There is a particular piece of property, at the end of Paterson Plank Road East, on the banks of the Hackensack River, that is unique for several reasons. For starters, it sits smack-dab on the border of East Rutherford and Carlstadt. The part of the property in East Rutherford is comprised of the old Stiener Homestead. The site was once home to a boat rental business operated by the family that built the house and the small barn that still sit there. The old bulkhead was the starting point for many adventures upon the Hackensack.
The property on the Carlstadt side of Paterson Plank Road was once part of the Sky Harbor Marina, and sported a yacht club building that was in continuous use as a meeting hall and hosted untold numbers of parties and celebrations. There was also an airplane hangar where seaplanes were serviced between landings and takeoffs from the watery airstrip, a.k.a. the Hackensack River.
But time and pollution have taken their toll on this area. As is so often the case it has fallen into the hands of cold-hearted, profit-hungry speculators. These profiteers have no respect for the communities involved or for the river, and have been waging a fierce battle to overdevelop the site.
Today, as the towns are appealing a recent decision that would allow over 800 housing units to be built in two 20-story apartment towers right on the banks of the river, The Waterfront Café continues to operate the only waterfront restaurant on the lower Hackensack (Tracey's Nine Mile House in Little Ferry is up for sale, and you cannot see the river from the restaurant.).
The Waterfront Café also provides valuable support services to the recreational boating community of the river. Over the years many groups, including the Coast Guard Auxiliary, Ducks Unlimited and Bergen County Waterfowlers, have held meetings and events at The Waterfront Café.
For Hackensack Riverkeeper, The Waterfront Café has special meaning. This is the facility that supported the Eco-Cruise Program during those crucial years when I was working to establish Hackensack Riverkeeper. We enjoyed free dock space as well as use of the building for several press conferences and workshops. In 1998, Robert H. Boyle himself visited to christen our first official pontoon boat. A year later we launched the flotilla of canoes from The Waterfront Café and paddled downstream to our present field station at Laurel Hill County Park in Secaucus.
It will be a sad day on the river if these two towns lose their pending appeal. There just aren't enough places to have fun, and we do not want or need this monstrous over-development on the banks of the Hackensack River. I hope that everyone will join us in support of East Rutherford and Carlstadt as they fight this decision to construct buildings that would place strain on the local schools, infrastructure, services and perhaps most importantly, the ecosystem. Please call or write the Mayors and tell them how proud we will all be on the day that they prevail in this battle. Then we can all sit down to plan the future of the Waterfront Café Property - a future that will include a place for all the people of the region to eat, drink and enjoy the beauty of our river.
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