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Plans for Safe and Sustainable Transportation Infrastructure Advance in Hudson County

Emmanuelle Morgen / Hudson County Complete Streets

In a historic moment on August 31st, 2023, Hudson County leadership, including County Executive Tom DeGise, Chief of Staff and uncontested County Executive candidate Craig Guy, Commissioners Aponte-Lipski, O’Dea, and Romano, and Hudson County Complete Streets (HCCS) representative Talya Schwartz, as well as numerous other organizations and officials, launched the Hudson County Vision Zero Action Plan. With this initiative, representatives formed a task force to examine current traffic safety conditions and make recommendations for improvement, including making the county more bike- and pedestrian-friendly.

The creation of the Vision Zero task force directly results from the collaborative efforts of the county’s transportation planners and elected representatives, HCCS, and the NJ Bike & Walk Coalition. HCCS hopes that through this coordination, our organization and partners will be able to advance safer and more sustainable design of our county’s roads.

On September 14th the Hudson County Board of Commissioners voted to apply for the federal Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods Grant Program. The county seeks to redesign Route 139, an approximately 3-mile capped highway traversing residential neighborhoods in Jersey City. The grant, if awarded, would allow Hudson County to re-envision the roadway in a way that benefits local communities instead of the cut-through traffic that it currently prioritizes. This decision by the board is another notable example of progress resulting from the public-private partnership between Hudson County, municipal government, and nonprofit community groups.

These two government actions – the launch of the Hudson County Vision Zero Action Plan and the vote to apply for a Reconnecting Communities grant – both inclusive of our community-based organization, represent a positive shift towards greater public engagement in the local transportation decision-making process.

Additional recent examples of HCCS’s engagement with and participation in the process are as follows:

• 7/27/23 – HCCS board members Emmanuelle Morgen and Talya Schwartz spoke publicly at the Port Authority Board of Commissioners Meeting

• 8/1/23 – Bike JC, a member group of HCCS, hosted a bike repair station and JC Bike Bus information table at National Night Out in Arlington Park, Jersey City

• 8/8/23 – HCCS board members Johan Andrade and Emmanuelle Morgen attended a Port Authority Bus Terminal Stakeholders meeting and provided a follow-up letter with recommendations, including for a robust, secure bike parking system

• 8/11/23 – Bike JC Light Up Community Ride

• 8/12/23 – Bike North Bergen Community Ride to NYC Summer Streets

• 8/23/23 – The City of Hoboken Town Hall voted in favor of a resolution for the county to install a cycle path on the 14th Street Viaduct. HCCS and Bike Hoboken board members Chris Adair and Emmanuelle Morgen, along with two additional members of the community, attended the Hoboken City Council meeting to speak for a protected bike lane on the viaduct. The council voted in favor of the resolution. On Oct. 3, the Union City Board of Commissioners followed suit with a vote in favor of a protected cycle path on the Viaduct. We seek the same from Jersey City in the coming months.

• 8/27/23 – Bike Hoboken Community Ride

• 9/15/23 – HCCS and Bike JC board members, in cooperation with the Jersey City Department of Transportation, organized a Jersey City Park(ing) Day as part of a national movement to prioritize pedestrians over car storage and promote a new petition for a Bergen Avenue bike lane on the southwest side of Jersey City.

Hudson County Complete Streets’ achievements throughout the Transformative Climate Communities grant period include:

• Requested and received a commitment from Hudson County Chief of Staff Craig Guy to extend the bidirectional Bergen Avenue multi-use cycle path north to the Journal Square PATH station, a major transit hub

• Requested and received a commitment from NJ Transit’s Paul Wyckoff to support increased service on John F. Kennedy Boulevard if the County provides the dedicated bus lanes

• Organized the JC Bike Bus stats – 100+ kids, 35 volunteer marshals, 20 schools, 11 routes

• Requested and received Hoboken City Council’s vote on a resolution for a protected cycle path on the 14th Street Viaduct

• Emmanuelle Morgen was awarded the Street Equity Hero award by the Tri-State Transportation campaign at the TSTC 30th Anniversary gala on Sept. 27th

• Collaborated with County and local government on the application for a federal funding grant (Reconnecting Communities planning grant) to mitigate the divisive effects of a 2-mile high-speed capped highway within Jersey City

• Created several Action Network petitions to send thousands of letters to local officials to advocate for cycle paths on the 14th Street viaduct, John F. Kennedy Boulevard East, and Bergen Avenue.

• Organized bike rides with elected representatives and local transportation planners to demonstrate the experiences and perspectives of people on bikes, scooters, and other personal mobility devices

• Advocated in favor of congestion pricing publicly and in private meetings with elected representatives

• Organized more than 25 community events, including group bike rides, free bike repair events, private bike tours, the Jersey City Ward Tour (the largest bike tour in New Jersey), and more

• Published multiple op-eds, including one on congestion pricing and one on the importance of the A&C bus lines in Hudson County and how to save them

• Hired a creative professional video company to create a promotional video for Hudson County Complete Streets’ Mission Statement

Throughout the past five months, we have been highly grateful for the support of our mentors at Rutgers, particularly Leigh Ann Von Hagen, Gregory Woltman, and Jennifer Fogliano. We appreciate their assistance with grant administration challenges, encouraging us in our advocacy, and making excellent suggestions and connections. The Transformative Climate Communities grant has been instrumental in the growth of our young nonprofit, and we imagine it will continue to have a significant positive impact for months and years to come as we put our funding purchases to use!

