Emotions Spike Again Over Central Avenue Stoplight
Familiar faces denounce controversial installation, dub intersection the "unsafest place" in town
What a difference 10 minutes makes.
Central Avenue resident Maria Carluccio has a tendency to begin each of her frequent addresses to the Town Council regaridng the pedestrian activated stoplight on Central Avenue with a biblical passage, and Tuesday was no different.
“Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor,” Carluccio calmly advised the council and the audience as she settled behind the microphone.
Ten minutes later, that calmness was gone.
“You are absolutely unbelievable!” Carluccio told Mayor Andy Skibitsky, after he alerted her that her allotted speaking time had expired. “You’re censoring me!” she yelled at the mayor, before storming back to her seat and throwing her notepad down in frustration.
Skibitsky has routinely sought to ask Carluccio to stop speaking when she hits the 10-minute time limit.
Such displays of emotion have become the norm every two weeks at town hall, as the controversial Central Avenue pedestrian-activated stoplight continues to be the focal point of the public forum portion of each meeting. Carluccio, who has appeared before the Council regularly since the light was installed on her neighbor’s property, promised to be back at the next meeting and to be prepared to pack even more punch into her ten minutes behind the microphone.
Carluccio is one member of a small but dedicated group of residents that continues to vocalize its opposition to the location of the stoplight, which was installed on the property of resident Adina Enclescu on Central Avenue, just in from the intersection with Clover Street.
“It’s the unsafest place in Westfield,” Enclescu told the Council, saying that the current location of the light presents a danger not only for herself but for the children and crossing guard who frequently use the crosswalk.
“It’s not safe, and it’s not right,” she added.
Though the stoplight issue itself has become a staple at meetings, the discussion that accompanies it has become increasingly one-sided. While frustrated residents take their turn airing their grievances 10 minutes at a time, Council members generally let claims directed toward them go unchallenged and opt to remain silent and display blank stares rather than engage in oral combat.
When Council members do respond, it tends to be brief.
“You are well aware of my position on the crosswalk,” Skibitsky told Carluccio Tuesday night, after she said she found the mayor’s hesitance to express an opinion on the matter at the last meeting “disconcerting.”
Skibitsky re-affirmed the position the Council has expressed in recent meetings: that Union County is currently overseeing an evaluation of the intersection and the stoplight's effectiveness and that the Council will wait until that evaluation concludes before making any adjustments. Carluccio said that representatives with Union County were not returning her calls, but Skibitsky stressed that the Council has no control over county employees.
Even when individual Council members are singled out, most seem to still think that silence is the best option. Carluccio specifically accused Councilwoman Jo Ann Neylan of leaving a question unanswered at the last meeting. She added that Neylan’s position as chair of the public safety, transportation and parking committee should make the councilwoman’s hesitance to join in the dialogue troubling to Westfield residents. But Neylan did not offer any response, nor did she comment on the issue at any point during the public forum portion of the meeting.
The Council’s relative quietness may have partly been due to its smaller-than-usual size, as two of the nine members were absent from Tuesday’s meeting. Among those not in attendance was Councilman Mark Ciarrocca, who had been especially vocal during similar discourse two weeks ago. Councilman David Haas was also absent Tuesday night. Both Haas and Ciarrocca represent the third ward, which is home to the stoplight.
Ciarrocca, who has been advocating for a light in the vincinity of Clover since his first election in 2003, was nominated last week for a Superior Court judgeship by Gov. Chris Christie.
Carluccio continued to express disappointment in the lack of notice those living near the crosswalk received before the decision was made to install the stoplight there.
“What’s truly shameful is that residents were never notified about any of the meetings [prior to installation],” she said. “And that is a fact.”
Enclescu later echoed a similar sentiment, that the safety and opinions of those living most proximate to the light were not deemed significant during the decision-making process or in the time since.
“My safety doesn’t mean anything to you,” she told the Council.