Which One Is It?
Councilman Jason Castle was quoted in the Bergen Record on March 4 as saying, “Everybody assumes that campaigns cost thousands upon thousands of dollars, but they don’t.” I find it conflicting that Castle would state that and also state in the same article that he “had not taken part in the day to day administrative tasks.” Which one is it? Either Councilman Castle knows how much campaigns cost, or he was not involved in the day to day and does not know. The state complaint shows Castle’s campaign having two different lawn signs, several full-page newspaper ads, large parties, glossy literature, town-wide mailings (population 39,000), robo calls and the hiring of Dave Parano, a professional political consultant who runs state campaigns for Loretta Weinberg. If Castle is still not sure how much campaigns cost, he should just look up the filings of those council members that did file reports. Jason Castle may have “pulled the wool over the reporters’ eyes,” but he did not fool the Teaneck residents.
Eric M. Orgen
‘Mindless Chase for Residential Ratables’ Will Cost Teaneck
Residential development does not bring tax relief. You cannot solve a “crushing tax burden” by adding residential development. It’s impossible. Nobody believes that.
Significant commercial ratables reduces tax burdens; it’s the only proven path to tax relief.
In Teaneck our tax rate is just over $3 and our commercial ratables are 12 percent of the total. We have the seventh worst property tax rate of 70 municipalities in Bergen County as of 2015. Our tax burden is almost double the rate in Paramus of $1.58, which gets almost half its taxes from commercial ratables.
Since Elie Katz took office last century, there’s been little to no meaningful commercial development in any of our business districts. The $2 million that Walgreen’s will add on Cedar Lane is a tiny drop added to our $5 billion in ratables. The three largest plans—at World of Wings, the Verizon Building and 1475 Palisade Avenue—will have zero retail space. Alfred Avenue’s rezoning plan allows a maximum of five percent retail. We not only aren’t getting commercial ratables, we’re actually forbidding it.
If we can’t convince a developer to build even a handful of stores on Teaneck Road, our most trafficked shopping strip, with thousands upon thousands of people driving through every single day, what are we doing wrong?
Why isn’t Teaneck attracting the commercial development that can actually help with taxes?
There are five major obstacles:
1) Poor tax climate: Along the Route 4 corridor, our tax rate is almost 30 percent higher than Englewood, almost 50 percent higher than Fort Lee and 90 percent higher than the rate in Paramus on an equalized dollar-for-dollar basis. Why? Out of control spending by our council, up 25 percent from 2008 to 2014, more than two and a half times the rate of inflation. Englewood has 23 percent of its tax revenue from commercial property; Paramus has 45 percent; Teaneck has 12 percent. We spend way too much and we don’t have commercial taxpayers to foot the bill.
2) Poor infrastructure: Our roads, sewers and other critical infrastructure are falling apart. We’ve paved barely five miles of roads over the past four years and we have more than 100 miles that we’re responsible for. Where has our Council spent your infrastructure dollars? On an Old Police Building that was a million dollars over budget. On a Sportsplex with $583,000 in bells and whistles, including a press box, but not a single bathroom.
3) Poor customer service: Developers pay careful attention to the quality and timing of our permitting and approval process. Unfortunately, our Building Department has a horrific reputation with builders and developers, who run away from Teaneck.
4) Disregard of Master Plan: Every single project being proposed is in conflict with the 2007 Master Plan. Every project required significant amendments, waivers and giveaways that only benefit the developer and harm the surrounding community. The Master Plan clearly specifies mixed-use on Teaneck Road, and this entrenched majority has ignored that, preferring to harm neighbors on Amsterdam Avenue like George Tejada and destroying our neighborhoods in the process.
5) Backroom deals: We have an out-of-control Zoning Subcommittee that sold out to Avalon Bay by agreeing to a buyout of $30,000 for each affordable unit that would cost the township up to $150,000. Most disturbingly, the Zoning Subcommittee members—Hameeduddin, Katz and Pruitt—walked out in the middle of the January 12 council meeting to meet with BNE Realty in the backroom of the Municipal Building and gave away a building height of 66 feet at the Verizon Building, almost double the 35-foot height allowed by the Master Plan and with none of the mixed-use retail space the Master Plan mandates.
As the first sentence in The Jewish Link article (“Report Identifies $6 Million in New Tax Revenue,” March 3, 2016) states, “creating an environment ripe and inviting for developers is the key to relieving Teaneck of its crushing tax burden.” The problem is that the folks who’ve created that “crushing tax burden” are the ones who least understand how to solve it.