Meet the Climate Corps

Angel Alguera, Rutgers Climate CorpsAngel Alguera
I am a first-year Atmospheric Science master’s degree student in the Department of Environmental Sciences, and my work focuses on meteorology and applications of climate change resiliency. My professional interests include severe weather forecasting and community preparedness regarding weather-related disasters. I work with Dr. James Shope at the NJ Climate Change Resource Center to produce applied research and reports relevant to New Jersey stakeholders. I currently assist with climate change data analysis, large dataset management, and report writing.

Daniel GilkesonDaniel Gilkeson
I’m a second-year master’s student in the City and Regional Planning Program with a concentration in environmental planning. As a planner, I hope to build more resilient communities in the face of increased risk due to climate change. With the Climate Change Resource Center, I am working on a project to aid the state in an update of its floodplain buyout program, known as Blue Acres, to be more proactive and comprehensive. Prior to this position, I interned in the Community and Economic Development Office at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Association. I’m also an AmeriCorps alum, having completed a year of service working on affordable housing in Nashville, Tennessee.

Benjamin GoldbergBenjamin Goldberg
I am a second-year Master of City and Regional Planning student concentrating in climate adaptation and resiliency planning, with experience in sustainable food systems. I joined the Climate Corps last summer to help develop a GIS-based food waste recovery tool, and currently support community resilience through flood vulnerability analysis. I hold a B.A. from Middlebury College and a Certificate in Ecological Horticulture from UC Santa Cruz.

Surya Jacob, Rutgers Climate CorpsSurya Jacob
I am a graduate student in the Master of City and Regional Planning program at the Bloustein School concentrating in community development, focused on housing, land and finance, as well as pursuing the Real Estate Development/Redevelopment Certification. Prior to Bloustein, I worked as an architect and interior designer in India and Canada and am pivoting towards a career in urban planning to engage in extensive projects at the macro level. My interests include affordable and mixed income housing, urban redevelopment, and housing finance, and I am deeply passionate about climate resilience in community planning. Being part of Climate Corps is a foundational step towards helping to solve equity issues in vulnerable communities along the coastal region.

Vineesh Das Kodakkandathil, RutgersVineesh Das Kodakkandathil
I am an urban planner with five years of professional experience in community-led ecotourism development and land use and environment management planning in ecologically sensitive areas. I have worked on and conducted extensive environmental sensitivity analyses, flood and landslide vulnerability assessments, and human impact assessments with the help of GIS tools. I’m currently pursuing my master’s in City and Regional Planning at Bloustein School with a concentration in Transport Planning and GIS.

Douglas LeungDouglas Leung
I am working with the Climate Change Resource Center to identify vulnerable communities and places affected by climate-induced flooding in coastal New Jersey municipalities. I am a Master of City and Regional Planning candidate at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. As a planner, I want to develop strategies and solve problems affecting our cities and communities that enable more equitable outcomes in housing and transportation. I am also a recent Army veteran, having served as a company commander of recruiting in the northern suburbs of Chicago and as a reconnaissance platoon leader in the 10th Mountain Division. For fun, I enjoy weightlifting, running, reading fiction, and board games.

Nihar MhatreNihar Mhatre
I am a master’s candidate in city and regional planning at Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, focusing on urban design and land use planning. Before being accepted at Rutgers, I worked as an architect at JD Studio and had my own architectural practice, Vastu Insights. My research interests revolve around designing and developing climate change adaptation and resilience strategies to promote equity in urban landscapes. Having the opportunity to work on real-world projects through Climate Corps will be an essential step in the development of my understanding of addressing climate change issues in vulnerable regions.

Justin MorrisJustin Morris
Justin is a master’s student at Rutgers University studying discovery informatics and data sciences. He is working under Professor Mark Rodgers to develop an optimization model that will act as a decision support tool for university financial investments with the end goal of eliminating Rutgers’ scope 2 emissions. He is excited to apply his background in data analytics and mathematical programming to help the university fight climate change.

Josephine O'GradyJosephine O’Grady
I am a first-year student in the Master of Public Policy program. Through the Coastal Climate Risk and Resilience (C2R2) certification, I am focusing a significant portion of my graduate coursework on topics including coastal geomorphology, environmental justice, and hazard mitigation planning. Before beginning my studies at the Bloustein School, I received my bachelor’s degree in public health from Kean University, where I first became interested in how coastal dynamics shape lived experiences. I previously served as an intern at the New Jersey State Policy Lab and currently work for the Megalopolitan Coastal Transformation Hub (MACH) team.

Jessica Parineet Jessica Parineet
I am a first-year Master of Public Policy student at the Bloustein School with a strong interest in climate change policy and related topics. In my previous work, I gained experience in a number of dimensions of climate change issues through carbon capture storage research, urban heat island research, and community level engagement as I am currently on the Student Advisory Board for the Rutgers Office of Climate Action. I am excited to expand on my interests in environmental justice and local level resilience planning through my involvement in the Climate Corps.

Dillon Patel Dillan Patel
I am a second-year Master of City and Regional Planning student concentrating in Environmental Planning and International Development. I have previously worked as an economist performing cost-benefit analysis and conducting monitoring and evaluation for renewable energy in developing countries. I have also spent a summer in western Massachusetts mapping stormwater infrastructure and working with planners to identify suitable places for green stormwater infrastructure.

Moira Sweeder, Rutgers Climate CorpsMoira Sweeder
I am a graduate student enrolled in the Master of City and Regional Planning program at the Bloustein School. My concentration is environmental planning with a focus on coastal resilience. Before pursuing my master’s degree at Rutgers, I studied sustainability at Stockton University. During this time, I interned for the PSEG Institute of Sustainability Studies, the Jacques Cousteau National Estuary Research Reserve, and NJ Audubon. I am thrilled to now be a part of the Climate Corps, researching coastal resilience as a part of the Megalopolitan Coastal Transformation Hub (MACH) team.

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