Wednesday, June 24, 2015

LG deal in Englewood Cliffs exposes big flaw of home rule

On a busy street near Palisade Avenue in wealthy Englewood Cliffs, domestic workers have to walk on the pavement, close to speeding cars, because the borough never installed sidewalks.


Is Englewood Cliffs anything like Hackensack, once known derisively as "Zisaville" for the decades-long political dominance of a single family?

On the front page of The Record today, a photo shows Englewood Cliffs Mayor Joseph Parisi applauding a deal between LG Electronics and environmentalists (A-1).

But the upbeat coverage sounds more like public relations than objective reporting (A-1 and A-8).

And it doesn't explore the decades-long rule of the Parisi family in the Cliffs, just as The Record hasn't done any probing in Cliffside Park, dominated for more than 50 years by the Calabreses.

Home-rule communities like Englewood Cliffs resist consolidating services with neighboring towns, and are desperate for ratables to cover the resulting inefficiences.

Englewood Cliffs fought a "racially tinged legal battle" to remove its students from Englewood's Dwight Morrow High School that began in 1985 and dragged on for years, The Record has reported.

Then, in October 2014, the state decided to cut nearly $600,000 in aid for 33 students from the Cliffs who were attending Dwight Morrow's Academies, a magnet program.

Hungry for ratables

More tax revenue was likely the motive for the borough to throw out its 35-foot height restriction, and approve the Korean company's plan for a 143-foot-high building on 27 acres between Sylvan Avenue and the Hudson River.

Now, the height will be reduced to 69 feet or five stories, but that still will be the biggest building ever approved for the Palisades north of the George Washington Bridge.

And in return for despoiling the majestic cliffs, Parisi and other borough officials will be celebrating an additional $2.5 million in property tax revenue every year.

Cliffs resident Donald Rizzo, who favored the higher LG headquarters, put it succinctly in a sidebar with a sub-headline reading, "Residents will benefit from revenue."

"A bigger building means more tax revenue. I'm all for it. I was never worried about the height of the building. I was worried about letting LG go" (A-8).

Maybe, the town can now afford to put in sidewalks on Summit Street to protect pedestrians and dog walkers.

In the county seat

In Hackensack, dozens of lawsuits filed against Ken Zisa, the former police chief and state assemblyman, cost the city so many millions to settle that one block of Euclid Avenue hasn't been paved for 30 years.

Prospect Avenue, lined with high-rises, and many other streets are in such poor condition one resident at Tuesday night's City Council meeting compared them to T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land."

Hackensack's school board spends more money per pupil than Ridgewood's, yet feeds high school students food of such low quality that many race out to Starbucks, Chipotle Mexican Grill and other lunch spots.

Hackensack's property tax payers are so shell shocked they even objected to the city spending public funds on a downtown park and arts space as part of the redevelopment of Main Street.

Hackensack news?

On the front of Local today, Teaneck residents find two stories on Monday night's Township Council meeting (L-1).

But there is nothing about Tuesday night's council meeting in Hackensack.

As Police Director Mike Mordaga and Capt. Timothy Lloyd listened, clergy from Mount Olive Baptist Church and other churches commented on the killing of two suspects by city police officers in recent weeks.

They urged Hackensack to find money to buy Tasers or non-fatal stun guns.

As a result of the shootings, five police officers are "on leave," city officials acknowledged, but they insisted the department is not "understaffed."

HUMC pact

A lawyer hired by the city reported a federal anti-kickback law prohibits Hackensack from continuing to ask Hackensack University Medical Center to provide ambulance services to residents for free up to $140,000 a year. 

Still, Board of Education attorney Richard Salkin rose and rambled on about the lawsuit he has filed to enforce the original 2008 pact with HUMC that he negotiated for the city.

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