Historical Perspectives on “New Problems”

Since joining the Teaneck Planning Board (about a decade ago), I’ve spent a lot of time researching how we did things, in the past.

I use that information to gain perspective, and guide decisions on what we might wish to do, going forward.  When you know what has been tried (for better or worse), you gain a good perspective.

Issues residents face tend to be cyclical1 and knowing how we handled them in the past, is very informative if you want to avoid prior mistakes2.

With that in mind, I hope to make several posts in the future about issues affecting Teaneck, that we face on Council.


A couple weeks back, a resident asked, via the Facebook group Teaneck Today (click to join)  “has there ever been an audit on the effectiveness of Teaneck’s street lighting?

In reading minutes of prior meetings and reviewing how we handled lighting requirements, I had noticed that these types of audits and reports had been done periodically in the past, and I requested the manager look into this.

[Status: At our last meeting in February, I was informed that PSE&G has been contacted to create such an audit]

Meanwhile, this is an excellent example of one of those issues that periodically comes up again and again. In fact, it was literally, the first order of business after we were organized into a Municipality.

Here is page 2 from the minutes from our first meeting, which took place on March 16, 1895.

Lights, Motion was duly made and carried that a committee be appointed to ascertain how many lights now in the Township, and report number of lights needed.

In the first major attempt to extend light on our roads in the 1940’s, the lighting surveys were apparently complicated by the fact we were requested to black out the lights by the war department:

Councilman Deissler also suggested that a survey be made as soon as possible of the lighting system of the Toimship as a whole. He said that during the war, the lights were blacked out, but that condition is now past. He feels that the people of Teaneck are paying for 200w lighting and getting about 20w. He suggested that we either get new bulbs, or loner arms on the fixtures on the side streets. He suggested starting a program.

The Mayor added this might be a good job for the Deputy Manager.
– Minutes of Feb. 3, 1948

(for those curious as to what happened back in the 40’s — the manager received a report back from Public Service Electric and Gas, which recommended a few changes. They then created a committee to look into the lighting issue. Councilman Votee, at the time stated: “that men of great affluence be omitted from the Committee, but that it rather include poor citizens who can and will work it out at the least expense”.)

The committee met several times in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.  PSE&G sent an expert representative to meet with them.  Several spots were identified, and new lighting was installed.

Their reports laid the groundwork for future projects.

Concerning the report of the Street Lighting Advisory Committee, Mr. Deissler stated he thought this was a very comprehensive report, giving some very enlightening information, and while the Council has not had time to discuss it or study it, he did think Council could build up from it a plan for the future lighting of Teaneck over a period of years. He commended the Committee for the wonderful job they had done.

– Minutes of Sept. 20th, 1949

In the early 50’s and then again in the early 60’s (and beyond), street lighting modernization programs changed the types of bulbs and systems used. Each time, representatives met with town committees to determine needs and updated plans.

Whether it’s 1895, post-WWII, or today, some issues are going to constantly reappear on our dockets.  It may be true that ‘s truly nothing new, but with a little help, we can be better prepared to know what has worked (or what has not) from our past, to guide us going forward.

I look forward to receiving the audit and will share it as soon as it arrives.

In the meantime, where do you think we need lighting added, most?

  1.  there’s nothing new under the sun
  2. those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it