Secret meetings

Dear Editor:
Last March there was a public meeting in Lincoln Park to discuss a proposed historic district in that area. There was a huge turnout of property owners and residents. This was not a city sponsored event but the mayor and several council members were present as well as staff from the planning division. Many of those present had just heard of the designation proposal due to the canvassing of the neighborhood by concerned residents of this area to be known as the West Bergen East Lincoln Historic district. The majority of those present in the room opposed the district and denounced the city’s lack of transparency in the process. What was learned is that the city had been meeting clandestinely with a group of people in that neighborhood for some time and never notified the community at large of their intentions. Those opposed to this district have valid concerns about the increased costs in maintaining their homes and the prospect of the loss of affordable home ownership and affordable apartments for tenants. Quite a few had seen the impact historic designation had on the downtown area and the rising taxes and fees involved. Some had fled the downtown section seeking more affordable living in other parts of the city including the West Bergen area.
Just a few weeks ago at a city council meeting there was discussion of the warehouse district in the downtown area. Residents from this district were present and it was quite interesting they came to speak out against the very things brought up by the residents of the West Bergen section. These were people who chose to live in a historic district and they called out the city for its lack of transparency in the planning process, failure to notify them of meetings while meeting behind closed doors with developers and ad hoc groups and its intense pressure to over develop. Much of the discussion centered on a proposal that would allow an owner to demolish an existing industrial structure to build a high rise in the midst of the district. These people were definitely not happy campers.
Now after several council meetings where the proposed West Bergen district has been discussed back and forth and tabled several times it appears the administration is insistent that the council approve this district. The people in West Bergen have still to learn about the fees and costs involved. They are deeply concerned about the demise of affordable home ownership and affordable housing for tenants. The city council owes it to the residents of this neighborhood to reject its passage.

Charles Balcer

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