|All interviews were taped and documented. They are available through the Reference Department of the Teaneck Public Library. The Library is not responsible for the accuracy of the statements nor does it necessarily endorse the opinions expressed.|
|DATE OF INTERVIEW:||November 15, 1984|
|TRANSCRIBER:||Jackie Kinney (8/1985)|
(I) Were you in World War II? .
(N) Yeah. I was in the Marines. So that was the other issue. And then there was an issue with the police and fire department. The police came in and wanted to make $10,000 a year which would have been a substantial raise. The firemen came in and said we want to work 42 hours a week instead of 56. And after a lot of debate and struggle, we finally agreed to both of those things and that raised taxes. That was a big jump in taxes. So now we are up to the library, we are up to the swimming pool. The library first. Olive Tamburelle wanted a new library and grilled her need and we got together and we got it passed and Eleanor Kieliczek objected because we passed it over the Planning Board. She was on the Planning Board at the time.
(I) The Planning Board was against it?
(N) Well they were split and they didn't bring it to a vote and they held it about six weeks and we took our right and we voted it.
(I) But I thought then there was a petition to get that on the ballot or something like that.
(N) After that. That was a petition partly sponsored by the Board of Education. They didn't want us to build the library. Milton Bell and several other members of the Board of Education and Eleanor Kieliczek and whoever else, I don't remember whoever else now, all supported that petition against the library. Yeah I know who else it was. Who else was really leading it too and that was Henry Updegrove.
(I) These are all new people to me. (END OF TAPE 1 - SIDE 1 - BEGIN SIDE 2)
(N) They were all leaders of the town at the time. Henry Updegrove had been on the Planning Board, of course Eleanor was on the Planning Board and were members of the board of course. Milton Bell was the president of the Board of Education and there were several others and the Board was opposed to it because they felt that if people knew they were paying for the library through a bonding issue that they would be reluctant to adopt the school's plan to expand or build a new high school. The school wanted to build a new high school in Votee Park if you remember.
(I) That's before my time too but I've heard about it.
(N) So anyway I was a little upset by that but then they got a petition, got enough votes, I mean signatures to put it on a referendum and of course it lost. They always lose on referendum because you can't say why you are voting no, you can only vote no. So it is a problem. Anyway, that was the 1968 controversy. At the time, also,
(I) What happened about the new school then? That was voted down by the people, wasn't it?
(N) That was voted down too, yeah.
(I) Was that on the ballot too?
(N) I think it went to a ballot, yes. We tried two or three times. Twice I think. Two different plans. Over a period of three year, four years whatever. Anyway, the other big thing that started, now the library issue started in 1968 and also what became Glenpointe started in 1968 because Frank Burr who was appointed to the council and then won in a fall election, he replaced Jack Walsh who resigned and we got him appointed and then he was elected, so by 1968 he formed a committee for ratables and he had some people from Alexander Summer and some other real estate people and a guy from Trenton who wrote the redevelopment law for the state of New Jersey and eventually we put together, groping at first, he had the idea that there was land down in Glenwood Park that we could use to help defray taxes, that was the whole point, and he was right. And that was in 1968. But it took ten years, well even today it is not finished which is now sixteen years later, but it took ten years to get the thing off the ground. 1970 election, 1974 election, 1978 election, all hinging on that issue of ratables in Glenwood Park.
(I) Well the '74 election I think was when the council that was against the plan at that time was elected. Wasn't it?
(N) Yes. Eleanor and Dorothy Silverstein and Kramer, Jordan, they all won and Bernie Brooks lost by 9 votes and Frank Burr lost by 36 votes and that election cost the town $25,000,000.
(I) I want to ask you one thing. Are you sorry that Hartz Mountain didn't get in Teaneck?
(I) You are really. You don't think they would have ruled the town after all?
(N) They would have what?
(N) Sort of ruled the town. Hartz Mountain. You know the influence they have down there in the Meadowlands.
