The Central New Jersey Home News from New Brunswick, New Jersey on April 2, 1997 · 6
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The Central New Jersey Home News from New Brunswick, New Jersey · 6

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New Brunswick, New Jersey
Issue Date:
Wednesday, April 2, 1997
Page:
6
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PAGE A6 HIE HOME NFKfeTRIEUNE WEDNESDAY, APRIL 2, 1997 NEW JERSEY DOT: Commissioner says $1.8B covers everything Continued from page Al learned their projects wouldn't get built on schedule. Haley said his department has virtually eliminated overprogramming in the coming year's construction budget, which would take effect July 1. That means state and local leaders would have a much better sense of which road and rail projects will be built "We should know pretty much what's going to happen in the next 12 months," Haley said. "What you see is what you ought to get" The transportation capital program, one of the largest in state history, would increase spending by $200 million in the Transportation Trust Fund, pending legislative approval. The state uses the trust fund to borrow money through bonds to help pay for transportation projects. Favorable bond interest rates over the past two years mean the state will have lower debt payments than anticipated, Haley said. That gives the state an extra $200 million to spend on projects in the coming year, he said. Levels of funding for a variety of Central New Jersey projects were listed in the DOT construction program: For the Route 18 bridge linking East Brunswick and Old Bridge, the scare is over. The crumbling bridge, which has been called one of the worst in the country, was the source of renewed fears last month when rtffiiilo flint- fitnAmrt ivaxu uui.iuo iwaiiivu uiai muuiug might be bumped for a year. But among yesterday's announcements was a request for $8 million in the state budget for the Route 18 bridge replacement, the state Department of Transportation said. That money is specifically for fiscal 1998, which starts in July. John Dourgarian, spokesman for the DOT, said that keeps the project on the schedule where it's supposed to be. In the shorter term, a contract for the first phase of the massive $26 million bridge replacement was awarded last week. Work is slated to begin early next month, the DOT spokesman said yesterday. The $12.6 million contract was awarded to Neshaminy Construction Co. of Feasterville, Pa. The first phase consists of building a new span next to the existing, crumbling bridge, aligning Route 18 to the new bridge, and building new -access ramps. "There should be no doubt," Dourgarian said. "This project, we are committed to. We're doing the same work that all along we've said we're going to do." The project appeared to be stalled last month when DOT spending priorities were released to the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority. At an NJTPA meeting, local officials such as George Ververides, the Middlesex County director of planning, were told that the Route 18 bridge was being postponed for a year. The $4 million now being allocated for the Route 18 extension is not nearly enough to satisfy Piscata-way Mayor Helen Merolla, who said she considers it just a crumb and the latest maneuver in the state's attempt to stall the project indefinitely. The total cost of the project, which will extend Route 18 from the" John Lynch Bridge along Metlars Lane and Hoes Lane to Route 287, is estimated at $64 million. "The $4 million is for the environmental assessment and I would like to remind you we have been in the environmental stage since 1983," said Merolla. "Quite frankly, I think its a stall tactic to prevent the project from moving forward. The longer you stay in that initial study, the longer it is before the rest of the project can move forward." DOT spokesman Dourgarian said the commissioner is trying to do just the opposite, by making sure there is money to advance the Route 18 . extension. - The environmental assessment study was begun only a couple of - years ago and will be completed ei- ther late this year or early next year ; once the last outstanding issue - the historical aspect of the area is ; addressed, said Dourgarian. That issue specifically is a feder-' ally-mandated archaeological dig in Area Projects ' MIDDLESEX COUNTY Route 18, bridge over South River, replacement: $8 million Route 18, roadway improvements, right-of-way acquisition: $6.5 million Route 18 extension, . River Road to 1-287, highway on new alignment: $4.1 million Routes 1 and 9, Green Street to Route 35, widening and bridge replacement: $7.5 million Routes 1 and 9 at Route 35, interchange replacement design: $1 million Raritan Center roadway improvements, bridge and road construction, Woodbridge Avenue and Raritan Center Parkway: $4 million Routes 1 and 130, interchange improvements design: $2 million SOMERSET COUNTY Route 206, Brown Avenue to Frelinghuysen Avenue, widening: $13.8 million Route 206, Belle Mead-Griggstown Road to Old Somerville Road, realignment, right-of-way acquisition: $12 million Route 206, resurfacing: $2.2 million Route 287, ramp relocation at routes 202 and 206: $2.4 million Route 202, Somerville Circle to Garretson Road