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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

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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