The Teaneck Town Council recently hosted a public Redevelopment Forum, eliciting heated debate among residents and council members alike concerning a redevelopment project planned by Crossroads Companies for the American Legion Drive area.
Councilwoman Denise Belcher initiated the meeting, reinforcing the council’s dedication to sustainable development. She underscored the vital role of residents’ feedback and the necessity to consider various interests when making decisions for the community’s benefit. However, allegations questioning Crossroads’ ethical practices soon took center stage.
Critics accused Crossroads of non-disclosure of property ownership and alleged manipulation of zoning laws. These allegations were largely centered on the Area in Need of Redevelopment (AINR) designation for the site obtained by Crossroads. Critics asserted that Robert Velosin, an ‘independent consultant’ working for Crossroads, had influenced this designation by declaring the Stop and Shop area as ‘obsolete’. Such a designation potentially allows for bypassing certain zoning regulations, raising concerns about the process’s fairness.
Several local residents voiced worries about the redevelopment’s ramifications, referencing potential issues such as increased traffic, safety concerns, and possible gentrification. Neil Gold, an urban planner among the critics, accused Crossroads of presenting a ‘dishonest report’ with the intent to deceive the council. He challenged the Council’s AINR designation, calling it “inherently wrong and unjustified”, and disagreed with the council’s need to honor a settlement between Stop and Shop and Crossroads.
The grassroots group, One Town One Vote, also joined in expressing doubts about the process’s integrity, calling for more community involvement and questioning the use of the AINR designation.
Worries were also voiced about the potential change in Teaneck’s suburban ambiance to a denser urban one, similar to Hackensack. The community expressed concerns regarding possible increases in traffic, school overcrowding, and changes in local aesthetics.
In response to these criticisms, Jason Tubel, an attorney for Crossroads, reassured that the company would provide comprehensive reports covering traffic, environmental, and stormwater management as part of the redevelopment process.
Despite these concerns, some residents noted the potential benefits to the proposed development. Anthony Volpe, a representative from Crossroads, presented a promising plan to construct three main buildings with over 350 residential units, an expanded Stop and Shop store, and additional street parking. Some of the benefits highlighted include economic growth, increased housing options, and better retail services for Teaneck residents.
However, transparency issues remain a contentious point. Many residents and community groups accused the council of non-disclosure and called for a pause in development until the master plan for Teaneck is completed with residents’ contributions. They also urged for the invalidation of the AINR designations due to the alleged conflict of interest involving Crossroads.