Englewood Progress: 1983-1988
A report by Mayor Steven R. Rothman
- Englewood pleased city no longer has highest tax rate. (The Record)
- City bond rating rises (Suburbanite)
- Both Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s found that Englewood’s credit worthiness and financial stability are better than when the city was last rated in 1982. (Suburbanite)
- Englewood’s finally a hot place to build. (New York Times)
Englewood Is Strong and Getting Stronger
City Finances: in November 1982, Englewood was a near bankrupt city. We now leave it with a $4 million dollar surplus; its highest bond rating since 1938 (Moody’s awarded us an increase, after 48 years, in 1986, based upon the previous 3 years’ progress and specific plans for the future); the lowest City debt (as a percentage of our budget) in 20 years; strict infrastructure repair, equipment replacement and debt reduction plans; a reorganized and improved City workforce; a fiscally conservative and professional management team in place at City Hall; and a falling tax rate that is no longer the highest in Bergen County.
ENGLEWOOD PUBLIC SCHOOLS: In 1986, after two years of study, the Englewood Board of Education, appointed by the Mayor, reorganized our public school system. We now have almost 50% new leadership (including a new Superintendent of Schools, Asst. Superintendent of Schools for Curriculum, Asst. Superintendent of Schools for Finance and Business Management, Dwight Morrow High School principal, and two grade school principals).
Our public schools have seen dramatic increases in test scores: In 1983, the High School Proficiency Test scores for Englewood were 35.1% passed in Math, 57.6% in Reading and 66% in Writing. In 1987, those scores were 81.5%, 90.6% and 88.0, respectively.
Also, in 1987, Dwight Morrow High School’s student newspaper received the prestigious Columbia University School of Journalism award for excellence.
Englewood has also undertaken the largest public school building repair and renovation program in its history. Three and one-half million dollars has already been spent in this effort, with a total of seven million dollars committed for specific repairs and improvements during the period 1983 – 1991.
Englewood is one of the only communities in all of Bergen County which has a full-day pre-Kindergarten program.
The already good Englewood Public School System is getting better. Our goal remains the same as when we started: to make Englewood’s the best public school system in Bergen County.
POLICE: Englewood’s police force has been completely reorganized. It is now one of the best, most respected and effective police departments in the entire State of New Jersey.
By 1987, by bringing highly trained civilians in to assist our police station officers with dispatching work, freeing one police officer per shift to join our patrol force “on the streets,” we had increased the effective number of police officers to the greatest number since 1974.
With the latest police techniques, and an aggressive antiburglary squad, our burglary rate has plummeted 50% since 1982. Our overall crime rate is declining also, with a drop of 23% since 1982.
Our department has even reinstituted regular pistol training and refresher classes for Englewood police officers, resulting in a more confident and effective force that has scored the highest of any police pistol team in Bergen County for the past two years.
HEALTH DEPARTMENT: With limited staff, this superbly run department provides our residents with many services.
In the past 5 years, in addition to its other programs, it has established a Community Rodent Survey and comprehensive Rodent Control Program, upgraded and improved its system for food establishment inspections and spot-checks, established protocols and emergency responses to environmental hazards such as toxic spills, air pollution and illegal dumping, and negotiated an animal control services contract with Teaneck (thereby subsidizing Englewood’s animal control services).
It publishes a Quarterly Newsletter to all food establishments, outreaches to Englewood Hospital on behalf of pregnant teenagers and (in cooperation with Englewood’s Public Schools) counsels our school children on teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease prevention. It also provides a “well-baby’ clinic for teen mothers and works closely with the West Side Infant Day Care Center which offers quality day care to the infants of teen mothers and life skills training and counseling to the teen mothers encouraging their return to school.
FIRE: Our firefighting force has also been upgraded and reorganized. One of only a few full time, professional firefighting forces in he State of New Jersey it is also one of the best of any kind.
As with the Police Department, we brought in highly trained civilians to assist our fire station officers with dispatching work, thereby increasing the effective number of firefighters to the greatest number since 1980.
Since 1983, we have bought our firefighters almost two million dollars of new, state of the art firefighting equipment. We have increased fire safety inspections, and, as a result, have experienced a dramatic reduction in the number and destructiveness of Englewood fires.
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS: This Department has been reorganized and is under new and good management.
Since 1983, we have upgraded the maintenance practices in the Department, increased worker productivity dramatically and imposed strict accountability standards.
We have replaced outdated equipment with $2 million in new equipment to handle Englewood’s 70 miles of roads.
We are improving the quality of all D.P.W. services while keeping the staffing much reduced as compared with 1980.
In addition, we are continuing our ambitious garbage, trash and “white metal” pick up program.
