Building it

printChoices and Consequences

Elizabeth's Struggle
Newspaper Coverage, 1949-1951

For months, the dilemma in Elizabeth played out in the daily papers: would the Turnpike be routed through the city? Read through these transcriptions to see what unfolded. After Elizabeth lost several court cases to divert the Turnpike, construction began in the winter of 1950. But city officials responded with their own tactics, and it all reached a boiling point when two children accidentally drowned in a water-filled pit left by construction workers.

Police Blockade of Trucks Hauling Dirt Fill Halts All Work on Toll Road in Elizabeth

Newark Evening News, May 28, 1951

Staff Correspondent
     ELIZABETH. A police-imposed blockade of trucks hauling fill to the New Jersey Turnpike construction here was continued this morning. The work came to a virtual halt yesterday, although a number of trucks were able to deliver their loads through confusion among police concerning the stoppage order.
     The blockade was ordered by the Board of Works late Thursday as the city's final step in its efforts to make the Turnpike Authority accede to local demands for men and equipment to arrest the dust emanating from turnpike construction.
     Despite fervent pleas by representatives of the authority and contractors to permit the trucks to roll, city officials refused to budge and the truck stoppage continued throughout the day.

One Break in Blockade
     Police began stopping the trucks at 10:15 A.M. Initially they permitted the drivers to proceed with loads to the turnpike site, but the drivers were ordered to dispose of their cargoes and not return to the city until the dispute had been settled.
     The only break in the police blockade, except for a few trucks which failed to follow a prescribed route through the city and consequently were able to elude police, came about 2:20 P.M. when 36 trucks were permitted to roll as the result of an unauthorized order by a police official.
     As soon as the action was brought to the attention of Deputy Police Chief Coughlin and Inspector Flaherty, who are directing the blockade, the order was countermanded and the blockade resumed.

Truck Driver Arrested
     Indications that the truckers were moving into the city along routes not authorized by the city, in one instance brought quick action and an arrest. Radio Patrolmen Geumpel and Maloney arrested Herbert Keating of 370 Monmouth road, truck driver for the Lincoln Construction Co., as a disorderly person. He was apprehended in Magie avenue and Summit road, several blocks from the authorized route.
     There were indications that the city's demands for dust control measures would be realized sometime today to permit resumption of trucking operations.
     This was brought out yesterday in a conference at police headquarters called after the imposition of the blockade and attended by city officials, representatives of the authority, and firms affected by the stoppage.

City's Demands
     The city, in a Board of Works resolution adopted Thursday, demanded that the operation be halted "until such time as the Turnpike Authority establishes an adequate sprinkling system, a maintenance crew with a reasonable number of men, waters the loads on their trucks and removes the menace to health from the accumulation of dust."
     The board's order was primarily aimed at improving conditions in Fourth street, site of most of the work on the toll road. Residents of that locality complained repeatedly of dust and dirt conditions.
     George Fox, project manager of Grow Construction Co. told the city officials that his firm had acquired a 3,800-gallon water sprinkling truck, which it would put in operation today. He added that his firm would maintain a crew of men with a small pickup truck to serve as a maintenance crew. He also pointed out that truckloads were being watered.

Pleads on Stoppage
     Fox pleaded that the stoppage order be withdrawn immediately on the strength of the plans for dust control, which he said would go into effect today.
     "If you don't allow us to resume operations immediately," Fox said, "you may make it impossible for us to complete our construction schedule on time. This stoppage could result in the truckers quitting the job. If this happens, it will only prolong conditions which have been the source of complaints. The longer the job takes, the longer the complaints will be heard."
     His plea was reiterated by Dean Edwards, project manager for the authority in this area; Ward Herbert, attorney for the authority, and Paul Flytall, of the Lincoln Construction Co.

City Officials Unmoved
     The city officials, led by Board of Works Commissioner Runyon, refused to yield. Runyon told Fox the order would stand until the men and equipment to combat the dust conditions were on the job.
     Meanwhile, police interference in the turnpike work was the basis of a plea for more money by drivers for Lincoln.
     Twenty of the truckers met late yesterday with a spokesman for the firm and asked to be heard on grievances. Although the drivers were told to present their complaints at a private conference with company officials, their demands were no secret.

Drivers' Complaints
     The drivers complained that their present pay of 65 cents a cubic yard of dirt hauled was inadequate for taking longer routes to dodge police blockades. And with stoppages such as those imposed yesterday, the drivers added, they were no longer able to make six or eight trips a day.
     For worthwhile pay, the drivers contended, it takes at least nine or 10 hauls in a 12-hour day. "It's not enough money to begin with, but the police are making the situation worse," they declared.
     Because most of the drivers operate their own trucks, their fees must pay for the vehicles' maintenance, the drivers pointed out.


Courtesy of the Newark Public Library.


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