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(I) Well Jim, as Executive Director of Teaneck’s Redevelopment Agency for the past fifteen years, you have been very close to the changes that have taken place and are taking place in our township. You have much of offer a project of this kind. But first I wonder if you would say something about your early life and tell us perhaps how you happened to come to Teaneck in the first place.
(N) Well, I was born in Fort Lee and raised in Fort Lee and when I left Fort Lee was when I went in the Navy Air Corps and I had three years in the Navy Air Corps and when I got out, I completed my college education in Washington D.C. at Georgetown University. When I finished, I moved up here and moved to Teaneck in 1954 and I came to Teaneck because having lived in Fort Lee and the impression or most of the towns around was that Teaneck was the place to live. You were going up scale if you moved to Teaneck and it was a nice town to be in. So I had the opportunity to get a good buy, a good house and I jumped at it.
(I) Well I noticed that you were in real estate for quite a while. Would you tell us a little about your experiences in that field?
(N) As far as the real estate, when I came up here from Washington, I got my real estate license and I specialized in what I call land packaging. That’s assembling land, putting several parcels together, getting the zoning and then selling it to a developer or a builder of some sort and a couple of the projects that I did, one was in Fort Lee, the old Holy Angles Girls High School. They had to get out of Fort Lee because their enrollment was too large for the building that they had so they asked me to sell it for them and the difficulty there was they had to remain on the property while their new location in Demarest was being built so we were able to handle that and it was sold to an apartment builder and it is now known as Mediterranean Towers North. Another one I did was at the intersection of Route 17 and Route 4 on the southeast corner was vacant land abutted by the ramp from Route 17 with 4 and the difficulty there was that it was ideal property but it had no access so I was able to persuade Trenton, the Department of Transportation, to give an access on the ramp and now there is a six story office building built out there.
(I) And you really came to Teaneck primarily because it was a good residential community?
(N) Yes, as I say, this was the town to come to and this was really the if you had it made, this was the impression we had when we were growing up, if you had it made, you could move to Teaneck and although I didn’t have it made, I was able to move to Teaneck.
(I) And of course the schools did have a wide reputation, didn’t they?
(N) On the schools had an excellent reputation and at the time I had three young boys and although you don’t think of education at the time, it was just something that everyone knew that Teaneck had tops parochial and public education.
(I) You said, Jim that you came in 1954. Which would be just about the time of the Supreme Court decision on integrating the schools and the time when we first began to think about it. What was your feeling about that in the very beginning? Do you remember?
(N) Well, I was a little bit removed from it. As I say, at the time my three boys were a lot younger so education wasn’t primarily on my mind. I thought that what Teaneck did was, what in keeping with their history of being very innovative and willing to go out and take a stand on something and although there was a lot of controversy at the time, I think the stand that Teaneck took and the success they’ve had has been sort of a leader for the rest of the country.
(I) I think that is so true. I notice in the article that I read about you written in 1981 that you had quite a real estate background as you’ve already described yours. Do you remember how you felt about the impact that this might have on residential values, real estate values?
(N) Well, as I mentioned before, I was primarily in the industrial commercial type of real estate. I was a little bit removed from the residential. I think at the time I really didn’t think an awful lot about it. I may have had questions – how would the integration effect me – but actually the worries didn’t last that long. They sort of went away and after maybe six months or so, you never give it any thought. At least, I don’t even give it thought now. I think it was an excellent way that it was handled by Teaneck.
(I) You feel that we are doing everything that we should be doing now?
(N) You mean as far as integration?
(I) As far as integration is concerned.
(N) Well, offhand, I’d say yes. I haven’t seen a report that deep about it. I don’t know what else to do. We have leaders in the town. Leaders in education, both black and white. I think that the integration, it has just been handled very well and knowing the educational field, as far as the residential values, I think that Teaneck’s values have continually risen and appreciated over the past ten, fifteen years.
(I) In other words, you really haven’t seen anything in the way of the town deteriorating because of this influx of new people?
(N) No. I haven’t seen that but you know you hear talk about this area isn’t as good as that area but I think sometimes it might be a maintenance job on the part of the town to maybe do a little better job on certain areas but I can’t say that you can single out any area that is considered not a nice area of Teaneck.
(I) What would you say about the Teaneck Task Force? That is kind of something in the area, the northeast area that has been considered mostly black through the years.
