Monthly Archives: October 2021

Heard about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

It doesn’t exist. Not even in Post Office Plaza. The sooner we realize that the better off we’ll be.

Check out this piece by a neighbor who knows what he’s talking about:

https://www.tapinto.net/towns/chatham/articles/misdirection-and-opacity-from-council-member-mathiasen-about-fiscal-responsibility

What you can do

Q: Is there any way to dissuade our Mayor & Council from building a big, 100+ commercial, rental apartment block behind our Main Street Post Office, clogging up our streets with hundreds more cars?

Come to the Council Meeting Tonight

Tuesday, Oct. 12, 7:30 pm,

Borough Hall, upper level, 54 Fairmount Avenue.

To attend virtually: see www.chathamborough.org. Scroll “News and Events” down to “Notice of Mayor & Council Meeting.”  Click “more.” 

Q: Discouraged by the Mayor’s 25-person limit on in-person attendance? Fed up with the technical difficulties that plague virtual participation?

Tell the Mayor

to hold Council meetings in a place

that can accommodate everyone.

Email:mayor@chathamborough.org  cc cdempsey@chathamborough.org, swilliams@chathamborough.org and brigidmcmenamin@msn.com

Miss Dickinson’s Garage

The Chatham Borough Council’s plans to overhaul Post Office Plaza will mean the loss of an historic structure built more than 100 years ago by feminist trailblazer Edna Dickinson (1885-1954).

Miss Dickinson was a graduate of Moravian College, a crack shot, world-class collector of mounted birds and animals, a tireless volunteer, a whiz at selling World War I bonds, a founder of the Chatham Trust Company, and our town’s first female real estate broker, known for driving her clients around in a Chalmers at a time when cars were a novelty.

New York Tribune, 14 Dec. 1919

In 1911 – years before women were even allowed to vote – Miss Dickinson, 26, built the two-story structure at 31 South Passaic Avenue, near the train tracks, to house her real estate business and an auto repair shop. Upstairs would be The Chatham Press, whose only entrance was on a nameless side street that ran along the railroad tracks.

The Chatham Press, 19 Aug. 1911, p.1

Before long, the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad decided to raise those tracks for safety. The Borough allowed the railroad to build an embankment, with a retaining wall in the the side street, only a few feet from Miss Dickinson’s building, permanently blocking the entrance to the upstairs offices – as well as a residence in back of the lot, which the DL&W fenced with wire – over the objections of Miss Dickinson, and without compensating her.

Just look how close the tracks come to the building:

https://www.google.com/maps/place/31+S+Passaic+Ave,+Chatham,+NJ+07928/@40.7394433,-74.3827375,3a,75y,83.37h,90t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s8mJ_YxEmpCycaEpv8dCcNA!2e0!7i16384!8i8192!4m5!3m4!1s0x89c3af72d5e15273:0xcb10e740d81b723f!8m2!3d40.7394466!4d-74.3825504

Tenacious, young, businesswoman Edna Dickinson battled them in court for four years. She ultimately won a series of jury verdicts, culminating in a 1918 damage award totaling $8,332, which would be worth some $150,000 today.

As of 2021, Miss Dickinson’s Garage is the home of Glenn’s Automotive and Towing, a hometown business, whose owner – a third generation Chatham resident – just happens to share Miss Dickinson’s love of animals.

glennsautomotiveandtowing.wordpress.com

You can find the fascinating history of Miss Dickinson’s Garage in My Town by a River: Vignettes of Chatham, New Jersey,* published in 2005 by the Chatham Historical Society, and in many old clips from The Chatham Press.

* https://books.google.com/books/about/My_Town_by_a_River.html?id=cHsHpHcD53IC

Time for our Mayor to do the right thing!

Tell our Borough lawyers and experts to come up with ways to allow enough affordable housing – without destroying one of the last few open spaces in town.

Our elected representatives deny having plans to stick a 100+ apartment development behind our Main Street Post Office, clogging up already congested streets, displacing the popular Cottage Deli, and destroying our free, public, parking lot.

They claim that whatever they decide to build in Post Office Plaza will be small scale and low density.

Now we know that isn’t true. So stop wasting time. Tell our lawyers and experts to come up with alternatives.

Our Mayor & Council have already taken steps to facilitate swift construction of a 100+ unit, rental housing project in Post Office Plaza.

The proof is in an agreement the Mayor signed – and the Council approved – on June 14, 2021, agreeing to tight deadlines calculated to lead to a final deal with the developer by June 1, 2022.

(See for yourself in Sec. 8.b.iii, 12. & 13 of that agreement, shown in the Sept. 18 post at www.chathamchoice.org; and discussed at https://chathamborough.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=1&clip_id=55, 34:22 through 35:38)

Contrary to what you may have heard, that June 14 agreement does NOT limit the size of the project at Post Office Plaza. Just the opposite!

In effect, that agreement requires construction of at least 100 rental apartments at Post Office Plaza, as our professional planner Kendra Lelie conceded at the Sept. 27 Council meeting.

(See for yourself at https://chathamborough.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=1&clip_id=56, 1:44:00 through 1:44:26. In theory, they could substitute 75 for-sale units, but that’s out, as it’s less profitable for the developer.)

Only way we can avoid getting stuck with that eyesore is for the Mayor to step up, invoke the “or” clause in Sec. 8.b.iii, and persuade the powers-that-be to accept another way to get enough affordable housing.

A 100-unit rental development will bring in hundreds of new residents, driving at least 130 additional cars, plus many more carrying employees and patrons of the new retail shops and restaurants.

(See Sec. 4.4.3 of the 2019 Redevelopment Plan, http://www.zumu.com/zumu/chatham/Post%20Office%20Plaza%20Redevelopment%20%20Plan%204%209%2019.pdf).

We’ll be forced to replace our free, convenient, public parking lot with a dangerous garage that’s sure to attract crime – in return for a mere 15 -17 affordable apartments – and with NO significant benefit for residents or taxpayers.

The actual size of the project could exceed 200 units, given the lax 2019 Redevelopment Plan.

Sec. 4.4.2, http://www.zumu.com/zumu/chatham/Post%20Office%20Plaza%20Redevelopment%20%20Plan%204%209%2019.pdf)

The developer will be eligible for taxpayer help financing the project and a 30 year break from paying normal property taxes!

(See Sec. 5.11 of the 2019 Redevelopment Plan, http://www.zumu.com/zumu/chatham/Post%20Office%20Plaza%20Redevelopment%20%20Plan%204%209%2019.pdf).

There’s no need sacrifice Chatham. Our experts know many ways to allow affordable housing. Ms Lelie calls them “mechanisms.”

Some possible mechanisms include:

  • subsidizing existing apartments;
  • converting old office buildings to residential use, as resident Fran Drew has proposed;
  • building assisted living or senior housing, perhaps near the train station; or
  • some combination of the above.

Tell our Mayor & Council to have their experts show us Chatham residents and taxpayers some “mechanisms” that will preserve our free, convenient, public Post Office Plaza parking lot – and without condemning anyone’s property.

E-mail the Mayor & Borough Council:

mayor@chathamborough.org mayorcouncil@chathamborough.org

Link to more contact information:

https://www.chathamborough.org/chatham/Government/Mayor%20%26%20Council/