Letter to the Editor: For the Kids

Former Council President and current member of SOD reminds New Milford that the fight against development is for the kids.


The rallying cry "FOR THE KIDS" has motivated New Milford residents to seemingly do the impossible and make it routine.

Thirty years ago, when we moved into town, I was so impressed with the sense of community that I felt here in New Milford, it was palpable. You felt it everywhere--a feeling of place, a feeling of being part of something much bigger than just yourself.

When my children started to participate in Little League,soft ball, Junior Football, cheerleading, it was bigger than life. Men and woman volunteers, from all backgrounds, all ages, some home grown, others from different times and places, all coming together for the kids.   

Just take a moment and think about what it takes to organize all the activities, maintain the fields, equipment, raise money for uniforms; it's a daunting task but New Milford's volunteers can do it in a heartbeat. 

Now there exists the greatest threat to our "KIDS," in my opinion, in the 30 years that I have lived here--the proposed development of the United Water property directly across the street from the High School. 

The 13-acre property has been the subject of a Board of Adjustment application for the past year. An out-of-town developer is proposing to build a 70,500 sq. ft. regional shopping center with a bank, an apartment building and seemingly 500 parking spaces on the environmentally sensitive property that has never had any development built upon it. In fact, it may be unsuitable for development due to the past history as a dumping ground for United Water's waste products, heavy metals and sludge. 

A small group of residents started to attend zoning board meetings and quickly realized that this a very serious issue for this town. High priced lawyers, engineers, planners, tax and traffic experts all making their appearance before the board, extolling the benefits of this development. 

The small group of residents banded together and SOD (Stop Over Development) was formed. We attend meetings, challenge every word of testimony, argue against the assertions by the developer that this will not adversely effect the quality of life in this town.   

SOD STRONGLY DISAGREES, as do many residents (and our growing members attest to that fact), just having a very successful fund raiser. We are raising money to hire a lawyer, planner, what ever it will take to defeat this proposal. 

SOD, unfortunately, is the only group that is taking this issue head on. The Mayor and Council took a passive role until SOD called their actions into question. Instead of helping, the Mayor and Council was actually encouraging this development as some relief to our tax burden and an increase in tax ratable's. How misguided.

SOD,  however resourceful, can't do all the heavy lifting. SOD cannot wait a moment longer for the Board of Education, the PTA, parents of high school students and the students themselves to attend the meetings.   

The High School stands the most too lose if this development is approved. Just think about the ramifications. Two to three years of noisy and disruptive construction, the dust, dirt and construction equipment in and out. When completed, 35 to 50 delivery trucks a day, all driving past the school, past students walking to and from class, hundreds of cars a day putting students in danger. 

Let us not forget the lost opportunity to purchase this property, relocate the track and the football field out of the flood waters and  give our students the recreational programs that they deserve. If we defeat this development we can find the money, somehow, someway to keep this open space part of our open space.

Come to the Board of Adjustment meeting on February 28 at 7:30 pm! Remember, this time it really is "FOR THE KIDS!" 

