that new dorms are needed because over 200 students are presently living in two residential facilities that were constructed in 1963 and 1965. Farahi said that an assessment concluded that to bring those two buildings to minimum standards would only give those buildings a life expectancy of 10 years. He also stated adjustments were made to the project to make sure impact of the community on Woodland Ave would be minimal. The project has been moved closer to the middle of campus and is to be built 250 feet away from the Woodland Ave. homes.

Mayor Cavadas was not the only person to speak at the meeting. Also speaking was Township Attorney Daniel Antonelli who cut what he was going to say short because he said he would only be reiterating what Cavadas had said previously.

“I hope there is a spirit of cooperation here,” said Antonelli.

After the meeting, Antonelli told The Tower, “The concern we have with this project and any other projects here at Kean University is the residential impact: the traffic, the quality of life, etc.”

“Both the residents and the township don’t really have all the information on the project,” said Antonelli.

Cavadas told The Tower that residents had called her to voice their concerns to see if there was something she can do. She said she came to the meeting to vocalize concerns to the board.

“It is such a large structure to have in somebody’s backyard,” said Cavadas. David Armenia, a 33-year resident of Woodland Avenue in Union, expressed that he doesn’t thank Kean University for their uncaring attitude toward the people of Union.

He sarcastically thanked the board for softballs that have landed on his property, beer containers, paper cups, water bottles, a box left out for days till blown away, kudos their privatized maintenance, trailers that rumble down the street despite a no trucks allowed sign, and jaywalking students on Green Lane ave.

“Thank you for the the buses that parked on green lane where it says no parking. I’m sure the University obtains permission from the town every time it’s done,” said Arminio. “I especially like the 15 or so buses that parked on Woodland Ave on the side that says no parking. That makes it almost impossible to drive down the street.”

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