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Leonia Illegally Closed Streets Leading To GWB, NJ Attorney General Says

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal Photo Credit: DAILY VOICE photo

Leonia illegally closed its streets to out-of-towners because of George Washington Bridge-related gridlock and has agreed to stop enforcing the restriction, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said Wednesday.

“This is not a new issue," said Grewal, testifying during a state Assembly budget hearing in Trenton"They don’t have authority to stop people because it’s not a lawful restriction.”

State and borough officials are working on an “appropriate fix,” the former Bergen County and onetime assistant federal prosecutor said. 

Emphasizing the need to protect children walking to and from school, Leonia Mayor Judah Zeigler cited two measures -- one a 1977 Supreme Court decision and the other a 2008 New Jersey state statute provision -- that he said gives municipalities the jurisdiction to enact its ordinance.

The mayor also said it wasn't about enforcing restrictions as it was changing technology that points out-of-town drivers bound for the GWB toward local streets during massive backups on the highways that approach the span.

Borough Police Chief Thomas Rowe was instrumental in getting navigation companies to program “Do Not Enter” restrictions to five dozen local streets into their GPS apps.

It worked.

It also raised objections from motorists who said they needed to get through town to their homes or jobs.

The issue was raised during Wednesday's hearing by local Assemblyman Gordon Johnson of neighboring Englewood, whose residents and merchants are among those who have objected the most vociferously to the closures.

“This is a byproduct of Google Maps and Waze,” Grewal said. “When you’re in a traffic jam… Waze directs people to go through Leonia and some side streets and that’s creating a problem locally… 

"Same thing in Weehawken through the [Lincoln T]unnel," he added. "What Leonia did and Weehawken promised [but never did] was shut down certain streets during rush hour.”

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