ramps, rehabilitation: $2 million UNION COUNTY Newark-Elizabeth rail link: $7 million Union County rail freight project: $2 million Routes 1 and 9, bridge over Rahway River, replacement design: $1 million Bridge over Elizabeth River, proposed replacement: $750,000 the Raritan Landing settlement, a Revolutionary War site that extends roughly from River Road to Hoes Lane, he said. Woodbridge officials said that the DOT's proposal was significantly less than they had expected. The DOT budget does not include any funds for widening Route 1 in the township. Officials had expected the budget to include three widening projects; from Pierson Street to Green Street, Green Street to Inman Avenue and Inman Avenue to just past the Rahway border. But the DOT budget includes two intersection improvements. One is at routes 1 and 9, and the other at the Route 35 cloverleaf. It also includes $1 million for the design phase of the placement of Route 1 over Conrail. The new merge for routes 1 and 9 is a $7.5 million project and the Route 35 project is $1 million. The long-sought overpass for routes 1 and 130 in North Brunswick is scheduled to get $2 million during the fiscal year for interchange design. The overpass project was one of several priority projects that the DOT had targeted for delay or elimination in February. The creation of the so-called "Hillsborough Bypass" in Somerset County, a new alignment that would create a four-lane highway connecting Belle Mead-Griggstown and Old Somerville roads, is to receive $12 million for right-of-way acquisition in the fiscal year. The widening of Route 206 from the Old Somerville Road the northern edge of the Hillsborough Bypass northward to Brown Avenue from two to four lanes is scheduled to get $13.8 million from the DOT plan. Staff writers Fran Carroll, George Francy and Stacie Servetah contributed to this report. ..u u,... ,..---..-.. --- - T ' - , r : K . -iU-4f ... .... 3W . V - " r :rr:- - ,-'-'X , - ' . People enter the main building MASTER: Expert says most of Ellis Island is in N.J. Continued from page Al revenues generated by future development on the island. And as the governor said, New Jersey can share in the history, which is as much ours as it is New York's." New York Attorney General Dennis C. Vacco differed with that assessment, especially since Ellis Island's history is most clearly linked with New York. Two out of every three immigrants who passed through the island settled in the Big Apple. "New York's claim to Ellis Island is clearly and indelibly inscribed in the hearts and beliefs of the millions of immigrants who set foot here," he said. "By denying New York its traditional sovereignty over the entirety of Ellis Island, the special master's recommendation defies common sense, ignores the law and rewrites history." In this highly publicized and unusual case, the Supreme Court will consider Verkuil's recommendation much as it would a lower court ruling. The high court will entertain briefs by both parties and schedule oral arguments. A final decision is expected in June 1998. . "We are one step away from resolving a dispute that has simmered between the two states for over 160 years," said Verniero. "Essentially we won at this level. The special master's report essentially validates all of New Jersey's claims." While all 27.5 acres of the island are owned by the federal government and administered by the National Parks Service as a national historic site, New Jersey bases its claim to most of. the island, 24.5 acres, on an 1834 compact designed to remedy the states' long-standing boundary dispute. Over a century and a half later, with future development of the south portion of the island a strong possibility, the states have offered different interpretations of the compact. At the crux of the dispute is whether the entire island" or just a portion belongs to New York. Ellis Is- Ellis Island chronology 1664: King Charles II of England conveys a three-acre island (referred to by Native Americans as Kioshk (Gull) Island, and the Dutch as Oyster Island to the Duke of York. It is later called Gibbet Island. 1785: Manhattan merchant Samuel Ellis tries unsuccessfully to sell his island namesake. The year Ellis purchased the island is unclear. 1794: Ellis dies, bequeathing island to his grandson, who dies in childhood. Ownership of island falls into dispute. 1 800: New York State cedes Ellis, Governors and Bedlow's (Liberty) Islands to the federal government for fortification. 1808: After learning that Ellis Island is private property, federal government pays Ellis heirs $10,000 condemnation fee and takes title of island. 181 2: A small battery, later named Fort Gibson, is built on Ellis Island. 1 829: New Jersey sues New York in U.S. Supreme Court over jurisdiction, claiming when both states were colonies "N.Y. wrongfully possessed" Staten Island and the other small islands in the dividing waters between the two states. 