September 21, 2007

Freeholders Dis Westfielders


It appears that the ugliest government building in Union County is soon to have a sibling that could possibly nudge the Froehlich monstrosity, on North Avenue East in Westfield, out of first place and into second, much like when mom brings home a newborn bumping big brother out of the limelight. Artist’s renderings show that the new construction which will house county vehicles and office space unfortunately bears a striking family resemblance to its big brother, neither one fitting into the ambiance of charming downtown Westfield.

Coming before the Westfield Planning Board in early September Noel Musial, president of the Musial Group, of Mountainside, the county’s fav architect, spoke at length about how the building would be different than the existing garages and the doomed Venneri bldg on North Ave which will be demolished for what appears to be additional parking. The new buildings will be energy smart, which is certainly a good thing, having for instance solar panels on the roof for heating, but also up there will be rooftop parking at the second floor level. The office building will have yet a third floor which according to the rendering will have those porthole windows just like “Big Brother”. So upon completion, there will be the original Queen Mary and what looks like a barge towing a flush deck for your cruising pleasure. Whoever decided on the style of these buildings ought to be keel hauled.

Though Westfield residents send more of their tax dollars to the county for it’s operation than they keep to run the town, they have no say as to what will be built on county owned property within the town and the presentation to the planning board was a courtesy at best. It has been reported in all of the local weekly papers that Planning Board members were a bit taken aback by the magnitude of the buildings but were assured by Musial that some of their concerns will be addressed by planting shrubbery. It could just be speculation but will they be bringing in giant redwoods to hide this miserable looking building from sight?

The county contends that they want to be “good neighbors” and appear to think that by announcing that they are using a lot of recycled materials in the construction they will be able to get on Westfielders good side and glean acceptance for the project; like that would make it more visually appealing. However, if they were good neighbors they would have given more consideration to the hard work that officials have put into the planning and guidance of suitable construction styles appropriate for their town. Further, good neighbors are sensitive to the trials and tribulations of those in residence near to them, so one would think that the county would recall the well publicized parking garage issue which had brother fighting brother in Westfield. To quote former Mayor Garland “Bud” Boothe, “this just doesn’t do it.”
The bottom line is that Westfield, paying some of the highest taxes in the county, doesn’t seem to matter to the Freeholder Board as they surge forward awarding no bid contracts to political contributors like The Musial Group and Joseph Jingoli & Sons, who are also on board with the project. Looks as though they are thumbing their noses at the good taste and sensibility of the town’s residents while blatantly picking their pockets and telling them “we are connected to you”.