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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

It Is Official: The Fix Is In!

The Master Plan Public Hearing: The Major objective of a master plan is to determine land use within the municipality. The Board of Education is one of the largest land owners in the City. Why is it not included in the talks? Where are our Board Members? The employee projections on the power point presentation did not include ALL educational institutions in the city. The number would have been much higher. What is up with that? Where was Treeco and Benzel Busch?
If one paid close attention to the goals of the Master Plan, it seems that Englewood is for sale. Were we consulted when these objectives were being formulated? Why was the Planning Board not introduced? Master Plan=Planning Board.
Do a little FACT finding about Master Plans.
The Citizen's Guide to New Jersey Municipal Master Plans. http://www.thewatershed.org/images/uploads/SBMWA_Master_Plan_Guide.pdf

Another Fact Sheet regarding Master Plans. http://www.strafford.org/factsheets/fs_mp_format.pdf
We must learn to consult our New Jersey Permanent Statutes. Municipal Land Use Law
We must become informed residents with questions that hold elected and appointed officials accountable? What are the odds that taxpayers and the Governor would agree? What does the Mayor really want?
New Jersey Planning Officials Manual. http://njpo.org/NJPO_Master_Plan_Manual.html
Alas, what is one to do when one finds that the Governor agrees that another Master Plan at this time is wasteful. Governor Christie has given Municipalities 10 years now in between each Master Plan. http://www.northjersey.com/news/127675113_LOCAL_ISSUE__municipal_Master_plan_revisions_Towns_hail_extended_timetable.html It is reassuring that I am not alone in my thoughts on this whole Master Plan thing. What is the REAL objective? This Master Plan work is contributing to the Municipal Tsunami. The average Master Plan is now done every 10 years.

Again, I will say that I do not support the fact that we are  paying another group of consultants to come up with a Master Plan for Englewood. We have far too many pressing problems facing us today. It is time for Englewood to recover from her identity crisis. We are not one Community. There are splintered factions inside each ward. All one has to do is take a closer look at the number of houses of worship in Englewood alone. The City is not that large and we have pretty close to one hundred houses of Worship. So tell me when this diverse Community ever comes together. Not at school.  Not in our houses of worship, not on the sports field, and certainly not in a Community Center. Where and when do we all come together? Only during this time of indoctrination. What do we have in common? What are the issues that concern us all? We need a change of focus.

That being said over 200 people attended the 2nd Master Plan Public Hearing held at Ahavath Torah Synagogue on Broad Avenue. There was standing room only. I also do  not like the apparent fix that has been put in place in terms of discussion at these meetings. It is not a forum where residents actually get to have their say on the future or even the present state of Englewood. The big decisions have already been made. The consultants were clearly elicited to make sure things remain status quo.

The Consultants presented the Mayor's "Vision" which they themselves admitted was very similar to the 2009 Master Plan Vision. It included some of the same information from the old one and most of the photos and information on the updated 2013 version that was included on the City's Website. I will not go through all of the presentations even though I took copious notes. Community concerns are much the same as they were in the first Master Plan Public Hearing on June 26, 2012.

The Impending Tsunami of Municipalities: On Tuesday, Raphael J. Caprio, Phd. from the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University gave a talk on the state of New Jersey's municipalities, There was a lot of talk about Tsunamis and the lack of cash in Englewood's Municipal coffers. For nearly a year, we witnessed a drama where the school board pontificated about deficits. An audit was done to reveal the fact that there was no deficit. Yes.There is a Tsunami of indebtness and no cash flow. There is a Tsunami of events that put the 99% under attack from other quarters. There is a Tsumani of information intended to hold us in abeyance. There is a Tsunami of someone else's FACTS left at our doorsteps. How do we go from a "State of the City" address that says we are broke to a Master Plan Meeting where millions are projected to be spent. A great deal of time was spent describing doom and gloom in the Mayor;s "state of the city" address. We were assured in many different ways that we are in the midst of a financial crisis. Keep in mind that the projected cost of the light rail is over $800 million dollars. We are told that this money comes from the state coffers. That is funny. Remember that there is only one pot of money. That pot of money is collected from taxpayers like you, like me. It is all the same money. 60 cents of every dollar collected from 
taxpayer goes to the local school district. Why is the condition of the school system NOT being discussed as part of this Master Plan? They are discussing the buildings sold by the school district.

Light Rail: A great deal of thought has gone into the planning for this big event that may not even happen. It has clearly been rejected by Tenafly. Englewood residents vary in their ideas of whether we even have a choice to accept or deny this future big event that may not even happen in our lifetimes. A good deal of attention was given to the fact that Englewood Hospital employees would benefit a great deal from light rail. Well, as someone who sat for nearly six hours in Englewood Hospital's emergency room on June 27, 2012, I could care less about that Hospital. I lay on a bed in the emergency room in pain for hours with a bloody leg, while they did whatever. They did actually try to get me to pay the $25.00 co-pay before even cleaning my wound. Excuse me if I do not get all giddy with what makes Englewood Hospital's commuting employees more comfortable. One group actually made a great observation. The idea was that residents of other towns would crowd into Englewood in order to use the "lightrail" and cause tremendous traffic and parking problems. It should also be noted that the station is projected to be located smack dab in the vicinity of three schools. The image of all those cars bring the lyrics of a song to mind. "...You pave Paradise and put up a Parking Lot..."

