On Thursday, Oct. 11, Democratic candidates for Garwood Council, Bill Nierstedt and Ann Palmer, spoke to residents at Garwood's the Pointe condominium complex as part of Candidates Night.
Nierstedt and Palmer were asked to explain why they’re running, what problems they plan to address, what they foresee for the borough, how the Pointe fits into that future, and why their proposals are more appealing than those of their opponents. Bill Connolly, a member of the Pointe's communications committee, moderated the event. Attendees were then invited to ask them questions.
Palmer has lived in Garwood for 16 years, has spent seven years on the Garwood Board of Education (two years as president), has been involved in the PTA, Education Foundation of Garwood, Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts. Palmer spoke about her involvement on the BOE negotiating contracts, being part of different committees and seeing through the passing of the referendum to renovate Lincoln school. She has two children that went through the schools in Garwood. Palmer said after attending council meetings, she decided she could be more involved and to run for a council position.
Nierstedt has lived in Garwood for 25 years, has a masters degree in planning from Rutgers, is the director of planning for the city of Plainfield and has served on the Garwood Planning Board, Board of Education, Shade Tree Commission and Education Foundation of Garwood. He has also been active in the PTA, Boy Scouts, Garwood soccer, and is a trustee of St. Anne's Church. Nierstedt said he decided to run because ever since he was a Boy Scout, community service has been important to him and borough council is something he has always wanted to do. (Nierstedt ran for council 10 years ago and lost by just three votes.) Nierstedt was once the Borough Planner in Garwood and says he was the prinicipal author of the Garwood Land Use Ordinance. Nierstedt has two children who went through the school system. Nierstedt said that being a licensed planner really helps him to understand how government works.
Nierstedt said that believes he and Palmer bring a lot more expertise to the table than their opponents with their combined involvement in Garwood schools and government.
Connolly asked both candidates what problems they think Garwood faces. Nierstedt noted both taxes and maintaining Garwood's independence and not merging with Westfield or Cranford, while also exploring shared services. Palmer spoke about the Athletic Field Complex, saying that they support the project though she noted the opposition from some residents, including many residents at the Pointe. Palmer said she felt many residents were misinformed, and that she believes completing the project is in Garwood's best interest and that most residents are in favor of the project.
Connolly then asked what the candidates believe the future of Garwood is and how the Pointe fits into that.
Nierstedt said the Pointe and Pointe residents are no different than any other residents in Garwood except that they live in a private community.
Connolly asked again about the candidates' vision for Garwood's future, asking, "Are we going to have abandonded factories up and down North Avenue?"
Nierstedt answered by saying that Garowood is past that point, noting that many of the factories are gone and that Garwood has made a lot of progress. Nierstedt said he'd like to preserve the Aeolian Company and that the Paperboard building is one that is of interest for potential redevelopment.
Palmer pointed to the New Jersey Transit study in which experts identified areas for redevelopment that could be attractive to commuters and that getting more train stops in Garwood is a goal for them.
One of the attendees asked why the Petro Plastics factory, which he considers a blight, hasn't been redeveloped, pointing to a property in Cranford near the train tracks that is under redevelopment. Nierstedt answered that the property is still in use and that the government could not take over private property. "We have to have a willing seller and a willing buyer," said Nierstedt. "Plus, Cranford has more train stops."
During the open question part of the event, residents asked about reassessing taxes, whether it's fair that residents at the Pointe pay more taxes than most Garwood residents and yet have to pay for their own streetlights and snow-plowing, why the candidates didn't support putting the Athletic Field Complex up for a referedum, borough communication to residents, bulk pickup and more. Watch the videos above to hear the candidates responses.
Both candidates thanked the Pointe for hosting the event, noting it was the first candidates night they knew of taking place in Garwood. The two Republican candidates for council, incumbent Tim Hak and newcomer Mike Martin, will appear at the Pointe on Thursday, Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m.