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If You're Thinking of Living in: TEANECK
By Rachelle Garbarine
FROM the outset Teaneck dares to be different. While commercial development is common elsewhere along Route 4, strict planning a half century ago has kept the three-mile greenbelt bordering the blacktop bisecting the township free of diners, gas stations or billboards.
This Bergen County community just four miles west of the George Washington Bridge is nestled between Overpeck Creek and the Hackensack River, which nurtured the Achinheschacy Indians and Dutch settlers and farmers who first cultivated the land in the 17th century. But beyond its serene profile Teaneck offers something more.
It is a community marked by racial, ethnic and religious diversity, by smart boutiques and old-fashioned ice cream shops, and by stately homes on quiet tree-lined streets.
Bernard E. Brooks, the township's first black mayor, calls it "community of communities."
"People who move to Teaneck are looking for diversity," said Marilyn Lambert of Rialto Associates, a real-estate brokerage. "Teaneck is not for those who wish to live in a homogeneous community."
Robert and Linda Rogers moved to Teaneck from Manhattan's Upper West Side seven years ago, drawn, in part, by its similarity to their old neighborhood. "We live in a turn-of-the-century house surrounded by pine trees and have black, Spanish and Oriental neighbors," said Mr. Rogers, a Broadway musical conductor. "We haven't been disappointed."
That diversity was not always found in Teaneck, which incorporated as a township in 1895. Before World War II it was a community of mostly white Christians. Then with the suburban land rush of the 1950's and 60's came urban expatriates -- many of them Jews and blacks from Brooklyn, the Bronx and Jersey City -- seeking a quieter life.
Fur Teaneck, it was a far-from-quiet period, underscored by blockbusting and white flight in the early 60's. The influx of : black families set off panic-selling among white homeowners encouraged by some unscrupulous real-estate agents to get rid of their properties. This, in turn, resulted in, among other things, a heavily black enrollment in Bryant Elementary School.
To remedy the situation, the Board of Education voluntarily made it a middle school in the summer of 1964 (when the enrollment reached 50 percent black), requiring the busing of some students for as much as one-and-a-half miles. Some parents threatened a boycott, but later relented and the freshly integrated school opened without incident that fall.
TODAY, Teaneck's population of nearly 40,000 is a polyglot. As of the 1980 census, it was 67 percent white, 24 percent black, 5 percent Hispanic and 4 percent Asian. This diversity is nurtured by more than 130 social and civic organizations and over 26 churches.
Teaneck officials estimate that about 25 percent of the population is Jewish -- mostly Orthodox. Two eruvs -- borders used to mark districts in which Orthodox Jews may carry or wheel things outside the home on the sabbath -- gird 50 percent of Teaneck's six square miles.
The community has its share of worries, especially the state's plan to widen Route 4 and the impact that would have on its prized three-mile greenbelt abutting it. Werner H. Schmid, the township manager, said an effort is now under way to preserve as much of the greenbelt -- now averaging 40 feet on either side of the road - as possible.
The housing stock, mostly built in the 20's, includes vast Tudors and Dutch colonials as well as small frame and brick residences. Many were built in anticipation of the opening of the George Washington Bridge in 1931, which set the stage for its greatest period of expansion.
According to Marilyn Lambert of Riotto Realty, Teaneck offers single-family homes ranging in price from the rare one at $150,000 to $1 million. During any given week, Mrs. Lambert said, 10 houses come on the market and sell within two to three months.
In the township's more prestigious neighborhoods -- notably Winthrop Road -- residences are often mansionlike, with rolling lawns of a half to one-and-a-half acres and they fetch up to $1 million. Smaller homes - like the charming old Tudors on Standish Road - are scattered throughout the community. They sit on lots averaging 50 by 100 feet and are priced between $250,000 and $350,000, said Mrs. Lambert.
She said that, in recent years, five rental buildings with a total of 206 apartments have been converted into two co-ops and three condominiums. Two new town-house condominium developments, Parkview and the Courts of Glenpointe, with a total of 194 units have been Constructed in the last decade.
The Courts at Glenpointe is the more expensive development, with two-bedroom units averaging averaging $325,000. The project is in a $200 million mixed-use complex off Degraw Avenue at the intersection of Interstates 80 and 95. Though there are still some 1,800 rental apartments in town, the market is tight.
"We wanted a community that was close to the city and had an attractive setting and affordable older housing," said Abigail Gary, who moved from the Upper West Side of Manhattan three months ago with her husband, Paul, into a Dutch colonial. "It's comfortable here and the people are down to earth."
Teaneck's tax rate is $3.56 per $100 of assessed value -- one of the highest in Bergen County. Buy many residents say it is fair exchange for the substantial municipal services, including a 90-man police force. Chief Byran Burke considers Teaneck safe, citing a 31 percent drop in crime over the last two years and special narcotics and burglary squads to keep those problems in check.
The highly regarded public school system includes two primary, three elementary, two middle and one high school. St. Anastasia, a Roman Catholic grade school, is the township's only parochial school and there are two yeshivas - Yeshiva of North Jersey, nursery through seventh grade, and Torah Academy of Teaneck, a boys' high school.
Dr. Harold Morris, superintendent of schools, said the district prides itself on its varied curriculum and alternative teaching methods, including open class-rooms, courses for special education and gifted students and an innovative reading program that equips each classroom, up to grade 8, with a portable library.
Teaneck High School has a comprehensive foreign-language department, which offers instruction in Russian and Chinese, and a wide range of extra curricular activities and sports, including golf. Of the last graduated seniors, 84 percent continued their education and 22 students were chosen as Garden State distinguished scholars, said J. Distler, the school district's spokes man. The class also had a Rutgers Presidential Scholar -- one of 15 in the State.
Teaneck has a lively cultural scene with myriad art and music group, and township residents may participate in all event at Fairleigh Dickinson University on River road. The university is also home to the American State Company, which puts on five productions a season. The 112,000 volume Teaneck library sponsors a nighttime story for children as well as various exhibits and lectures. There is one movie theater in the community and weekly concerts are held in the summer at Votee Park, one of 20 parks. Many have ballfields and tennis courts.
The township has five shopping districts, the most popular of which is Cedar Lane. There, convenience stores stand next to boutiques and restaurants, among them Santoro, known for its French Cuisine, and Bischoff's ice cream parlor. For American cuisine there is Saints Cafe on Teaneck Road.
A strong sense of the past survives in Teaneck, evidenced by its many well preserved 17th-century Dutch Colonial houses. Among them are the John Ackerman House on River Road, on the Fairleigh-Dickinson Campus, and the Brinkerhoff-Demarest House on Teaneck road, a private residence.
Teaneck Public Library
840 Teaneck Road, Teaneck, NJ 07666
Tel.: (201) 837-4171, Fax: (201) 837-0410