The mindless chase for residential ratables, adding thousands of new apartments and new residents in a remarkably short time, will cost Teaneck far more than it can possibly bring in, adding to our costs and wiping out any new revenue, while destroying the suburban character of our township.
High municipal taxes, up 25 percent over the six years through 2014, and one of the county’s highest tax rates. Rotting infrastructure and roads riddled with potholes. An uncourteous and ineffective Building Department. A Master Plan that is routinely ignored. And worst of all, we are burdened with an entrenched majority who have raised your taxes and tripled our debt in just eight years, and a Zoning Subcommittee who have sold our township out to the lowest bidder, destroying the suburban fabric of Teaneck and failing to bring in commercial ratables.
You don’t need to be an Einstein to know that this entrenched majority cannot solve Teaneck’s problems with the same thinking they used when they created them. It’s time for a change.
Councilman Alan Sohn
Tikkun Olam, One Box at a Time
I was so impressed when I read my shul’s shabbos announcements that Yeshivat Noam’s 7th graders were collecting boxes of pasta for Tomchei Shabbos and The Jewish Federation Hunger Drive. They weren’t just collecting pasta, they were collecting mitzvos. Their brilliant idea of having shul goers use boxes of pasta on Purim as graggers during megillah reading, and then to donate those same boxes was an easy and meaningful way for people to do several mitzvos all at one time. Kol hakavod to those creative 7th graders, helping us all do tikkun olam, one box at a time.
‘Thank You’ to the West Orange Jewish Community
I live in Raanana, Israel and serve in the IDF in an elite combat unit. Over the past few months we have spent a lot of time in the “shetach,” in the Carmel Forest area. On base we have nothing but a few tents, a couple of storage containers and a “mobile” shul with a Sefer Torah that many years ago you kindly donated to the IDF. On behalf of my unit, thank you so much! Thanks to your wonderful community, we are able to daven three times a day in the shul, we have both a physical and spiritual shelter where we can disconnect from the tough and demanding training and daven and connect to the source of motivation that is very much needed in our daily lives at the moment. In my “pluga,” thank God, we have 20 religious soldiers out of 50—almost half of us are religious. All 20 of us daven three times in the shul every day and learn Torah there in our free time and on Shabbos, and the non-religious boys even join us for kabbalat Shabbat on Friday night, when we all sing and dance together. We have also been using this shul over the winter months, where the only warm place is inside the shul, so you have also enabled us to daven warmly and not while freezing outside. All of this is thanks to you, and there are no words to describe our appreciation. We thank you for the shul and for your ongoing support, and urge you to continue supporting the IDF. It doesn’t go unappreciated! Thank you.
Demagogy, Solipsism and Active Misogyny
I was startled by the editor’s notebook column by Elizabeth Kratz (“What I Learned From My Impeachment Shabbat,” March 10, 2016). Rarely have I read such sloppy “logic” in a community publication that has a record of care and diligence in its articles. I have a number of problems with her statement. Ms. Kratz attempts to establish herself with the most tenuous bona fides as a political pundit. Many years ago, as a young woman, she was a low-level assistant to a Congressman from California. She then establishes her credentials as an observant Jew. She proceeds to explain her loss of innocence due to former President Clinton’s infidelities. In a blast of inspiration, somehow this behavior becomes a failure on the part of the wife. A man’s disgraceful behavior, of course, is the fault of the injured party, the wife. Perhaps we should blame the wife of former Republican Senator Larry Craig of Idaho, who was caught soliciting in an airport men’s room. Or the wife of former Attorney General Spitzer should be called to account for his actions. Upon even casual consideration, her statements represent pure demagogy, solipsism and apparently, an active misogyny.
Do the Math
This is a response to David Gruber’s March 10, 2016 letter to the editor entitled “Fiduciary Responsibility Extends Beyond Development.” In his text, Mr. Gruber encouraged readers to do the math. I am meeting his challenge.
The seventh paragraph in his letter is a simple word problem. Let x be the size of the school budget deficit created by adding 546 children to the school district. Mr. Gruber insists that x must be positive. Therefore the school budget deficit created by each child added to Teaneck’s population, x/546, is also a positive number. If we follow Mr. Gruber’s thinking to its logical conclusion, we can only eliminate the school budget deficit by sterilizing the entire population of Teaneck. This solution is unacceptable for obvious reasons.
Mr. Gruber spoke at length about the mayor and council mismanaging funds. Perhaps it is time for him to turn the mirror around. If he went over the school budget line by line with as much passion as he devotes to thinking about the reproductive potential of his neighbors, he might be able to reduce spending. If he thinks that this is not humanly possible, then it is time for the school to cede control over parts of the students’ lives back to their parents.