Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Hackensack: The good, the bad and the ugly

In many Hackensack neighborhoods, condominiums or apartment buildings replaced homes, as was the case on Fairmount Avenue, near Main Street, above. But the residents of this building don't have much of a view: the rear parking lot of a nail salon with faded awnings and the rusting backs of billboards, below.
This is only one block among many where a business use that has been grandfathered in seems totally inappropriate today, but as far as I know, city officials aren't doing anything to improve the situation here.


I have always been struck by the interesting architecture I have seen around Hackensack, including a small firehouse on Main Street that would be at home in New Mexico and all the impressively large homes along Summit Avenue.

But there is a lot more to see than that, though you wouldn't know it from The Record, which has ignored the city's architectural gems, as well as its run-down neighborhoods, even when it called Hackensack home.

A firehouse on Main Street in Hackensack.

Here are some of the places I discovered in the past 5 weeks:

What looks from the street to be an old barn shares a Poplar Avenue parcel with a large home. No registered voter lives there. A wall of the barn carries the CBS Eye logo.
One of the beautiful homes on Maple Hill Drive that once overlooked the golf course of a country club. See the street sign, below. Today, the home has a view of the Nellie K. Parker Elementary School. A woman I spoke to said the family has sold the home and is moving to Florida. She said she wasn't registered to vote.

Golf Way is another nearby street.
Which city owned building has this arrangement?
Here's another business use on Gamewell Street, not far from Union Street, that seems inappropriate today. A large open lot on the block, below, appears to have been used by another business, possibly a warehouse, that was torn down.

The owners of this home didn't sell out to high-rise developers on Overlook Avenue, above and below, but they abandoned the place for another, unknown reason. Today, business jets scream overhead as they approach Teterboro Airport and ambulances wail as they race to Hackensack University Medical Center. The neighborhood has one of the highest per-capita uses of custom-made earplugs.

Both the Oritani Field Club building on Camden Street, above, and The Record's old headquarters on River Street, below, have dates with the wrecking ball.
The boyhood home of Chairman Malcolm A. "Mac" Borg at Summit and Fairmount avenues had a 14-acre backyard. He yielded to pressure from neighbors, and today it is natural space.
Here is another large, open lot that appears to have been the site of a business at Berry and Second streets, not far from Hackensack High School.

Today's paper

Thanks to Editor Marty Gottlieb, this is the kind of front page local readers can cozy up to on a gloomy and chilly day: 

Stories on North Jersey doctors taking money to promote name-brand drugs; a house owned by the Passaic County sheriff that the county may buy for a road project; and the possible restoration of a Paterson stadium that was home to Negro League teams.

Why can't we get this kind of news every day, replacing Gottlieb's national and world views, and the long, ponderous process stories that put readers to sleep?

Also on A-1 today, The Record reports that "pay to play" is thriving in the Christie administration, first with the Sandy clean-up contract and now with the private operator hoping to run the New Jersey Lottery.

This from a Republican governor who made his reputation as a corruption buster when he was U.S. attorney. 

It's a long story

On the front of Local, three long stories and a column are all that fits, ranging from 34 inches to 50 inches.

The Record is sponsoring a book drive for Paterson children -- as today's L-1 story reports for the umpteenth time -- and one of the "contacts" listed is Vice President and General Counsel Jennifer A. Borg, head of the North Jersey Media Group Foundation and part of a publishing family that believes it is American royalty. 

Hackensack news

Inside Local, Hackensack news includes a story about three police officers, two of whom will resign after pleading guilty in a 2011 assault case (L-3).

A day after the filing deadline for the non-partisan election, The Record also lists the candidates in Hackensack's May 14 City Council election (L-3), and mentions my candidacy for the first time: 

"Vote for Peace and Quiet"
Victor E. Sasson

Today, Staff Writer Hannan Adely called to interview me over the phone for a story.      

Second look

Under Gottlieb, story lengths have grown, countering a trend toward shorter, more readable stories before he took over in January 2012.

Coupled with a shrinking paper and a smaller news hole -- less space for stories than before -- that means much less variety for readers. 

On Sunday, the lead front-page story on hospitals in Passaic city and Newark was an astounding 120 inches long, including photos; and the rehash of a 1992 murder case ran 94 inches.

On the Opinion front, Charles Saydah's scholarly dissertation on affordable housing was 104 inches long -- which exceeds the actual number of low- and moderate-cost units in most towns.


  1. I've read the blogs for both days and say in all sincerity that they inspire only respect and admiration. You may not feel anything similar when you see my response to Saydah's narrative on affordable housing. Have you thought about communicating with what's left of the media throughout the state to suggest stories on the life of the lonely little-known local candidate? Your Mon. and Tues. pieces could work as the free-standing summaries they are or as the kernal of pieces that present others in the same boat.

  2. Thanks. I've found that reporters and assignment editors don't like to be told how they should cover the news. I contacted WNYC-FM (New Jersey Public Radio) early in my petition gathering, and there wasn't much interest in the plight of an independent candidate and former reporter.

  3. Victor,

    I believe the townhouses in your first picture are 31-41 Fairmount Ave. Not Poplar.


  4. Good catch. Yes. Fairmount, not Poplar. I corrected the caption.


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