Michael J. Gadaleta 

SOD member; former New Milford Councilman 1999-2004; Council President 2003-2004

Ulises February 19, 2013 at 12:44 PM
Thank you Michael. Not enough people care or know what's going on. People also have no idea some SOD members work on this fight, for our kids, everyday. I don't see PTO members attending these meetings, coaches, nor teachers. And at recent M&C, the head of the recreation department said he wants a ShopRite by the high school, I can't even tell you how disappointing it was to hear him. Everyone that thinks this will lower our taxes, it's not. Anyone that thinks this will increase your property value, it's not. It's going to change the town and the environment forever and our kids will never get that field they yearn for if we don't band together and stand up against this development. It's pretty sad not enough care and all the people that should join our fight are on the side of the head of the recreation department - wanting ratables over what our kids and this town really needs. Help us preserve open space by our high school.
Ulises February 19, 2013 at 01:47 PM
It'll ruin a lot if we don't fight for what is right.
Jose A. Camacho, Esq. February 19, 2013 at 02:27 PM
Mr. Drake, I think you are wrong on this, and it does appear to me that Mr. Gadaleta made some very good points. I think the high school, the children of New Milford, and those in the surrounding flood areas, along with adjacent property owners, stand to lose the most from Hekemians proposed development. Only hope the Mayor and Council as well as the ZBA finally stand up in unison with the residents of New Milford.
TommyIce February 19, 2013 at 05:26 PM
Pointing out that the rec director has an opinion contrary to the safety and well being of children or that the PTO is woefully absent is hardly ganging up. And if the Heikemian deal goes through, all of the residents--not just the ones in close proximity to this mess--will be ruined.
Lori Barton February 19, 2013 at 05:30 PM
Count me in the group that says "you hit the nail right on the head." There is NOTHING good about this proposed development. There is nothing beneficial to the residents of New Milford. Let ShopRite rebuild where they are and where they already have the approvals. This is the last open space in New Milford. It is the ONLY space left that would be big enough to accommodate an athletic field that includes bleachers and a track. That's what belongs next to NMHS, along with passive parkland for the rest of the community. ALL of this needs to be kept permeable so that there is not a negative impact on flooding for anyone in this community. Even IF the "correct" decision was made 2 years ago, it still doesn't mean that is the correct decision today. The Zoning Board needs to turn this down and our Mayor & Council need to be ready to take the steps necessary to acquire this property when it becomes available. AND, the parents of the kids in this community absolutely need to get involved. Isn't it ironic that the vast majority fighting this are residents without young kids? I know we have more time, but still, you guys can't sit back anymore! This is too important FOR THE KIDS, for your property values, for the sake of maintaining quality of life.
nm citizen February 19, 2013 at 07:07 PM
sounds like an argument just for the sake of arguing. so this land that you argue is not good to build on because it might be contaminated is good enough for the kids you care so much about to play on by relocating the field to? sounds good
John DeSantis February 19, 2013 at 07:44 PM
Hello Jimmy, Hope all is well with you and yours. I don’t think SOD’s intention is to gang up on folks. SOD is asking for help from anywhere it can be found. This development will change the character of this town forever. That is a decision that should be made by the people who live here, not forced on the community by some multibillion dollar corporations. I agree, pressure was put on politicians, but that comes with the territory. You know that. On a different note, I was saddened to hear of your friend Audrey and her bout with Alzheimers. I cannot think of a more insidious disease. It gradually steals away a person’s memories, their self awareness, the entity within, and their very soul. All that they ever were, all that there was that folks loved about them is gone. It leaves only a breathing carcass for their loved ones to care for until the end finally does come. I hope somewhere there is peace for Audrey. We should all do anything we can to fight this disease. Research has made great strides in understanding the causes and possible treatments, but there is still a long way to go.
Ulises February 19, 2013 at 08:55 PM
Michael's letter has no political intent. He's crying for help from the community we all love. We're working hard to put a field where it belongs, by the high school and at very little cost to the taxpayers.
scooby doo February 20, 2013 at 12:55 AM
only reason people gang up on you is cause it is so easy. you say ridiculous stuff and expect its going to be ignored.
