LONG BRANCH: A plan to open up Ocean Avenue to cars between Brighton Avenue and West End Avenue has come under fire.
The plan calls for Brighton Avenue to opened up to 1-way traffic so beachgoers can drop off their children, umbrellas, chairs or those who are handicapped. The would then exit out to West End Avenue and drive to a newly-created parking lot at the old West End School. Crossing guards and police officers will be put into place to assist people who are looking to cross the road.
A large group of residents, some seasonal, some year-round, who live along the oceanfront voiced their opposition to the plan during the May 23 Long Branch Council meeting. Members of Save Ocean Avenue, a group of oceanfront condominium owners which seek to keep the Green Acres linear park whole, have opposed similar plans in the past and a large contingent of them showed up at the meeting.
"These 3 months, there are hundreds of people who use that section and there is no sidewalk," Save Ocean Avenue member Dennis Sherman said. "You're talking about opening up a piece of road that hasn't been used since 1973."
Opening up the road required approval from Green Acres to change the traffic pattern on what is considered a "linear park." The city received approval to make the change earlier this month after it was pitched that it would help improve beach access.
Mayor Adam Schneider has said he feels the change will make it easier for people to get to the beach in West End and said he feels it will increase beach revenue. He has also stated that if the plan does not work this summer, it could be changed next year.
The majority of the council agrees with the mayor, however Councilman John Pallone has said he does not support the plan.
"I don't see how opening another road to traffic where people and vehicles are coming together is going to make things safer," Pallone said.
Councilwoman Kathleen Billings disagreed and said that she feels the plan along with the added police presence will make things easier for beachgoers.
"We have to have a way for people to get on the beach safely," Billings said. "This will make it easier for families, for the handicapped and for people who just want to drop their stuff off and go around."
Schneider does not need the approval of council to make the change and the new traffic pattern did not require the council to adopt a new ordinance or pass any type of resolution.
Several other residents spoke out against the plan, including Vincent LePore.
"I have the longest passenger vehicle on the road and I was able to make a clean, easy U-turn at the end of Brighton Avenue and at the end of West End Avenue to do whatever I want, load, unload, whatever," LePore said. "There is no need to open up vehicle traffic on Ocean Avenue."
The new traffic pattern is expected to go into effect on Memorial Day weekend. Long Branch Business Administrator said the road will be closed once the beaches close.