Teaneck Today

Teaneck is town with a unique and proud history. I’ve created this blog to provide a place to exchange ideas and share visions for how to solve the challenges facing the town in a manner that brings diverse groups of people together.  Contributors are welcome.

Please join us and help Teaneck live up to its promise.

I also created a Facebook Group where residents can bring up and discuss topics about the Township: Teaneck Today

Feel free to click the link, join and share with your neighbors.

Teaneck BOE Moves Forward with $6.9M+ Renovation Plans Presented at Special Meeting

The Record, in an article published on August 28th, 2019, discussed upcoming plans for conversion of the Eugene Field School and transfer of administrative offices from their current location in Eugene Field to Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

TEANECK — The township Board of Education is moving forward with a plan to convert Eugene Field School, which has been used for decades as the district’s administrative offices, into a prekindergarten school.

The district plans to spend $2.4 million on renovations to Eugene Field School, $455,000 to rid the building of asbestos and $2.75 million on modular buildings that will house the administration, under a measure the board approved last week.

Both projects and the respective costs were discussed at the Board of Education meeting of Sept. 18th, 2019.

Special Meeting Held

After contacting several members of the board of education, two trustees have confirmed that bids for the projects were received / discussed.  They also confirmed that costs were presented at the Special Board of Education Meeting held yesterday.

While no formal action was listed on yesterday’s agenda*, following the presentation, a “walk-on motion” was submitted to approve the projects.
You can see a copy of the resolution here: Continue reading “Teaneck BOE Moves Forward with $6.9M+ Renovation Plans Presented at Special Meeting”

Holy Name’s CEO to neighbors: Nice streets you got there…

… it would be a shame if anything were to happen to them.

Holy Name hospital sent out the letter below to residents regarding the parking disputes with neighbors.

Starting a few years ago, Holy Name began requiring employees to park off-site and take shuttles to the hospital.

“Street parking around the hospital is creating difficulties for many neighbors. Holy Name, being very conscious of our mandate to be an understanding and supporting neighbor instituted a No Street Parking Policy for all our employees and contractors several years ago. We currently have over 300 employees parking at the Glenpointe and we are shuttling these employees from the Glenpointe to the hospital. We have also instructed all employees not to use the Township streets to park their vehicles. Hospital employees found in violation of this policy have been disciplined and even terminated.”

However, due to costs constraints, they chose to abandon plans (which were approved by the township) for parking structures, in favor of purchasing residential lots and creating parking areas in the residential zones — to the dissatisfaction of many neighbors. Continue reading “Holy Name’s CEO to neighbors: Nice streets you got there…”

125 Years of Teaneck

125 Years

It’s an honor to represent everyone in Teaneck – and from our family to yours, I wish you a Happy New Year full of health, happiness and growth.

This year, we celebrate Teaneck’s 125th anniversary.

In January of 1895, residents around these parts voted to create a new entity, to be known as the Township of Teaneck.


History of Teaneck

March 16, 2020, will mark the 125th Anniversary of the first meeting of Teaneck’s Township Committee in the Sunday School chapel on Washington Avenue (later renamed Teaneck Road).  Minutes of the meeting show that street lighting was the first order of business; new electric lamps started to replace the gas & naphtha lamps on Cedar Lane, starting in 1896.

Click Here to continue reading a Brief History of Teaneck

On February 13, 1895, the residents of Teaneck (pop. 811) desiring their own political identity, voted to break from Englewood and Ridgefield Townships creating a new municipality.

March 16, 2020, will mark the 125th Anniversary of the first meeting of Teaneck’s Township Committee in the Sunday School chapel on Washington Avenue (later renamed Teaneck Road).  Minutes of the meeting show that street lighting was the first order of business; new electric lamps started to replace the gas & naphtha lamps on Cedar Lane, starting in 1896.

Our history, however, must begin with the Lenape Indians, the native inhabitants of our land who language likely originated the township’s name – “Teaneck,” meaning “place where the trees are”. The contributions of William Walter Phelps, who moved here in 1865, likewise deserve note. Phelps’ estate owned 2,000+ acres of land in the heart of what would become Teaneck (his home sat on the present-day Municipal Green), profoundly influencing our borders, as the Town grew around his holdings. Originally a community of farms and summer vacation homes for the affluent, land sales by the Phelps estate enabled the swift development of new homes for a growing population.

125 years ago, law and order were maintained by two constables.  The arrival of automobiles brought complaints from longtime residents. Safety regulations were adopted and by 1914, the township created a full-time police force, adding officers as we grew. Today, the TPD is a professional organization, handling thousands of calls every year on behalf of residents.

