Remember Dr. King with Senator Cory Booker on Monday at Mount Olive Baptist Church! Join us!
Remember Dr. King with Senator Cory Booker on Monday at Mount Olive Baptist Church! Join us!
For our January 2016 Merchant of the Month, the Main Street Business Alliance caught up with Anna and Harry Yeritsyan owners of Lavash City Grill and Bakery at 331 Main Street. While they have been on Main Street for only nine months, their love for cooking and baking began many years ago, and miles away. More
The state of New Jersey is famous for a lot of things – diners, beaches, funny accents, a certain brand of driving – and while all of them vary in truth or opinion, there is one claim to fame that is hard to dispute.
New Jersey’s prominence in the music scene over the decades is well documented; Bruce Springsteen, Frank Sinatra, Jon Bon Jovi, Paul Simon, Whitney Houston, and Les Paul are just a small portion of talent to come out of the state.
The city of Hackensack played a major role in adding to that musical legacy over the years, most prominently in jazz. More
Captain Bill Sheehan has had his office at Hackensack’s 231 Main Street for 13 years but he’s been a lifelong resident of the Hackensack River Watershed, and an advocate, educator, hands-on conservationist and enforcer of preservation laws for 18 years as The Hackensack Riverkeeper ®. More
HACKENSACK – A detailed black-and-white spray-painted portrait of Chief Oratam, the 17th Century leader of the Hackensack Native American tribe, stared out onto Main Street as an expanding mural-in-progress emerged, panel by panel, bearing scenes from the city’s past and present, and a possible future.
The new paintings are by artists selected by the Hackensack Creative Team this summer, who this week began painting five separate but connected murals on the 8-foot-tall wooden construction fences at 76 Main St.
Organizers hope that the project will spark local interest in the arts, and help beautify the downtown amid construction in the ongoing downtown redevelopment.
The murals comprise dozens of connecting panels; they surround the site of a 10-unit apartment building and former home of the Choripan Rodizio restaurant, which was destroyed in an April fire.
It is the first visible arts project to emerge from a new creative team that was organized and supported by a local business group.
Last year, the Main Street Business Alliance, a group of property owners along Main Street, paid for a consultant to help organize a volunteer creative team to guide arts projects in the city. The mural project was the first such endeavor by the team.
The panels are movable, and the group plans later to put them up at other construction sites in the downtown.
Eric Anderson, owner of 76 Main, said he has met initially with the city and is proposing a 24-unit apartment building with ground-floor retail space. Fencing will be up during construction until April or longer, he said.
The Alliance promotes residential and business redevelopment along the Main Street corridor. Alliance Chairman Jerome Lombardo has emphasized that arts are a “vital component” to any successful downtown redevelopment.
The Alliance paid $6,000 to hire the five artists and cover the cost of supplies.
Stephanie O’Connor, a local artist and president of The Artistic Giraffe, an arts studio a few blocks away on Main Street, pointed out locally influenced portions of her part in the mural panels, on the opposite end from the portrait of chief Oratam.
In a swirl of psychedelic artistry reminiscent of the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” album cover, crying and laughing theater masks hover above a multi-colored depiction of the Hackensack River with a giant comet in the sky, an homage to the Hackensack High Comets.
O’Connor said she was thrilled when she first learned about the new arts initiative. “I had an explosion of ideas” she said.
The hope is that the attention-grabbing art of the murals will inspire residents to get involved in local arts, said Michael Shannon, president of the non-profit Northern New Jersey Community Foundation. The foundation established Arts Bergen and is promoting creative teams in the area.
City Manager David Troast said on Friday that the city is seeking grants to develop an “Arts Walk” that would run from the NJ Transit Bus Terminal on River Street to Main Street, ending near the Atlantic Street Park near the Hackensack Performing Arts Center. It could include a redone sidewalk, sculpture and murals, he said.
On Friday afternoon, Monica Chavarria painted small sections of her sweeping section of the mural, which included children playing before a backdrop of the historic Anderson Street train station, the Bergen County Courthouse and the First Reformed Dutch Church, the “Old Church on the Green.”
Chavarria, 45, of Teaneck, incorporated life-size images of a mother and father with two children standing together in the hopes that passersby might pose for photos with the art.
