Lakewood enacts downtown traffic and safety regulations

LAKEWOOD — In an effort to ensure the safety of pedestrians and keep traffic flowing in downtown Lakewood, the Township Committee has passed two new regulations.

The first is an ordinance — no solicitation of employment — that prohibits pedestrians and motorists from any act indicating their interest in employment. People may no longer stop or stand any place on a road, on the side of a road, or in any areas dedicated for public use, like a median, to signal their interest in being hired, according to infor- mation provided by the township.

The second regulation is a resolution and establishes an Employment Services Area (ESA), a safe area, for those who are seeking work.

The Lakewood Employment Services Area is on a portion of a municipal parking lot between First and Second streets. This designated area will have pedestrian barriers, portable sanitary facilities and trash receptacles.

Mayor Steven Langert said, “The intention of these regulations is to help alleviate vehicular and pedestrian congestion in the downtown as well as to provide a safe and secure environment for our day laborers.

“It is my belief that one of the reasons the muster zone did not work a few years ago was because the location of the zone was not readily accessible to the day laborers. The township engineer, the traffic safety officer and the public works department, working together, identified an underused area of a municipal parking lot close to where most of the day laborers wait for work,” Langert said.

Committeeman Robert Singer said, “We are mindful that people who want to solicit someone to work for them should be able to do so. We also realize that we need an area close to downtown to satisfy the needs of employers and those who are looking for work. Using the downtown, which is already crowded, however, is no longer a viable option.”

Lakewood Police Chief Robert Lawson said, “We are trying to relieve problems in the downtown area that occur when motorists trying to hire someone pull over and obstruct roads and sidewalks, delaying traffic and endangering pedestrians. This new ordinance addresses people stepping off curbs, motorists rolling down their windows to talk, and people getting into cars, all of which cause a safety issue for them and for others.

“These regulations should also eliminate double parking, which is problematic for pedestrians and motorists who have to steer around these vehicles. We do have bilingual officers who will be educating motorists and pedestrians for approximately a month before the new ordinance will take effect,” Lawson said.

Langert noted, “As Committeeman Singer said, we are concerned about the safety of everyone involved. I also echo what Chief Lawson said, that it is our intention to offer as much education as possible to everyone about the location of the work area and the intent of the ordinance.

“We are certainly not against anyone trying to earn a living for an honest day’s work; we are just trying to meet the needs of the merchants, the shoppers, the laborers and the employers, and find a balance that works for everyone,” he added.

Committeeman Meir Lichtenstein said, “We are happy to take steps to continue to make our downtown a pleasant shopping atmosphere.”