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Superintendent Polizzi On The Field Of Dreams (Letter to the Editor)

Polizzi asks, "Do you know of any community whose leaders celebrate the legacy of a strip mall?"

Let’s be clear about the “Field of Dreams.”  It is a concept that grew out of the possibility of acquiring the United Water property adjacent to New Milford High School. Initiated by the New Milford Board of Education in the autumn of 2009, the concept as first presented envisioned a public-private partnership between the school district, the Borough of New Milford, the State of New Jersey, and—yes—United Water Company. 

If through the application of support from the Garden State Preservation Trust, Green Acres, local funds and BOE resources, UW property could be obtained, it could be rededicated to the creation of an environmental studies center (as an adjunct to the STEM Academy @ New Milford High School), passive recreational and park land, a state-of-the-art athletic complex for school and community use, and a community center. 

Furthermore, this concept would preserve what is currently a natural flood plain immune from commercial and residential development. A public-private partnership like this is absolutely necessary because school districts on their own cannot apply for Green Acres, Blue Acres or Garden State Preservation Trust funding. Municipalities can.

This vision, although heretofore unrealized, is still, one would hope, viable given potential changes to the disposition of United Water-Suez, which is seeking to reclaim costs in remediating the property, and the Borough in terms of its interest in expanding ratables and/or meeting unclear COAH requirements.  I don’t know if that opportunity still exists. But I have to believe that United Water-Suez, with its commitment to being a good neighbor and, more importantly, its educational mission, has the option to work with the New Milford community to help it work through this process. I also have to believe that a long term, sustainable approach to protecting the property from misuse trumps development for economic gain. 

The “Field of Dreams” represents the ideal, one that if realized would leave a powerful legacy for many generations to come. One may wonder what kind of legacy commercial development or housing leaves behind. Do you know of any community whose leaders celebrate the legacy of a strip mall—a supermarket, a bank, an apartment complex. New Milford already has these. 

What communities should be looking for are those possibilities that enrich the lives of its residents. Imagine Manhattan without Central Park. Imagine the force of conviction that it took to preserve that jewel in the heart of the largest metropolis in the world. Imagine the pressure from developers in those early years when Central Park was still a dream and how a people resisted after repeated attempts to co-opt city government into taking a decidedly different turn. 

New Milford, that is the townspeople, the school district, local leadership, as in the mayor and council, have a wonderful opportunity to determine the fate of this land in ways that preserve and protect the long-term good. 