(N) Of course this was done by redevelopment and of course they were limited to that area, nothing can be built outside of that area now unless they bought the politicians or something. You know, they couldn't do it legally. And they wouldn't have any influence. But the reason, and I am not married to Hartz Mountain, but the reason is it could have saved us about six years of taxes, see, and that's where we get some of that $25,000,000 and also we would have probably two apartment houses ten stories and twelve stories that would be occupied. Now Frank Burr said in 1972 when this plan started to come about that townhouses which we wanted and Frank Burr wanted too, he was horrified to see apartment buildings in there, townhouses would not sell and he was right. They don't sell. Now Sanzari doesn't want to build the rest of the townhouses, he wants to put an office building in there and we are having a big argument about that.
(I) They are very high priced I understand.
(N) Well people who want to retire, they want to go to a luxury home now, they don't want a townhouse, but anyway that's beside the point, but the point is the Hartz Mountain plan would have been in effect and it would have been successful. They would have had a hotel too and the office building and two apartment buildings, instead of all the townhouses so that's really the only difference.
(I) The rejection was the height, wasn't it?
(N) Yes, but the remarkable thing is the hotel is now about fifteen stories and nobody said boo.
(I) Well it seems to me, I am going to ask you about this, but actually the council that went for Glenpointe, the '74 council, had people complaining to them, I think the League of women. Voters complained to them about the density that they decided to have down there.
(N) Yeah. And they increased the density of the, well first, they were going to have single, one story corporate office, headquarters, but that was, we had already investigated and we knew nobody was going to buy that land and do that, see. So then they had to go for a higher density for the office buildings so there is more now than there was but just on the high side, not really all that bad, but they also have increased the height of the hotel so instead of saying stories, they went to 150 feet and that sort of softened the impact. But it is a tall building. It is taller than anything we had planned.
(I) Well it is a bulky building.
(N) And some people don't like it. I don't like it. But it is black and people don't like that.
(I) Well it is an ugly color.
(N) But it is successful.
(I) It is successful?
(N) Yes. And it is an asset to Teaneck.
(I) And what about the office buildings. Are they
(N). They're coming along. The first one, I think, is occupied totally and the second one is nearing completion. Now they want to make a third and that's what the argument is about. Well the third one, you see what happened, we did traffic studies early on and the reason it is a mixed development is so it can handle the traffic. It can only support, when you build something there and you limit it by the number of cars you can get in and out in an hour, and so there is a maximum number of offices because that's the number of cars you could handle and the idea of the residence was to have the flow going the other way because at nine o'clock in the morning or at eight o'clock in the morning, people would be leaving their residences and coming into the offices so you would have mixed flow rather than everything all at once. And it was balanced with 400/500,000 square feet of office space with the maximum for the traffic that the streets could hold and now they want to put up another 150,000 feet and I object to that because I think that will be subverting the original plan and going against the best information we have on traffic flow. Not because I'm mad at Sanzari, I don't mean that at all. But we want residences down there. That was what we sold it to the town on and that's what we want. But they are not successful. Ok, now you had another question in mind about the swimming pool. That came up in '69, I believe, or '70 and we had the plans and we, the bonding issue and Max Haase was opposed to that and Jack Dougherty but the other five of us on the council voted it in and Frank Burr was the mayor and then Julius Woolf and another fellow lived down on Pomander Walk, the two of them got up a petition and they were united with other people who were opposed to us on Glenpointe area and so forth and they got a referendum and the cartoon came out, I have a copy of it around here somewhere, of Frank Burr and me there and black kids jumping in the pool with hypodermic needles and it was a very ugly, racist cartoon, see.
(I) That was what defeated the town pool.
(N) Sure. Because the residents nearby area were frightened.
(I) Well, they still don't like the pool there some of them. I mean you know. .
