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The United Water Property

Let it be

If we zoomed forward a couple of hundred thousand years from now, and reflected on this place we are now, duking it out over the United Water property, I think we would look back at this moment in New Milford’s time, as significant as it is to us now, and laugh. It is utterly and completely ridiculous. And yet, like everyone else who cares about the outcome, I’m hooked in.

Someone close to us recently died. We went to her home afterwards. All her things are there, everything that was important to her.  Her pocketbook is on the floor next to the bed where she died.  Our friend Ruth left us here, and journeyed on  --  she didn’t take her pocketbook with her. 

Any woman who carries a pocketbook understands the preciousness of that possession. When I’m upset, I open mine, put on my cherry chapstick, put my papaya lotion on my hands (or whatever great-smelling one I have at the time), pop a piece of gum in my mouth, and I’m good to go. Back in business. Pens, wallet, cash and change, notepad, an angel from my mom, its head is off, but I have the head in there too. Cell phone, keys, my SOD buttons…  :)  All the things important to me. They get me through my day.

Going through my friend’s belongings, I realized how valueless “things” are. And even more so after sifting through a household of possessions that provided comfort to my friend while she was here; yet, were abruptly abandoned when she ascended.

My friend Nancy, whose opinion I respect, once taught me that your value is on the inside -- it has nothing to do with the brand of clothes you wear or the car you drive. Though she can well afford it, she does not seek out brand names.  She doesn’t have a need to. She is secure in herself, and doesn’t need to establish her value through her possessions and acquisitions. Her truth resonated with me.

Another beautiful friend, Gerry, I had asked her, “If you woke up tomorrow, and you could change anything in your life, what would you change?”  She said, I wouldn’t change a thing. My happiness is in who I am.

EVERYTHING is on the inside. Who and what you are. Your experiences and memories. The people you touched and who touched you. All the love you hold in your heart … fractured as it may be at times. This is what you carry back with you. Nothing else. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.

Which brings me to the here and now and what is truly important. What do we want to carry with us for our forever as we journey on?

I want a Super ShopRite -- I really do. It would be super cool, and much more convenient for me because it would be closer. I see Mayor Subrizi’s point of view and how nice it would be to have a shiny new ShopRite, big and beautiful on the UW property. Enough room to do it up right. I also like the idea of having the fire department take the place of the old ShopRite so we can solve that problem too.  Get everything updated and centrally located. Wonderful idea. But the one thing I can’t get past is the fact that people will be hurt by this. Lots of people. The people who are advocating for this development obviously won’t be hurt by it, or they wouldn’t be advocating for it at all.

I don’t understand them. I want to take a bullhorn and shout: People will be hurt by this! Don’t you care?! Do you know what it’s like to lose value in your home upwards of a $100,000+, possibly the only security that helped ease the burden when times were tough? Or to have your peaceful world turned upside down as progress issues forth construction trucks and machinery to clean-cut the trees and tear up the earth, transforming your Feng Shui into Feng Sh--. I don’t know anyone who would want a prime location in a sleepy part of town located across from an abundance of green nature, to turn into an asphalt, concrete, noise and light show. Or to have a child wounded by an absent-minded shopper. To have the filthy Hackensack River flow directly into your home. Now your home is in the river, and your family is out of sorts. These people are victims of circumstance, not of their own making. Their only choice is to fight, or to suffer more losses.

Even if it was one person who would be sacrificed as the casualty of this development, I would not want that one person to be me. To have my community happily shopping away while I’m suffering the loss. There is a reason why people within 200 feet of a property where a variance request has been proposed have to be notified. Because they will be affected by it and have a right to know that their rights are about to be infringed upon.

It’s shameful what’s going on. It’s shameful of United Water to sell us out to this monster developer. It’s shameful for Hekemian to plow over a community to enhance his portfolio. And it’s shameful for our community leaders to fail to represent the most vulnerable of us, whoever that may be.

Our trees and grass. Air temperature. Fresh air. Lung health. Seniors at the senior center. Brookchester and Dorchester residents who don’t own cars. Our school children. Historically, the entire UW property served as flood storage, and we still have flooding. No matter what Hekemian says, we know the results of Dipple’s flood calculations, or lack thereof. We have a working model in Englewood: Hekemian’s Sheffield. It floods to the front door and beyond “as designed.” The two  backflow preventers they are proposing to add to the UW property are specifically for preventing the flood waters that would normally go to the site, from going to the site. 

They are protecting themselves. But who is protecting us?

There is an ongoing battle playing out in Patch between those who don’t want the United Water property to be developed and the Mayor and Council members who do. It’s a hot mess. Human nature  …  personal styles  …  a large group of people  …  passions running high  …  people who have something to lose  …  people who have something to gain  …  a greedy developer  …  a callous water company  …  opportunists  …  varying motivations  …  a division on the M&C regarding the property  …  a further division with then Council President Howard Berner coming out against the property  …  election time making it even more confusing with all the letter writing and mudslinging  …  Mayor Subrizi surprising everyone by putting her foot on the gas to rezone before the hearings were even finished. The fact that it's so all over the place has caused the chaos, and unfortunately, a lot of speculation.

