ENGLEWOOD, N.J. — With a City Council debate in the offing on whether to pursue negotiations to buy a property on Bennett Road, Mayor Frank Huttle III pitched a multi-phase plan Saturday to develop a community center.
Huttle is seeking support for the purchase of the building, the former home of the Friends of Grace Korean Community Center at 40 Bennett Road.
“There are more people here than at most council meetings,” Huttle said. “So what you need to do is e-mail me, come to the council meetings and stay involved.”
Huttle wants the city to buy the building and another nearby property to relocate the Recreation Department, which currently is housed in the city-owned Liberty School. The other property, now a check-cashing business, would be used as open space around the center.
Huttle said there is adequate room at Bennett Road to build a gymnasium for indoor programs, which frequently has been cited by members of the public as a pre-requisite for a community center. The purchase also would free up the Liberty School for private development, which is a long-term city goal.
Despite the mayor’s interest, the view of the City Council regarding the purchase of the property is far from certain. Huttle likely needs to muster the support of at least four of the five councilmen to purchase the property because a supermajority is needed to approve debt. Councilmen Michael Cohen of the 2nd Ward and Eugene Skurnick of the 3rd Ward, are opposed outright to the purchase.
Meanwhile, council President Wayne Hamer, who represents the 4th Ward, is pursuing two parallel tracks. Hamer wants a vote on whether to pursue the purchase of 40 Bennett Road. To prepare for that, he has called for a presentation of all the information gathered about the building so far; that presentation has yet to be scheduled. Hamer’s second track would be a study to examine what community and recreational programs are being offered by the city, schools and other community organizations to see what needs are not being met. A vote to pay for that study also has not been scheduled.