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The Master Planners
By Councilwoman Judith Glassman
You're driving along Route 4, your senses bombarded by an unpleasant assortment of signs, stores, and facilities on all sides, and suddenly you enter an oasis of green bordering the highway. "Well," you think. "Here is a community that bothered to think ahead." The community, you will note, is called Teaneck.
If you should get off the highway at that point, and take a ride through that community, your judgment would be reinforced. Here is a community where residential areas are coherent entities, interlaced with parks and trees; where single family homes pre-dominate, but where apartments can also be found; where commercial areas are available to meet the needs of the residents. Here, indeed, is a community that thought ahead.
Thinking ahead, otherwise known as planning, is not a common trait of communities. Although today it is required by state law, in the form of a master plan revised every six years, many towns had to be brought to the idea of planning kicking and screaming. Not so Teaneck, which wrote and adopted its first master plan all the way back in 1933, when the population was only 16,513. Under the leadership of Mayor Karl van Wagner, Planning Board Chairman Milton Votee, and Township Manager Paul Volcker, the township made many of the commitments then that enable us to reap the benefits that we enjoy today.
Parkland, including the green border along Route 4, is one example. Stating that Teaneck was "woefully lacking" in parks (the township owned virtually no parkland at that time), the plan set out a program for the purchase of such land, and for the development of some of it for recreation. The result today, as the most recent master plan (1979) reports, is 18 parks, consisting of 223 acres, in addition to the county-owned tract of over 400 acres known as Overpeck Park.
The variety of our housing, also unusual in suburban communities, is another example of paying attention to peoples' needs and planning ahead. The 1962 master plan shows the clarity of such thinking when it says, that while Teaneck's basic character as a single-family town must be kept intact: advantages of multi-family (low-density) housing should also be recognized.
As an urban planner, I am very proud of Teaneck's traditions with regard to planning head. But it's a tradition that we must continually renew by catching our problems early and watching the changes around us. Some time during this next year, it will again be time for the Planning Board to start work on a new master plan. In doing so, they will have new information from the 1980 census to guide them.
Some changes have occurred between 1970 and 1980: the number of people aged 30-34 went way up (36%); the number over' 65 went up less (9%) and those between 55 and 64 went down (11%). What do these changes mean about what we will need in terms of facilities, or housing? It's time to start thinking ahead again, and I'm confident that the officials and citizens of Teaneck will once again do us proud.
Teaneck Public Library
840 Teaneck Road, Teaneck, NJ 07666
Tel.: (201) 837-4171, Fax: (201) 837-0410