Just in time for the New Jersey Pride Fest on Sunday, June 10, Maplewood has painted the first permanent rainbow crosswalk in support of the LBGTQ+ community at the intersection of Valley Street and Oakview Avenue.
According to Township Committee Member Dean Dafis, “I’m very proud to announce that on Wednesday, June 6, the four crosswalks at Valley St and Oakview will be permanently striped in the original rainbow eight colors of Gilbert Baker (the creator of the Pride Flag). This would not be possible without your support and effort, as well as without the steadfast Maplewood goodwill that my mentor/our Mayor has built during his inspiring leadership!”
A dedication ceremony will be held tonight at 6:30 p.m. with Valley Street closed between Tuscan and Oakland from 6-8 p.m.
When asked why he wanted to do this, Dafis stated, “I wanted to do something as a permanent marker or symbol of our commitment to inclusion. I wanted it to be something you can encounter every day. I wanted our youth in particular — perhaps those struggling to find their way, those in need of empowerment and affirmation — to proudly cross over their fear and self doubt. I wanted to showcase Maplewood to the county, state, and the world. We are proud!”
Due to the uniqueness of the project, the striping took most of the day on Wednesday. The crew from Straight Edge Striping, started at 9am and didn’t finish until after 7pm. According to Enrique Biasotti, Maplewood Staff Engineer, each of the colors, except for yellow, had to be hand mixed on site, which added to the time. And while the crew tried to get the thermoplastic paint the correct red color, they resorted to spraying red oil paint temporarily until the correct color arrives as paint panels from the plant in Georgia. Don’t worry: the thermoplastic paint cures very fast and updating the red stripe will not result in a full-day road closure.
What makes it unique in New Jersey, according Dafis, is “While many towns have striped their crosswalks in the colors of the rainbow before for Pride, no town in NJ has ever done so on a County Rd (Valley) and very few towns in the world have done so in permanent fashion as we are doing. This is a historic achievement and one which once again marks Maplewood as a leader and crusader in diversity, inclusion, and equal treatment. When we commit to something here, we do it BIG!!!!”
While it may seem simple to close the street and paint rainbow colors, it was a bit more involved.
Enrique Biasotti, Maplewood Staff Engineer had the following to say about the project, “Acceptance and gender equality is not a foreign concept in Maplewood, New Jersey by a long shot, but what people may not know is how many hours their Township Engineering team invests in the details of Township construction to make form follow function. Of course, all the directives and mandates come from the great leadership team of Mayor Victor DeLuca, and the Township Committee, but when it comes to design details, negotiating with County authorities to clear work to be done on the County/local roads, and bringing in jobs under budget efficiently and with a purpose the Engineering team kicks into high gear.”
Biasotti continued, “Though not all projects are met with positive feedback from the community, in the planning and presentation stage, something the Engineering team approaches, not as an affront or rejection, but rather a challenge to improve the community we serve. The results, once the plans are implemented (such as the pride day crosswalk at the intersection of Oakview Avenue and Valley Street) are generally positive for the community, but definitely a source of pride for the Engineers of Maplewood Township, because in the end it makes us happy to see the happiness our work brings to our community. As Engineers, we have a sense of what it’s like to be the underdog, we all come from distinct and interesting backgrounds and have all earned the proud privilege to serve the wonderful Town of Maplewood. Something else we would like to add is that Council member Dean Dafis spearheaded the idea of the pride crosswalk. Mr. Dafis commands a respect and zeal for improving the community that we find inspiring to come to work and do our best.” Biasotti also asked that Village Green credit Rosanne Hochuli, Engineering Assistant, who is “a critical part of our Engineering team.”
Dafis said he would like to thank Mayor De Luca, DPW Director, Calvin Bell, and the members of the Engineering team Township Engineer Paul Kittner, Assistant Township Engineer Husam Zeidan, and Staff Engineer Enrique Biasotti “for their dedication and hard work.”
To find out more about Maplewood and South Orange’s month long celebrations of Pride throughout June, please visit SOMA Celebrates Pride – www.somapride.com.
Photos by Joy Yagid, with one (the drone shot) by Chad Hunt.