The Teaneck Town Council recently voted to rezone the vacant property at 1500 Teaneck Road, which currently sits in a business residential zone, to allow multi-family housing.
BNE Real Estate, the developer, plans to turn the former Verizon building into a four-story apartment building over a parking garage.
“There’s a derelict building there that needs to go away and we have a developer who is prepared to fix that,” said Councilman Dr. Henry Pruitt at a Feb. 9 council meeting.
The town council has been working to inject new income into the town through development.
“We have in Teaneck a big problem: we don’t like paying taxes,” Pruitt said. “We have to find the money somewhere.”
According to the plans presented to the planning board by the developer, the 4.54-acre site would hold an apartment building with 231 units including eight studios, 111 one-bedrooms and 112 two-bedrooms. A minimum of 10 percent of the units will be set aside for affordable housing.
“This was actually an attempt by the council to keep properties on the tax role,” said Deputy Mayor Elie Katz.
The new apartment building would also bring new customers to area stores, said Eric Brauer, vice chairman of the Teaneck Planning Board.
“I think that it’s just a totally positive project for the northeast section of Teaneck to help revitalize that area up there,” Brauer said.
The majority of current foot traffic in the area is only people hopping on or off of a bus into New York City rather than people in the area to shop. The new apartment building could help fix that, said Councilman and JLNJ co-publisher Mark Schwartz
“I’m referring to 500 people who will live, eat and breathe Teaneck Road—not that are getting dropped off to get onto a bus,” Schwartz said. “We’re looking to create Teaneck Road as a place to live and to shop.”
The apartment building, which should be opening toward the end of 2017, will likely house an aging population, Schwartz said. He doesn’t see the apartments as being affordable to younger people.
“We’ve got a large and loyal segment of Teaneck who want to remain in Teaneck, something, of course, that we want to see as well, but who do not want to age in place in their three-four bedroom home,” Schwartz said.
Some Teaneck residents who live on Amsterdam Avenue or on other nearby streets said that if an apartment building is coming, they want it to at least be significantly smaller than the current planned building. They protested the development in what is essentially their backyard.
But the new building will actually be farther away from the property lines of Amsterdam Avenue residents than the old Verizon building, Brauer said. The current building is about 20 feet away from the property line and the new building will be about 80 feet away.
“Unfortunately, someone will always be impacted by something when we try to make changes in such a heavily developed community, but in this particular case I think that the developer has accommodated them as best as they can,” Brauer said.
Nobody wants anything in their backyard, said Katz, but if the building is left vacant, it will deteriorate into an eyesore with boarded windows and graffiti.
Residents are concerned a new apartment building will make their neighborhood noisier and more traffic heavy.
“It’s totally out of context when you look around the entire community,” said Ray Drummond, a Teaneck resident who has lived on Amsterdam Avenue for 39 years.
Katz has met many times with BNE Real Estate and insisted that the developer has shown a willingness to compromise and work with area residents on the project. The developer agreed to close off the property’s vehicular entrance to Amsterdam Avenue.
“You have my word, and I’m sure the entire council’s, that we’re going to be monitoring to make sure that the residents in that area and the entire Teaneck get a quality project that is going to enhance the area,” Katz said.
Schwartz said he is confident the developer will do everything in its power to add value to the neighborhood.
“It’s a project that I’m proud that Teaneck can call home if it does work,” Schwartz said.
Not every member of the Teaneck town council is totally on board with the project.
“Residential development may be a loser,” said Councilman Alan Sohn.
Sohn believes the area may be better suited for commercial use. The current zoning does not allow for any retail in the area and BNE Real Estate does not want any retail in the area, but the town council is considering amending the ordinance to allow for up to 10 percent retail in the area.
“We have only one chance to do this right,” Sohn said.
By Aliza Chasan