Historic Preservation and Public Transparency Stir Debate at Ridgewood Council Meeting

The Ridgewood Council’s latest meeting demonstrated a broad array of community feelings and intensifying demands for transparency in the council’s decisions, with the Zabriskie-Shedler House park development as a key focal point.

Residents continue to throw up roadblocks to the council’s efforts to build recreational fields near the site of the Zabriskie-Shedler House. Local resident Cynthia O’Keefe drew the council’s attention to a letter from Kate Markopol of the New Jersey DEP, which she claimed detailed important procedures for the council to heed, including the possibility of an archaeological study. “Our town’s history is a precious asset. This property is a testament to that,” said O’Keefe. “We owe it to the future generations to preserve it carefully.”

Jack Willen Holm bolstered the discussion by drawing attention to possible discrepancies in a Bergen County land acquisition grant application, stressing the historical significance of the Shedler property, which had been a battlefield in 1780. Holm declared, “Such significant historical places need more than mere recognition; they demand our respect and diligent conservation efforts.”

Doubts were also cast about the council’s reliance on consultant Peter Primavera’s advice on historic house plans. Eleanor Gruber and Denise Lima voiced their concerns about Primavera’s credibility. Lima forcefully advised the council, stating, “We need to critically reassess the counsel provided by Mr. Primavera. The stakes are too high for blind faith.”

Fiercly demanding more transparent proceedings, Boyd, a local community member, suggested a visible queue system for public speakers during council meetings, similar to the one implemented by the Board of Education. He argued, “No one should be denied their right to voice their concerns or ideas. Transparency isn’t just about showing; it’s about listening.”

The residents did not focus their discussion on the long-debated need for additional recreational fields in Ridgewood.

Separately, the council also broached the subject of imminent road improvements, with Godwin and Linwood roads slated for paving come early August. Meanwhile, the ongoing PSE&G paving schedule was acknowledged, albeit with the understanding that unfavorable weather could potentially delay the process until September.

Community events were also discussed, including free movies in the park, the 65th annual summer concert series sponsored by the Ridgewood Guild and the Ridgewood Chamber of Commerce, and the 23rd annual Ridgewood Farmers Market. A notable feature is the Pedestrian Plaza on Saturdays.

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