—Michael A. Polizzi, Superintendent, for the New Milford BOE

miriam pickett October 17, 2012 at 02:00 PM
I want to personally thank you for your eloquent letter regarding the current situation New Milford finds itself in. We have always had the solution to the problem with the current football field just a few hundred yards away from the high school. We can still find a way to keep this valuable piece of property for the residents and students athletes of New Milford. All of us need to join together to make sure we can accomplish this goal without burdening our taxpayers and ensuring a residential neighborhood is not destroyed by commercial development. Our flooding problems will be alleviated and we will become more attractive to young families looking for a comfortable, safe and caring community.
Rosemary Fuhrman October 17, 2012 at 02:12 PM
New Milford is indeed fortunate to have a visionary leader in Superintendent Polizzi. Thank you for taking the time to remind us of the original plan for the United Water property. This is a win for everyone. The students get hands on, authentic learning experiences about the environmental issues we all face. The student athletes get a state of the art facility protected from the vagaries of the weather, and the community at large will have a place to meet and mingle. It is indeed unfortunate that the development concept was hijacked and the current proposal looks nothing like the vision of good land stewardship and community cooperation that was proposed back in 2009.
Ulises October 17, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Thank you Superintendent Polizzi for your analogy on the where the real "Field of Dreams" belongs. I hope our Mayor and Council realize that there's no legacy in a strip mall right next to the high school. I also hope Subrizi, Colucci and Robalino stop knocking on doors throughout town telling everyone this is a “Done Deal”, we need to “Compromising” with the developers, and “SOD” has it all wrong. SOD is fighting on the hopes SUEZ/United Water sale falls apart and the town gets a second chance to make things right for the sake of the town’s future. We’ve discovered a lot in recent weeks and we’re building a strong case to stop this development from ruining this town. There are other landlords in town willing to work with sensible leaders at Borough Hall, to fulfill our COAH obligation (currently 11 units) and they’re willing to modernize their property, which means more ratables – but our Mayor wants a ShopRite there and lacks the vision we all yearn for.
Barbara October 17, 2012 at 03:34 PM
This is an amazing plan. How did we get so far off track? And how can we get back to this plan. I strongly recommend we make sure the site is clean from all toxins though. We don't want to expose our young people to a toxic environment!
AML October 17, 2012 at 04:55 PM
With sincere gratitude Superintendent Polizzi for expressing your original vision regarding the United Water Property, and how it would not only benefit our children, but all residents of NM as well as our sister towns. Please continue to express your interest, & your opposition to the current plan of a mixed-use development. Please exert your influence/your voice personally to Mayor Subrizi, & Council Members Robalino & Coluccio, who have all resigned themselves from the onset that their legacy would be a mixed-use development. SOD has been relentless in our quest to cease this proposed monstrosity from happening, & destroying our town for generations to come. We can still all come together, but we cannot do so without the support of Mayor Subrizi, & Council Members Robalino & Colucci. Regrettably, they have yet to adopt Winston Churchill's quotes.... "Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty -never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense." "The pessimist sees the problems in every opportunity. Whereas the optimist sees the opportunity in every problem." We can still make this work! We will never give up!
Anthony October 17, 2012 at 05:14 PM
It takes 25% of registered voters to sign a petition to start a recall vote. How many registered voters are there in New Milford? Can’t hurt looking into this as an option.
Sam B. October 17, 2012 at 05:17 PM
Well said Superintendent Polizzi. How many more people do Subrizi, Robalino and Colucci need to advocate this plan before they see the light. They need to do what's best for NM or face the reality of being ostracized by the majority of the community that they themselves call their home.
Lori Barton October 17, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Bravo Michael and thank you for ALL you do for New Milford and our students. Too bad you can't be Mayor, too! I LOVE your analogy using Central Park. The movement to preserve this land as open space and realize your dream (and ours!) continues to gain momentum. The membership of SOD is both passionate and persistent. We appreciate your support and we shall continue our fight.
Ulises October 17, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Anthony, that's always an option and I'm in favor of that. We'd need about 2,000 signatures but I'm hoping the M&C will realize on their own what a mistake they're making siding with the developers. Here's a website that explains the logistics, you or anyone should pursue this. http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Laws_governing_recall_in_New_Jersey
smiley October 17, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Do you know ay community that celebrates failing schools? Hopefully the Superintendent will put the field of dreams on the back burner and will focus on academics. Our scores are falling on the State-wide tests. The question is why do so many of our graduates who attend college in New Jersey have to take Basic Skills courses? Shouldn't they have acquired these skills? It's a lot easier to address political or technological issues than it is to provide a quality education to all our students.
CB October 17, 2012 at 06:23 PM
Hey, Smiley, maybe you have a problem with reading comprehension. The Superintendent doesn't say he's in favor of the field of dreams that's on the ballot. He says that the original idea was for the water company land next to the high school to be used an "environmental studies center (as an adjunct to the STEM Academy @ New Milford High School), passive recreational and park land, a state-of-the-art athletic complex for school and community use, and a community center." And I'll put NMHS up against any other high school for quality of academics. Plus, there's lots more to a great education than teaching to the test. I had 2 kids go there (recently) and both got academic scholarships. And they weren't even in honors classes. They both agree that NMHS prepared them well for college.
smiley October 17, 2012 at 07:58 PM
CB. I am glad that you are happy with the educational package at the highschool and commend your children for doing so well. I don't believe in teaching to the test but I also don't believe in teaching away from the test. The State test is a tool developed by educators that rates the success of each school as they prepare the students. Each school is very much aware of the material covered by the test but they are not limited to teach just that. It is expected that the schools, especially the good ones, will go well beyond the minimum stipulated by the State. The tool just indicates how successful each school has been in comparison to others. We are all aware that the report did not show excellence. I just hope that the Superintendent's passion will carry over from the fields and into the classrooms so that next year's report will show substantial improvement.

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