New Providence has seen a lot of growth in the last five-ten years which is likely to continue in the coming decade. As the growth continues, we will need to address a number of infrastructure issues including increased traffic, pedestrian safety, enrollment in our schools, sewage, fire, ambulance and others.
It is important to note that there are no immediate plans for large-scale development. This means that we have time to engage stakeholders and be thoughtful about solutions.
As a member of the Borough Council, I will use my experience and relationships that I have developed over 30 years to deliver common sense results. In particular, I have served on the Planning Board for the last ten years. In addition, I am a member of the Downtown Improvement District and Economic Development Committee. I understand city planning, New Providence’s development plans and have the ability to work with all of the stakeholders to develop detailed solutions to the issues outlined above.
This is an issue that I am passionate about and have been advocating for as a member of New Providence’s Sustainability Committee for three years. I am proud to say that I am the first candidate for Borough Council to call on residents to use reusable or non-plastic bags and straws while shopping and dining across the borough. My plan calls for phasing out the use of plastic bags and straws in New Providence over a nine to twelve-month period in partnership with the business community.
I believe this is a straightforward step we can take to protect the environment and be on the right side of history in this issue. Of course, there is more we can and should be doing. I look forward to working with all of our community groups that are dedicated to helping New Providence Go Green.
Preparedness comes after much thoughtful planning and consideration. We are, as always, doing our due diligence on how the planned increases will impact our Municipal Services. Our Borough Engineer is performing assessments to see how the additional stress will impact our infrastructure and safety. Our tax assessor is determining how much potential tax revenue can be attributed to this increased housing. Our Board of Ed has hired a demographer to determine how many children this potential new housing could attract. At one point in time the offices on Mountain Ave were fully occupied, which increased our population by thousands. Thankfully, our municipal services were were able to accommodate them. I have no doubt that the leaders in our town will do, as they have done in the past; which is to make sure that we are ready to handle whatever pressure may arise from the impact of court mandated, high density housing.
Being aware of our natural environment and making choices that benefit the earth are so very important. We need to help rather than hurt our precious gift and this includes making good choices. Some of the ways to practice environmental awareness is by using safe and non-toxic building supplies, conserving energy and water, recycling, activism, and others. We are so lucky to have a Sustainability Committee in place that helps meet those needs. Some of the things our Committee is looking into include reducing the use of plastic bags. Additionally, New Providence is considering hosting our first Green Day. The vision is to create events highlighting demonstrations, vendors and education. It will allow us to be more mindful as well as helping us achieve a higher level of success in the long run.
This answer really requires two parts. New Providence is prepared to handle the pressure on municipal services caused or to be caused by the increase in units at Lantern Hill. It's important to keep in mind that at one point, the offices along Mountain Avenue were fully occupied. This would increase NP's day population by thousands. At that time, our borough services could accommodate that daily population increase. Accordingly, when Lantern Hill is fully built out, we will be able to handle it. But if you add another 3,000 to 4,000 people that could potentially move into NP if all of the affordable housing is built, then the answer would have to be no. We would need more police officers to cover the increase in population. The pressure on our volunteer fire and EMS services would most likely lead to NP needing to hire a full-time Fire Dept. and EMS personnel. Further, it's questionable whether our sewer system could handle the increase in flow from those additional homes.
New Providence has always been on the forefront of sustainability. Some of the actions the borough has done recently include conducting an energy audit of our municipal center and the DeCorso Community Center. We also entered into an agreement to change the ballasts and all lights in our two municipal buildings to energy efficient LED lights. We adopted a green purchasing policy. We recently approved switching our florescent street lights to energy efficient LED lights that are brighter. The New Providence council established a Green Team to help the borough find ways to improve operations with Green initiatives. We continue to look for ways to reduce our carbon footprint and are open to any new ideas or suggestions. However, we must be careful when evaluating actions on the borough level as every action we take has an equal and opposite reaction. For example, it may seem like a good thing to ban plastic bags, but some of the consequences of doing so may prove more harmful.