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(I) How did you become head of the Teaneck Housing Information Center?
(N) Seven years ago, I was invited to apply for the job of director of the Teaneck Housing Information Center at its inception. I was interested in the project because of its brass roots base and the innovative approach the citizens wished to take to promote the township of Teaneck and to maintain its diversity. My experience as a president of a local PTA at Longfellow School and as vice president and president of PTA Council had provided me with an opportunity to meet many people in the township and had developed in me a great pride in the Teaneck public schools as well as in my new community. The Housing Center at the time was merely a grant funded by Community Development through the Bergen County Board of Freeholders for $5,000. The grant had been designed by a group of citizens who saw a need and chose to develop an innovative approach to funding by Housing and Urban Development. It was my initial task to design the program as well as my own job description and I began the work and continued it for over a year as a one man show assisted by very supportive volunteers.
At the present time, in 1985, the Housing Center has a staff of four part timers, two directors, an office coordinator and a free lance writer and about 125 volunteers who can be called upon for a variety of tasks - running tours of the township for potential home buyers, visiting the public schools with people who have school children and are considering the community, staffing major events like Discover Teaneck, real estate seminars for the local real estate community, and this year an innovative project to conference with Bergen County mayors. The Housing Center has responded to the needs of this community and has designed its projects dependent upon what it sees as the needs. It is presently governed by the board of directors. Sandy Glick, the former board of education president is now the president of the board of directors. And the board of directors of the Housing Center represents the community.
There is a representative of tenants, homeowners, minority groups, religious groups, senior citizens and of new residents. The citizens who organized the initial grant were the people who devised and developed a brass roots organization called Teaneck Together. This organization was part of an effort to look at the community through the eyes of a professional service and this professional service, the T.J. Ross Report, interviewed citizens and wrote a lengthy report on the needs of the community. The report tells us, and it is still timely today, that the best salespeople for the township of Teaneck are its residents and indeed the voice of those salespeople, those residents who are happy with the community, who are pleased with its public schools, who have perhaps bought their second or third home in town, are the voices that the Housing Center helps be heard throughout the county and also through its advertising campaigns in area newspapers.
As we began the project, we looked at it as a project for both internal and external public relations in response to the T.J. Ross Report and so we have produced newsletters for local consumption, events for local consumption and we have reached out to people who are considering purchasing a home in Bergen County and suggesting that when they consider the county, they seriously consider moving to the township of Teaneck. Teaneck has so much to offer these people, not only its location but a mix of people who have long provided the vitality that makes Teaneck quite a special place and its fine schools. It is really quite easy to sell the town once you get the ear of the listener but it has been our experience that very often a potential home buyer is not advised of the acceptability or even the existence of the township of Teaneck when looking for real estate with a real estate broker from outside of the township. Hence our advertising and our education program has been directed not only to real estate firms in town but also throughout Bergen County and our use of the New York Times as well as New Jersey Magazine and New York Magazine.
Discover Teaneck is probably the most popularized promotion that the Housing Center has run in the seven years in which I have been director. It was begun with the concept that there were people both in the town and outside of the town who had never seen parts of the community and the initial Discover Teaneck called Discover Teaneck People and Places meant to introduce the people to places in town they might not have seen like the B'Hai Center and people they might not have met. It has always been an event which is free. We have provided bus transportation around the community with stops at private homes for each of the Discover Teaneck promotions and it has expanded from a one day event that initially attracted about three busloads of people to an event which last year in 1984 attracted over 5,000 people to the campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University where people not only had the opportunity to participate in the bus tour and visit to private homes but also to attend a multi-cultural fair run by the Housing Center demonstrating our ethnic background, celebrating the variety of people living in the community, students from Teaneck High School, students from around the area participated as did adults. There were Indian dancers, Armenian and Greek dancers, musicians, people from the Chinese American Society and food booths from restaurants throughout the town as well as crafts from small organizations participating.
I think probably if I were to describe Teaneck from my perspective, the one thing that I would begin to describe would be its people and so each year that we have run a Discover Teaneck, we have found that we can draw on the wonderful resources of volunteers, people who have enthusiasm for the community, people who want to participate and then want to share it with those who have never been here and each year to our amazement, we have had reservations from allover Bergen and Hudson County as well as the New York metropolitan area and people on the buses who have visited the houses and met our volunteers, while they might talk about the beautiful homes they have been to, end up talking about the people, friendly people, the enthusiastic people, the Teaneck people who are always happy to talk about their town. The Discover Teaneck promotion in the past has been totally dependent upon Housing Center money but as it expanded and became a larger event, it was necessary for the Housing Center to look for funding outside of its own source and a wonderful mix of money has been achieved to provide such an event to the community. The township of Teaneck has paid for the advertising; the Teaneck public schools have provided innumerable in kind services; Fairleigh Dickinson University and Holy Name Hospital have provided wonderful services and locations; the homeowners who have opened their homes to hundreds o£ people have been extraordinarily generous in their participation; and in recent years, the Chamber of Commerce as well as corporate sponsors in the area have provided the kind of money necessary to run such a promotion. Last year, the Discover Teaneck promotion's general cost was about $30,000 and in actual cash outlay, the event cost the township and its many different organizations who participated $3,000 or $4,000. So we are talking about the great generosity of Teaneck people and Teaneck businesses and we are talking about such a wonderful party and a celebration of this township.
1985 is an exciting year for the Housing Center. We will be providing for the township of Bergen County a conference for the 70 Bergen mayors at Fairleigh Dickinson University and as part of our contract with the township of Teaneck, we are managing and initiating this conference which will discuss the environment, the needs of suburban children, the needs of the aging in the 90s and economic development. The conference is called Bergen County Poised for Change and it is a rare opportunity for Bergen mayors to come together in an informal setting to build coalitions between their communities on topics which are mutually important to them. We hope that as a result there will be a resource base of material available to mayors and that once again the township of Teaneck will exhibit its leadership as a model community in Bergen. At the same time, in the spring we have invited the National Advisory Board to the Oak Park Conference to the township of Teaneck and the conference board will be coming to look at Teaneck as a possible location for the 1987 national conference of diverse communities from allover the country. The communities are close to 200 in number at this point and discuss significant issues to all communities but particularly to diverse communities and as a member of the board of that organization, I think the organization will be most outstanding in sharing its information from one community to country. So 1987 may be a bigger year a very exciting year for us as well.
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