Ulises February 20, 2013 at 04:48 AM
If Michael was to get into politics again, I'd hope he would as an Independent. If anyone is interested in starting an Independent movement in town to elect council members that put the town's interest first over political party, council members that will waive insurance coverage (we could save over $100K per year if the entire M&C opted out), and council members that will donate their $2-$3K salaries to charities - please send me an email at nm_iclub@yahoo.com.
scooby doo February 20, 2013 at 12:52 PM
hahahaha nice bluff, you have to many names to keep track of
John February 20, 2013 at 02:38 PM
The town is already shot. Look at the for sale signs up all over. Everything this town does needs a grant because we cannot save money otherwise the officials cannot tax you more than the previous year. Max out the expenditures to max out the 2% Does not matter if they build a shoprite or a field your taxes will never level off nor go down. If your lucky enough to retire w/ social security just forward the check to the boro because in just a few short years the avg. house will be at 20k in taxes so who the heck would want to move here and you will never be able to sell.
Ulises February 20, 2013 at 11:15 PM
John, I don't know about that happening that soon but all of Bergen County is heading down that road of taxes doubling in the future. Let's look at NM's $18M annual budget. Almost $3M of that budget is set a side for unused sick days that will be paid out once a town employee retires. Of that approximate $3M, over 80%is being accrued for our police force. Now, if a police officer has a perfect attendance for the year that officer receives a bonus and upon retiring he gets a check for all his accumulated sick days since day one. If the PBA union is not taken on and we don't do anything about this double dipping of sick day bonuses, all these towns in Bergen County are going to go belly up, just like Spain, Greece, etc... We can't afford these payouts in the future. Just think about all the town can do with an additional $3m off it's books - every year??? By no means am I discrediting the fine job our police department does, I'm just crunching the numbers.
Sam B. February 21, 2013 at 12:30 AM
The recreation director, John Bigger, is hired by the M&C so don't expect him to be anything but a puppet. The guy gets $30,000 a year for a part-time position and is supposedly in charge of a program that is run poorly at best. Go to a Rec. meeting and watch the Chairman run the meeting while he sits in the background saying nothing. We need someone who is dedicated not another political crony appointment.
Howard Stern February 21, 2013 at 01:42 AM
you sure have a way of monopolizing the comments drake. it does not change the facts. shop rite next to the high school is a terrible idea. where is the board of education and your son? why haven't they attended any meetings? Why wouldn't the board of ed and the pta be there as objectors?? their silence is deafening!
Ulises February 21, 2013 at 03:52 AM
Michael's message, like so many other articles nowadays, is being lost because one narcissistic person in town makes the comment section all about himself and then all his nemesis in town pile on. All he does is twist everything into a blame game on the former Mayor or SOD for all the town's problems. It's pathetic and he's singlehandedly ruined the Patch's comment section.
miriam pickett February 21, 2013 at 03:16 PM
At the risk of opening myself up for more angry and repelent comments, I agree with Ulises. When the Patch started it was greeted with excitement and hopes that it would become a town hall meeting online. Unfortunately, it has now denigrated into name calling and angry posts aimed at people rather than a serious discussion of the issues. What a shame. What a lost opportunity.
Adam February 21, 2013 at 03:39 PM
I agree. This used to be a friendly forum, a nice place to exchange ideas, but it has degenerated into a shouting match on both sides, including the supporteers of SOD who viciously attacked Hackensack Riverkeeper Bill Sheehan a few months ago when he gave his professional opinion that developing the United Water track would not have any significant environmental consequences.
John Bigger February 21, 2013 at 04:55 PM
Sam B, for the record, my salary is $25,000 a year, but thank you for the raise. I am appointed by the Recreation Commission, not the M&C, and by statute, the Commission Chairman runs the meetings. If you believe Recreation is run poorly, please come to a meeting and express your ideas on how it can improve. We are always open to new ideas. Or if that is not good for you, you may contact me at Recreation 201-686-7692 and we can discuss things. That would be the more appropriate forum rather than resort to name calling, innuendo, and misinformation.
Lori Barton February 21, 2013 at 05:52 PM
