Rt. 4 upgrades coming at Decatur Ave.

In September, the Township manager sent a letter to the NJ Department of Transportation regarding the unsafe condition of the Route 4 Decatur Avenue ramps.

Manager Kazinci just received word that the NJ Department of Transportation has agreed to widen and reconstruct the ramps on Route 4 by Decatur Avenue to accommodate traffic.

Updates Schedule for Spring, 2020

The interim changes should be in place next spring.  The Township will work with the NJ DOT and provide updates as the date gets closer.

Traffic Study Sceduled

A traffic study will also be performed to ensure “the site is brought into conformance with all state and national roadway standards”.

(click below for DOT letter)

Continue reading “Rt. 4 upgrades coming at Decatur Ave.”

A Developing Story in Teaneck

I took this picture this morning at the corner of State Street and Teaneck Road.

In the foreground on the left is the pre-war apartments by Lozier Place.
On the right in the background is 1500 Teaneck Road.

Both appear very similar in height and other than the new materials, neither looks like a stark departure from what is already found in the area.

The 1500 Teaneck Road project (see schematics here) will add approximately $1,160,000 in taxes each year, with additional money going towards municipal open space.

It will also create 23 new affordable housing units (1-bedroom (4), 2-bedroom (14) and 3-bedroom (5).

It will also contain 435 parking spaces.

(additional info can be found here)

Of note is the previous condition of 1500 Teaneck Road.  Notice the numerous broken windows in the dilapidated structure that lined the neighborhood for years and years.

This is a wonderful addition to the community, will create foot traffic for our business districts and make Teaneck a more desirable place to live.

Teaneck (and NJ) Should Adopt Ranked Choice Voting

In last May’s Atlantic, Jonathan Haidt has a very powerful article in which he talks about ways to “harden democratic institutions“.

I encourage you to read it in full.  One topic he covers is how to “reduce the outsize influence of angry extremists and make legislators more responsive to the average voter”.

He notes:

“One example of such a reform is to end closed party primaries, replacing them with a single, nonpartisan, open primary from which the top several candidates advance to a general election that also uses ranked-choice voting.”

Teaneck already is non-partisan without primaries, so we are 2/3 of the way there.  We should adopt ranked-choice voting.


In 2019, NY’ers went to the polls and brought “Ranked Choice Voting” to the Empire State.  The measure had nearly 74% of the votes cast in favor and it went into effect starting in 2021.

We should follow their lead.  We wouldn’t be the first in NJ (Hoboken did so last year) and it wouldn’t go into effect until the State legislature authorizes RCV in the Garden State.  But like Hoboken, we can have it ready to go.

The ballot question will be triggered if and when the state government passes legislation that enables municipalities to adopt RCV, an option not available under current state election law.

Not only would this be a blow to those with entrenched power in the highest State offices, but the benefits would also be seen all the way downstream to Town Council and Board of Education spots.

It would be great to get this everywhere in New Jersey, if possible —  but even Teaneck would do well switching to RCV.

How Ranked Choice Balloting works:

“In ranked-choice elections, voters don’t pick just their favorites. They’re also allowed, though not required, to rank everyone else on the ballot in order of preference. If no candidate wins a majority the first time around, there’s an instant runoff. The candidate who garnered the fewest first-place votes is dropped. The votes he or she got are transferred to whoever the voters listed next on their ballots. The process continues until someone gets a majority. Here’s a diagram showing how it worked in Maine’s Democratic gubernatorial primary in 2018.”

Our current elections tend to see turnout in dismal numbers.

Board of Education election in non-Presidential years show: 7,617 voters or 25.66% out of over 27,000+ who are registered.  Even Council elections in November show a substantial drop-off from Federal to local ballots, as trends from other towns show.

We used to do much better.

And for those that did come out, a number of factors, including some strategic thinking, tend to penetrate choices in the ballot box.

To learn why Ranked Choice Voting would benefit us, let’s take a step back and see how we arrived where we are.

March 16th, 1895: Teaneck incorporates with a 3 member Township Committee

“A meeting of the Township Committee was held at the Teaneck Chapel, for the purpose of organizing. Meeting called to order by Ex-Township Clerk Cornelius Terhune at 11 a.m. who formally turned over to The Township Clerk the Ballot Box Certificate of returns of Election and Poll Clerk’s Affidavit.

The members of the Town Committee were duly sworn by the Township Clerk, who then formally called the meeting to order.”

Skipping forward a bit…. as the town got larger, the Council became 5 and eventually 7 members.

In 1962, 17 men ran for Council.  At the time, all council positions were elected at the same time.

These are the vote totals (winners are highlighted):

Candidate Votes Candidate Votes
Sherwood Bradford Menkes 7057 Matthew Feldman 8400
James P. Tarras 2896 Thomas J. Costa 8268
Max A. Hasse, Jr. 7672 Robert Holmes Henderson 4089
William W. Brett 3080 John Einberger 1503
John K. Walsh 5933 George Gori 1488
Morris Cohen 3088 John A. Lee 1935
Howard Siegel 2499 William J. Russell 2079
Samuel P. Bartoletta 6192 Harry W. Wolf 2607
William E. Baker 2116

With roughly 42,000+ residents, with the exception of one person, the winners had between 5,933 and 8,400 votes.

