Around a dozen residents were in attendance for the Bender Avenue Halloween Safety meeting hosted by First Ward Councilman Andrew Casais and Second Ward Councilman Scott Nicol. Roselle Park Police Sgt. Peter Picarelli was also on hand to field questions from residents as well as provide an overview of how the RPPD was going to handle the annual Bender Avenue Halloween event which, this year, will occur on a Wednesday.
Councilman Nicol started the meeting by welcoming residents and explaining that Sgt. Picarelli would be discussing safety issues then he would turn the meeting over into a forum format to allow those in attendance to make comments or ask questions. Sgt. Picarelli then started his presentation by providing a layout of where police barricades will be:
- Bender Avenue from Westfield Avenue to East Lincoln Avenue and on Charlotte Terrace.
- Grant Avenue will be shut down at Charlotte Terrace as well as Sheridan Avenue.
- Madison Avenue is going to be blocked at Charlotte Terrace as well as Sheridan Avenue.
- Clay Avenue will have Woodland Avenue shut down.
- East Lincoln Avenue will have Sheridan Avenue closed.
“There’ll be no through street north to south except Sherman [Avenue],” said Sgt. Picarelli giving a layout of blocked off streets, “Sheridan [Avenue] is going to be so congested with just people parking all over the place.”
Sgt. Picarelli gave a brief history of the event, stating that a majority of the crowd was, in the past, concentrated on the 200 block but it has expanded the entire length of the avenue. RPPD will have a light truck and uniformed personnel as well as community police officers at the event which will be patrolled from 3 p.m. – 7 p.m. The Sargent expected that everything would be cleared out by 8 o’clock, weather permitting. He added that if it a beautiful autumn day, the event might attract 3,000 to 4,00 people.
When a resident asked why start blocking off streets at 3 p.m., since that seems early, officer Picarelli stated that a lot of young children start trick-or-treating right after schools let out. He mentioned that not all blocks will b e closed at 3 o’clock. The same residents asked, to give residents a break, limit the event from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
“As explained to councilman Nicol,” responded Sgt. Picarelli, “You’re attacking …. a freight train going full speed. For you to limit it to two hours, it’s not going to happen right away.”
Another resident stated he understood the 3 p.m. start time because he gets young children whose parents do not want to be there when the crowds begin to arrive. When Sgt. Picarelli stated that he understands the popularity of the event and that it has become an annual attraction, a Bender Avenue resident responded, “Well, then let’s sell tickets because we’re spending thousands of dollars on candy and get nothing for it but inconvenience.”
She went onto suggest that the event should be moved around and put on a different street every year.
“That means you’d be creating that same situation on more than one street every year,” Sgt. Picarelli responded, stating that people would still go to Bender Avenue as well as the other street.
“We need to start working on it because it’s out of control,” she commented.
“I know for a fact, that there’s people on Bender Avenue who don’t like it but then there’s people that do,” Sgt. Picarelli continued, “I’m not trying to pit neighbor against neighbor but it is what it is. If you don’t want to celebrate Halloween, don’t give out the candy. Maybe make arrangements to be elsewhere.”
He added that Bender Avenue residents should park their cars elsewhere if they want to go out that might because once the barricades ago up and the people show up it will be next to impossible to get cars out but that in an emergency, such a situation can be addressed. A residents commented that he hoped that the PTA could do something like they did last year where they sold glow wristbands so that money could be raised for the schoolchildren in town.
“Everybody’s decorating and they’re enjoying it,” the Sargent commented, “If they didn’t, there’d be nothing out there. I’ve heard stuff that a few of the families that started it have moved out. You had other families have moved in and they’re all enjoying it.”
Sgt. Picarelli also asked residents to be mindful of where they park since tickets were issued last year for cars not parked correctly, on corners and crosswalks – although a majority of tickets issued were to out-of-towners. Bender Avenue residents, for the most part, could park on the street but they would not be able to move their cars during the event. The 200 block of Bender Avenue might have “No Parking” signs due to no sidewalks and the heavy concentrated people traffic.
The discussion then sifted to how Bender Avenue area residents would be notified of what was discussed at the meeting. Such information usually goes out in fliers through the school district’s backpack program but some in the audience asked about those homeowners who do not have children in the school system. Councilman Casais stated that council could send out a written memo to residents as well as a possible automated message to residents of Bender Avenue and surrounding streets.
The meeting also addressed comments made on the internet of the police manpower dedicated to the event. Sgt. Picarelli stated that manpower is allocated by moving people around and that there will be patrols around town. He explicitly stated he would not get into the logistics of police procedure since that is a security matter.
The final issue of the meeting dealt with the litter left after the event. A resident recommended putting at the end of the driveway or by the property helps with keeping the area clean. He stated, “I even put a funny sign on it like “Feed the Monster”. Kids get a kick out of it.”
“If it’s that big of an issue this year,” Councilman Casais said, “We can’t do much about it if it’s on private property unfortunately, but if it’s in the street … we could certainly address that to the DPW.”
A resident jokingly followed up by stating,”I keep the pennies though.”
The meeting, which lasted a little over 30 minutes, closed with Councilman Scott Nicol thanking resident for attending ask letting them know that he or Councilman Andrew Casais could be reached through Borough Hall is any resident had any further questions of comments.