By 1915, the volunteer fire associations were brought together and organized into the Municipal Fire Company.  As homes increased, so did firefighting needs.  Paid firefighters started to complement volunteers in 1920, eventually increasing in number, until a completely professional force was established.  Today, the TFD remains one of several professional fire organizations within the county meeting the daily needs of 40,000+ residents and businesses.

Telephone service arrived in 1913 and the Department of Public Works was established in 1917. Our library was opened in 1923 to little fanfare. Holy Name hospital opened in 1925 on Phelp’s land and ruins from a fire at the Phelps home were razed to make room for the Municipal Grounds.  After the death of Phelps’ wife in 1929, his estate started to open their land for sale to developers in earnest.

Additional residents created the need for schools. Longfellow School was erected in 1910, followed by Emerson (1916), Whittier (1923), Hawthorne (1925), Bryant (1927), Teaneck High School (1929) and Lowell (1935).   When Teaneck High School opened, it had 650 pupils.  Dr. Charles Little, the principal of Teaneck High School, purchased 16 acres of land, and opened Bergen Junior College in 1931 (later to become Fairleigh Dickinson University) along River Road.

Detailed plans for sewers, roads, electricity, water and more were the subject of meetings before local committees and planning sessions.  Debt mounted.

Teaneck’s population rose 300% between 1920 and 1930 (from 4,192 to 16,513 residents).  471 houses were built in 1926 alone.  Residents demanded more crosswalks, more street signs, more trains, garbage collection, a footpath, a trolley bridge and additional streetlights.

But as all times of transition bring with them challenges, the addition of the Depression brought a heavy burden.  We edged ever closer to financial ruin.

Bankruptcies increased; the Town found itself largely in debt. Areas of current West Englewood were nicknamed “mortgage heights”. Some bankrupted land was used for public projects, such as our Central Park (later renamed Votee Park).  WPA projects, such as the armory and schools, can still be seen.

The opening of the GWB and Route 4 (at a time when additional Phelps property was being sold for development) meant another large growth spurt was on the horizon.

Between 1930 and 1960, the population would more than double, from 16,500 to its current size.

A Change in Government

In 1930, a referendum passed by the people moved Teaneck to a City-Manager form of government.  This would prove to have profound long-term consequences.

Under the new plan, five non-partisan councilmembers, elected for 4 year terms, handled policy and legislation. Electing a mayor from among themselves, the council would choose a manager to handle Teaneck’s staff and day-to-day operations.

Leaders Emerged

The choice of Paul Volcker as the first manager, was fortuitous.  Mr. Volcker, a civil engineer with previous management experience in Cape May, made quick work bringing an auditor to help in sorting out debts.  It would take years to untangle the complicated finances of a town on the verge of bankruptcy.  Volcker used every tool at his disposal, even working as the Town Engineer, at a salary of just $1, to save money for the budgets.  He would bypass bonding agents and sell directly to bankers, to save on fees.

Under his leadership, we moved to civil service hiring, eliminating many of the politically motivated problems faced by our neighbors.

Milton Votee was mayor for 12 of these formative years (starting in 1934) and helped guide the Township through many planning decisions.  No matter was left to chance. Lengthy discussions on everything from hot dog stands to the number of parks for children, were the subject of lengthy debate before council & statutory boards.

In a relatively short time, the Township became a model for the world.

This isn’t hyperbole!  The US Army chose Teaneck from among 10,000 communities, to show residents of occupied Japan and Germany how to rebuild from the brink of collapse, after WWII.

A Community Open to All

While the foregoing may paint a picture of a town in ascension, it should be noted that many obstacles stood to be overcome.

In the post-war era, black residents and other minorities were actively kept out of some areas of the community; realtors wouldn’t even show them around. Nefarious real estate agents created fear through block-busting. The people of Teaneck responded.

Civic groups were quickly organized.  A resident at the time might see “House Not For Sale” signs on homes.  Unscrupulous agents fomenting the fear behind blockbusting were beaten back.

An advisory board on community relations was formed. It worked to bring community members together and foster open communication.  Still functioning, it has handled many tasks since its original call, including in the aftermath of a racially charged shooting in the 1990s.

The First Town to Voluntarily Integrate

As one section of the township school system saw minority enrollment rising in the 1960s, the Board of Education hired Dr. Scribner as superintendent.  Together he and the board created a formal busing plan to deal with enrollment disparities within schools.

By 1965, after a contentious vote of 7-2, Teaneck would be known throughout the Country as the first municipality to voluntarily integrate its school system.