(N) They don't like anything there. That was a nice quite, secluded block. I agree with them. But it can't stay. The Lutherans are going to build their senior citizens housing there too. It is going to be a cooperative apartment there. Senior citizens, well for anybody, but the Lutherans are putting it up.
(I) So that had to do with that. Now I do want to ask you before we get on to something else, there have been recent charges that there aren't enough blacks employed in township government, you know, in the Police Department, Fire Department and the rest of the township government. Is there any basis in fact in this?
(N) Well you look at the statistics, there is a basis in fact. I think there are five firemen, I don't know, it is a very small number, however, there is a couple of other things there that doesn't, that don't come out when all this shouting goes on in the headlines. There is one person making all the noise about this and he has come up to the council meeting probably 25 times and blasted us all for being racist and bigots and everything else and we don't give the opportunity to blacks but Teaneck has always had a problem hiring people for the Police Department and the Fire Department which is why, years ago, we expanded it to the surrounding areas because Teaneck is generally considered a white collar town with people of relative affluence and not the type that generally joins the Fire Department or Police Department. I am not putting down these occupations but
(I) They feel they can't afford to live here.
(N) That's' right. So I think part of the problem is that. Now I don't doubt that in the hierarchy, there must be bias and there has got to be discrimination but it is not an official policy, okay, and from what I hear, the last police exam, two of the five that were hired were blacks that were picked and both of them turned down the job after they were selected. In other words, they passed Civil Service, they passed all qualifications, they passed the psychological and when they were about to be appointed by Werner, 'they turned it down. For different reasons, I don't know what the reasons were. So that didn't make us look too good either see. Now maybe there is something there that I don't know but I don't .believe it and I don't think that there is a, while Werner and I have a lot of differences of opinion on professional matters in town, I don't think that he is anything but honest and above board and a fair minded person. I don't have any question in my mind about that. And, so I don't like to see him abused either. But it is true. The statistics are there. Maybe because the black residents of Teaneck don't apply for the job, I don't know. There seems to have been some kind of a problem in the D.P.W. with personalities and bias at one time and I am sure it exists because it exists everywhere we go but all I can do is have something to say about policy and about the people who actually are on top and the people that are on top are trying to do the job, I think.
(I) Yeah, OK. Now I have some more questions before we get to . .when you were mayor, let's talk about your problems when you were mayor. A lot of these things happened when you were mayor. You were mayor in 1974 when. . .
(N) No, '78. '74 I was on the council. I was the only one on my ticket that won.
(I) What were your problems as mayor, do you remember?
(N) I didn't have too many problems. Things calmed down because by that time, the Glenpointe controversy had subsided. We had accepted the fact that Sanzari was going to get the land, we think as a gift, but he got the land.
(I) He got it for a low price, yeah.
(N) And the first problem we hit was Olive Tamburelle admitted that she didn't have $1,000,000 in pledges. That was our first council meeting. So yes, that was a problem.
(I) That was the big problem. Well that library business had gone to a vote as I recall too, hadn't it? I think that was on the ballot before we were here.
(N) Yes, that was in 1968. To tell you the truth, I am delighted that it didn't pass because it would have meant another building in that complex and you know, and the same with the high school, when that didn't pass. Actually even though people can complain about wanting to get something done and people in voting turn it down, generally there is a certain wisdom, a group wisdom, believe me. Because we don't need a new high school. And shortly after that, the population started to decline. It was the highest in 1968 with 8,300 and I remember Milton Bell suggesting 10,000 by 1972 or whatever and it didn't. It slowly went down. Now I can't fault him for that but they were expecting a lot more and the people didn't know but it turned out fine.
(I) Do you think it has anything to do with fashion. Like in the 60s, anything went. People had a lot of money, towns had a lot more money. Do you think it had something to do with that? These big plans because there was more money available?
