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Teaneck's Celebration Of Self: 9 days of discovery
By Elli Light, Staff Writer
In Teaneck, there's a prideful little saying: "You never get bored; you jest get tired."
For a town that has 25 council-appointed advisory boards, more than 100 special-interest organizations, and a population so diverse that 24 native languages are spoken in the high school, the saying is apt.
It also explains "Discover Teaneck," a unique and somewhat awesome nine-day free event that begins tomorrow. Participants include several hundred volunteers -- from cub Scout escorts to senior citizen hosts to the Chamber of Commerce, Holy Name Hospital, and the David M. Winfield Foundations.
"Discover Teaneck" is extraordinary, even by Teaneck standards. Its overriding and unblushing purpose is to advertise the town of 39,000 as a sophisticated, cosmopolitan, multiethnic, and multiracial community with attractive housing, good schools, stable government, and a multitude of services. In other words, it is being presented as a great town to buy into.
The targets are prospective home buyers and real estate agents, but residents are being enthusiastically encouraged, if not corralled, into joining in, through print and radio advertising.
What used to be a one-day affair, conceived and run solely by the Teaneck Housing Center, has this year assumed near-gargantuan proportions through what one council member termed "a concatenation of circumstances."
Teaneck has seized the opportunity to combine Bergen County's Tri-centennial celebration with events that normally take place in Teaneck during May: the housing center's Discover Teaneck program, Memorial Day observances, and a folk festival.
It begins tomorrow evening with a champagne gala and exhibition of pictures by local photographers at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Sunday, guided bus tours will take visitors through Teaneck's residential and commercial neighborhoods, highlighting three centuries of history and architecture and stopping for visits at two Dutch Colonials, a "typical Teaneck Tudor," and an ultramodern split-level.
From Monday through Friday, the public is invited to "discover" a specific aspect of town life: the remodeled and expanded library, art exhibitions, entertainment, and tours of the public schools; the Teaneck Housing Center; stores in the Township's four retail centers; the luxury townhouses at Glenpointe.
Next Saturday, Holy Name Hospital and the David M. Winfield foundation, a health education organization created by the Yankee outfielder and Teaneck resident, are cosponsoring an all-day, outdoor health fair, primarily for youngsters, in the town's large Votee Park.
Displaying its assets
While this year's event has a quality of jubilant self-discovery, its underlying goal is a serious one -- to expose home buyers to Teaneck's assets. Many of these are outstanding: easy access to New York City, a large hospital, a big university; a school system noted for diversity of offerings; a nonpartisan, council-manger form of government; a paid fire department; a thriving retail center on Cedar Lane; historic homes spanning three centuries; and an extensive park system.
It is also intended to educate real estate agents to the fact that the township welcomes all people and bitterly resents a practice, formerly commonplace, of steering whites away from Teaneck and steering blacks in.
"Teaneck is a very special community," says Mayor Bernard Brooks. "It's an interracial community. We welcome everybody, and we want everybody to have the opportunity to see Teaneck as it is.
"Teaneck is not for everybody, but everybody should have the opportunity to see it," says Brooks, the town's first black mayor.
Former Councilman Adrew Edelman, who grew up in Teaneck, blames the press for creating the wrong impression about his hometown.
"Teaneck is a unique township," he says. "It's a very cosmopolitan suburb. It has been likened to the life style of the West Side of Manhattan.
"Because of this, we find ourselves at the forefront of social issues. And we have gotten bad press. Because of the articles that have appeared in the newspaper, we have to show people that we are not all Orthodox [Jews], we are not all black, we are not all Filipinos. We do this to protect ourselves.
Teaneck is, according to the 1980 census, 67 percent white, 24 black, 5 percent Hispanic, and 4 percent Oriental (mostly Filipinos and Asian Indians).
Many residents consider these percentages community assets. "We want a melting pot of people, of ideas, of strengths," says school board President Anne Mersereau.
Former New York Ellen Rand, who discovered Teaneck several years ago when she was a housing columnist for The New York Times, said the town's diversity was one of the reasons she and her husband bought a home in town.
"The people I came across are very interested in what's going on; they're interesting people," she said. "I think everyone is very concerned that they do want their children to grow up with all kinds of people."
Teaneck Public Library
840 Teaneck Road, Teaneck, NJ 07666
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