Bender Avenue Halloween Meeting Discusses Annual Event

Mayor Carl Hokanson – along with First Ward Councilman Eugene Meola and Second Ward Councilman Joe Petrosky – were on-hand with Roselle Park Police Department (RPPD) Captain Daniel McCaffrey to address questions and concerns from half a dozen residents about this year’s Halloween trick-or-treating on Bender Avenue.

The first point addressed were the hours that streets would be blocked off on Saturday. After input from those in attendance, it was decided to have trick-or-treating from 2 p.m. till 7 o’clock in the evening. Mayor Hokanson commented, “From what I’ve been hearing and from the phone calls I’ve been getting, the majority of people want to go from 2 to 7.”

There was some discussion of ending at 6 p.m. but the extra hours was the consensus from the residents. Captain McCaffrey stated, “From a police department standpoint, we don’t mind if it goes till seven; we’re going to have our resources out there for the safety of the kids [and] people.”

The starting time was decided in anticipation of the end of the Knights of Columbus Trunk-Or-Treat at the other end of town at the Church of the Assumption which will run from 11 a.m. till one o’clock in the afternoon.

The blocking of streets was the next topic with the decision being made to barricade the 100 block, 200 block, and 300 block all at once instead of ‘as needed’ in response to pedestrian traffic. Resident Jeff Ceterko said, regarding having all blocks closed to traffic in the past, “Every barricade was up because that kept everyone from parking up the block who would then have to leave 45 minutes later and get in their cars.”

The issue of homeowners potentially not having sufficient candy to meet the expected crowds was brought up with the mayor confirming that candy donations were being accepted at the following locations:

  • Joe & Jodi’s Barbershop at 210 Chestnut Street
  • Casano Community Center at 314 Chestnut Street
  • Roselle Park Veterans Memorial Library at 404 Chestnut Street

Confectionaries donated at those locations – along with any leftover candy from the Knights of Columbus’ Trunk-Or-Treat – would be given to houses along Bender Avenue that ran out on Saturday. Those who would like candy donated can contact Mayor Hokanson on Saturday at (908) 666-7817.

Roselle Park resident Sharon Marshall remarked, on the growing crowds over the years, “There’s less and less participation from the residents and more and more people. It’s not only the hardship, it’s the inconveniences. It’s the inconsideration of the people that don’t live in town; the mess they leave. They have no problem trampling across your lawns. They’re just very disrespectful of anyone’s property.”

Another Bender Avenue resident, Al Nitche, added his observations, “I’m probably the oldest one here in terms of families and yes, a lot of the original families moved away, but we have 80-year-olds sitting on their front steps and when they’re out of candy, they close their door. We’ve never had an issue in terms of safety, [of] anybody getting hurt, and I really think that’s because the police department is there, they have a presence, it’s well-lit,  and it’s controlled. Nine out of ten kids say ‘thank you’ and probably seven out of ten come up the walkway and not across the lawns. I’ve had mothers chastise their kids and make them walk up the stairs or they call them back. I think it’s a good community effort.”

In response to a question of putting up ‘No Parking’ signs, Captain McCaffrey responded, “Typically, we haven’t and it’s worked fine without doing that. We found that our sign board works pretty well.”

Mayor Hokanson and Councilman Meola also suggested that Bender Avenue residents put out trash cans to help with any litter, as has been done in previous years. The mayor even brought up the idea that possibly Clean Communities could walk Bender Avenue on Sunday to pick up any trash on the streets or lawns.

When the meeting came to a close, Mayor Hokanson added that fliers would be created and personally distributed to every home along Bender Avenue before Saturday to highlight the guidelines and plans:

  • Three blocks of Bender Avenue will be blocked off to vehicular traffic from 1 p.m. till 7 p.m.
  • It is anticipated that trick-or-treaters will begin arriving in significant numbers around 2 p.m.
  • One electronic sign board will be on each of the three blocks of Bender Avenue starting at the 100 block.
  • The electronic sign boards will be active on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday providing pertinent information.
  • UC First Alerts will be sent Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday notifying subscribers of relevant information (link to subscribe).
  • Police lights that will be used to illuminate the streets will be shut off at seven in the evening and police officers will publicly announce that the streets will be open to vehicular traffic.

Mr. Ceterko, a resident whose house is well-known for its Halloween decoration display, predicted, “This will be the absolute biggest, most enormous crowd ever because last Friday – when it was on a Friday – was the absolute biggest, most enormous weekday ever. I give one [piece of candy] per kid and I gave 2,200 pieces of candy. I’m going to guess a good 3,500 kids.”