(N) Well that’s a little bit what I had in mind about the maintenance and upkeep. I think a lot of the problems up there, they are really compounded. You’ve got a very busy road, a county road, on Teaneck Road and you have traffic trying to rush through there. But by the same token, you’ve got some strip zoning up there that relies on cars parking in front of their stores to make a quick stop for cigarettes or drugs or some other prescriptions of something like that and I think that’s been one of the things I am talking about. The local merchants want to have parking and the town doesn’t want to have parking so as a consequence, there is a bit of a conflict going on there at all times and I think the idea of the Task Force to take a bold stand is going to be very helpful because that is an area that is considered that it needs help and many solutions have been thrown out but now that the Task Force has been formed, I think if that they stay active and stay interested, I think they can accomplish a lot up there. Maybe not so much in more retail. It might be an idea maybe they have to look into something along the commercial area. Maybe offices or something like that to take Route 4 a liability, I would turn it around and make it an asset and I would gear my zoning to something along that line and I think that they would help to upgrade the rest of the area up there.
(I) In other words, really, the economic future of Teaneck will kind of determine how well we maintain our town. Now the Glenpointe Project, of course, which is bringing so much in taxes is going to help us all, isn’t it?
(N) Yes it will because one thing about the Glenpointe Project and we were very much concerned about this – what would it cost the town to get an impact on services. And we did a study of that and contacted all department heads within the town, gave them the parameters of Glenpointe and asked them what would they need or how many people would they need or what equipment would they need in order to service this project. And when the department heads returned all their reports, it was mostly manpower, additional manpower, and the impact on the services would be about $300,000 a year and the taxes presently in 1984, will be close to $2,000,000 and in 1986, when the project is completed, it will be about $5,000,000 so that it is costing the town very little to get this tremendous tax increase.
(I) How many people would you say would be coming into the Glenpointe Area?
(N) Well do you mean living there or daily working?
(I) Daily, I was thinking daily.
(N) Oh, probably, we know there will be close to 5,000 workers down there and it is estimated that there could be anywhere from 7 to 10,000 consumers coming to buy, to visit the offices, to go in the hotel, to attend banquets or to go to the spa. The activity will be going on. We want to have a viable project that would not close up like most office projects at five o’clock. We want to have some activity going on and it is geared with the shopping, with the restaurants, and the stores that it will have activity down there until ten, eleven, o’clock at night.
(I) It is a tremendous project and very beautiful. Would you describe maybe quickly what it consists of?
(N) Presently the Lowes Hotel, 350-room hotel is completed. The spa is completed. The first office building is completed and is now about 50% occupied but about 75% of the building has signed leases on it. As a result of that activity, which is all happening within a year, the developer started on a second office building, which will be even bigger than the first one. The shops are all up. The food pavilions are opened but the retail or the little boutiques will not open up until probably around August or September. As far as the town houses are concerned, 84 units have been built; 14 are in the models so they are not on sale. But of the 70, 46 have been sold and I think 9 have been rented and once they are filled, then they will start on one building at a time of the remaining six whose foundation are already in.
(I) Do you imagine that there will be many school children coming into that?
(N) No. There will be very few in the residential portion. We did a survey before we included the townhouses, the luxury townhouses, into the plan and checking not only the Rutgers Information Center but checking with Fort Lee, with their luxury high-rises, with Hackensack, it turns out that at the most there may be about 30 school aged children when all of the 292 townhouses are built.
(I) That’s remarkable.
(N) Yes because in the homes that were purchased, of the 40 homes that were purchased, there were 167 children so it is quite a savings in cost. I think if I am not mistaken it costs now close to $3,000 a student in the public school system.
(I) You spoke about the number of people that are coming in and the number of jobs that have been made available through Glenpointe. Would you say that there was any discrimination in hiring that you would be aware of.
