Making way for 21st century in Lyndhurst

By Ron Leir

Does the century-old Lincoln Elementary School stand in the way of progress for the future of Lyndhurst?

Photo by Ron Leir Mayor Richard DiLascio displays some of the township’s decaying utility infrastructure–samples of some of its century-old water lines.

This is one of the issues that will be posed before the Lyndhurst Planning Board at a special meeting on “Project Tomorrow,” starting at 7 p.m. tonight (Jan. 13) at the Municipal Building, 367 Valley Brook Ave.

Benecke Economics, of Moonachie, the township’s planning consultants, will recommend that the board designate eight properties covering about two acres along the Stuyvesant Ave./Valley Brook Ave./Ridge Road town center corridor as an “area in need of redevelopment.”

Benecke’s 30-page report to the board – made available by board member Mayor Richard DiLascio – concludes that the .83-acre Lincoln School site at 281 Ridge Road fits at least two statutory criteria – “underutilization” and consistency with “smart growth” principles that would make it eligible for redevelopment designation.

Benecke suggests the property is “underutilized” because “it is located on a busy thoroughfare, not conducive to an elementary school campus setting,” and, further, “is located in a business zoning district, thereby clashing with sound land use principles.”

“It is readily apparent,” Benecke says, “that (the tax-exempt Lincoln School property) can be better utilized so as to improve the welfare of the citizens and property owners of Lyndhurst.”

Other tax-exempt properties being proposed as part of the redevelopment area are: the former Knights of Columbus building that now accommodates the Jefferson School Annex at Station Square; AmVets Post 20 at 325 New York Ave.; the vacant train station at Second and Stuyvesant Aves.; the parking lot at 300 Second Ave., and a now-empty house at 316 Second Ave. recently acquired by the township.

Benecke says the township can relocate tax-exempt properties to Matera Field, a 5.4-acre site about two and a half blocks below Lincoln School, between Page and Marin Aves., off Ridge Road.

The two tax-generating properties being eyed for inclusion in the proposed redevelopment area are a construction company with two apartments above, owned by Carl Germer, at 551 Valley Brook Ave., and a commercial property, owned by Horotaka Aida, at 555 Valley Brook Ave.

Benecke doesn’t specify what should be done with the eight properties proposed for redevelopment, except to say that the Lincoln School and vacant rail station site, located about a half-mile from one another, “are the focal point of the proposed, potential redevelopment area.”

How the area would be redeveloped will be left up to the Planning Board in concert with township officials, prospective developers and the public.

As envisioned under Project Tomorrow, Benecke said the  project would be carried out in consideration of ongoing improvements to the township’s aging infrastructure, tax revenues, public service needs, services for the aged and energy conservation.

Under this scenario, here’s some of what the DiLascio administration is positing:

• A new 125,000-square-foot middle school for 650 students in Grades 6, 7 and 8 would be built at the Matera Field site. It  also would provide space and services for special needs children from the region, for senior citizens, and for the local Office of Emergency Management. Other grades from Lincoln School would be absorbed by other schools: kindergarten  by Franklin School; Grades 1 through 5 by Roosevelt, Jefferson, Columbus and Washington schools. Projected cost is $30 million to $35 million.

The township will bond $10 million to replace 10 miles of aging water lines  over a period of two to three years.

• The newly opened community pool  utility should, in a few years, be in a position to liquidate $4 million in sewer improvement bonds through pool user fees.

• A new township sewer utility would finance $1.2 million to remedy sanitary sewer line infiltration in the Lyndhurst meadows and to upgrade the Chubb Ave. and Polito Ave. pump stations.

• The township would form a Lyndhurst Economic Development Corp. as a mechanism to help local merchants pay for benefits such as additional parking, façade improvements or group advertising.

• The township anticipates economic development projects at the Kings Court, 1099 Wall St. and Bedrock sites, along with the “four corners” business district.

• The township is looking to lease space from NJ Transit to create opportunities for outdoor dining areas at the Kingsland Ave. and Lyndhurst rail stations.

• The township is changing traffic flow along Court Ave. from two-way to one-way from Delafield Ave. to Stuyvesant Ave., installing a sidewalk and creating a dropoff zone and angle parking for up to 60 cars on the east side of the block.

• The township hopes to create shopper parking behind stores on the east side of Stuyvesant Ave. between Oriental Place and Court Ave. and to make travel conditions safer by getting PSE&G to remove poles and lights from one side of the street.

Said DiLascio: “Project Tomorrow is about facing up to the reality that much of our infrastructure is 100 years old and, in most instances, has never been replaced. We need to invest in that infrastructure to cut waste and, when the economy picks up again and people start investing here, we’ll have a brand new infrastructure for our longterm future.”

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