April 9, 2024
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Is Teaneck Full? It’s Up to Us

The Link has been discussing whether Teaneck is full (“Teaneck is Full,” June 1, 2023), (“Teaneck Is Full?” June 22, 2023). I was raised in Teaneck, currently live in a Teaneck apartment, and strongly believe there is something special about our town. I do not believe that Teaneck is full, because
Teaneck is not full. There is plenty of room, if we allow for it. Recent letters point out that we have affordable apartments in town, and that there are builders who would be eager to build more. But the apartments are full, rents are rising and empty nesters and retirees are (Baruch Hashem) living longer and remaining in their homes. Something needs to change.

For more than 50 years, Teaneck has had “single family” zoning. That means that only one family can live on any given lot. It is currently illegal to build a two-family house, the likes of which you’ll find all over the country, from Tenafly to Los Angeles, and all over Israel. That means that if you have an “in-law suite,” it’s likely illegal or you need a variance. Teaneck’s existing Master Plan calls for, as its primary objectives, the preservation of single family zoning.

Single family zoning is one of the main impediments to older residents being able to right-size their homes while staying in their communities. These laws are what forces many young people, like myself, to start in “the apartments” and then leave Teaneck. And these rules are now being reexamined, across the country, across the state, and right here in Teaneck.

“Accessory Dwelling Units” were discussed at the recent town council meeting. ADUs are small apartment-like units that you can add on to your house or build in your backyard. They’re perfect for young couples or retirees so your kids or parents can move in “with you” while maintaining their own space. In California, Princeton and Jersey City, they’re becoming a crucial way to make housing and aging in place more affordable with minimal impact to the form of a neighborhood. They enable multi-generational households ensuring strong transmission of our core values.

But we can’t stop there. On June 14, the township officially kicked off a Master Plan process. Our last Master Plan was developed in 2007, before COVID, before EVs, before Sandy, before the iPhone. It is a document rooted in the 20th century. It is a document that cares more about the shape of houses and trees than the people and communities that make Teaneck special. The expansion of houses of worship has been included under “Major Problems.”

The new Master Plan will shape the future of Teaneck. The new Master Plan will decide whether apartments in Teaneck are still a great way to join our community. The new Master Plan will define whether housing will be a zero sum game between the young and the old or if there are new ways to enhance our multi-generational community.

In short, the new Master Plan will answer whether “Teaneck is full.” I believe the answer is no. But only if we are engaged, if we speak up, and if we vote.

Michael Rochlin
Teaneck

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