My problem is that the City is exhibiting the same concept as the Board of Education. They have created a very indelicate and tenable situation with their attempts to bring in more "white people without children" while demonstrating clear indifference to the ones already here. What is wrong with the current residents of Englewood that makes our current administration seek to bring in more different people? It has already been clearly demonstrated that this lip service about diversity and being OneCommunity is a load of baloney. We have many and varied problems that must be dealt with before incurring expense bringing in new problems of which we know nothing.

Benzel Busch: Owns quite a lot of property/land in the area to be developed. They also employ a great deal of people and were not listed as one of the businesses that offers a great deal of employment in the area. One must wonder about this obvious omission.

Open Space: The thing that struck me as peculiar and not surprising was the time spent on items of particular interest to the public. The words "open space" was up on the screen for less than 6 seconds. A rendering was shown with tiny green pockets that were supposed to represent green space. The presentation sped on dealing mostly with light rail. One resident even pointed out the fact that the material in the presentation was not representative of what was discussed at the Master Plan Meeting in June of 2012. At this time, the presenter got a little testy and suggested that they had spent a great deal of time making up this presentation for "us" and proceeded. Well gee whiz, our tax dollars actually paid him to do this. So shut up and listen to the criticism. (And stop referring to us all as "you people")

The Community Center: The consultants followed the script very closely and showed an example of a 7.5 million dollar recreation center in Fairlawn.  This act in itself was very comical since they picked the most expensive Center in Bergen County in order to demonstrate to Englewood Residents that we cannot afford a Community Center. Get a grip guys! You are insulting us! Another thing. The Mayor was given a guided tour of the Rhoda Center in Teaneck, New Jersey. Perhaps he and the City Manager should also take a guided tour of the ones in Lodi and Garfield. These Centers were created in existing buildings. Does anyone in this group know the difference between a Recreation Center and a Community Center? They are not one and the same. Community Centers may contain recreational activities, but much more is encompassed. Perhaps the Planners do not wish the various Community groups to commune on the various issues that are discussed at regular Community gatherings in Community Centers.\

James Street: This is one of those Community issues that was not discussed and seems taboo to this group. Why was it not on the list? It is Downtown. it is a blighted area downtown. I predict another set of TAX ABATEMENTS that the average taxpayer will end up paying for down the road. I spent some time on James Street today. I still miss one of my favorite places to purchase garden products and seedlings. All of the empty space on the west side of the street started me thinking about how large Von Roth's Nursery and Garden supplies actually was. I have loads of questions about how a row of houses might end up in the condition of those on James Street. My questions include how the blighted houses just happen to all connect to other property already owned by the same 1 percenter. I also learned to my dismay that the open lots across the street on the West side of James Street also belong to the same 1% er, I do not believe in coincidences. Back in the day a name was given to landlords when such obvious things happened. I also learned that this was some type of historical section of town. So why is there going to be demolition going on? My brother is a builder. If he looked at those houses, he would tilt his head to the side.
"Why are they tearing those houses down, again?
So I look at those houses with my brother's eyes. Why are they being torn down? I also look with my forensic CSI eyes. So what did the investigation into that matter reveal?
James St. house burning.
Another James St. house burning.

Leading the Discussion: We talked about varied issues in our group. The presenter for our group reported about 90 percent of his own ideas. In other words, he wrote down our ideas but gave his own to the public. Even the present 4th Ward Councilman noticed this obvious bias in opinions and spoke on it. We were all incensed. It was a betrayal. A commercial property owner was in the group. Even though his problem manipulated the discussion, the presenter had to be told by one of the group members that he had left out those issues. He left out nearly all of our issues. It was clear that he was following a script and had been instructed as to what was to come out of our discussion. He did not mention the fact that the commercial owner had been denied the building of 8 affordable housing units on 26 East Forest Avenue. In case one didn't notice, he skedaddled out of the place soon after his presentation. He was totally aware of the fact that we were not happy with his presentation.

Who gives a sh*t about the Mayor's Master Plan?:  Strong words. Yes. You bet. Folks have been asking members of our group the same question for over a year.
"Why are you so angry?"
We have a few questions for all of the happy people. What makes you so happy? What are you being given or promised that is making you so satisfied while others are justifiably angry?

How many more 25 year tax abatements do we see in this Master Plan? Whew!
Our state Comptroller has already warned us that this practice hurts the average taxpayer. According to the experts, tax abatements cause municipal Tsunamis. What will it take for us to stand up and listen while reading the writing on the wall? One day you describe a Municipal Tsunami and the next day you describe a plan that will exacerbate the Tsunami. That makes no sense at all. At the same time we are told that even though we are diverse, we are OneCommunity. Crap! Crap! Crap!
These various and diverse Communities need a place to commune and discuss issues that impact on all of us. It is time we all stop relying on other people to give us their FACTS. We must begin to read more and communicate across Ward and religious lines in order to find our own FACTS. What makes us alike instead of what makes us different. Although I am not a supporter, I heard what Rabbi Shmuley was saying at Ebenezer Baptist Church on October 20, 2012. And yes, he is a politician looking for votes, but there are things we must glean out of what everyone is saying these days, regardless of political affiliation.


Study finds tax abatements for developers leave property owners paying more taxes

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