CLIFFSIDE PARK, N.J. — The following is a letter to the editor from Cliffside Park's Gabriel Hidalgo, an urban planner who is among the many residents concerned for how the growing community center will change the neighborhood.
"After coming back from two years of being in Peace Corp, I was astonished by how much change has occurred in Cliffside Park.
"Walking around seeing a diverse racial makeup of families and pedestrians. New duplex townhouses being constructed throughout my childhood blocks. Even new and diverse restaurants being opened like Turkish, Japanese, and Hispanic restaurants on Anderson Avenue, the main street of Cliffside Park.
"Far away seems the majority Italian American based town I grew up in, where the ESL elementary classroom only had two students.
"However, as I reacclimatized to my hometown, the gargantuan community center in progress loomed in the background where ever I went.
However, as I reacclimatized to my hometown, the gargantuan community center in progress loomed in the background where ever I went.
"This massive building exemplifies the change that Cliffside Park is going through from being a small town to the next upcoming town for young experts priced out of New York City to come. I am not the first to notice this trend.
"Immediately, I started to worry about what type of effect this will take on this new blooming diverse neighborhood I have come home too.
"I recently went to the municipality to ask for the master plan of the town and was handed a 1979 version of a master plan. This further worries me that the municipality has no set overall plan for the changes in Cliffside Park.
"Cliffside Park has residents mostly from high to middle class families, mostly homeowners with a small growing renting population, many immigrants or second generation immigrants.
"Even before the center, there was already construction that was already altering the neighborhood with the tearing down of two floor houses for the large duplex townhouses that line the street now. The images above show the change in the type of houses being constructed. The first being how houses used to be and the second, the new townhouses being constructed.
"The Community Center is supposed to increase this development further, which it might, but how will it effect the population makeup of the town?
The Community Center is supposed to increase this development further, which it might, but how will it effect the population makeup of the town?
"When single, high-income professionals working in New York City start to come to rent houses in Cliffside Park, will residents be protected or be priced out of Cliffside Park? This is not such a stretch, look at Jersey City where they are being overwhelmed with floods of New Yorkers moving in and pricing the long time residents out.
"Yes, Jersey City and Cliffside Park are very different, but they have the similarity of being a close commute to NYC, which is the only thing displaced New Yorkers want. Plus, Jersey City with its bigger city government is struggling with this problem how will Cliffside Park with its’ smaller town government fare?
"The Community Center will come, but will the blooming diverse community that has risen in Cliffside Park stay as will."