A question posed in terms of either/or immediately sets up two sides that are opposed to one another. Though the Hudson River Waterfront Conservancy is grateful for the Reporter’s focus on the North Bergen waterfront in last week’s edition, we would have preferred that the question asking for a response be stated as “Growth and Quality of Life: Can they work together?”rather than just Development or Preservation? By setting up sides on this issue it almost assures the types of responses that will be received.
“Development” is actually another more specific name for growth which triggers the salivary glands of builders and politicians. Unfortunately the mention of “preservation” tends to bring an opposite response from these same ultra pro development forces that immediately see preservation as a type of dirty word, a challenge to growth and loss of possible ratables (municipal income).The supporters of growth tend to forget that more development requires more municipal services and that it rarely, if ever, results in lowered property taxes. The chase for cash leads many to forget the effect of growth on the general public and to side line the obligation of government to provide a livable environment. Putting one small park somewhere on the waterfront should not be the excuse to allow a huge, open-space deprived development farther up the coast.
Oddly enough the once vilified and protested Hudson River Walkway provides a splendid example of how it is possible to provide public access to a natural resource with public amenities while still allowing for modified development. Even those who initially fought the idea and complained about the walkway and its mandated inclusion for all waterfront developments are now advocates, admirers and users of the waterside pathway. It is not just “local environmentalists” as described in the article who are pleased with the Walkway; it is a whole population. The Conservancy hopes that the North Bergen Planning Board now faced with a whole spectrum of large, land-grabbing, overly ambitious development proposals is aware of that enthusiasm and will require that all waterfront developers adhere to the rules for Walkway development as required by state law. After 25 years of implementation, those are tried and true rules.
How can growth be handled? Adding to the traffic on River Road, which every new development inevitably does¸ is not a foregone conclusion. Why not lessen the amount of future traffic by attracting better designed projects with smaller buildings, less parking, better access to public transportation, surrounded by mandated public open space?
It takes a combination of modified growth and a livable environment along the waterfront, on the Palisades and elsewhere to make an area livable. It is up to a municipality to see that it happens.
Hudson River Waterfront Conservancy of NJ, Inc.