To the Editor: Neglect of Public Safety

To the Editor:
Neglect of Public Safety
Dear Editor:
As the father of two young children who enjoy going for walks, I have struggled navigating the sidewalks in town since I moved back in 2018. Frequently, I am forced to push my children’s stroller in the street with oncoming traffic. At first, I thought the town would issue citations and have the problems fixed. I was wrong. I have learned over the last two years that sidewalk ordinances are systematically not enforced; I was even told so by the former code enforcement official.
The Council is fully aware of the situation; their lack of action put our families in this dangerous situation. I have brought the issue up to our town manager and Council, but most members (excluding Michael Vieira, who is very responsive and in favor of sidewalk reform) have chosen to ignore our residents’ safety and have failed to properly address the situation.
Sidewalk policy mismanagement can trace its roots to the failed 2010 cement ordinance which placed prohibitively expensive requirements on residents to maintain their sidewalks. The “Share Program,” which was designed to split the exorbitant cost of cement sidewalks, failed in 2016 and subsequent Councils have neglected to implement a working solution. Instead of addressing the issue at hand, our Town Council has chosen to act irresponsibly and allow ordinances to go unenforced, putting residents in harm’s way.
Sidewalk policy impacts all residents, not only pedestrians:
• Drivers are put at risk when they must share the street with pedestrians who would otherwise be on a navigable sidewalk;
• Children are forced onto the street because riding a bike on the sidewalk is too difficult;
• Residents with disabilities are confined to vehicular transportation because of unreliable sidewalks;
• Property owners who maintain their sidewalks while their neighbors can neglect them;
• Homeowners that are unable to afford to meet the Town’s extravagant requirements;
• Taxpayers that would pay the town’s legal fees and settlement in the event of an injury (regardless of the ordinance, New Jersey courts have ruled that municipalities are liable for sidewalk injuries, not homeowners. Report damaged sidewalks to the Property Maintenance Department, bmcshane@livingstonNJ.org so the town can assume responsibility).
Council members will blame their lack of action on COVID, but this practice has been in place, with many of the same Council members, long before the pandemic. They will blame the budget, but this Council had no issue spending $4.5 million of our tax dollars for a new DPW [Department of Public Works] site. But for sidewalks? An undisclosed amount to an opaque program.
I am not sure what the right answer is, but I can assure you, ignoring the issue will not solve it.
I urge you to reach out to our mayor(RFernandez@livingstonNJ.org) and voice your concerns (copy our group safesidewalksliv@gmail.com, or reach out directly with any comments).
Stay safe on these treacherous sidewalks and remember, if you or your children do get hurt, contact a personal injury attorney; the Council is to blame.                             David Reinfeld
257 East Northfield Road

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