July 13, 2024
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Pro-Development Residents Urge Council to Vote Yes on World of Wings Rezoning

Teaneck—For the better part of the last decade, Teaneck’s council has been working to alleviate the tax burden on residents by bringing more commercial development to Teaneck, and to modernize by doing more with the vacant parcels of land that dot the township. The council was roundly applauded last week as it broke ground on Sanzari Enterprises’ new Hilton project, which will bring two dual-branded Hilton hotels—Hampton Inn & Suites and Homewood Suites—to Teaneck’s Glenpointe neighborhood.

1775 Windsor Road, better known for the past several years as World of Wings, a butterfly museum and play space for children, has been for sale since last summer. It has reportedly been sold, contingent on its rezoning, to AvalonBay Communities, an apartment developer. The developer proposed a three-story building with 240 apartment dwellings ranging in size from one to three bedroom apartments, with on-floor parking and related amenities.

While the project has met with much interest from Teaneck residents inquiring about living in such a complex with such excellent proximity to shopping, restaurants and houses of worship, the town council has faced tremendous external pressure from unions based outside of Teaneck to disprove the rezoning, allegedly because AvalonBay is a non-union employer. Residents are being hounded by robo-calls and messages from “outsiders with a personal grievance against a developer of this project,” according to numerous reports. But, according to many, what those unions aren’t taking into consideration is that if the property isn’t rezoned, those who stand to lose are Teaneck residents.

“Teaneck’s tax burden on its residential property owners is overbearing and is forcing longtime residents to sell their houses and move out of town. A new apartment development in a section of town where there are currently none is a huge positive,” said Eric Orgen, a Teaneck resident.

“Given the likelihood that the current owner of 1775 Windsor Road will close his business, if we fail to rezone this property, Teaneck residents will be left with yet another vacant parcel. A vacant building negatively impacts the tax base and further shifts the burden to the single family homeowner. The proposed zoning is currently the best opportunity for this property,” said Elie Y. Katz, Teaneck’s deputy mayor.

Katz explained that the last time this property was for sale, three non-profits tried to buy it and that would take the property off the tax roles. With a rezone of the property for multi-family residences, it is estimated to bring in $1 million in taxes, as compared with the $200,000 that World of Wings currently pays.

“I support this project; it is also needed for Teaneck residents who want to downsize,” said Yechiel Rotblat, a Teaneck resident.

“This rezoning will pave the way for multi-family housing proposed by AvalonBay, the current contract vendee for the property. This will create much-needed amenity-laced, multi-family housing to allow for our residents to downsize while remaining in town. It will also further a campaign goal of mine: reducing the tax burden on our residents by increasing the non-single-family home ratables,” said Councilman Mark Schwartz, who is also JLNJ’s co-publisher.

“Is this plan perfect? No! Is any plan perfect? Never. But Teaneck’s time has come to do something different for a change. And that change is needed,” added Schwartz.

Schwartz shared that last Wednesday (December 2), the Teaneck Council held its annual retreat at Holy Name Hospital. “This official meeting drew 90 people. During the good and welfare portion, dozens of people spoke out against the proposed rezoning of World of Wings into multi-family housing. Not one resident spoke in favor of it,” Schwartz said. Schwartz added that he has spoken personally to many who are in favor, and urges action on the part of anyone interested in reducing their tax burden. “If you support this, please come out and support this proposal on Tuesday December 15, at the council meeting at Teaneck High School (8 pm).”

A second protest, perhaps not as well-funded as the unions, but no less vigorous, comes from the Coalition to Ban Unsafe Oil Trains, a group which is against any development along the tracks near Windsor Road. When objection to the rezoning was raised about the property’s proximity to the train tracks in Teaneck, residents have been confused by the additional mixed messages. “Even though there is a 140-unit development being built on Palisades Avenue on the other side of the tracks and in Teaneck alone, we have seven schools, the fire department, the ambulance corps, two business districts, Teaneck’s largest park, the Rodda/Senior Citizen’s center, a supermarket and dozens of homes: According to a recent anti-rezoning mailing, 8,000 homes are within the one mile [recommended] evacuation area if there is an oil fire. Does that mean 8,000 property owners should not develop, or sell their homes?” asked Katz.

Orgen added: “If the argument is it’s too close to the railroad tracks, so are a number of houses, a number of schools, a fire station, ambulance corps building, houses of worship. and a majority of Teaneck’s commercial properties. Should we no longer build or maintain any of these structures either because a train could possibly derail?”

Katz added that a development-centric Teaneck is a city that will keep property values up and taxes down for residents, while encouraging growth and modernization. “This vote is not about me and it’s not about a specific developer or the unions. It’s about a message to current and future developers that Teaneck is open for business and we need development. We can’t continue to look and operate as if we are living in the 1960s,” said Katz.

Deputy Mayor Katz, along with Councilmen Mark Schwartz and Mohammed Hameeduddin, have stated they will vote in favor of the rezoning. Currently, Teaneck Mayor Lizette Parker and Councilman Jason Castle have reported that they will vote against the proposal. Undecideds are currently Councilmen Henry Pruitt and Alan Sohn, who, at presstime, had not yet been reached for comment.

The public is invited to the council meeting where the rezoning will be voted on, this coming Tuesday, December 15, at 8 pm at Teaneck High School.

By Elizabeth Kratz

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