(N) Absolutely not. In fact the hotel was probably been the biggest, at the moment is the biggest single employer and they have 270 fulltime employees, of that number, 68 are from the town of Teaneck. And they have 80 part-time employees that they bring in for catering and banquet affairs, who are on call, and over 40 are also from Teaneck and they are all races, all religions, in fact, I had the Principal of the high school, Jim Delaney down there about a month ago and it was like old home week. He met so many of the former students who were working there i
(I) That’s wonderful. Really is. What do you see as the future of Teaneck? We’re fairly well built. There are very few
(N) There is not much land left to build on. I think that when the master plan is now coming up for review and I think that the town or town fathers are going to have a look to maybe not changing basically the single family residential character of the town but knowing that they have two superhighways interchanging within Teaneck, that they can only take advantage of it but to be realistic and know that it is going to have effect on the town. So I think some sort of long range planning definitely in the I-80 / 95 area would have to maybe look away from residential and more towards some commercial population, more office space, whatever, hotel space. I don’t know. I think they would both be successful because there is a tremendous demand for hotels within the county. As far as the rest of the town is concerned, I don’t know that there is that much left for residential building on any sizeable tract other than the patch off the, I think it is called the Roman Road, in the north end of town. I think the town has zoned that single family oversized lots in trying to keep up with the character of the West Englewood area. After that, I don’t really see what is left for Teaneck to build on.
(I) Well, in other words, the future really then will depend on (1) on the economic base and (2) on the management. How do you feel about Teaneck, Teaneck’s Management Team?
(N) Well I think that they run a very tight organization. At times, I don’t think they’re very practical in their administration. I think that a lot of it is because sometimes either they don’t understand new types of projects or certain types of developments that have come up in the past ten or fifteen years or sometimes feel that they don’t want to understand it. Things are changing, new concepts that we wouldn’t dream of ten years ago are coming into action right now and the perfect example is the helistop at Glenpointe. The helistop is strictly an accommodation for the tenants in the office building and it is something that would be used very infrequently but when you are competing against a million square feet of vacant office space within the county, any edge or any amenity that you can provide for prospective tenants is good to have and this is something that the high speed on-the-go executives of these multi-corporate companies are jumping here, jumping there and the fact that they can have a place to land the helicopter and have it take off is a tremendous asset and a big boost for Teaneck and with the objections that we are getting from the town and actually through the administration by its sticking to the letter of the law, it is, we actually had to drag out this hearing very longer than it should have gone. However, there is a question that was in the book that these heliports are prohibited but again I am saying that this is the code that was written some time ago and there is a difference between a heliport and a helistop and I think when or if the administration is going to take a step back and say I know it is not in the book. Let’s talk about it. Then I think things will start to move ahead easier. But at the moment, there are many developers and builders who are reluctant to do business within Teaneck.
(I) Well of course Teaneck has always had a very activist citizenry and I wonder, do you think that a task force of citizens would kind of help to promote this kind of activity?
(N) No, I don’t think so Marie. I think there is too many, not too many but there is an awful lot of boards in town now. I think compared to other town within the county; probably Teaneck has twice as many as anybody else. I just think what could help this, is strong mayor and council giving leadership and direction for the administration to carry out. Don’t forget a lot of these things as I said before are new and even when they were conceived and came from the planning board or from the drawing board, things have changed since then and I think this picking through the written word without looking into what has happened or what are the changes or what is going on in the present day is what is holding some activity back, new activity. I mean the thing that
(I) But on the whole, Jim, you feel that Teaneck is in the right mode. That we are in the right direction.
(N) Oh yeah, I think we are in the right direction. I think it is taking a long time to get the Teaneck thinking in that way. The idea mentioned before of the single family residential characteristic of the town was a nice a concept but Teaneck and many other towns are finding out that although you would like to have that, the town cannot afford that because of the cost of servicing the town and education, it would tax the people out of town.
(I) Now you know Route 4, from the very beginning, through Teaneck has been kept totally free of industry and commerce. How do you feel about opening that area up to?
(N) No. I don’t think they should ever do that. I think that is one of the things that Teaneck should hold on to. It is a very nice relief to come out Route 4 and after being practically buried with gas stations or retail outlets or whatever. I think it is something that people hold up as a prime example of forward thinking by the fathers of Teaneck.
(I) I am very happy to hear you say that because I couldn’t agree more.
(N) This wasn’t planned.
(I) You were speaking of the sale of the townhouses in Glenpointe. I wondered, do you feel as if some minority groups are coming into Glenpointe?
(N) Oh yeah. They have looked at the townhouses. In fact, I am not exactly sure of the numbers, but out of the, let me see there has been 45 sold and 9 rented, I know of at least two minority families, no three minority families down there now. Now how that compares with the ratio of the rest of Teaneck, I don’t know but three out of five is less than 10% but I sure there will be more coming in as the other buildings are put up and there really hasn’t been any problem down there. I don’t think they have held any sales back. And they pay the same price as anybody else pays for one of the townhouses.