I'm sorry if you felt that Sheehan was "viciously attacked" but the fact remains that he did a complete turn around from his original position on the property and never responded to questions and emails about that reversal. This was BEFORE his "new" opinion came out on the Patch. I emailed twice and I still haven't heard back. And, again, this was before any of this came out on the Patch. My letter to the editor was critical of Sheehan but I truly don't see how it could ever be characterized as a vicious attack. But as far as how this forum has deteriorated, I must agree. How unfortunate. Why can't we disagree without sinking to that level? Most of us get it but there are always those few that spoil it for everyone.
robin commerford February 22, 2013 at 02:31 AM
Hi Jimmy and John, just wondering, is Audrey a lifetime NMVAC member and longtime NM resident? Alzheimer's is a horrible illness and I am hoping and praying for a cure in our lifetime. Ps Jimmy, I hear you...
Cranky Fake February 22, 2013 at 02:51 AM
"We can’t bust heads like we used to, but we have our ways. One trick is to tell 'em stories that don’t go anywhere—like the time I caught the ferry over to Shelbyville. I needed a new heel for my shoe, so, I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on 'em. 'Give me five bees for a quarter,' you’d say. "Now where were we? Oh yeah—the important thing was that I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. They didn’t have white onions because of the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones..."
robin commerford February 22, 2013 at 03:38 AM
I didn't know her husband and the woman I am thinking of is a terrific person, does have a number of children and is a dog lover. Oh well, Alzheimer's sucks. And yes, living well is the best revenge and desserts rock!
Mizz Flanagan February 22, 2013 at 06:02 AM
OMG, yes there is always that one friggin irritating person you just want to say...when I read his post I just think "Forgive him Lord for he knows not what he does"...eg like show up at the senior center to help make signs for the SOD march to borough hall but then calls the same organization names, wants to have these incognito references where only certain people who know what he is talking about are supossed to be insulted, these rest of us are like"can we just stick to the issue at hand"!!!!! Really annoying and an unnecessary distraction, who thinks he is always "outing" someone but in the end just comes across as a mean spirited person. Anyway back at the ranch....GO SOD!!!!!
Ulises February 22, 2013 at 12:43 PM
Adam, the Riverkeeper wrote on his newsletter, to his member donors, that the reason the developers included 221 apartment was because of SOD. SOD was formed months after that proposal was first submitted to the Planning & Zoning Boards, so he lied. We asked to meet with him to set the record straight and he refused. Then he spoke to the Patch and we couldn't hold back. If you were wrongly accused of being the cause of something or lied about wouldn't you be angry? And, he totally flipped on the issue because he offered the town over a $1M as a down payment to purchase the property and the Mayor told former Councilman Berner, "no" (but the mayor has no recollection of this and said so on the record at a M&C meeting when Berner stated, mayor I told you...). On the same donor's newsletter he then defended the mayor for publicly being for the development??? It makes no sense and he's infuriated many environmental groups over this too. Knowing all this, the false accusations about SOD, refusing to meet with SOD and flipping on the issue, many were angry. Adam, I sincerely ask you, wouldn't you call someone out for distorting the truth about you?
Cranky Fake February 22, 2013 at 02:50 PM
Ulises, save your breath, it is not worth the effort. Adam claims to be an attorney that lives near the river and whose house was flooded previously. He is for the lowering of the reservoirs as a storm approaches (potentially hurting the majority of people if the rain does not come), but in favor of this development next to the river that floods his and his neighbor’s homes? He calls the united water property a sludge pit and defends the “creeper”. Does he not realize that whatever is left on that site, once disturbed, as well as what drips from the cars in its parking lots, and spews from the trucks that make 50 plus deliveries a day and whatever oozes from the garbage containers, will be absorbed bythe students in the HS and will run downstream and into the beloved river that the "creeper" has raised millions of dollars from, in the name of conservation? Then Adam goes after one of his own, another attorney, has he no shame? Probably just jealous that he did not get the “cushy gig” with the town. He is for gun control (keeps the lawyers busy) and voted for the field of dreams (not in his backyard), but represents the “silent majority in town”, psst. Adam the majority voted the FOD down, I guess you don’t really know what the majority wants do you? Adam if this thing gets built It would be ironic and fitting if your house is excoriated every time it rains, Get your facts straight or please remain silent. Hi Molly


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