She spent the early part of the week drawing the scene. She wasn’t there when someone “interacted” with the art by writing on it, in black cursive lettering, “Maria, Te Amo,” or “Maria, I love you” in Spanish. But Chavarria smiled and decided to incorporate the message, drawing a red heart outline around the words.
As the artists painted, jets roared overhead leaving Teterboro Airport and fire trucks blared down Main Street, courthouse co-workers Marla Miller and Evelyn Shimazu stopped to admire the work.
“I love it,” Miller said. She grew up in Hackensack and now lives in Teaneck. “I see this as something to brighten your day.”
PILOT Agreements, Murals, New Redevelopment Designations, and Adaptive Reuse Plans for the old Woolworth Building
HACKENSACK NJ, November 9, 2015—The changing weather has not put a damper on the city’s redevelopment plans for Downtown Hackensack. Here’s an update on new and ongoing projects supported by the Main Street Business Alliance:
· The City of Hackensack approved PILOTs for 150-170 Main and 210 Main for 30 and 25 years respectively. Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTs) incentivize developers to build in areas that might otherwise be overlooked. Based on these two PILOT’s alone the City will receive over $800,000 in additional taxes the first year these projects have been completed. For more about the city’s use of PILOT’s see: ww.hackensack.org/pilots
· The Hackensack Planning Board designated 240 Main Street as an area in need of redevelopment. The redevelopment plan allows for a maximum of 110 residential units and a minimum 2,300 square feet of retail space facing Main Street in a five story project. The plan includes on-site parking and amenities for the residents and patrons.
· The Hackensack Planning Board designated 18 East Camden as an area in need of redevelopment. The redevelopment plan allows for a maximum 280 residential units in a five story building with on-site parking, courtyards and residential amenities.
· The Hackensack Planning Board approved the Redevelopment Plan for the 155 River Street – Record Site which includes a maximum of 700 residential units, 70,000 sf of retail and a 1.35 acre site for a hotel. The plan requires the construction of a waterfront public promenade with an approximately half-acre of open space which will be available to the public.
· The City of Hackensack’s engineer is finalizing the construction drawings for the two way street conversion of Main Street, State Street and several cross streets within the downtown. The designs will consider, tandem on-street parking, loading and delivery zones as well as rerouting NJ Transit Buses from Main Street.
· On November 4th, the Hackensack Planning Board determined that Block 407.01 (located between Main and State / Berry and Camden) meet the criteria for an area in need of redevelopment. The next step would be the creation of a redevelopment plan for the block.
· On November 4th the Hackensack Planning Board approved plans to convert the former Woolworth building at 149 Main Street into a five story, 72-unit residential building with 3,900 sf of retail on Main Street. The plans require the iconic art deco façade to be renovated as a part of the development.
Cultural Arts Initiatives:
· The City of Hackensack is moving forward with the construction documents for the Performing Arts Center at 102 State Street which is adjacent to the Atlantic Street Park. The plans will convert the second floor into a +/- 200 seat Performing Arts Center. Construction of the project is anticipated in 2016.
· The Creative Arts Committee, a sub-committee of the Main Street Business Alliance held its first bi-monthly meeting on Thurs., Oct. 29th in which members approved the group’s vision plan, identified priority projects and laid out plans for executing those initiatives in the next eight months.
· The Main Street Gateway Mural Project: Priming and painting of the wall at 76 Main Street is scheduled to begin in the coming days. The five artists selected are Damien Mitchell, Johnny Newcomb, Lissanne Lake, Monica Chavarria and Stephanie O’Connor. Stay tuned for more information about the priming/kick off ceremony.
· Patrice Foresman, has taken over as Executive Director for the Main Street Business Alliance as Albert Dib transitioned back to a full-time position with the City. She brings extensive experience in marketing and corporate and community engagement to the leadership position, and is implementing several new initiatives including Meet the Merchants, a monthly profile piece to raise awareness for Main Street business owners, that will appear on the Alliance’s web site at www.uppermain.org.
· Foresman is not the only new name you will see on Main Street, the Alliance is officially dropping ‘Upper’ from its name as the district now extends almost to the southern tip of Main.