(I) What are the prices of the townhouses?
(N) Well the smallest one is about $150,000 and the biggest one is about $325,000.
(I) So they are very high priced.
(N) Oh there is no question. They are luxury townhouses and they are bigger than your average luxury apartment. It is sort of a happy medium between a luxury apartment and a house. You don’t have the responsibility of the lawn cutting and the snow shoveling that you have in a house but you also have a little community spirit whereas in a high rise luxury apartment in Fort Lee or Hackensack, all the people know is their apartment, the hallway, the elevators, the garage and they are gone. They don’t even know their neighbors.
(I) That’s a very good point. And of course our nearness to New York is, has a great impact on Teaneck. But I think it is a good impact, don’t you?
(N) Oh I definitely think so. We are no more than twenty, twenty-five minutes from the other side of the Lincoln Tunnel and maybe five to eight minutes from the George Washington Bridge and I think being the close to New York, Teaneck could have overbuilt the Fort Lee did. Fort Lee really didn’t have any planning in mind as result, high rises have sprung up all over the town and office buildings have sprung up all over the place so as a consequence, you have a monumental traffic jam up there every morning and every night and some people who are not that familiar with real estate or location keep saying that Fort Lee is a better location than we have in Teaneck and that why did we build such a big place with all the office space in Fort Lee and my answer to that is, I feel Fort Lee is 50% location town. If you get on the lower deck of that bridge and you are coming from New York, you don’t even know Fort Lee exists. You come out in Englewood on Route 4 and if you are coming from the west, you take the lower deck, you go underneath before you get to Fort Lee and you come out in New York so if you are on the lower deck, people don’t even know Fort Lee exists whereas where we are, we can be seen and handled road wise from all directions.
(I) Well I agree with that. I think that Teaneck has handled its growth probably better than most of the other communities. What do you, how do feel about the other communities. What do you, how do you feel about the other communities’ unwillingness to follow Teaneck’s lead in integration? What is your feeling about that?
(N) Well I, again, I am not that familiar with it. I know Hackensack seems to be pretty well integrated. I know Englewood, I think, is another town that is pretty well integrated. The rest of the towns, I think, in the long run they’ll suffer because, hey, this is the world today and everyone got a right to live where they want to live if they can pay the money the same as everybody else then they are entitled to live there. For a town to pose problems away from their town, I really feel in the long run they are going to suffer.
(I) Do you feel that there is anything we should be doing as a community to educate other communities? Do we have any responsibility in that direction?
(N) Well I don’t know whether we, the town, should go out and voluntarily say to the world, hey, here we are; look what we did. I think that people know what Teaneck did. Maybe some towns aren’t ready for what Teaneck did and I think if Teaneck tried to go out and push their own horns, it might have an adverse effect on some of the people. I think Teaneck has done it, sometimes quietly, sometimes with fanfare, but I think they can continue to control, not control, but to run their town the way they’ve been doing with forward thinking the way they have not only in planning but in all integration and business type of planning ahead. I think Teaneck will remain in the forefront.
(I) So you feel that more by example than by rhetoric?
(N) Absolutely, I think you get further that way then by going out tooting your own horn.
(I) I agree. Did I ask you before what you saw as the long-range future of Teaneck? You told us the immediate goals but
(N) Well again if you are talking in terms of building or real estate, or something like that, there is just not that much land left in Teaneck to build on. I think that fortunately or unfortunately, the lands that were given to the Bergen County Park Commission, if Teaneck had them back now, they could be probably some very nice ratable put down there along the highway. However, if you look at it another way, having a park there, I think is a tremendous amenity and an asset to the town because the park commission would improve that area and you couldn’t have a better entrance to a town than to come to a park-like setting.
(I) Exactly. So you think we should fight for our parkland?
(N) Oh, I think that parkland is essential, recreation land is essential. Teaneck I think has their share of open space for the residents and the county park lane down there is not only for Teaneck residents but also for all residents of the county and I think it has been well planned and I think, again, what better entrance can you have to a town than to drive through a park.
(I) Well Jim, I do thank you for your willingness to share your thoughts with us.
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