Another Era of Growth

The Township reached its highest populations (just over 42k residents), as growth accelerated again in the 1970s.

The Glenpointe complex and plans for other areas became the topic of contentious debates over the need for tax ratables.

In 1987, partly fueled by the development decisions, residents voted by referendum to adopt the Council-Manager form of the Faulkner Act.  Under this system, seven councilmembers are chosen every other year in staggered elections.

Teaneck Today

Today, Teaneck is a vibrant and diverse community with over 25 parks, nearly 50 houses of worship and multiple business districts. Technology and innovation have enabled the township to better serve residents.  In 1998, Teaneck purchased a website to place information online. Agendas, meeting calendars and minutes to track the business of the township can now be accessed by all. Soon, we will deploy a new generation of software to better serve the residents’ needs. Reports and requests can now be submitted electronically.

In the period of 125 years, we moved from 1,000 foot frontages of farms / mills and scattered vacation homes for the elite, to a municipality serving the needs of a diverse citizenry.

With meticulous planning and experts to guide us, we managed near financial collapse, grew departments, schools and services.

We rose to challenges together, staying true to the goals of non-partisan government with a fiercely cultivated multiculturalism.  We continue to tackle social issues as we find our path to the future.

Over the coming weeks and months, we hope you will join us as the Library and Township provide historical information about the Town and those that have worked so hard to make us stand out amongst our neighbors.

Happy 125th Birthday, Teaneck.


On This Day

Click below to see what happened on

Continue reading “125 Years of Teaneck”

[VIDEO] Protecting Our Community – Important Community Safety Meeting

Please Join Elie Y. Katz, Mark Schwartz, Ora Kornbluth & Keith Kaplan this Thursday, January 2, 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM


Protecting Our Community

“What You Need To Know About Safety & Security Throughout Our Town”

Topics will include:

  • Safety in the Shopping Districts
  • Bias Crimes
  • Planning, development, organization and implementation of safety & security programs
  • Development & maintenance of cooperative relationships with local public safety officials
  • Inspection of buildings, & grounds to ensure compliance with safety & security regulations

Invited Speakers: Continue reading “[VIDEO] Protecting Our Community – Important Community Safety Meeting”

Nominating Petitions for 2020 Municipal Election Available Beginning Thursday, January 2, 2020

Nominating Petitions for 2020 Municipal Election Available Beginning Thursday, January 2, 2020

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:  Doug Ruccione, Acting Township Clerk
Telephone:  (201) 837-1600, ext. 1025
Email:  clerk@teanecknj.gov

Nominating Petitions for 2020 Municipal Election Available Beginning Thursday, January 2, 2020 Continue reading “Nominating Petitions for 2020 Municipal Election Available Beginning Thursday, January 2, 2020”

Hotel Tax Revenue Numbers

We just received the Hotel Tax revenue numbers from our CFO.

Hotel Occupancy Tax

The 2019 hotel tax revenue (excluding December) is $830,425.44.

This amount represents an approximately 29.4% increase over the final 2018 number of $641,689.32.  And will rise when December numbers are added into the mix.

Property Tax Increase

The prior parking lot in this space brought in a mere $18,819 in yearly tax revenue and is projected to grow to $1,600,000 in 2019.

Additional Revenue

The Township also realized approximately $381,000 in building permit fees.

Park Avenue

One question we get a lot is: How do we do something about cars racing down the block?

The first step is to make the township aware of the situation.  You can reach out to the manager directly (or contact one of your councilmembers).

When the residents of Park Avenue recently came before council, the police performed a traffic study, consulted the Uniform Traffic Control Manual and suggestions from the Teaneck Police Traffic Bureau were requested.

The Township just finished with traffic calming measures, today.

Thermoplastic paint was used (straight lines) in accordance with the Engineering plan. Changes include marked crosswalks, narrower traffic lanes, and a double yellow center line.

The Selective Call For Strict Enforcement

Yesterday, I deleted a posting that conflated a Board of Adjustment approving variances, with the act of spot zoning.  Sadly, this is common retort, sometimes from those that do not understand the nature of zoning rules and other times, from those trying to cast aspersions on the process.

Since it provided very little information and clouded the issue, I thought a post on the topic may make fore a better, more informed discussion.
(In the interest of transparency, you can see his post here)

Do variances ignore zoning?

The short answer is: No.  Variances don’t ignore zoning;  they are fundamentally an inextricable part of the system.

Want proof?  Let’s start in September of 1948, as additional land in the State Street area was starting to open for development.

