|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:||May 30, 1984|
|TRANSCRIBER:||Jackie Kinney (2/16/1985)|
. . . Teaneck township attorney, lawyer for the township rather, for the Oral History Project of the public library.
(I) Jack, when did you get to Teaneck?
(N) 1946 or so.
(I) Was there anything special that brought you to Teaneck?
(N) I was living in, I found a five family house which was converted to five, six room apartments and we bought the house and made it one of the first co-ops in New Jersey. It was on, what street was it on, the five family house? We had a five family house, facing Teaneck Road, one block up. One block up from Teaneck Road. Commonwealth Drive, 927 Commonwealth Drive.
(I) What happened to that, still a cooperative?
(N) Still a cooperative I relieve. The people that are living there are very happy.
(I) Now you've had a lot of, you participated in a lot of events in Teaneck. Can you begin to relate some of the important events that took place starting from an early period and developing up
(N) Well, I haven't given any thought to it but I remember for several years I was vice president of the Community Chest. I ran for board of education on a write-in on the spur of the moment. Didn't make it but people don't do very well as a write-in against a candidate that is printed.
(I) What made you want to run as a write-in candidate?
(N) Well I was public spirited at that time. I was busy every night in the week doing things.
(I) What year was this about?
(N) This was 1954 or 53, I don't know the years.
(I) Was there a special reason at that time?
(N) Well our group was fighting for construction of the junior high school I think and the board was staid conservative and weren't going to progress, as we thought, fast enough. So we decided but the fight was not in vain because thereafter things were better organized and so forth. Names got on the ballot. I didn't run again. The names got printed on the ballot so people had a chance to vote by a cross and a check
(I) And were your aims achieved anyway?
(N) Yeah. You saw Thomas Jefferson, you saw Benjamin Franklin. That was the fight over the junior highs. I think so.
(I) Do you still keep an interest in the school situation?
(N) Yes but I keep more of an interest in the municipal affairs.
(I) Were you involved when the question of integration in the schools came up?
(N) No I wasn't involved. I was busy checking the law for the municipalities but I was not involved with the board of education.
(I) Not so much the board. I was thinking about the whole questions of the whole fight.
(N) Well I was doing what I had to do as township attorney and I was fully aware of everything that went on.
(I) When did you become the township attorney?
(I) So this was after that period you were involved with the board of education.
(N) Oh yeah. Much later.
(I) What would you say were some of the highlights that were taking place while you have been the township attorney?
(N) In 1963 I think in November of 84 it will be 21 years.
(I) The integration thing.
(N) Being the town attorney.
(I) Oh being the town attorney.
(N) I think it was 63 I started, November of 63.
(I) Well that coincides with this is the 20th year of the integration of school system.
(N) Is it? Well I was on the board then.
(I) You were on the board at that time?
(N) I know I relieve I was. The dates speak for themselves whatever it is, I don't know.
(I) Oh, you were a member of the board at one time?
(I) You were around then, well you had just moved in when Teaneck was declared a model town.
(N) After. I moved in afterwards. I came out right during the end of the war or something like that.
(I) Can you think of some of the developments of Teaneck during the period that you were acquainted with? Changes that have taken place in Teaneck?
(N) Well I know the Sagamore Bridge over the railroad tracks, they were ready to build it and paid about $120,000 and appropriated the money and I said, let me work on it, and I ended up getting 95% from the state and from the railroad. Teaneck got that bridge for 5% of the cost.
(I) That's interesting. You were involved with the ordinance on blockbusting, weren't you?
(N) I drew it.
(I) Can you give us some history behind it?
(N) Well blockbusting was mighty strong in Teaneck and we felt something important and something great was needed to stop it and we came up with this ordinance. Judge Trautwein heard it and the Real Estate Board decided to fight it. It was lead by Alexander Summer and they won before Judge Trautwein in Superior Court. He said you have my sympathy but I think it is unconstitutional and I had asked the Real Estate Board to support me and they came out on the last day of the trial and said they were for Summer. They thought the ordinance was no good. So we took an appeal to the Appelate Division and had it removed to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court unanimously reversed and said it was a proper ordinance.
(I) How effective do you feel the ordinance has been?
(N) I think it has been very effective. We've done everything so far by arbitration, by getting people in for a conference and talking to them and pointing out the ordinance and asking for their help. Most of the real estate men have been very cooperative. Lately there have been a few that are ready to fight us and they opened this matter again.
