By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
For 15 years, Mary Gilligan says, she’s “watched pieces fall off” Red Bank’s train station on the North Jersey Coast Line rails. And for most of that time, except for some slapdash and historically inapt repairs, station owner New Jersey Transit has ignored the pleas of town officials to halt the decay.
Now, Gilligan and other members of the Historic Preservation Commission are hoping to “hold NJ Transit’s feet to the fire” and force it to halt the deterioration before the salmon-colored, gingerbread-trimmed structure crumbles to the asphalt.
“The building is derelict,” Gilligan told the borough council in a bluntly worded appeal for action Monday night. “There’s not another train station in this state that looks this bad.”
For the second time in three months, HPC members reached out to the council to put pressure on NJT. After commission members wrote a blistering letter to the council on the topic in August, the council agreed to send a resolution to transit officials urging them to take action at the station.
Since then, Mayor Pasquale Menna said, he has spoken to transit officials, including one who attended the Count Basie statue dedication in October, and has been assured that the station’s condition will be addressed.
On Monday, Menna told Gilligan that he’d organize a meeting with NJT officials and council and commission members to find out what progress can be made to the building.
But it will take more than a meeting namely, a patched roof or a coat of paint to cool commission members’ burning concerns.
“There was a promise that it was going to be painted this year and fix the gingerbread. Nothing has happened,” Gilligan said to the council. “We need to hold New Jersey Transit’s feet to the fire.”
Gilligan, who commutes to the city on weekdays, says repairs at the station are long overdue. Paint is cracking and peeling to the point where the building’s wood frame is exposed, she said. The roof leaks and, she says, “you can put a fist through the (window) sills.”
“It’s very, very depressing in this beautiful town there’s this hole,” Gilligan said.
“The train station is deplorable,” said Councilman Michael DuPont.
“And that’s being polite,” Gilligan responded.
Commission member George Bowden told redbankgreen that the commission has looked for grant money to try and rehab the building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. But that won’t do any good, though, because Menna said NJT has sole jurisdiction over the building. And because it is a historic landmark, the cost for repairs automatically goes up, he said. A state fund for historic sites was set up and as far as he knows, there’s still money in that fund.
“I don’t believe it’s been expended,” he said. “We’ll try to see what we can do and how much is in there.”
DuPont pointed out that NJT budget cuts could factor into such a delay in repairs. That’s in addition to NJT’s reputation as, DuPont put it, “not the most efficient.”
The consensus fear among commission members is that inefficiency will ultimately hurt Red Bank and the train station.
“For 15 years we’ve watched pieces fall off the station,” Gilligan said. “I can’t see the logic in this, that they continue to ignore this building.”