Ordinance 878: An Ordinance Amending and Supplementing an Ordinance Entitled:

An Ordinance limiting and restricting to specified districts and regulating therein buildings and structures according to their construction and the volume and extend of their use; Regulating and restricting the height, number of stories and size of buildings and other structures, regulating and restricting the percentage of lot occupied, the size of yards, courts and other open spaces, the density of population; Regulating and Restricting the location, use, and extent of use of buildings and structures for trade, industry and other purposes; Establishing a Board of Adjustment; And Providing Penalties for the violation thereof. (emphasis added)

Notice that the establishment of a Board of Adjustment is part of the zoning ordinance?

That’s important to note.

In passing the zoning ordinance dealing with density, height and various other aspects, council knew that there were going to be times that a strict adherence would be against the property rights of some owners — and took measures to deal with that potentiality.

Dr. Haggerty thought the very fact that Council had established in this ordinance a Board of Adjustment indicated that they did not expect it would be perfect and problems could be brought before this Board. He noted that Teaneck has a reputation throughout the country as being a township of home owners. He felt this ordinance tended to “upgrade” certain sections of the Township.” (emphasis added)

Mayor Brett also stated that this ordinance was probably not perfect, but that it was a step in the right direction, that the Council were honestly trying to do the best thing for the Township as they see it, and if it does need revision, there is the Board of Adjustment and the Courts.” (emphasis added)
– Minutes of 9/7/48 on the passage of Ordinance 878

Role of the Zoning Board of Adjustment

The zoning board of adjustment was created by our zoning ordinance, as an independent quasi-judicial body.  The board hears evidence and decides, based on testimony, whether or not a requested variance is appropriate.  Most important to note is that when they decide, they are acting in accordance with the procedure that created the zoning laws.

There are many criticisms of applications before the board of adjustment and this post is not about the merits (or lack thereof) of any particular critique.

But there is no question, that the board of adjustment was created to deal with exceptions.
Nor is there a question that future exceptions were contemplated when the zoning laws were drafted.

“[T]he men and women who come Teaneck and build or buy their homes have created the value on this piece of land… and they are the ones who are entitled to consideration. He stated he did not know if he was in favor of the ordinance as it stands, but that he might want to see it changed somewhat. He believed there could be zones where exceptions to the stringent regulations could be accepted, and for that reason he would like to consider the ordinance more before he passed on it.” (emphasis added)
Councilman Milton Votee

“Councilman Votee agreed with Councilman Deissler that the home owner is the one who owns most of the land and should therefore be the one to be considered. He said he would vote for the ordinance tonight with the understanding exceptions can be made.” (emphasis added)
– Minutes from the hear of Ordinance 878

A Sordid History

When it comes to claims of strict enforcement of zoning, many times, advocates focus on specific zoning rules, ignoring the relief valves that were intentionally created by them.  One extreme example residents may remember occurred in the 70’s when opposition to a synagogue located in a residential zone grew to a fever pitch.

In 1974, when Beth Aaron was denied a variance for a synagogue on Queen Anne Road by the Board of Adjustment, the Court found they acted inappropriately.  The decision to appeal deadlocked 3-3, with one of the dissenting votes, Martin Cramer, stating, “the best reason not to appeal was that such a move could endanger the entire zoning code.”

A few years later, in 1979, when a Rinat Yisroel wanted to obtain a variance, some 200 letters came pouring in from residents, urging the Council to interfere with the variance process.  Residents insisted that the township “uphold[] the laws “which were written to protect my personal and property rights”, as per a statement from Mayor Hall.

The Mayor also went on in response:

“To begin with, the laws which were written to protect a citizen’s personal and property rights are the same laws that created the Board of Adjustment.  This statutory board has an obligation, among others, to determine whether strict observance of the zoning ordinance is unfairly depriving a property owner of the use of his property.

If the Council were to announce that it will not approve any variance for a house of worship on a sub-standard lot in a residential area, as this letter requests, then the Board of Adjustment could discontinue hearing any applications for such variances. The only problem is that the Council probably would end up as a defendant in a court case — charged with violating the very laws we are being called upon to uphold.” (emphasis added)
– Statement of Mayor Frank Hall on 5/22/79

There’s an old legal aphorism that goes, “If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table.”
When someone tells you that the Board of Adjustment isn’t respecting the zoning, they are pounding that table.
You can point out to them, that not only is the point of the board of adjustment to fix issues with the zoning law when appropriate — the law they want to stringently control the use of land is in fact the same law that created the board they are trying to ignore.