Additional details about the Hackensack Upper Main Street Alliance are available at
About the Downtown Rehabilitation Plan
Last year marked a major milestone for Hackensack and its downtown business district. The Main Street Business Alliance, the City of Hackensack, Archer & Greiner and DMR Architects received a New Jersey Future 2014 Smart Growth Award for the creation of the City’s Downtown Rehabilitation Plan. Adopted in 2012, the plan calls for new housing, retail and restaurants to maximize thecity’s strategic advantages in the region.
Encompassing 163 acres and 389 individual properties on 39 city blocks, the Hackensack Downtown Rehabilitation Plan promotes a range of land uses. These include retail, restaurants, office, commercial, civic, and entertainment, along with a diversity of housing types, to create a mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly downtown. One of the key objectives is to connect a series of neighborhoods with improved infrastructure, parks, plazas, open spaces and the city’s public transportation facilities.
About The Main Street Business Alliance
Established in 2004, the Main Street Business Alliance is a public private partnership between the business community and the City of Hackensack. The organization’s mission is to address the issues facing the business community with the goal of improving the local economy and the City’s overall business climate. Since its inception, the Main Street Business Alliance has provided Main Street with aesthetic improvements, clean and green programs, merchant grants, and marketing and events such as the Hackensack Street Festival.
HACKENSACK — On the corner of Main and East Passaic streets on Saturday afternoon, chiseled singing men in leather, feathers and chaps tossed red and blue glitter over hundreds of bouncing, bundled-up spectators.
The chilly stalwarts had toughed out 40-degree weather and a palpable drizzle for the main attraction of the 10th annual Hackensack street fair: the Village People.
City resident Jayantha Fernando, her black knit hoodie pulled over her head, just could not stop dancing. “Good group, good group!” she shouted over a disco medley as she swung her arms and shook her hips.
Her Go Fast cap-wearing partner, Stuart Heller, also of Hackensack, said the two had been fans since the ’70s, and they had luckily enough seen them a few times over the past few years. “They’re a fun band. They bring back a lot of memories.”
Typically, 20,000 people attend the fair, which organizers — the Upper Main Street Alliance — hoped this year would celebrate the ongoing revitalization project in downtown Hackensack. But despite the relatively small turnout, the energy was high among arm-waving attendees, wrapped up in coats and scarves, and the sleeveless performers.
Ever recognizable and beloved worldwide, the ’70s-era disco group has traveled more than 100,000 miles this year while on international tour, and the current lineup features members new and old, like Alex Briley — the Navy recruit — and Englewood’s own Ray Simpson.
As the group warmed up in a child-care room on the second floor of Hackensack’s YMCA, Simpson said in an interview he’s grown used to grandmothers throwing bras at them and being recognized in public.
But it was good to be back in his own back yard, he said. Over the years, he has regularly bought his own police officer uniform at Some’s Uniforms on Main Street.
“Jerry Some always told me when I went on stage, ‘You’re wearing my clothes, so it’s like I’m going on stage!’” Simpson said, referring to the store’s late owner, whose family has continued the business.
As the nearly one-hour performance went on, the group’s antics drew laughter and applause: from cowboy Jim Newman’s one-handed push-ups, to headdress-wearing Raymond Rodriguez’s double pirouettes, to the group’s gyrations and synchronized flag twirling.
“We might be few, but we are mighty!” Simpson cried out, urging those in the crowd to raise their voices.
Another New Jerseyan, group member Eric Anzalone — the motorcyclist — braved the cold in a sleeveless, studded vest. “Nothing says Hackensack like a man in leather!” he quipped.
The group also tried out newer pieces, like the anthemic, techno-infused “Let’s Go Back to the Dance Floor,” which fused a modern dance beat with the group’s classic strong vocals.
But it was of course the group’s biggest hits, like “YMCA,” “Macho Man” and “In the Navy” that got those in the crowd singing along and waving their smartphones.
“I was a kid in the ’70s, and in my household, we’re Hispanic, so we used to do disco, salsa, all the dances,” said Christina Fanego of Little Ferry.
Worries about an impending storm led her to cancel her family’s camping trip this weekend — and she was pleased to get a chance to see the Village People.
Fifteen year-old Anya Dwelle of Bogota was also happy — mostly to catch a glimpse of her famous uncle, Simpson.