BUILDING DEPARTMENT: This department was completely reorganized. It is now one of the best building departments in Bergen County.
Among its many functions, it approves all building permits, issues certificates of occupancy and continuing occupancy, is responsible for ensuring compliance with our property maintenance code, investigates Tenant and Landlord disputes, uncovers and eliminates illegal occupancies (hundreds of illegal occupancies in the past 5 years, alone) and assists our Fire Department in our 2 year old program of increased fire safety inspections.
ENGINEERING DEPARTMENT: Engineering provides essential in-house expert services for Englewood’s consideration of the many large and small building projects brought each year. It is one of the most able and thorough engineering departments in Bergen County.
Among its many accomplishments, our Department designed the 15 year plan (created in 1983) to repair and replace all dilapidated Englewood sewers and catchbasins. It is also responsible for overseeing each year’s work, fully funded and performed each year, since 1983.
Englewood is one of a handful of Bergen County communities that provides its Planning Board and Board of Adjustment with comprehensive Engineering and Zoning Comments prior to the respective Board’s action on projects.
MUNICIPAL COURT: This is the independent and autonomous Englewood judicial branch with responsibility for both processing and adjudicating approximately 12,000 motor vehicle and 2,400 criminal cases per year.
In 1984, at the City’s request, the Court began an aggressive program to modernize and streamline its operations. The City has provided computers and technical assistance in support of these efforts and substantial progress has been realized.
LIBRARY: The $160,000.00 in proceeds realized from the sale of the Engle Street School in 1984 has doubled the parking pace, increased the storage space, supplemented our book acquisition fund and permitted the complete renovation of the Library roof.
The Library has also undergone a reorganization. A new space and shelving design has improved the delivery of Library services, as has Englewood’s inclusion in the Bergen County Computer Consortium (bringing our patrons access to 47 other branches).
Our rich and beautiful Library works closely with our Englewood Public Schools and offers a wide variety of interesting programs.
RECREATION: By moving from its old headquarters at Liberty School to its offices at the renovated Mackay Park Gatehouse in 1983, the Englewood Parks and Recreation Department has seen a “rebirth.” It has been reorganized and reinvigorated.
Some of its recent accomplishments include the repair and renovation of may of the City’s baseball fields, playgrounds, and tennis courts; the cleanup and reutilization of Mackay Park and other City parks; growing participation in the Department’s midget league football, basketball, track and girl’s softball league; continuing improvements to the municipal pool; and greater and more diverse programming.
GOLF COURSE: We prevented a commercial use of the former Englewood Golf Course and approved a new, $20 million, non-commercial, residential development.
NEW HOTEL: We changed the zoning in the Englewood Industrial Area to draw more intensive development to this section of our community. As a result, hotel developers found an appropriate spot in this area and the Planning Board, appointed by the Mayor, approved a scaled down $15 million, 200 room hotel and office complex for S. Van Brunt Street across from Bennigans with sufficient on-site parking. (This will be only the second hotel built in Englewood in this century.)
ROOSEVELT SCHOOL: After a thorough and painstaking examination, the Englewood Board of Education decided that it would not need this school property in the future. In 1986, the Board of School Estimate, chaired by the Mayor, recommended that the School be transferred to the City in exchange for $4.3 million, payable over 5 years. This money could only be used to complete a specific program of public school repairs and renovations. The property was rezoned for 20 residential units within the existing structure, dedicating the rearyard ballfield for continued public use. The recent 1987 auction produced a high bid of $1.6 million and will return the property to our tax rolls.
GRAND-ENGLE CORRIDOR: In 1984, in an effort to produce a more attractive and substantial corridor of development, the Planning Board recommended rezoning Grand Avenue and Engle Street. Since the rezoning, at least 20 office and commercial developments have been constructed along the corridor, with another half dozen more under construction or approved and pending construction.
NEW RTES.4 & 95 ACCESS: in 1983, I contacted our State and Federal legislators to help us bring Routes 4 (Eastbound) and 95 (Westbound) into Englewood’s Industrial Area. This process, which normally takes between 7 to 10 years from request to approval, is proceeding on schedule.
WESTRA: After several years of effort trying to attract a developer to build a new supermarket in Downtown Englewood, I persuaded a well-respected Englewood supermarket developer to help. After months of working with him to devise a suitable plan, a proposal was presented to the City Council in September 1987 for their action.
ASTRA: There was a plan to solicit developers to put two, nine-story buildings with 400 units on Armory Street. I led the fight that killed that plan and opened up the City’s Request for Proposals.
I then found and worked with a reputable ad proven developer for 5 months to design a low density, but substantial residential project: a $40 million, four-story, 225 unit complex (between West Palisade Avenue and Englewood Avenue, from Bennett Road to Humphrey Street).
