During the recent New Brunswick City Council meeting, topics of significant importance were discussed including the establishment of a Cannabis Advisory Committee, the redevelopment plan for the Abundant Life Church area with a focus on affordable housing, a nurses’ strike at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital, and the agreement with Franklin for water supply rates.
One point of discussion was the amendment to the Title Five licenses regulations, aimed at establishing a Cannabis Advisory Committee. This committee would oversee the review of applications for cannabis licenses in the city and set the standards for procedures and penalties for unlicensed operations.
Another significant topic was the proposed redevelopment plan for the area housing the Abundant Life Church. The plan would allow the church to remodel its site for housing and commercial purposes, with an expectation that 10% of the development would be allotted for affordable housing units. Despite the proposal, concerns were raised about the city’s lack of affordable housing. Council members questioned the possibility of exceeding the 10% affordable housing requirement, and the public voiced concerns about overpopulation and the focus on luxury apartments over community safety and affordable housing. Council President Rebecca Escobar noted the city’s active pursuit of affordable housing opportunities, despite the city’s Caper report indicating no creation of affordable units within the past year.
Another controversial issue was the nurses’ strike at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital. Jessica Aino and Carol Tamy, both nurses at the hospital, addressed the council emphasizing the urgency of the situation and soliciting the council’s support for Senate Bill S304, which advocates for safe staffing ratios.
The council also addressed the establishment of rates for municipal planning and zoning and the amendment to traffic parking regulations, aimed at resolving parking issues in the city. Public concerns were raised about parking availability for residents with multiple cars.
The city’s water supply agreement with Franklin was another topic of discussion. Details of the agreement were provided, including rate increases and the opportunity for renegotiation after the 25-year agreement. Council member Kevin Egan provided specifics when questioned by fellow council member Charlie Crill.
In addition to the above, the council also discussed the rehiring of JT Miller as a public information officer for the city, a decision met with mixed reactions from the council and public due to concerns about Miller’s previous performance and behavior towards the public. The council also discussed a tax sale certificate for a chemical plant property, a potential purchase interest in the property, and the authorization of the sale of the tax certificate.
Finally, as the council navigated through the various issues, a resident, Daniel Alexine, voiced his dissatisfaction with the city’s recognition of Native American Heritage Month. He suggested that more attention should be given to the original inhabitants of New Brunswick, the Lenni Lenape tribe, in City Hall signage. This sentiment was echoed by a member of the commission for state-recognized Native Americans in New Jersey who spoke about the commission’s work in uniting and protecting Native American culture in the state.