Teaneck Council Meeting: Seniors express “anger and frustration”

On Tuesday Teaneck Council held a rare early meeting that started at 2:00 PM so as to be more accessible for seniors. And lots of seniors turned out to an over-flow audience of over 100 with others in the hallway watching the meeting on a monitor. They thanked the council for certain actions, but more frequently expressed, as one resident said, “anger and frustration.”

The largest uproar followed the Township Manager’s statement that Mr. Price Preiss who serves as the planner for the Council, Planning, and Adjustments Boards was in the process of preparing an impact statement on new developments and would then use the information to update the Master Plan. One speaker felt that Mr. Price Preiss has never failed to support a project that the Council liked. “He is an expeditor not a planner,” said James Veach to wild applause. People demanded a comprehensive, independent study of the hyper-development taking place in the North East and other parts of the township.  Councilman Pruitt who requested such a study reiterated, “It is incumbent on the Council to get the best quality person to do the study so that it will have credibility.” Mr. Veach recommended that a group like Rutgers or NJIT conduct the study.

The township is making an effort to increase affordable housing. Following the township’s settlement with the Fair Share Housing Council, three ordinances were passed: 1) Requirements for developments that increase the township’s growth share obligation for affordable housing. 2) revising development regulations respecting the residential-multi-family zoning for a place on Alfred Ave. 3) Amending regulation respecting residential R-AHO zoning for 520 Palisades Ave. 

It appears future development will bring more affordable housing but at the expense of increased density which developers desire. The Mayor pointed out that zoning rules are the province of the council, but the variances allowed are adjudicated by the Board of Adjustments (BOA). He added that citizens concerned about variances, such as density, should attend and speak out at the BOA meetings.

MATTERS RESIDENTS ADDRESSED

  • Presentation of Teaneck’s Board of Education in-progress Strategic School Plan with a new vision, goals and measurable outcomes. 
  • Dr. Powers emphasized the need for the township to update its Recreation Open Space Inventory (ROSI). Placed on the agenda with only one day of notice and only six words of explanation was a resolution to seek Green Acres grant funding to acquire a property at 1084 Queen Anne Street Road. It was considered a worthwhile proposal, but were Teaneck in compliance with an up-to-date ROSI, projects like this could receive up to 25% more in funding.
  • Several people insisted that the dog area in Votee Park be eliminated – too much dog poop, and some seniors felt threatened.
  • Juanita Brown summarized an over-arching concern of many residents; “Transparency. How can we be informed and help you make better decisions if we don’t have the information?” 
  • Jane Erwin: “Rodda Center is a gem. It needs to be inspected and repaired, seniors need an additional professional there, and the center keeps closing for weeks but seniors need the place to exercise and socialize.” Someone else concerned with the disrepair, said, “Right now you are afraid of entering the building.”
  • Alan Sohn: “Early Teaneck was a tree-lined suburbia. Over the past 20 years taxes have doubled and the debt has soared six-fold. Our trees have been disregarded and local businesses have suffered. People who left NYC’s Grand Concourse now have the sad concourse foisted on them.”  
  • Several people called for more tree-planting, an essential feature for the township. Recent development has killed off many. The Mayor pointed out that individuals can make a donation for a planting and that planting is in this year’s budget.
  • Anna Kurtz explained the laws that indicate no variances should be granted without sufficient benefit to residents.
  • Others expressed concern about the Cedar Lane empty stores and too- big houses where trees were cut down and there is little set-back from property boundaries.
  • Renee Jones felt that shifting the burden of repairing sidewalks to residents was unfair. The township controls the sidewalk and trees near the curb, and it is these trees that uproot the sidewalk. 
  • Several residents were particularly concerned about the 100 State Street proposed development where too many variances were proposed. They cited fire-safety, density, difficulty in finding parking spaces, potential traffic injuries, and people nowadays having more than one car per family in the already congested North East.  
  • Another senior said, “You must include us in your decisions. Seniors should be be on every advisory board.” 
  • Several people were concerned about the proposal for a residential development on 520 Palisades Street. They have received few details about the venture and say traffic is a serious problem there.

Two ordinances were tabled: one that would prohibit the sale of marijuana in Teaneck, and another that would establish a later morning starting time for garbage collection.

The meeting Agenda, Packet and Video are here. The next Council meeting is on April 9 at 8:00 PM. The meeting schedule for the Planning Board and the Board of Adjustments is also here, by clicking on the top left for the meeting group of interest to you. My apologies if some residents’ names are misspelled as it can be difficult to catch the spelling when they mention it before addressing the council.

Comments (3)

  1. Alan Sohn

    The lack of an independent holistic study on the impact of overdevelopment was a clear core of the comments from the public and from Councilman Pruitt. There is no possible way that Township Planner Richard Preiss can perform an independent analysis of his own work.

    There’s a reason why when you go for a second opinion, you go to a different doctor from the one who gave you the original diagnosis; it’s no different here.

    Reply
  2. Art Vatsky

    I have been a council watcher for many years. The Council remains the same because our town politics remain the same. They exercise their power as they wish because they don’t have to feel worried about the speakers that come before them. I wish the Council would actually listen to citizen input. Some members do so. That needs to be improved

    Reply
  3. Art Vatsky

    A second comment. 100+ years ago, developers came in and built many of our homes. Sturdy construction. I wonder what the neighbors to these projects had to say. Teaneck went from a farm town to a commuter town using the railroad, then cars. I believe Jews and Blacks were not allowed to buy these homes. I hope I am wrong about this.

    We live 5 miles from the Washington Bridge. Our township is growing older. Seniors have to move out of town to “downsize”. Apartment living is more energy efficient. We already have a parking problem. We have to solve it for everybody and we have to modernize how our government works.

    Reply

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