Sponsored by the Teaneck Democratic Municipal Committee and with an overflow audience at the Rodda Center Wednesday night, the hot topic was how to steer development in the township. It’s not that residents are against development. Yes. some want to retain more of a residential, leafy town while others seek the advantages of more apartments. (See photos below.) More importantly they wanted smart development with upfront data on the impacts before projects are approved. They were concerned with the growing emphasis of placing too many apartments in the Northeast, and they opposed the land use boards granting developers exorbitant variances.
Alan Sohn, former Council member, opened the panel discussion indicating, “Of course development is good, but it should be planned development based on community consensus. It begins with a master plan. ‘All change is not bad and all growth is not good.’ We should foster mid-rise, mixed-use developments not all in one place that bring new residents and businesses and which provide a Teaneck we can all afford.”
Therese Edwards, community activist, spoke about the “need to share the development across the town rather than just in the northern area which has already seen explosive development with even more growth on the horizon. With this anticipated growth, there will be a Teaneck population increase of 2 per cent, but all within a half-mile area.” She asked, “Why do developers come to Teaneck with proposals for an area where they want to place their buildings, but for which it is clearly not suitable? Why do they propose, as in the case of 100 State Street, a variance 750% more in the height of the building if they don’t have a reasonable expectation of getting it?”
Dr. Henrt Pruitt, Council member, indicated there are some fifteen sites in Teaneck being considered for development. “We have to make sure that the Planning and Zoning boards understand the Master Plan and their role, and not give away all these variances. The difficulty is that the seminal sites are within a couple of blocks from each other and one proposal may be as high as 15 stories. We have to make sure we have the right people to make these decisions.”
Jordan Zaretsky, Fire Chief said, “I’m not a development expert. I really don’t have an opinion here.” He indicated his fire department is here to serve whatever the community looks like. He later went on to answer more detailed question.
Mark Schwartz, Deputy Mayor, started by quoting a person, “Many residents are moving out because they can’t afford their homes. We need high-rise apartments for these people and young people.” He went on to say “I am in favor of multi-family apartments. The tax benefit with the new development are significant and these monies will allow more open space.” To add new businesses he pointed out “that businesses do not start first they need to see the people and then the people will bring the the businesses.” He views the northeast as the “apartment district.” As an example he said, “I can not think of a better place to put the proposed 100 State apartment.”
Andy Rudin, Captain of the volunteer ambulance corps, echoed what the fire chief said. He appreciated the efforts being made to provide elevators that offer easy entrance and exit to buildings.
Next followed over an hour of vigorous questions and answers. To better understand the issues concerned by residents it’s best to view the meeting on youtube here. Likely many of the questions you have will be answered.
The questions began with moderator Cheryl Hall asking ,“What are the needs for the fire and ambulance departments regarding the significant population increase in the northeast?” Among other questions were “What is the process for development?” “What is the impact on our schools?” “Is a proposed property tested for contamination?” Where can I find the Teaneck Master Plan? “What is happening with affordable housing and the application process?” “What are the dangers of nearby CSX trains passing through, and what is being done about it?” “Do we have the infrastructure to support new developments?” “What will be the impact on future development if the Board of Adjustment approves the 100 State Street project?” Most frequently throughout this period there was a a back-and-forth discussion between the vision of Mark Schwarz and that of Alan Sohn.
TDMC Chair Alexandra Soriano-Taveras provided opening and closing remarks. After the meeting State Senator Weinberg complimented the TMDC for sponsoring the event and opening up discussions on such varied development topics as safety, school board, and environment.
You can follow TDMC on Facebook at Teaneck Democratic Committee; Twitter: @DEMStsteaneck and website: TDMC.org. Email: Teaneckdmc@gmail.com