Kean University and Union continue to battle over NJ Transit parking lot

UNION, NJ – The township has gone to bat for residents who pay for permits to park in the NJ Transit parking lot at Green Lane but find the lot filled by Kean student cars. Unfortunately, the battle has turned into a war.

The township made their position quite clear in a letter to NJ Transit in February when they asked NJ Transit to limit the number of spaces Kean students are allowed to use in the Green Lane lot.

According to the agreement forged in 2004 when the station parking lot was built, the university would be subject to a reduction in the number of spaces allotted to students “when and if ridership exceeded 85 percent.”

“The agreement clearly and unambiguously sets forth a procedure NJ Transit must utilize if there is sustained rail rider parking that exceeds 85 percent capacity of the parking lot’s available parking spaces,” said township attorney Daniel Antonelli, noting it became necessary for the township to pursue this action because so many off peak parking spaces are now occupied by Kean students.

“Our residents should not be made to suffer any further as a result of Kean University’s mismanagement,” said the township attorney in his missive, explaining that students are forced to take these spots because the university has “continuously over expanded its campus, drastically limiting the amount of parking spaces available on their property, even while enrollment numbers continue to decrease.”

However, the university is claiming the township is only retaliating because Kean is trying to gain the right to buy the Merck property, which infuriated township officials.

The letter sent to NJ Transit March 30 by Kean Executive Vice President for Operations, Philip Connelly pointed out what the university really thinks is behind the move by the township, “I am aware that Union Township has written to your offices urging you to terminate your parking agreement with Kean University,” Connelly said, pointing out that Kean “facilitated the construction and operation of the station parking lot by consenting to property exchanges and leases of land owned for the use of the university by the state of New Jersey.”

Connelly goes on to mention that because of this, NJ Transit offered the university “certain restricted rights to utilize the station parking lot free of charge.” He also referred to a lease for real property dated Oct. 8, 2012 between Kean, through the Department of Treasury, as lessor and the township of Union as lessee that provides for off-peak parking for use by the university “at all times during the term of the lease.”

Connelly maintained that the township passed a resolution Jan. 13 that “seeks to terminate the very mechanism necessary to fulfill the special conditions on their right to occupy the leased land.”

“Plainly, if Kean’s rights are terminated under the off-peak parking agreement, so too are Union’s rights under the township lease,” the executive vice president for operations contended.

Antonelli, in his April 13 letter, blasted the university for trying to “paint them as the villain in this dispute.”
“Our motivations do not lie in the sins of the past, but we simply cannot stand idly by and allow university leadership to attempt to violate the agreement they made in 2004 as it relates to this very issue,” the township attorney said, explaining to NJ Transit that they leave this issue in their hands.

“We trust that you will be able to separate this issue from the many ongoing issues the university is currently engulfed in, as we have, and simply rely on the very data NJ Transit has collected to support a reduction in the amount of off peak parking spaces,” said Antonelli.

The township attorney said he believed NJ Transit’s decision was a simple one “and it has no basis in rhetoric or overheated letter writing. The fact is that the agreement for off-peak parking between Kean University and NJ Transit from 2004 is clear and concise as it relates to this parking issue.”