(N) You mean why they had their plans? It could be. See there were people who were devoted to the schools and wanted nothing but the best for the school and for their kids. Now a lot of those people have retired and moved out of town and they were also the big givers when it came to Community Chests and they moved out of town and now there is a different attitude. People that used to be volunteers are now being paid. Wherever I look, I see people that used to volunteer and do all this stuff. Now they are being paid. And you can't get volunteer groups going. We've had enough issues in the Board of Education, certainly on the council too, but the Board of Education what with the strike and the reorganization. Now in the old days, we would have had hundreds of citizens forming groups, publicity every day, all kinds of aggravation, but in the long run, the system works. Now we get nothing. And the caliber of the people that run the Board of. Education is, I don't want to put anybody down, but it is not the Joe Coffees and it is not the Ted Leys and the Seymour Herrs you see. Presidents of companies and that kind of stuff. You don't have that. So there is a lack of willingness to do something for the good of all and that's probably the society, that's not Teaneck's fault.
(I) But the library turned out all right, didn't you think so?
(N) Yes. Well what happened, to get back to the library, we all of a sudden had a hole that we were starting to dig in the middle of the parking lot and we didn't have the money. So we had to tell them to stop and had a little legal battle over that one and had to explain where the money, there never was no money, I mean Olive was just over enthusiastic and I feel bad but we had $850,000 grant from the government that said we had to have a library by X date so Werner and I went down to Philadelphia and talked to the people down there and convinced them that they should take another chance on us and so we then hired Blyer, Blinder and Bell. Blyer himself is a genius, he's got his other problems but he is a genius, he lived in Teaneck when he was a kid, so he knew the library, and he came up with this plan and I came back from my honeymoon in August. I got married on the 18th and we came back, that was a Saturday, and Thursday we came back from Cape Cod and I, we had the Library Board, the Planning Board and the Council, and I was a member of all three, and we all agreed that night to accept that plan. That was my big accomplishment. And then we spent two or three years trying to get that thing built and finished and it is not even finished yet.
(I) Well they were putting in the sprinkling system the other day.
(N) But see here it is six years later and it is not finished yet.
(I) It is a very pretty building. .
(N) But I think it is terrific. I am delighted that it worked out the way it did. But that's called making lemonade out of a lemon. But we saved the money from the federal government for which I was very happy.
(I) You did get the. . yeah: : and then we had to put a little bit.
(N) Yeah, but it wasn't so much.
END OF TAPE 1 - SIDE 2 - BEGIN TAPE 2
(I) OK Mayor Hall, would you feel like talking now about the Community Building or the mini-basketball court?
(N) Well I'll tell you, I always wanted a community recreation center, community building, whatever and yes with a basketball court but with many other things. I had gone with Frank Burr and Tom Costa as a result of one of these annual conferences and several teenagers in town up to Tom Costa's house for the weekend up in New York State with the purpose of driving to Oneonta to see the Boys Club there which was about forty miles away but Tom Costa called it a great building and it had been put up for about $300,000 and it was perfect, perfect building and that's what we wanted. And that had everything in it. So, yes, I wanted a Recreation Center and I wanted it there, always wanted it there. By the time we got around to it and I got to say the initiative for this all came from Dick Norman who was Mr. Biddy Basketball. He organized the leagues to start with, he put the thing on the map, he raised $10,000 at a dinner to get the building started and I am going to tell you, he was a tremendous force in getting that thing done and he stayed with it for about ten years. We hired an architect from south Jersey, turned out to be an expensive architect. They put together some plans but then the council nitpicked it to death and I'll never forgive Martin Kramer for that because he kept insisting that we cut this, cut that, then when we got it all done, we reduced the cost down several hundred thousand dollars, and then he voted against it. And so we spent $200 or $250,000 whatever it was and got a blockhouse. No windows, no air conditioning, no nothing. It is just a gym. It is useless in the middle of the summer. So I've always wanted, even in those days, I wanted one that we could make modular. As the town expanded and as the youth programs expanded, we could add wings to it and so forth. Actually in the location you could do that but the building isn't necessarily modular. If we add something to it, it is going to cost us a lot of money. But I want to. In my mind, that's an unfinished job.
