Have you ever noticed the price increases that happen right before a storm when everyone suddenly wants to buy bottled water? This is a prime example of the Law of Supply and Demand. When the supply of a product cannot keep up with the demand, the price goes up. Shortages lead to price increases. A shortage of housing leads to high home prices and high rents.
Elected officials see high rents and high home prices as a feature of their urban planning policy. They assume that people pay so much to live near them, because their planning makes the cities the best in the country. In reality, we put up with those high prices because of the community ties that make us reluctant to leave. It is time to bring rents and the cost of new homes down by legalizing more home construction.
It is illegal to add to the supply of homes in most of Bergen County thanks to restrictive land use policies. Developers must endure expensive negotiations for permission to build homes. This has to change. We need to legalize enough construction to allow another 1 million residents to live in Bergen County.
A construction boom that big will bring our population up to around 2 million residents. Any county that populous can easily be the center of the Northern New Jersey economy, thereby freeing us from difficult commutes through the Hudson River crossings that connect New Jersey with New York City. I call this policy Bergen County 2.0, and it will transform our county into a vibrant hub where there is room for everyone.
As towns allow for more home construction, the county should focus on building a bus system to support this growth, allowing the creation of supper-tall skyscrapers, and preparing for rising sea levels.
New York City created many bus lanes over the past several years with some paint and paint brushes. This is the most cost effective way to improve mass transit. Bergen County should follow the city’s example in areas close to the George Washington Bridge. Route 4 should have a lane set aside for buses in each direction from the end of the bottleneck in Teaneck until the GWB. Cars can make do with 2 lanes each way in that area so that buses can cross the bridge easily.
The Palisade Parkway should be reserved for buses from the interchange with 9W at the north end of Bergen County (exit 4) until the George Washington Bridge. The road diet created by bus lanes will encourage more people living near the Hudson River to take buses to Manhattan. The new Port Authority Bus Terminal at the GWB is wonderful. Let’s fill it with bus passengers from Bergen County.
In a few years, Englewood will be the terminal stop of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, and Hackensack will be a transit village with a significant bus terminal. They should be part of a bus rapid transit system with a core line that loops to connect Ridgewood, Hackensack, Englewood, and a new supertall skyscraper district along 9W from Englewood northward. The bus rapid transit system should include a stop in front of every town library. New York City is implementing bus rapid transit. So should Bergen County.
Americans are finally building skyscrapers about as tall as the Empire State Building again. A supertall building is at least 300 meters (about 1,000 feet) and under 600 meters high. There are over 150 supertall buildings under construction or already existing worldwide. Massive skyscrapers are rising in Brooklyn. Construction workers are building the foundation of Brooklyn’s first super-tall. It’s time for Bergen County to have similar buildings to compete with Manhattan.
A new supertall district is sure to develop along 9W if we rewrite land use policy to allow it. The area near 9W between Camp Alpine and Flat Rock is a perfect spot for supertall buildings. They will be near the green space that buffers the Palisade Parkway and close to the bus routes going up and down the Palisade Parkway. The supertalls can have large setbacks and pervious landscaping to allow sunlight to reach the ground and rain to enter the ground.
The presence of supertall buildings will lure companies from Manhattan to settle in Bergen County, thereby shortening New Jersey commute times by eliminating the need to cross the Hudson River. Many modern supertall buildings are mixed use. The county can require middle income and low income housing to be part of the mix in the new supertall buildings.
Preparing for Rising Sea Levels
Flood prediction maps show that Teterboro Airport might be underwater in the near future. It’s time to build a new airport at Camp Alpine to replace it. The current footprint of Teterboro Airport can become a new supertall building with an outdoor viewing deck that the scouts can use for camping to compensate them (along with financial compensation) for the loss of Camp Alpine. The Teterboro supertall can have raised landscaping to keep the property above a slight sea level rise. It can also have docks for boats so that Meadowlands towns that find themselves underwater can reinvent themselves as seasteads.
Lands east of Route-17 and between I-80 and Route-46 should be rezoned for mixed use high rises with landscaping that protects neighborhoods farther north from the storm surges that bring sea water inland. This landscaping will connect the Meadowlands with Overpeck Park so that animals can migrate uphill as water levels rise. A series of pocket parks between Route-4 and I-80/ I-95 will allow wildlife to migrate up the hill to the green space associated with the Palisade Parkway so that no wildlife will disappear as a result of rising sea levels.