“So many local people are concerned about threats to the quality of life in this area,” said Joshua Breakstone. “That includes parking up and down the Hudson, the transportation system, overcrowding, the loss of views, of space, of light, the pollution caused by jitneys taking care of the overflow that can’t be handled by the buses.”
Breakstone is the organizer of Concerned Citizens for the Preservation of Quality of Life Along the Palisades. The group was formed to raise awareness about what they perceive as egregious overdevelopment along the Gold Coast, specifically in the region of Boulevard East.
“These developers come in and they come up with these proposals and then you have a group of local people coming and fighting them,” said Breakstone. “Or worse, not knowing and not fighting, and then everyone runs around later asking what can we do, when it’s too late.”
Recognizing that a handful of disgruntled neighbors don’t wield the influence of an organized association with a broader geographical base, his group – “Concerned Citizens” for short – want to bring together residents from various communities with similar issues.
“We are an organization of local people who are working together to preserve the quality of life we cherish along the Palisades from North Bergen to Weehawken,” reads a handout from the group.
To this end Breakstone has taken to the streets with other volunteers, including his wife, to solicit signatures for a mailing list and petition.
“We’re up to between 600 and 700 people,” he said.
Meridia Le Boulevard
The Concerned Citizens group was initially launched in response to one particular development proposal.
“We are specifically trying to fight as much as we can the proposal for between 66th and 67th Street on Boulevard East. It’s a proposal for a 13-story, 157 unit building,” said Breakstone.
The proposed building, known as “Meridia Le Boulevard,” in West New York, would require numerous variances to zoning ordinances.
“Legally speaking, the zoning says if you do not have 40,000 square feet the height limitation for a building is a townhouse,” said Breakstone. “They have 20,000 feet and they’ve proposed 13 stories.”
A full list of the variances that Breakstone says would be required is listed on his website at www.concerned-citizens.net.
The property in question is the site of a former service station, directly across the street from the Versailles hi-rise. The proposal will be coming before the West New York Zoning Board on Thursday, Sept. 18 at 6:30 p.m. in the Town Hall.
“We thought it was going to be open space and beautiful views.” – Joshua Breakstone
“We would like to be able to go to our Board of Commissioners, the governing body in West New York, and say ‘These people are voting in the election in November, and we want to know how you feel about promoting these sorts of projects’,” said Breakstone. “To put pressure on elected officials who don’t seem to be hearing or responding to the needs of the people.”
“Our solution would be to have people in our local governments who are not just promoting a shortsighted agenda of build-build-build and grow-grow-grow,” he continued. “And then if we can elect officials who are responsive to these sorts of questions, then perhaps we can move on to having a legislative solution, more strongly-written regulations on overdevelopment, size, and mass of buildings coming in. Maybe get people with creative solutions to overcrowding and traffic.”
Of course, by protesting against neighborhood development, the group runs the risk of being labeled exclusionary, of trying to keep others from enjoying the same local benefits they currently enjoy.
“We are not anti-development,” Breakstone said. “This gas station where they’re going to build [in West New York] – we can’t wait for something to come there. But the way that these proposals are pushed through, they are so far beyond the statutes.”
“These limits were put in for very good reasons,” he continued. “These are not local developers. They should have to adhere to our local standards. We would love to see legal development. This is open for townhouses, which is in keeping with what exists in the neighborhood.”
“I’ve heard that people in Weehawken who can’t get on buses because they’re overcrowded are now taking buses to North Bergen, then getting on buses up there and passing by Weehawken again to get into the city,” he said.
“The lifestyle here, when I moved from New York – and this is the story of 75 percent of the people who live in the area – we thought it was going to be open space and beautiful views, where we could own a car, and have an easy commute to New York,” said Breakstone. “And all of that is being rapidly lost due to overdevelopment.”
Concerned Citizens can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Art Schwartz may be reached at email@example.com.