1 834: The states reach a compromise and Congress sets the boundary between them as the middle of the Hudson River. Ellis Island is deemed an extension of New York State, while Congress deeds the surrounding waters, including submerged lands, to New Jersey. on Ellis Island in August 1996 file ' L:' ' " ' .. - Aerial photo of Ellis Island was land was a mere 3 acres when the compact was ratified, but the federal government enlarged it with landfill from 1890 to 1934 to accommodate the burgeoning immigration station, which processed 12 million newcomers. New Jersey doesn't lay claim to the so-called "original island," which today hosts the popular Ellis Island Immigration Museum viewed by some 1.5 million visitors each year. But New Jersey does maintain that the landfilled portion built on underwater land and now occupied by 30 deteriorating buildings is in New Jersey. By confirming that New Jersey is sovereign over the landfilled area of Ellis Island, Verkuil has recommended New York be content with its original three acres, a lucrative but finite bit of land that brings in about $500,000 in tax revenue annually. That, says Vacco, is not good enough. "While New York maintains control 1835: The federal government builds a naval magazine on Ellis Island. 1861: Fort Gibson is dismantled. 1890: Congress votes to close naval magazine and builds an immigration station on Ellis Island. Federal government begins dumping landfill on submerged lands surrounding the island, which eventually increases to 27.5 acres. Jan. 1 , 1 892: Ellis Island opens as a federal immigration station. 1897: Buildings on Ellis Island bum down. 1900: Rebuilt Ellis Island reopens. 1904: New Jersey cedes submerged lands to federal government for continued landfill improvements. 1954: Ellis Island closes. 1 956: Delegation of N. J. officials conduct a two-hour inspection of island to reassert New Jersey's claims. 1 962: Jersey City Mayor Thomas Gangami tours island to claim it for the Garden State. 1 965: Ellis Island is placed under the care of the National Park Service by President Lyndon B. Johnson. 1986: A New Jersey Superior Court judge dismisses a lawsuit brought by Representative Frank Guarini (Democrat-N.J.) and 10 state residents concerning state rights to Ellis Island. He rules the court lacks jurisdiction to settle the dispute, and plaintiffs possess no legal interest to sue. Also, photo. A SL. -4,. taken in July 1996. of the historic portion of Ellis Island, including the immigration museum, and New Jersey gains control over what amounts to a sprawling landfill, I am deeply disappointed in the recommended partitioning of the island," he said. "The master has ignored a mass of documents and historic records that firmly places the entirety of Ellis Island in New York." And much of Ellis Island is still undeveloped. What might be landfill today could mean big bucks and prestige later. In the past, a hotel and conference center was proposed. According to Michael Adlerstein, associate field director for entrepreneurial development for the National Park Service's North East Field Area, Ellis Island likely will be developed one day. What's been holding up the process, he said, is the issue of jurisdiction. "It affects any possible development on the south side of Ellis Island because our potential developers in the past have not been able to es The Associated Press t i fc TANYA BREENStaH photographer tablish which building codes they have to follow; which sales taxes they would have to put into their project tions; if they were doing a conference center, what hotel taxes to consider, and what salary and employee taxes to consider," he said. "Those kinds of issues were disruptive, so we are pleased that the process is proceeding towards a resolution." He stressed, however, that the National Parks Service has "no preference for which state is awarded jurisdiction." i ; Although the odds are now stacked in New Jersey's favor with the weight of this recommendation behind it, New York is still looking forward to its day in court. "I will challenge the special master's recommendations to the Supreme Court to preserve New York's central and undeniable place in our nation's immigrant history," vowed Vacco. Staff Writer Susan K Livio contributed to this story. governors Tom Kean and Mario Cuomo agree to use revenues from Ellis and Liberty Islands to aid the homeless in both states. New Jersey's Legislature ratifies it, but New York's rejects it. 1990: Island reopens as the Ellis Island National Monument and Museum. ; 1 992: In a case involving a worker injured on the 24.5 acre filled-in portion of Ellis Island, a federal appeals court rules that New York's worker's compensation laws apply. Also, New Jersey U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (Democrat) sponsors an appropriations bill earmarking $15 million for construction of a bridge linking Liberty State Park to Ellis Island. 1993: New Jersey sues Now York in U.S. Supreme Court. 1994: Supreme Court appoints Paul Verkuil special master. 1995: Sen. Lautenberg's appropriations bill dies In Congress. Also, without comment, the Supreme Court rejects New York City's request to join New York State in the jurisdiction suit. April 18, 1996: Paul Verkuil denies both parties motions for summary judgment July 10, 1996: Trial begins before Paul Verkuil. Aug. 15, 1996: Trial ends with closing statements. April 1, 1997: Paul Verkuil makes his recommendation to the U.S. Supreme Court, deciding that the vast majority of Ellis Island, 24.5 acres is within New Jersey's jurisdiction.

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