A packed room of Newark’s South Ward residents were curious to find out more about a proposed PATH extension into their community and how it will affect them.
“It’s a good thing to have access, but are we going to be here when the final decision is made?” asked Rodney Nolley.
“I just don’t feel good about it. I have a gut feeling it ain’t going to work like they say it is,” said Margaret Simon.
The PATH’s Newark to World Trade Center line now ends at Newark Penn Station. The proposal would extend that line about two and a half miles farther out to a new PATH station in the South Ward that would connect travelers to the existing AirTrain Station.
“Currently, people who take the PATH have to exit at Penn Station Newark and then take a NJ Transit train or some other form of transportation down to either the airport or the south part of the city,” said Port Authority spokesman Scott Ladd.
For a community that’s been mostly cut off, some see this as an opportunity for economic revitalization.
“Right here, the Dayton Street/Frelinghuysen area, we’ve become a home to methadone clinics, halfway houses, that’s not a way to rejuvenate an area. That did not improve our quality of life. This new project will,” said South Ward Councilman John Sharpe James.
When asked about residents concerned about whether the project would have a negative impact on the neighborhood, James explained, “You know, there was a fear of the exact footprint of the project, that maybe it would have forced houses to be torn down or people to relocate and that is not the case.”
But the concerns go beyond this community. Tri-State Transportation Campaign Associate Director Vincent Pellecchia says money at the Port Authority is tight and there are many more pressing projects to get done before spending $1.7 billion on this one.
“The ridership projections for this extension are relatively low. They are projected to be about 7,000 riders per day, and if you consider Gateway, which is the new tunnel underneath the Hudson River, you’re talking about 270,000 riders between NJ Transit and Amtrak. The Port Authority Bus Terminal is 230,000 riders, so it’s a humongous difference. We would like to see the money spent in a way that has a larger return on investment,” said Pellecchia.
One South Ward resident who has lived in the neighborhood since the 1960s says the only thing he sees is the potential for progress.
“You got one side of nayers and ones who are ‘yea’ and those are the nayers. They don’t understand the whole perspective and the future. It’s going to benefit everyone. Come on, not just New York. That means we can get over there, too,” he said.
At this point, an environmental assessment is being prepared. If everything gets the green light, the project’s estimated completion date is 2026.