(I) It can be used only for basketball I understand. Does anyone else use it at all?
(N) Oh yes, the senior citizens use it.
(I) Oh they do? Because there was a fuss about that at one point. Didn't someone say that their chairs would make marks on the basketball court? But it is being used.
(N) I think so. I wouldn't bet money on it but I think so. It should be the headquarters for the Recreation Department and all recreation. .
(I) Well what will happen then to the Townhouse with the schools moving out of the Townhouse?
(N) Well I have a secret plan in the back of my mind ever since I was mayor to make that complete building a senior citizens building and I'd like to have it, the Southeast Senior Center located in Englewood is my ideal of what a center should be. It has all kinds of programs. It is not a recreation playpen. It has things where seniors go in, they can have a checkup, medical checkup, they can have all kinds of educational things. It is an all purpose center for living and that's what we could do with that building and I admit that I've had that in the back of my mind all along and I also got the elevator put in for that reason. The elevator isn't doing us much good today but when we can use that full building and expand our senior facilities, we've got the elevation and we never would have got it later on so we got it with Community Development money and I'm very happy about that.
(I) And you think there are enough senior citizens in Teaneck who need that sort of thing. I mean who need it.
(I) Now, how do you feel about Teaneck today?
(N) Teaneck today? I think it is a great place. My daughter just went through the high school so I got to be reinvolved with a number of people in town that I hadn't been involved with and I think the high school is in much better shape than it was ten years ago when everybody thought it was so great and then when everybody thought it was so bad, it never was that bad either.
(I) Well, when was it supposed to be so bad?
(N) Well at the time of the 1970/71/72, Dr. Michaels was there. He inherited a terrible problem with discipline and so forth and he was a kind of permissive kind of guy too. He understood the kids pretty well but, so I am not accusing him of the problem, but let me tell you, the statistics, I remember looking, being horrified at the absenteeism. You know, a school, if the morale of the school is low, you get absenteeism and you get vandalism and it was both terrible. There were fire alarms it seemed like daily, false alarms set by the kids. There were kids in the halls patrolling back and forth, never going into class, there were disruptions. And when I saw the statistics for the month of November once, I asked, what is your absenteeism. Well it stands out in my mind that there were 2,300 kids in the high school and on any given day in the month of November, 1970 or whatever, 600 absenteeism. 600. Now that's a symptom of a serious problem. At that time, many of the liberals in town were saying our high school is the greatest in the world. Well it wasn't the greatest in the world. And then later on when they turned on it, not they but people got upset, and it is a terrible school and all, their percentage of kids going to four year colleges has gone up. For a couple of year there, it went down to about 65% and now it is back up to 80% or something where it belongs and from what I see of the figures, the black students are about on the same par as the whites going to four year schools. That's partly affluence and partly ability.
(I) And also partly they are not as antagonistic as they were in the late 60s I suppose.
(N) The relations between the kids in the school up until last June, I don't know what's happened this fall but I can't see it changing too much, the interracial relationships were much better. My daughter was involved with blacks, black groups and many of the white kids were and it is not perfect - of course the black kids have their interests and the white kids have their interests and the Jewish kids have their interests - you get different groups, but there was an ease and a lack of tension for the most part. Except for a certain militance but even so they weren't accepted by most of the kids on either side.
(I) They don't have too much influence.
(N) And there was, I would say, it is a very successful integrated school. There are still problems. I still think that there are not many black kids in the honor courses for whatever reason and the white kids tend to dominate certain things but part of that is just background of what people like and part of it is a feeling of not being welcomed. But there is really not very much of that there for my observation.
(I) so you think we will survive.
(N) Yes. Very Definitely. By all means we will survive.
(I) Well thank you very much Mayor Hall. It is really good.