53 percent of eligible voters came out and 70,902 votes were cast.

At the next election, in 1966, the vote totals started to rise (winners highlighted):

Candidate Votes Candidate Votes
Sherwood Bradford Menkes 5698 John K. Walsh 5667
Robert H. Henderson 4436 Marian Cerf 4315
Max A. Hasse, Jr. 6271 Isaac G. McNatt 4368
William Brett 3619 Morris Cohen 1828
Lawrence Wolfberg 4041 Samuel Goodstein 1728
John P. Dougherty 4691 Bernard J. Bergton 2740
Thomas J. Costa 6051 Kivie Dornfeld 2709
Francis E. Hall 4848 Peter F. Zeleny 2588
Rolf Feder 4114

48 percent of eligible voters came out and cast 69,712 votes.

Year Percent of registered voters casting ballots
1958 42%
1962 53%
1966 48%

Another concern expressed by Mayor Feldman at the time was the use of “bullet voting“.

“To those who did come out, but who voted for less than seven candidates, I also want to express my concern. Many people did not use all their seven votes; the total of available votes shows a discrepancy of 5,902 votes from the total of potential votes for all 17 candidates. That’s almost 6,000 wasted votes.

I suspect that this bullet voting is motivated in large part by the commonly held belief that the high man in .the voting is entitled ·to the post of mayor. For that reason, I am seriously considering a change in the election law which would separate the candidates for Mayor from the candidates for Council. I believe that this might at least reduce the, amount of bullet voting.”

Increasing participation and voter turnout have been vexing problems to solve.

It could very well be that some people wish not to be bothered.  It could also be the case that some people are so satisfied with the administration of our community, and therefore did not bother to vote.

Whatever the reasons, various tweaks were contemplated over the years, including staggering elections (which would happen in 1988), and even moving to a ward system, as a way of motivating people to come out to the polls (this was rejected).

November 3, 1987:

Voting on a public question to adopt staggered elections for seven members of council, the results were:

In Favor 4408
Opposed 4230

And that brings us to our present form of voting.  When we went to the polls this November, did you vote for all four candidates?  The numbers show a significant numbers of votes available to people showing up, we’re not cast.

Today, bullet voting continues due to strategic voting by residents.

Did you bullet vote to ensure your top one or two candidates were the ones that didn’t get eliminated by your third pick edging them out of the win column?

The beauty of ranked-choice-voting is that these issues get eliminated.  There is no longer a benefit to bullet voting, and those who may not be your “strategic” pick, can still be your reasoned choice.

This gives us benefits and has virtually no drawbacks.

We should insist NJ adopt it or put it on the ballot for a referendum by the people.
NY was 74% in favor.  I think we can do better.

Dog-Whistle Politics? An Open Question for Teaneck’s A Team

One of the benefits to running on a slate is that you get to work on coordinating messaging.
Below are the responses from “The A Team” to questions posed by the League of Women Voters.

Question: Who is this certain “demographic” that will create an inability to meet the demands of the changing “demographic” due to the change in “demographics“?

  • Linda Burns:

3.  What impact do you anticipate the influx of new apartment development will have on the Teaneck public schools and how should the district plan for this?

The Teaneck school district commissioned a study to gauge the impact of the near-term development projects on our school system and both have found that we can currently absorb the estimated 150 or so children expected to arrive. However, although the apartment complexes are being marketed as ‘luxury’ apartments with the expectation that a certain demographic will be renting them, there are no guarantees that those in the market for luxury apartments will indeed be the ones that rent those units. Currently, one of the completed projects is having difficulty renting out their units at the amount of rent they are asking for. In addition, the Pre-K program could be a pipeline to increase overall enrollment in the district. Therefore, I think that long term planning should allow for the possibility that enrollment will increase over time.

What demographic are you referring to here, Ms. Burns?

  • Denise Sanders

2.  What do you see as benefits and/ or challenges of offering Pre-K?

Although there is controversy about whether Pre-K programs are beneficial, it doesn’t mean there is no value in a high-quality Pre-K program. In a diverse community like Teaneck, we need to seriously look at implementing programs that work to elevate the academic achievement of all students with different learning styles. While the long -term benefits of Pre-K have mixed results, we believe that by appropriately supporting students as they move through our school system, students will be the beneficiaries of a world- class education. In addition, Pre-K provides high quality childcare for young parents helping to make Teaneck become a sought-after community for new families. A significant challenge would be the inability to meet the demands of the changing demographic groups attending Teaneck schools.

What demographic changes are you referring to, Ms. Sanders?

  • Sebastian Rodriguez

3.  What impact do you anticipate the influx of new apartment development will have on the Teaneck public schools and how should the district plan for this?

Based on the reports I have read, in terms of children attending the public schools the effect seems to be minimal, about 60 children. The numbers, spread among different ages/grades will have an insignificant impact on class size. So from that aspect, I expect a positive impact. On the other hand, anytime you have a change in the demographics of any community it is important for the newcomers, as well the people who already reside there to find ways to get to know each other and work together to continue to improve the community.

What demographic changes are you referring to, Mr. Rodriguez?

Enough with the politics of division.  We need board members that will work collaboratively for everyone’s benefit.