(Since I posted Zucker’s article last week, it’s only fair to post the rebuttal)
From the Asbury Park Press:
The Jan. 7 commentary “More densely developed housing can address state’s ills” by Ralph Zucker, president of Somerset Development, Lakewood, is inane. If I understand his thinking correctly, adding more density to our current overly dense situation will solve our current density problems. Sounds like “Who’s on first?”
The only winners in Zucker’s plan are Zucker and his fellow developers. The Traditional Neighborhood Developments (TNDs) he touts will do nothing to solve our infrastructure problems. Neighborhood stores, within walking distance, will not prevent shoppers from taking their cars to supermarkets because supermarket pricing is better.
But putting apartments above stores is a much cheaper way of building those apartments. The land is already paid for, as are the foundations and roofs. The leases for the stores provide a constant source of revenue. Forty-five years in a building-related industry taught me those fundamentals of construction economics.
Then there is his rosy description of life in his Wesmont Station development in Bergen County. Zucker thinks that carrying groceries in from a detached garage is a wonderful way of meeting neighbors. I prefer bringing my bundles into my house without being exposed to the weather.
Zucker states that residents will be within walking distance of their friends. Will Zucker specify in his sales contracts that residents must confine their list of friends to those living in that complex and must be within walking distance of one another?
Zucker says increased mass transit will lessen traffic on local roads and highways. Has he ever looked at the crowded parking lots at mass transit facilities? Did those vehicles fly there? No, they arrived there by negotiating crowded streets, roads and highways.
Mass transit is great. I use it all the time going into New York. But I still have to get from my house to the bus station in Toms River on inadequate Route 9. Trying to negotiate Route 9 in the other direction to get to the Lakewood bus terminal is worse. And my wife and I wouldn’t consider parking there, especially if we were returning after dark.
Does Zucker propose that each TND have a rail station and/or a bus terminal? I wonder how NJ Transit would feel about all those new bus and train routes.
Towns are sending their Council on Affordable Housing obligations elsewhere because they don’t want affordable housing in their own towns. For example, other towns pay Lakewood to assume their affordable housing obligations. Lakewood is taking significantly more than its fair share. It is not developers shifting their obligations but towns getting rid of obligations that their residents find objectionable. Lakewood, obviously, feels otherwise.
TNDs will lower property taxes? I doubt that. They will only lower taxes in that particular TND because the properties will be worth less. An apartment or condo above a commercial establishment cannot have value equal to that of a regular apartment or condo. Would you want to live above a business with the noise, crowds and smells it can bring?
Those owning traditional homes will not benefit one iota. The towns will need additional revenue to pay for the services (fire, police, schools, busing, street maintenance, snow removal, etc.) these TNDs will need.
A Jan. 9 story tells the truth about what is happening to the population of New Jersey. People are fleeing the state. Since 1997, more people have moved out of New Jersey than have moved in. But Zucker states that in 2005, 50,000 new households were formed, while only 38,000 new housing units were built.
Where are all these people going to live, particularly those who cannot afford McMansions on large lots? And with a declining population, where are those 50,000 new households coming from? Could it be that, as residents move, the available housing units are not where Zucker desires them to be?
Zucker should take his ideas and sell them some place where people are too naive to understand the outcome. They, too, can learn what greed leads to the hard way, as we have in Lakewood, where building continues to grow virtually unbridled in spite of its overcrowding and inadequate infrastructure. The residents of Lakewood cry out as our trees are cut down and not replaced.