To the Canal Commission:

On Avoiding Mistakes

Corrections or additions?

This was prepared for the June 6, 2001 edition of U.S. 1

Newspaper. All rights reserved.

To the Editor: Try Mediation First

As president of the New Jersey Association of Professional Mediators

(NJAPM) and a trial lawyer, I read with genuine interest Kathleen

McGinn Spring’s on-target review of recent legal developments in

employment

arbitration. Without question, the U.S. Supreme Court has given a

green light to mandatory arbitration clauses covering most, if not

all, employment disputes. Given the vagaries of the U.S. economy and

management’s general discomfort with — bordering on hostility

towards — the unpredictability of court cases and jury verdicts,

we can expect a lot more activity in the arbitration arena.

And how unfortunate that will prove to be, unless managers and

employees

first stop and consider working out all such workplace disputes with

the aid of a trained professional mediator. Private sector mediation

of workplace disputes is purely voluntary, private, inexpensive,

non-binding,

and fast. Most importantly, it works, and it works better than any

other process around.

Almost all workplace disputes involve the push-and-pull of emotional

factors, dressed up to look like money and performance issues. While

workplace disputes occur in all shapes and sizes, as mediators and

lawyers who promote mediation, we often deal with long-term employment

situations, where displacement comes with a lot of upset.

A workplace termination is akin to the sudden break-up of a marriage.

In these settings, it is critically important to get the parties

talking

about their underlying interests. Employees often look for a sign

of management’s respect, a dignified exit with some assurance of

financial

support as they seek other employment. Managers often look for a

peaceful

exit, with no disruption of ongoing employment relationships, and

a way to cut losses for reasonable dollars.

While employment lawyers and HR personnel are sometimes able to work

these matters out on their own, I have seen far too many examples

of broken negotiations, disappointed employees, and angry managers.

These are the cases that head for the courthouse or, increasingly,

the arbitrator’s office.

So, you may ask, what’s wrong with that picture? Since both public

judges and private arbitrators have final, binding, decisional

authority,

once parties enter either of those processes, both sides are buying

themselves a "win-lose" outcome, when what they really want

is a "win-win". An unhappy party to a litigated or arbitrated

outcome, whether manager or employee, will continue to make noise,

consciously or unconsciously seek to undermine the outcome, or fail

to heal and move on as quickly as they might if the decision were

mutually reached, with the help of a skilled facilitator.

While I applaud U.S. 1 for highlighting the arbitration arena, I

strongly

urge your readers in need of workplace dispute resolution to consider

mediation as a first option, and hire mediation conversant lawyers

from the very start. If matters end up in litigation or arbitration,

the parties have lost nothing. On the other hand, if the parties start

out in litigation or arbitration, they are not only in for a

difficult,

expensive, and time consuming ride, but they may find it impossible

to reach common ground in the later innings.

Hanan M. Isaacs, President

New Jersey Association of Professional Mediators

Isaacs moderates a panel, "How We Will Make a Living

at ADR" at a New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education

conference on Friday, June 15, at 8:30 a.m. at the Woodbridge Sheraton

in Iselin. Cost: $210. Call 732-214-8500.

Top Of Page
To the Canal Commission:

Stop the Villas at Tuscany

The following letter was sent to Executive Director James C. Amon

and the commissioners of the Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission:

The Delaware and Raritan Canal Park is an easily accessible

escape from traffic, noise, and pollution for the thousands of people

— from infants in backpacks to the elderly with canes — who

enjoy it throughout the year. The towpath is perfect for walking,

jogging, bicycling, and cross country skiing. Many use the canal for

canoeing and kayaking. The park provides a habitat for at least 160

species of birds, 90 of which nest within the park.

Your website (www.dandrcanal.com) touts Kingston as one of the prime

"Points of Interest" for those visiting the Canal Park and

it notes that it is "one of the more heavily visited spots along

the canal."

However, the development, "Villas at Tuscany," proposed for

construction in Plainsboro, just next to Kingston, would be within

1,000 feet of the canal. This three-story rental apartment complex,

along with the widening of Mapleton Road and the change in

configuration

of the intersection of Mapleton Road and Seminary Drive will

compromise

the integrity and beauty of the Delaware and Raritan Canal.

Your charge as D&R Commissioners is "to prepare and administer

a land use regulatory program that will protect the Canal Park from

the harmful impacts of new development in central New Jersey."

It is your mandate to monitor whether "new development could have

drainage, visual or other ecological impact on the Canal Park."

"Villas at Tuscany" will destroy the sight-line from the canal

and its towpath. The traffic from this development, along with that

expected from the proposed development of a 2.9 million square foot

office complex just to its north, will increase pollution.

The proposed widening of Mapleton Road (a portion of which today

nearly

touches the canal) and the reconfiguration of the intersection of

Mapleton Road and Seminary Drive will encourage more through traffic

— including trucks — leading to increased runoff and pollution

of the canal water as well as increased noise and fumes for those

walking or boating within the park.

On a recent walk along the towpath, I saw countless turtles (many

sunning on logs and several swimming in the canal), two snakes (a

small one hitching a ride on one about two feet long), goslings

paddling

after their parents, birds singing in the trees and brush. The D&R

Canal Park provides us a precious habitat.

I urge you to deny permission for construction of "Villas at

Tuscany"

in its current form and to deny permission for the changes in

configuration

for Mapleton Road. It is your mandate to protect the Delaware and

Raritan Canal Park.

Sandra Shapiro

15 Wycombe Way, Princeton Junction

Top Of Page
On Avoiding Mistakes

THANK YOU for the article, "A Shop Of Your Own, First Try It

Out."

It is well written and should help some of your readers avoid costly

mistakes when going into business. I advised the Mercer/Middlesex

Small Business Development Center about it.

Martin M. Mosho


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