Red Bank business owners are adding their names to the list of those who oppose New Jersey Natural Gas’s plan to install above ground gas regulators along the sidewalk throughout the downtown.
In an email circulated between borough business owners and community leaders, George Lyristis, an owner of downtown dining fixtures The Bistro at Red Bank and Teak, encouraged Red Bank mayor and council to continue the fight against New Jersey Natural Gas.
Currently, the borough and the gas conglomerate are locked in a lawsuit over the utility’s right to replace all of its 88 underground gas regulators with above ground ones that officials have called unsafe and unsightly. New Jersey Natural Gas claims the above ground regulators are easier to maintain and degrade less quickly than those below ground. Borough officials say the above ground regulators detract from the downtown’s aesthetic and present a hazard.
When the borough declined to approve New Jersey Natural Gas’s permits to replace the regulators with above ground ones, the utility sued Red Bank. The case is currently being fought in Monmouth County Superior Court.
“I strongly urge you to keep the fight against NJNG from bringing these regulators above ground,” Lyristis wrote in an email. “As most of you know I own three restaurants in our surrounding area; two of the three have above ground gas regulators. Both of the above ground (regulators) have been struck by vehicles causing a major safety hazard. Both caused evacuations of the buildings, loss of business and a hardship that did not have to happen if these regulators were underground.”
Red Bank denied the utility’s permit to install the above ground regulators, which are between two and three feet tall, have multiple pipes sticking out of them, are unadorned and industrial in appearance.
Representatives from Coco Pari have joined the fight, too, saying that customers don’t expect regulators to be just a foot from a business’s doors and that they present a tripping hazard to pedestrians. Coco Pari also praised Red Bank RiverCenter for creating a visually appealing downtown streetscape with its sidewalks, benches, and plants.
“To put rusting, unfinished pipes in front of our buildings that look like the Tin Man from Wizard of Oz is hideous and shows a total disregard for the beauty of our downtown.”
New Jersey Natural Gas based its decision to replace the regulators on a 2009 inspection it said showed that of the 85 regulator pits inspected, 58 were in unsatisfactory condition. Two of those regulators were leaking gas and needed to be replaced immediately. Local officials, including State Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-11, have argued that New Jersey Natural Gas hasn’t been forthcoming with its data and failed to notify the borough of issues it had with the regulators.
While the issues continues to be fought in court, New Jersey Natural Gas recently took the initiative to replace all of its below ground regulators during a sweep in July. Despite replacing the below ground regulators with new ones, it has apparently not backed off its position.