From N. Y. Herald Tribune, Sunday, May 18, 1952
Teaneck Town of Prosperous Jersey Commuters,
Has One Privileged Class -- Children
By Mel Grayson
Schools Take Half of Tax Dollars; Parks, Playgrounds Occupies Fifth of Municipal Area; Family Income at $7,700 Is More Than Twice National Average
Three years ago, the United States Army conducted what, in effect, was a municipal beauty contest. The idea was to find the most photogenic and civil-minded town in the country, take pictures of it and distribute the pictures in occupied Germany and Japan as part of the post-war democratization program. The town selected -- from 10,000 competitors -- was Teaneck, N. J.
"Teaneck," observed an Army Civil Affairs officer, "is an excellent subject. It has a fine municipal spirit and high quality of governmental services."
Although he neglected to mention it, what swayed the Army and what undoubtedly made the biggest impression on the Germans and Japanese who later viewed the pictures was Teaneck's expensively sleek good looks. A community of high-salaried commuters (their average income is $7,700--more than double the national average), Teaneck has no factories to mar the scenery with soot-stained smoke stacks and no slums to make a mockery of its fashionable homes and estates.
This model community, whose rooftops fairly bristle with television antennas, occupies a shallow ridge between the Hackensack River and Overpeck Creek in the narrow Southern neck of Bergen County. Four miles west of the George Washington Bridge, it is quadrisected by State Highway 4, a major artery trailing west from the bridge, and the north-south tracks of the New York Central's West Shore Railroad.
The Army was by no means the first agency to discover, and capitalize on, the charms of Teaneck. For years, magazine editors in search of feature copy had singled it out as "a representative American community," which it isn't, and as "a good town to live in," which it apparently is.
One effect of all this gratuitous publicity has been to instill in the governing officials a desire to make the town worthy of its reputation. This desire manifested itself recently in the construction of a group of public buildings--including a Dutch Colonial police station that looks like a college chapel and a Dutch Colonial firehouse that resembles a museum--so impressive and handsome that they will very likely lure another batch of writers to Teaneck and start the cycle rolling again.
Teaneck's paid fire department consistently receives the most eloquent testimonial a fire department can get--low insurance rates for home owners. Teaneck's total fire loss for 1951 was $30,082, or 38 cents per resident, as compared with a national average of $2.14.
Both fire and police departments, as well as Teaneck's other governmental agencies, are supervised by a town manager who, In turn, is hired by a five-member elected council. The council chooses one of its $1,000-a-year members as mayor, but the manager, a professional administrator, performs all major executive duties.
Council elections are held every fourth May, so as to divorce local politics from state and national campaigns, and the candidates bear no party designation. Sitting on the current body are an engineer, a sales executives, a chemistry professor, a retired corporation official and a railroad passenger agent.
Non-salaried advisory boards, made up of local residents, help the council on technical matters. Mayor Henry Deissler said, "We like to have them advise, because that's real democracy. Every one should feel he's part of the town. And, of course, they give us a lot of help."
One local institution that appreciates Teaneck's preponderance of professional men is Holy Name Hospital, a sprawling, 252-bed structure that caps a tree-shaded hill near the civic center. Operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph, a Roman Catholic order, the hospital has a full-time staff of competent physicians but leans heavily on the services of big-name specialists who, as Teaneck-to-New York commuters, devote part of their time to Holy Name.
Commuting -- an activity indulged in by 90 per cent of Teaneck's men--is facilitated by the West Shore Railroad, which shuttles Teaneckers to and from New York City via the 42d and Cortlandt Street ferries. Running time from 42d St., New York, is thirty-five minutes. There are eight daily round trips, and passengers can use either of two stations Teaneck--the main depot near the Cedar Lane shopping center or the West Englewood station in the northern part of town.
Despite the two stations, most Teaneck commuters rely on their cars for transportation to New York. They and a number of bus lines use Route 4 and the George Washington Bridge, reaching mid-Manhattan in thirty to forty minutes.
If any group in Teaneck receives preferential treatment, that group is the children. More than half of every tax dollar is spent on schools; 20 per cent of the town's six square miles is set aside for fifteen parks and playgrounds totaling 127 acres, and child clinics and hygiene stations receive top health appropriation priority.
"Teaneck is a wonderful place for children," said James T. Welch, town manager since 1948."The recreation facilities are fine and the schools are excellent."
Teaneck has seven elementary schools, a public junior-senior high school, the St. Anastasia parochial school and Bergen Junior College. Progressive and far-sighted, the Teaneck school system, in 1932, became the first to offer aviation courses, including flight training, and, in the 1920s, instituted what was then regarded as revolutionary programs in diagnostic testing, vocational guidance and special classes for retarded children.
Teaneck's parks and playgrounds network, soon to be enhanced by a marine park near Overpeck Creek, is supervised by a full-time recreation director and forty part-time assistants, They officiate at town-sponsored ball games, playground activities, tournaments, square-dances, band concerts and numerous other events.
The history of Teaneck dates back to the seventeenth century, when the Bergen County area was settled by Dutch colonists. In 1704, the first Lutheran Church in New Jersey was built in a clearing that is now part of Teaneck. The political entity of Teaneck was formed in 1895 when sections of Englewood and Ridgefield were split off to form a new township.
As the case in most old communities, nobody seems to know how the name "Teaneck" originated. Some people say it's all Indian name for "woodland place." Others say it's of Dutch origin and means "little neck." All agree it's a nice town in any language.