Opinion: The Next Project for Frum Mega-Donors | Baruch Rivlin

We live in a time of incredible philanthropy and selfless giving on the part of many of our wealthy neighbors. While there are far too many families in Lakewood that struggle to put food on their table, there are others there who are more than willing to pick up the tab, helping others get by with the wealth that they have been able to accumulate. Our schools and yeshivos, despite also struggling to obtain enough funding to keep their operations going, always find help from wealthy individuals who step in to ensure that learning can continue unabated.

Now it’s time to push for the next mega-donor project: widening Route 9.

I know, it sounds ridiculous, but hear me out.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of Lakewood residents need to drive on the 9 each day. And every day, those people get stuck on the 9, sometimes for more than half an hour. These aren’t people without busy lives – they’re running to yeshiva, to drop their children off at babysitters, heading off to work, etc. etc. And sitting in traffic on the 9 poses a massive problem for them.

Let’s do the math for a minute: If everyone driving through Lakewood via the 9 gets held up by traffic each day for let’s say 20 minutes (to be conservative), and with over 40,000 cars passing through Lakewood’s stretch of Route 9 daily (according to estimates) that amounts to a total of over 800,000 minutes – over 13,000 hours! – wasted every day in traffic.

Think of the disaster that is. Think of the ways those 13,000+ hours could better be spent – with family, working on a new business venture, helping spouses, learning an extra daf, and so on.

Lakewood has a problem on its hands, but it’s fixable. While the New Jersey Department of Transporation is really in charge of Route 9, they have balked at spending the money necessary to widen Route 9. It’s understandable – the costs are prohibitive. And while they are planning to make some welcome improvements to the corridor beginning next spring, those changes won’t be nearly enough to accommodate the sheer number of vehicles that traverse the roadway every day.

We need a better plan. And that plan should include the wealthy philanthropists who give so much of themselves to better other people’s lives. I’m not talking about redistribution of wealth or calling for wealthy people to “pay their fair share.” I’m saying that we need to start a campaign to reel in wealthy people and have them understand the incredible good they would be bestowing on literally every single family in the community if they would come together and pay for the widening of Route 9.

And yes, if they do it, I’ll personally hang up plaques up and down the 9 for them.

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  1. I’m assuming that this is a satire, but on the miniscule chance that you were actually serious… Do you have any idea how much a project like this costs?? Also, just because the state balked at doing it doesn’t mean that they’ll allow someone else to.

  2. A disaster? Lmao. Y’all brought this all on yourselves by turning this once great community and turning it into an overcrowded , disgusting cesspool!!

    • “Lmao. Y’all brought this all on yourselves by turning this once great community and turning it into an overcrowded, disgusting cesspool!!”
      LMAO!!!! Lakewood is definitely more crowded then it used to be, but there was a time when one would walk on some of these quiet, eerie streets, knowing that his life was in danger. But now a lot of these once-quiet and petrifying streets are a lot safer. These very same streets are no longer a disgusting cesspool of crime and violence, which can only be a good thing.

    • True, a top level hospital is the most immediate need, however there is a limited amount of specialties that could open within a certain geographic area. The most important ones are probably trauma and L&D. For everything else we could travel.
      I met the new President and CEO for Monmouth and Monmouth South at the Jbiz expo and he seems very eager to working with the Lakewood community. Let’s hope we see significant improvements soon.

  3. Every developer that has a development that lead to all this mess, should pay his fare share. I honestly do not know how these people sleep at night. (But then again, maybe I’m the one who’s naïve here.)

  4. The other day, there was a letter in one of the weeklies with a great alternative idea to Rt 9 – Opening up Vine Ave and Vermont Ave from Cedar Bridge all the way to Rt 70. There is only one building on the way: Bais Kayla. I’m sure a solution can be found to either contour it or relocate it.

    How come this is not being discussed in public? It’s probably 100 times cheaper and simpler to implement logistically than widening Rt 9 since it’s fully township owned.

    • They keep talking about it but it’s really just a bandaid. It’s not nearly enough to alleviate the problem & just transfers the tax burden to us.

      At this point we really need something that goes from Howell through Toms River & it needs to be at least 3 lanes. Vine will just back up Cedarbridge & Clifton unlike anything we’ve seen before (its already crazy & getting crazier as they keep building Cedarbridge/New Hampshire etc)

      This is something that the state MUST take care of. Our politicians should drop the trivial stuff & lobby day & night until it gets done!

      • I agree with you that this solution not nearly enough, but I still think that it would alleviate traffic in a significant way. Maybe the State can help us with a major interchange. If this was in Singapore they would for sure come up with a solution… Maybe it’s time to hire the best traffic engineers in the world to brainstorm on this.

  5. All the wealthy builders and the politicians who let them get away with creating this mess, should pay for it, but that’s not gonna happen. They’re laughing all the way to the bank and to the dinners of the mosdos that honor them.

  6. @jaxonite they tried that but there is a flower that is in the way between pine and cedar bridge that CANT BE DESTROYED due to it being a rare flower

    • @Chaim
      Thanks for your very satisfactory answer. I thought they were maybe concerned about the trees on the way. Didn’t think of the flowers.