(I) You think it is a possibility?
(N) Oh yeah.
(I) In this day and age
(N) We are not saying they are blockbusting but we are saying that we stop it by stopping solicitation without our permission and these people feel they want to solicit without permission and go from house to house and ask if you want to sell your house, do you want to buy a house or something like that. Judge Trautwein on the bench, when they fought and said that's the way we make our living, he said that's heck of a way to make a living. He said, I think you'll do better by other methods than by going house to house and scaring people and saying that we want to sell your house or something like that.
(I) Evidentially you knew during the period when there was the large influx of black people to town. Can you describe or explain the effects of it or development of it in any way. Is there anything outstanding about it?
(N) Nothing. Except that we began to see a few representatives at the meetings and I think when I saw like Isaac McNatt went and got himself elected even though he was black, maybe ten years before that it would have been unheard of. But I would see Bernie Brooks as mayor. And we see the president of the board of education is a black. So it was a drastic change. It was no (inaudible)
(I) And it hasn't had a effect on the town.
(N) Not that I know of. I think real estate values have stood up pretty well. I find that I live next door to a black and we are the best of friends and I think that is the attitude that a lot of people have that we are good friends.
(I) You were township attorney during the big upheaval around the country. Englewood had that big riot and other places. Teaneck, I believe, did not have such a problem at the time. Can you attribute it to anything special?
(N) Well I think Teaneck took steps also the blacks that came in to Teaneck seemed to be the type that didn't have to riot. Didn't want to riot. They wanted to make their homes in Teaneck and be happy here like everybody else and make good neighbors and they did. And instead of going out into the streets and make a rumpus. And Teaneck formed the Youth Council where people don't know about it but they meet and help out distressed youths when required. They have a lot of services that they can give that prevents such things as riots and helps quiet down any uneasiness that other people may have. We built a Club Center on next to the restaurant on Teaneck Road and we weren't afraid to spend a few dollars for the youth of Teaneck.
(I) No, you know I did the plumbing on a volunteer basis in that place. I did.
(N) Now they want to sell it.
(I) Why do they want to sell it?
(N) Why do they want to sell it, I don't know.
(I) You are not in on the discussions of why they want to sell it.
(N) There are no private discussions I don't think.
(I) But there are some reasons behind why they want to do it. They want to really move it I gathered.
(N) Move it to a different area you mean? Move the activities to a different area?
(I) Yeah. That's what, that's the impression I've been getting.
(N) I also thought that the North Teaneck Road Development Group feels that it would be much better to have some light laboratory or something like that in there or a retail business in there rather than a youth center in the midst of their business area.
(I) Do you think they feel the center is a hangout for teenagers?
(N) I think they might feel that way. Same way that they felt about McDonalds.
(I) Anything else you can think of outstanding about Teaneck or your relations with it?
(N) Well I don't think I would have lasted in Teaneck for twenty one years if it wasn't good people to work with and I find that every council that I was elected was interested in Teaneck and not interested in fattening any pockets. There is absolute integrity and honesty among all the councilmen. I think you would testify to that. And you get same good men propose themselves or get proposed for office and get elected and as long as you get that, Teaneck will be a good place to live in.
(I) You say there is absolute integrity among the council. Do you feel the same way about the administration as a whole?
(I) Oh yes. Oh yes. Werner Schmidt wouldn't have it anything differently and he know everything that is going on. And he keeps a strong hand for the good of Teaneck rather than for the good of a few like in some other communities.
(N) Anything else you can say about Teaneck?
(I) I think Teaneck is in good shape financially. I think the educational system has a wonderful reputation. I interviewed young people for Yale and I find that the Teaneck people I have interviewed have impressed me and Teaneck is getting a few people into Yale every year. And there is nothing wrong with Teaneck. I think that things are going so well that the council meetings are not as well attended as they used to be except when somebody wants a new street or something like that or half want a new street and half don't want a new street. But people seem to be satisfied the way things are progressing.
(I) There was a time when there were strong differences of opinion especially on the school system.
(I) That doesn't seem to exist anymore, does it?
(N) I don't see any. I don't see any strife in town. I think serenity rules.
(I) That's good.
(N) Don't you think so?
(N) You get up and made speeches at every meeting, point a finger, but nothing serious other than your tone of voice.
(END OF TAPE)