The proposal would leave standing the Elks Club, Lincoln School, Fire House and Social Service Federation Building and would relocated all displaced Englewood residents into comparable or better housing in Englewood (or community of the resident’s choice) at the developer’s expense.
This proposal was presented by the developer to the City Council in September 1987 for their action. It was offered in direct response to the City Council’s Request for Proposals.
ENGLE STREET SCHOOL: In 1983, the Engle Street School had been vacant for 8 years. In that year, my first as Englewood’s Mayor, I negotiated a deal between the Englewood Library Board and the City. The Library exchanged their claim to a portion of the land behind the School for a portion of the sales proceeds, a doubling of its parking space, additional storage space, and a well-designed neighboring property. The City received the balance of the $1.175 million sales proceeds, $1,015,000.00, and the property was returned to the City’s tax rolls.
ENGLEWOOD DOWNTOWN CLEANUP: The cleanup of Englewood’s Downtown has involved the work of the city and the assistance of a number of other concerned Englewood groups and agencies.
Englewood’s sewers on East and West Palisade Avenue, Engle Street, Englewood Avenue and south Dean Street were completely renovated and repaired, and the streets above those sewers were reconstructed and repaved. (The sewers under Bennett Road and Tenafly Road are under repair at this writing, with those street’s reconstruction and repaving to be completed this Spring).
Our Downtown railroad crossings were excavated, rubberized and paved over. We brought new bus shelters and new trash receptacles into the Downtown; replaced missing Downtown street trees; provided the merchants with a comprehensive curb and sidewalk repair program; increased and improved street sweeping in the Downtown; improved police presence in the area; and provide better maintenance of municipal parking areas.
In 1987, we made our Downtown a Special Improvement District. It is one of the first of its kind in Bergen County and in all of North Jersey. This program offers the City the ability to better coordinate and enhance the efforts of the public and private groups working to enhance the renaissance of our Downtown.
MAYOR’S SCHOLARSHIP: After my searing in, I wrote a new marriage ceremony, in English and Spanish, for weddings at which I officiated in City Hall. All proceeds from donations received at those weddings and ribbon cuttings for Englewood stores were deposited in my newly created Mayor’s Wedding Ceremony Fund. Every year since 1983, the two most financially needy Dwight Morrow high School graduating seniors (one young man and one young woman), who had the best academic records, have received the Fund monies. Thus far, over $5,000.00 has been contributed in this way.
LIBYA: In 1983, upon being sworn in as Mayor, I was confronted with the possibility that the Libyan Government would open a Diplomatic Mission in an Englewood residential neighborhood. After several trips to Washington, D.C. and meetings with the State Department, we were able to prevent that intrusion into our community. Although the Ambassador’s tax-free use of the property for his family was, eventually, ordered by the United States court of Appeal, the Department of State has permitted no Libyan national to use the property in question since 1984.
More Englewood Matters
FEDERAL AID: In 1983, the Bergen County Board of Freeholders announced plans to take $300,000.00 in Federal monies that had been designated for Englewood by the Federal Government. I confronted the Freeholders in their public session and convinced them to restore all of the $300,000.00 to Englewood. In addition, in 1984, I proposed a change in the formula used at that time by the Freeholders for fixing the distribution of another category of Federal monies. After several months of lobbying, they adopted my formula change, and, to date, Englewood has received almost $200,000.00 more than we would have received under the old formula.
COMMUNITY MENTAL HEALTH: In 1984, in response to the requests of Englewood residents, I put together a plan (which called upon the eleven surrounding area Mayors for their influence) to save the area’s community mental health center from bankruptcy. The new plan provided that this non-profit center, located in Englewood, be taken over by a new Board of Director, with stronger accounting and administrative oversight. Ninety percent of the funding was to be supplied by the State and Bergen County. The Center, now known as the Cliffwood Mental Health Center, ahs been operating under this plan wince 1984 and continues to provide valuable services to our community.
ENGLEWOOD TASK FORCE AGAINST SUBSTANCE ABUSE: Established and chaired by the Englewood Superintendent of Schools and myself, this volunteer group was created to work with the Bergen County Parent Workshop in training Englewood residents to serve as local leaders for substance abuse prevention workshops. The Task Force works closely with Englewood’s P.T.O. to provide these workshops for Englewood parents.
The Task Force was created not only to heighten our awareness of the problem but to establish our community’s moral position against substance abuse. In 1987, Englewood held its first March Against Substance Abuse, an anti-drugs play at the John Harms Center, and an anti-drugs rally at the monument.