Her mother, Veronica, who grasped a cup of coffee to warm herself up, said they go to all their shows.
“Everyone loves them, the young, the old, everyone!” she exclaimed.
HACKENSACK — For the past three months, entertainers have gathered at Johnson Public Library to showcase their talents.
Comedians, singers, poets, a playwright and a juggler all took center stage on July 30 in the latest installment of the monthly Open Mic series.
The program, which takes place on the last Thursday of the month, started as a result of the creative placemaking meetings that have been taking place at the library for the last six months, according to Ryan Huban, founder of the improvisational troupe Howdy Stranger, who collaborated with the library to organize the open mic series.
Sponsored by the Main Street Business Alliance, the creative placemaking meetings strive to create ways to attract people and businesses to the city through the arts — further enhancing the city’s redevelopment goals.
“The Johnson Public Library has been offering space for the creative team meetings where artists contribute ideas and have sudden exposure to each other,” Huban, who has participated in the creative placemaking meetings, said. “One day, the library director approached me and said she wanted to do more to utilize the space in the library. We came up with these open mic nights.”
According to Library Director Sharon Castanteen, the library wanted to be part of the downtown’s rehabilitation efforts by welcoming artists and encouraging them to present their crafts.
“With all the people that might move into the city with the redevelopment and the efforts of creative placemaking, I really think that an artistic city can really happen here,” Castanteen said. “I thought we could do our part in that. Plus, there is nothing like this offered on Main Street.”
The latest open mic event attracted approximately 30 people, including spectators and performers. According to Huban, the monthly events bring out a myriad of individuals, with over 50 attending the series’ debut in May.
The open mic series not only allows participants to share their craft, but also fine tune their skills.
“It is inspiring to people to have a place where they can present their work and hone their craft,” Castanteen said.
Danielle De Laurentis, associate director of the Northern New Jersey Community Foundation (NNJCF) in Englewood and participant at the creative placemaking meetings, said events like the open mic series are important in footing a growing art community.
The NNJCF, which also spearheads ArtsBergen — an independent arts council — sets to improve quality of life by fostering collaboration among municipalities, school districts, businesses, non-profit organization and community groups.
Though it is a miniscule step toward converting Hackensack into an artistic hub, the open mic series is not exclusive to city residents — allowing others to visit the area.
Comedienne Linette Palladino, from Dumont, heard about the event from a fellow comedian and decided to participate.
“It was great,” she said. “It was a lot of fun and there was a great turnout … It’s great to come somewhere closer to home than just going into [New York City]. I’d definitely come again.”
John J. Trause, the director of Oradell Public Library, also participated in the open mic event reading a couple of his published poems.
“This was an amazing event, and I am always going to open mics, doing poetry features, and organizing poetry events,” Trause recounted the event to Castanteen. “Most open mics are are mixed or downright awful, but everything about the evening at [Hackensack] was great. Everyone was very strong as performers, and the whole evening was upbeat and humorous.”
Aside from new faces, this series has brought out the “regulars” — like Hackensack resident Dock “Too Sweet” Russell.
Russell, performed a compilation of songs including selections from The Four Tops and Otis Redding.
A writer, musician and producer for the past 40 years, Russell is also a member of the creative placemaking team and is hopeful the city’s redevelopment will foster the arts in the area — especially for the youth.
“[The arts are] so important to the growth of the city,” Russell said. “Art allows the youth to go within themselves, find yourself and allow you to escape what is around you.”
According to Russell, the arts — in all forms — are not only important to the community, but propels a strong sense of identity and pride.
“The arts allow you to be part of a great community, while expressing your individuality,” he said
According to Castanteen, the open mic series is a platform that sheds light on the amount of creativity in the city and surrounding area.
“We are really lucky that we have a lot of talent here.”
Among the local merchants and professionals who make up the Upper Main Street Alliance, the organization that is guiding the redevelopment, debate is stirring over when, how and to whom to advertise the changes that are under way. One key question: Whom will the city attract to live in sparkling new high rises — local empty-nesters or young strivers from outside the city or tenants who are somewhere in between?
