According to recent news reports, on March 6, Mayor Dennis Elwell wrote Governor Corzine requesting, in part: "I am hereby calling upon your office to utilize any resources necessary to remove Secaucus from the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission. I would request that this be done as soon as possible." Also according to reports, his letter was drafted and sent without the advice and consent of the Town Council.
As both the Hackensack Riverkeeper and a proud citizen of the Town of Secaucus, I am appalled by the mayor's unilateral action, his ridiculous suggestion and his apparent lack of historical perspective. At a time when regional planning and shared services appear to be the way of the future in New Jersey - both to save money and make government more efficient - it is disheartening to see the mayor looking backwards instead of forward.
As someone who led the fight(s) against the Agency Formerly Known as the Hackensack Meadowlands Development Commission (HMDC), I welcomed the agency's transformation into the NJ Meadowlands Commission. Much more than that, I appreciate the Commission's regional planning efforts. Even with its imperfections, I would take forty years with the Commission as opposed to forty years of no planning with every town carving up and filling in wetlands as they wished. Here is just a short list of what would have happened in Secaucus had the town been left to its own devices over the past forty years:
· Mill Creek Point Park would be a dump instead of a park;
· There would be no Laurel Hill County Park and no free public boat ramp there;
· Mill Creek Marsh would have been destroyed instead of enhanced;
· There would have been no environmental restoration at Anderson Creek Marsh, Secaucus High School Marsh, and none planned for Riverbend Marsh or the wetlands at the former Hawk Realty site;
· There would be three Harmon Cove Towers instead of one; and
· The Malanka Landfill would have operated unregulated for many more years, taking in thousands more tons of hazardous, toxic waste.
Some news reports listed ongoing redevelopment projects at the southern end of town as the source of the mayor's disaffection with the NJMC. Such reports are wrong.
It cannot be said that Mayor Elwell has a problem with development. A case could even be made that he's never met a development he didn't like. If, as reports have stated, the NJMC-approved Damascus Bakery project is "responsible" for the mayor's newfound secessionist leanings, then the real truth must be told. The bakery issue is being exploited by the mayor to hang the stigma of this unpopular project around the neck of Councilman Michael Gonnelli. Mayor Elwell's political jihad has gone on long enough and it is time to put an end to divisive rhetoric and deal with the real problems facing our Town and the region.
Captain Bill Sheehan, Executive Director
Hackensack Riverkeeper, Inc.