Marlene Casey and Howard Berner have made some strong statements in public forums (the SOD meetings are always open to the public). This is something the Mayor needs to work out with them. SOD did not manufacture these scenarios.  People are coming out of the woodwork. Some in public. Some in private. SOD is not interested in crucifying the Mayor or the Councilmen who are for this development. Their only interest is in overcoming the obstacle they represent, since they are working against the residents who are trying to protect themselves from the threat Hekemian poses. Those who will be hurt by this don't want more hardship. And so they are passionately trying to prevent that. I am core to that effort, and I stand with them.

I went to a Republican event a short while back, where, because I was a member of SOD, I was treated very poorly. I felt attacked from people I had at one time considered friends (the hostess at least was sensitive to the fact that I was taking some heat). I didn’t expect to be confronted that strongly at a party, and I was overwhelmed by the angry comments and colorful expletives coming from Donna Colucci and the Mayor (Donna was the one who invited me via FB, although I was there to support my friend Peter). I felt ambushed. And though I too had my reasons to be angry at them, I held back because underneath it all I saw that they were confronting me because they were hurt.

I don’t want that.

There is so much I love about the Mayor. She’s very real, she has a quirky brilliance, and there is something very summer about her, my favorite season of the year. I was good friends with Diego and his beautiful family. I was proud of the Colucci’s in all of their lovliness. I want to think the best of them, and continue to hope that they will join forces with us. We can be angry with each other, we can fight. But we don’t have to be enemies. My husband is a strong partner. My greatest love and friend (along with my son), and we can fight Cousin Vinny style. But just because we challenge each other doesn’t mean we hate each other.

There is a Chinese proverb:  “In every crisis there is an opportunity.”  This is a time when we can shine as a community.

In the end what SOD would like to see on the United Water property is a united New Milford who is able to enjoy -- with much pride, safety and robust health -- something more in harmony with nature and less threatening to everything around it, like an arboretum, a footprintless science or nature center, walking paths, or just Let it Be in all of its natural splendor.

I will end this blog with a Beatles song that our eloquent John brought to our weary souls in an email embracing our Miriam. It’s been in my head ever since; it so applies.

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me

Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me

Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be

Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

 

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree

There will be an answer, let it be

For though they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see

There will be an answer, let it be

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be

There will be an answer, let it be

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Ulises January 21, 2013 at 01:24 AM
Thank you Michelle, you've summed it all up for me.
Lori Barton January 21, 2013 at 01:47 AM
Michelle, as usual, you hit the nail right on the head. And I agree with you: I want a new ShopRite, too!! I'm tired of going to Paramus to do my shopping. But I will not support moving the ShopRite to the United Water property because it is not in the best interest of a majority of New Milford residents. I've said it before: my kids are done with school, I don't live in that immediate area and I don't live in an area that floods. But so many other people will be affected adversely. And all of New Milford will bear the burden of taxes that will increase due to the stress on our infrastructure and the increased demands on our emergency services. I will fight this to the end because I could never live with myself if I did nothing and just let United Water, Hekemian and Inserra ruin our town.
miriam pickett January 21, 2013 at 12:18 PM
SOD has been accused of NIMBY on the Patch more than once. In a way that's true. All of New Milford is in our backyard and we don't want to see our neighbors adversely affected by this awful development. I rarely go into ShopRite anymore, but when I do I can see that this decrepit building needs to be replaced. But, NIMBY. Not where it will have such a negative impact on our community. I am not in the immediate vicinity of the property. I do not flood, ever. I can't understand how people we elected to protect our best interests can be so callous towards a neighborhood. I never understood how much I loved New Milford. Since I've become involved with SOD I have realized how much this small community has affected my life. It was a wonderful place to raise my family and make lasting friendships. No, the development of this prooerty won't destroy New Milford. But it will convert our small, community-minded town into something else. AndvI don't know if I want to live in what will follow tgecdestruction of this property and neighborhood.
peacenlove January 21, 2013 at 09:16 PM
It seems that wherever people from SOD go, there is trouble.
peacenlove January 21, 2013 at 09:49 PM
To rebutte your words, I could not have said it any better than as you just did. One simple sentence and already there is trouble. As I said, wherever people from SOD go, there is trouble. Thank you for showing everyone.
peacenlove January 21, 2013 at 10:03 PM
so typical.
scooby doo January 22, 2013 at 12:35 AM
hey peace: is michael stein even a member of sod? why bring that up? he's right. you are the troublemaker. not michelle and not him. i write on here and i agree with sod. and I'm not a member so don't be pointing fingers.

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