After more than a decade of cleaning up streets, brightening storefronts, recruiting developers and guiding the purchase of blocks of aging structures, changes are now strikingly visible. The redevelopment’s first new residential tower, the 222-unit Meridia Metro at 94 State St., is set to open this fall, and as many as 1,000 units could open in the next few years in the downtown.
At its board meeting in June, the Upper Main Street Alliance was presented with marketing themes by two professional outfits. The concepts ranged from a conservative “Hackensack: Bergen County’s Main Street” campaign to an edgier “The Sack: Not Your Mother’s Main Street.”
The two companies plan to canvass North Jersey residents and marketing professionals to gauge interest in a total of four to five options, said Al Dib, the alliance’s executive director. At the group’s meeting this week, members decided to narrow the branding options for the surveys within the next month.
Whichever option is selected through the surveys will be presented to the City Council and subject to its approval, said Mayor John Labrosse.
Jerry Lombardo, chairman of the alliance, said that before the board proceeds, he wants to see the survey results and to analyze the renters — young, older, professionals, retirees — who are drawn to the Meridia Metro building.
Eric Anderson, a board member and real estate broker who markets several redevelopment sites, is less patient; he says the downtown should be marketed aggressively, starting now.
“We have to do something wild and crazy to get some attention to our area,” Anderson told the meeting.
“Every building we have go up attracts a different group of people,” Anderson said in a later interview. “I think it’s very important that we start creating a new identity for the downtown.”
The challenge, experts say, is peddling a vision of new neighborhoods that as yet don’t exist — in effect, persuading would-be residents to look beyond the city’s sedate and dated downtown.
“We’re trying to define a moment in time during which people are trying to make a change,” Axiom Communications President Ron Simoncini told the group.
Marc Kalan, a marketing professor at Rutgers University, said that however the alliance markets the downtown, it had better deliver.
“A brand, when you really think about it, is the setting up of potential expectations for potential customers,” Kalan said. He said cities must find what it is about their location that stands out from competitors and play to that strength.
The alliance is hearing pitches from two marketing firms, Axiom of Secaucus, and Words and Pictures of Park Ridge, which each conducted small-scale surveys to gauge public opinion about the city.
Axiom asked 13 people in three focus-group meetings what they associated with Hackensack. Participants said the city’s downtown is a “blank slate” that has a rare opportunity to develop new housing and commercial properties near public transit options.
Words and Pictures surveyed 78 people at the city’s recent business expo. Ryan Huban, its engagement director, told the alliance that people who answered overwhelmingly “want something different and something cool” in the new branding.
Different and cool could work for people in either demographic group the marketers are eager to impress, millennials and baby boomers, said Robert Goldsmith, president of Downtown New Jersey, an advocacy group,
“On its face it sounds like the groups are disparate. But they’re not,” Goldsmith said. He said that if the city can attract residents, then retailers and restaurateurs will arrive to serve them.
Neither baby boomers in their 50s and 60s nor most millennials in their 20s and 30s have young children, Goldsmith said, and both groups want to live within walking distance of public transportation and entertainment and dining options.
The two age groups already make up more than half Hackensack’s population, according to 2013 U.S. Census data.
Path to success
Some experts argue that distinctive restaurants or stores should first be established to give people a reason to relocate to a remade downtown.
Dib, the alliance director; Anderson, the real estate broker; and other alliance members agreed that it’s important to have such establishments to draw new residents and shoppers to make the redevelopment successful.
Kenneth Pasternak, chairman of the KABR Group, which has multiple residential and commercial developments in North Jersey, said his company is closely watching Hackensack for investment opportunities. But he doesn’t think branding should be a priority right now.
Pasternak pointed to the absence of unique restaurants or retail on Main Street, the thoroughfare that should be a draw for new residents.
“To have a branding campaign without destination-quality offerings,” Pasternak said. “I think it’s early.”
Vince Baglivo, who heads public relations for the Ironbound District in Newark, advised that the district or city start marketing the redevelopment now but cautioned that the city needs something real to market.
He said the brand, which could be a name, catch phrase or image, must elicit a strong response from its audience, including people who already live in Hackensack.
“If people don’t say ‘Yeah, that’s it,’ then it’s very hard to convince people” that downtown Hackensack should be their new home, Baglivo said.