  7. I don’t mind if you put up a plaque for me on Route 9, but can you use my anonymous name instead of my real name?
    Sincerely yours,
    John Doe the 3rd

  8. What an idiotic suggestion.
    This isn’t the same as asking for someone else to help you feed, clothe, or educate 15 children, whom you could not afford to sire, or to buy apartments for them, because you promised to do so on someone else’s dollar. Not even similar.
    What the letter writer dares to suggest is that party A irresponsibly built a development along a state highway, and pocketed the profits. Party B knowingly gave building permits, allowing the situation to deteriorate further with each new construction, and is collecting millions in property tax dollars, therefrom. Party C, fully aware of impediments to driving in the area, chose to purchase his home there, for whichever reason.
    Party B, faced with absolute intenibility of the present situation is considering an unaffordable solution to its self-created problem, while Party A ran with the money, and is perpetrating the same offense at another, soon-to-become very problematic location.
    Self-caused, self-increased, self-felt problem. Now, let a nameless g’vir, who doesn’t owe you anything, and whose largesse could, at his own volition, support a yeshiva, a hospital, a number of families that fell on hard times, or a space program, if he so chooses, let that wealthy individual sink his money into a highway that is owned by the state, run by the state, and is the state’s responsibility?
    Maybe you should ask him to help you with purchasing a summer home for your family, while at it, or jewelry for your rebetzin, that YOU are obligated in, before Yom Tov?…. How about a monthly steak dinner, at the very least, and a spa treatment?

  9. I am glad that someone is thinking along the lines of Daas Torah. Regardless of the source of the problem, the reality is that now many mmembers of the tzibur, if not the entire tzibbur, not to mention our neighboring towns, would benefit immensely from said project. R’ Shimon could find no better undertaking upon his salvation than to benefit the community.
    The real impediment is not money.. it’s feasibility. I dont think there is enough space to widen the road.

  10. I don’t agree with the letter writer. I think we should keep calling state officials (maybe people should do that while they sit on the 9) to get it changed.

  11. I think everyone who own or live on RT 9 Give up your property and widen the RT9 for once of all we need 4 lanes straight to Tom River and Howell NJ and end this nonsense and make sure no car go straight Any where on RT 9 And no left Turn !!!! Except Emergency Service! We need to change all sign no left turn on RT 9 except Traffic Light !!!

  12. I think it’s a great idea,let all the builders and developers that overcrowded Lakewood build it….with no plaque ,just a little Tushuva for stealing all our time .

  13. Wow. Very thought provoking letter and comments. I hear both sides of the argument.

    Truth be told, it does sound like it’s not just a money issue, and even if it was a money issue, the money that it would require is so astronomical that it doesn’t sound feasible or prudent, since it will be at the expense of so many other important causes that are relying in on these philanthropits for support. Additionally, by shifting the burden of fixing the problem to caring philanthropists, we’d be enabling additional reckless development.

    However, from a torahdik perspective- 13k quality waking hours is equivalent to over 2 years of a person’s waking hours. Even excluding shabbosim and YT we’re talking about wasting the equivalent of way over 500 years of time per year. Isn’t that retzicha en mass?? If someone injected a drug into 10 of your relatives c”v that made them incapacitated/vegetables for 50 years each, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to prevent that from happening??
    Is there a price tag for such a thing?? Pidyan shvuyim is from the most important if not THE most important cause to donate (even though the person is alive and even if he is healthy) – countless people are trapped in this traffic, wasting their lives so how can we all just sit and do nothing??

    If money is not the answer, maybe we need weekly/monthly rallies or protests in conjunction with regular brainstorming meetings, asifas and lobbyists until a solution is provided??

    Anyone in with me??

  14. So many great (and very practical) suggestions!
    A subway
    A two level highway
    A bridge to Terabithia …
    May I also suggest two runways, a heliport, and a canal with two locks?
    Or, how about putting an end to irresponsible and unsustainable building? How would the community achieve that, if the powers to be keep allowing the developers to erect another “ches” anywhere there is an empty spot? The answer is simple – DO NOT BUY in those developments!
    The builders aren’t doing this out of wickedness, or because they have too much free time and money. Their sole motivation is basic greed, or pursuit of parnassa, in the more decent ones. What is the point of buying, knowing fully well that you will suffer and complain?
    Therefore, the moral here is – they won’t build it, if you won’t come.

  15. The problem is that many years ago, the zoning department approved, with greased hands, projects that should not have been approved and vacated streets which should have been left open, and allowed too many cul de sacs. Why isn’t south Lakewood a grid? Looking at the paper streets in an old map, you would see that it could and should have been grids. Anyone on the zoning board should be astute enough to realize that these developments were a recipe for a traffic jam. Would it be cynical of me to say that those individuals already lived on an R12 lot and therefore, cared little of the future quality of life for the plebeians?

  16. If mega donors really would like to benefit the community with a major ROI they would get us out of this whole mess. It wouldn’t cost much to build a new community from scratch in Florida, with free tuition, low property tax, etc.

  17. Asking philanthropists to actually fund the entire project is unfeasible. However, if the township, together with the philanthropists launch a concentrated effort to purchase tracts of property abutting route 9 it would remove the biggest hurdle that is behind the reason the state has been hesitant to undertake this project. If the state has to secure the property they need to use eminent domain and it is a complicated costly process. If the citizens secure the rights to the property by combining the towns power of eminent domain together with rabbinic pressure and private funding, we could get that part out of the way.

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