UNWANTED TEEN PREGNANCY: Initially formed by the Urban League of Bergen County, Bergen County Planned Parenthood, the Englewood Public School System, the Englewood Health Department, the Mayor’s Office, and other concerned private and governmental agencies, this group conducted discussions throughout 1986 and 1987 to identify the most effective strategies for preventing unwanted teen pregnancy in Englewood. These discussions gave valuable input into the newly expanded “Family Life” curriculum at the Englewood Public Schools, kindergarten through grade 12. This group will continue to meet, when necessary, to develop additional strategies for implementation in Englewood.
CITY HALL: Throughout 1985, a former City official and others advocated the selling of City Hall in exchange for space in a new structure to be built by a developer. I strongly opposed this plan. In 1986, we adopted a three-phase plan to redesign and restore the existing structure. Work on Phase I begins this Spring.
RETURN TO PARADES, CEREMONIES & TRADITION: In 1986, the City established the Englewood Commemorative Committee. That Committee’s purpose, which has been so ably realized, is to focus the entire community’s attention on our shared heritage. We now have this Committee to thank for returning a vital Memorial Day Parade, Veteran’s Day Ceremony, and Inter-Faith Thanksgiving Service to Englewood.
Quality of Life
Firstly, Englewood must resist the efforts of those who would seek to alter, intentionally or otherwise, our low rise, low density, residential character. Don’t permit the over-building and over-renovation that some will request, or demand, on any lot in Englewood.
Permitting projects that meet all of our zoning ordinance requirements regarding height, front, side and rearyard setbacks and on-site parking, makes use of Englewood’s land in a manner that is consistent with the kind of community we want to maintain while producing ratables. Permitting variances for more height, insufficient setbacks and inadequate on-site parking will destroy this community, lot by lot, and will [produce no more than a minuscule difference in ratables compared with what our existing zoning ordinance permits.
If our concern is the quality of life, then we must not permit any compromises without zoning ordinances on any lot.
If our concern is about the tax rate, then the only place to focus attention continues to be on restrained and well-managed government spending.
Fallacious arguments have been made claiming some relation between overbuilding and the ”saving” of Englewood. Englewood’s financial situation is now rock solid, and planned to stay that way. Don’t destroy the character of our community utilizing a false and disfiguring solution to attack an imaginary problem.
Secondly, Englewood must continue what has been a marked improvement in the quality and dependability of D.P.W. services. In addition, the beautification of Englewood’s neighborhoods and parks with street, curb, sidewalk, city tree, recreational facility, traffic and street sign repairs and replacements should now receive greater attention.
We have, as you may know, applied a great deal of effort to realize improvements in just these areas alone and we are confident that we have instituted the short and long range plans that will allow Englewood to “catch up” in these very important areas.
However, additional public attention, reflected in gradually increased budgets for these areas of short term work and long term maintenance, is required.
Time to choose Englewood's next mayor
My second term as Englewood’s Mayor will come to an end on December 31, 1988. I will not be seeking a third term.
With the completion of six challenging and satisfying years, I am ready for a rest, some time for myself and my family, and the opportunity to spend more hours at my law practice here in Englewood.
I am making my formal announcement now, in order to provide Englewood’s political parties with sufficient time to assemble candidates and to give those candidates the time to make themselves known to the people of Englewood.
Some final thanks
I want to thank the voters of this great City for twice choosing me to be Mayor.
I want to thank all the members of our voluntary boards and agencies for your unsung, but invaluable work. You have served your community “in the trenches” and have performed essential roles in shaping Englewood’s present and future character.
I want to thank the City Manager, our Finance Director, all our department heads and the hundreds of other city employees with whom I have worked. You have shown a great ability to adapt to new management approaches and demands; you have designed effective solutions to confounding and complicated problems; and you have demonstrated an extraordinary concern for Englewood’s wellbeing, progress and reputation.
I want to thank all the other elected Englewood officials, especially the five City Council Presidents, with whom I will have served during these six years. I know how much you love Englewood and how much you want this community to succeed.
I want to thank the members of the Englewood Democratic Municipal Committee for their confidence and support during my ten years of political involvement in Englewood. Without you I would never have had the privilege of seeking public office as a Democrat in Englewood or getting to know and appreciate a bunch of truly dedicated and loyal Englewoodians.
Finally, I want to thank my family, friends, my law office manager and staff, and especially my wife, Jeanne, for all your support and encouragement.
As I spend the next years happily at work in my law practice here, I will have many wonderful memories of my six years of service to the people of Englewood.
I hope I have left a legacy of integrity, accomplishment, and responsiveness.
I know that I have given my job as Mayor my fullest attention and that I have truly cared and struggled deeply to effect Englewood in only the most positive and beneficial ways.
I look forward to a productive final year in office and to getting ready for what will be a new chapter in Englewood’s life – and in my own.
Steven R. Rothman
(Not produced, printed or mailed at public expense)