A meeting between NJ Transit representatives and South Orange and Maplewood leaders scheduled for Friday, May 26 to address concerns about the diversion of Morris & Essex line trains to Hoboken this summer has been postponed to May 30.
Maplewood Mayor Victor DeLuca and South Orange Village President Sheena Collum reacted to the postponement in a release (see below) on Thursday night.
“As many of you know, Mayor De Luca and I were able to secure a meeting with the Executive Director of NJ Transit shortly after our joint letter went out. This afternoon we were notified that ‘Due to the level of interest in the meeting, in order to accommodate all interested parties, we [NJ Transit] will need to reschedule.'”
In the letter to NJT, Collum and DeLuca noted that the two towns have nearly 7,000 daily riders and said they understand the need to make essential track repairs to the aging system, but “this decision will disproportionately affect our residents who work in New York City.”
They continued: “Train riders from our various communities on the M&E line will have their personal and professional lives disrupted dramatically and the proposed fare discounts will not make up for the missed time with their families and the negative impacts on their business dealings. We feel it is totally unfair for M&E commuters to bear the full burden of this repair program.”
The two officials also lamented that they had not been consulted before the decision was made, in order to discuss potentially “more equitable” solutions.
“Instead, we were kept in the dark by an agency that is known for its terrible record of communication and transparency.”
Despite the postponement of the meeting, Collum expressed optimism about the potential for an expanded list of attendees.
In an email on Thursday evening, Collum said that she and DeLuca “were both very thrilled at the outpouring of support from other officials who wanted to join us and certainly the more the merrier!”
Read the full press release from Collum and DeLuca here:
Mayors and other elected officials have galvanized together following Governor Chris Christie’s announcement on Tuesday afternoon that a deal was struck with Amtrak relating to needed repairs.
The deal provides that the Morris & Essex train line’s Mid-Town Direct service will be suspended for an 8-week period over the summer and diverted to Hoboken where commuters will have the option of PATH trains or ferries. Significant delays and extended commute times are expected.
“They devised a plan without consulting local officials and commuters and now they are figuring out how to deal with the political blowback,” said Maplewood Mayor Victor De Luca. “We were prepared for a meeting this Friday with the Executive Director of NJ Transit which has now been delayed, go figure, until next Tuesday. We will be prepared with our colleagues from other affected communities next week to make the case that Midtown Direct riders should not bear the full brunt of the repairs at Penn Station.”
Mayor De Luca and his counterpart, Village President Sheena Collum of South Orange, wrote a joint letter to Governor Christie and NJ Transit following the announcement here noting, “Train riders from our various communities will have their personal and professional lives disrupted dramatically and the proposed fare discounts will not make up for the missed time with their families and the negative impacts on their business dealings.”
“South Orange is the busiest station on the Morris & Essex Line serving over 4,000 riders a day and I had to learn about these changes that affect my residents by watching a press conference. No communication and certainly no transparency,” said Collum. “I’m not disappointed in our meeting being pushed back. Since the letter Mayor De Luca and I drafted on Wednesday, we’ve managed to partner with Congressman Payne’s office, Senator Codey, Assemblyman McKeon, Assemblywoman Jasey, Essex County Freeholders along with Mayors and elected officials from Orange, Livingston, West Orange, Summit, Morristown, and Millburn. A few extra days gives us more time to mobilize other elected officials and their respective communities and we look forward to sharing more information with the public after we meet next Tuesday.”