Interview with John Lynch
Listokin: With the situation like Asbury. Asbury has missed the boat now.
Listokin: This is like the third cycle of attempted redevelopment.
Lynch: No. Exactly.
Listokin: They didn't get their act together after the market plummeted. I mean . . .
Berkhout: So unless . . .
Lynch: Well you can find it in the Essex towns too. The Newarks and East Oranges and . . .
Berkhout: If you're going to sit there, I need to move back.
Lynch: I'll do wherever you want to me sit.
Berkhout: Or if you could sit here then I wouldn't . . .
Listokin: I will move that.
Berkhout: Yeah. That would be good.
Listokin: I will move that.
Berkhout: In front of the books.
Listokin: That works.
Listokin: And I guess, Thea, should I sit here? Is that – or here?
Berkhout: Yeah, why not sit here, that would be good. And I'll just make sure this is focused. And then I have that sheet there. You're holding it David. The sheet . . .
Lynch: So are you guys took some time off, I trust this summer?
Berkhout: Ah a little bit. I'm playing some golf. My husband works, you know, at Princeton University so he manages actually the contract for Springdale Golf Course, and we joined Springdale.
Lynch: All right. I just had dinner with somebody, Dr. Glassgold, Mark, Saturday night? He stopped over the house, and he joined Springdale not too long ago.
Berkhout: It's nice. It's a nice course.
Lynch: And I see you have a new clubhouse, huh?
Berkhout: Yes. We joined at the right time.
Lynch: I saw the pictures, that's all I saw, but they look very good.
Berkhout: Oh, yes. It's really nice. Let me know if you want to play there sometime. I don't know if you're a golfer, but . . .
Lynch: I play. Unfortunately, I took it up too late in life.
Berkhout: So did I.
Lynch: Which makes it more difficult, as you know?
Berkhout: It's better to have some exercise than no exercise.
Berkhout: And you can't be too competitive at this stage either.
Lynch: It's a great day out there.
Listokin: I didn't get past my like three-digit score, you know, I tried once, I said I'm doing nothing right. I'm not hitting putts you know. It—it's very frustrating. Of course.
Lynch: It's a very frustrating sport.
Listokin: You have to spend the time.
Berkhout: Yeah. My younger son plays. He's actually pretty good. But Andrew always used to kid him and say, it's not a sport, it's not a sport.
Listokin: It's also a good social – you know, a lot of discussions go on on a golf course so . . .
Lynch: Definitely. What's today the 27th?
Berkhout: The 27th. Yeah that's fine. We just needed your signature.
Lynch: Do you want the rest of these things filled?
Berkhout: No that's fine.
Listokin: All right. Tell us. Can we start?
Berkhout: Okay. We're all ready.
Listokin: Well, let me thank you. We think this is a particularly important effort to speak to the people who helped in New Brunswick's revitalization. You, of course, were a very key member of that. We hope this is just the start of this dialogue on it.
Listokin: We had e-mailed, I'm not sure whether, you know, you had a chance to look at it, but this is very free flowing, you know. It's not a Q&A, and, actually, if I can just start with – because we learn as we're doing this, if you could just tell us something about yourself and, you know, you're involvement, you know, before getting into specifics and redevelopment, you know, where you grew up and your linkages. I know you had so many linkages to New Brunswick. Just to set that scene. We're doing this with each person, because we're finding them . . .
Lynch: Sure. The linkages are my family migrated to New Brunswick somewhere in the first half of the nineteenth century and, in fact, my great grandfather built a lot of the sewers that we ultimately replaced [in the 80s and 90s]. [ . . .] [They were built by Irish immigrants]. [ . . .] Until very recently, the family owned the original homestead, which had been a livery stable on Guilden Street, which is now still one of the oldest homes in the city, in fact, some of the folks associated with Rutgers tried to buy it once or twice because they were interested in the historical issue from an architectural standpoint. So, and my father had been involved, he was a lawyer in New Brunswick, went to Fordham, came back to New Brunswick, was a local magistrate, and then, under the old form of government, a commissioner and then the mayor, which was an appointed mayor, and then had gone to the state senate in 1956. [ . . .]. And ultimately became the first Democratic senate president in 50 years when they went to the one man, one vote proportionality and the Republicans were no longer controlling the county lines. So that was in 1965, and I went to Holy Cross College, graduated in 1960. Georgetown Law School, graduated in 1963. I was there during the Kennedy years – thinking of today and the passage of the last of them. And practiced law in my father's firm for a long time trying civil cases for 10 or 12 years and got involved by accident in local politics where my father had always said, "You should stay away from local politics." But as fates have it, you usually you get involved for a particular reason so there was something going on at the time and someone asked me to help them run their campaign for mayor, and this was 1973, and the election was in 1974. And fortunately or unfortunately he won.
Berkhout: This is the person who is now out in Jackson Hole?
Lynch: Mulligan, Dick Mulligan, and then he decided or some people decided for him that it was best that he move to Jackson Hole somewhere in 1977, I believe, and I had become the Democratic chairman in the meantime in the town, and our so-called movement was either going to move ahead with a new leader or we were going to retreat to the people who had preceded. And so, I made the fatal mistake of running for mayor in and ran in a primary against George Hendricks in 1978. And Hendricks was pretty formidable, as a matter of fact, and was a long-time councilman and he had stayed on the council for many years, and is still a good friend of mine and pretty much associated with Rutgers. He and his brother Pete.
Listokin: Can you speak of what some of your campaign themes were?
Lynch: Well in those days it was really about, you know, the beginnings of the notion that you could make a difference in New Brunswick and you could see real redevelopment, and that we had an aging infrastructure and we had, more importantly, from the standpoint of providing services, we had a tax base that had totally eroded. The central business district had gone from being the biggest ratable base in the town to nothing. As a matter of fact I think in 19 – in the mid-1970s – the total ratables in downtown New Brunswick had diminished to something like 25 million dollars. Of course, stores were empty and crime was rampant. Had all the symptoms of an aging urban community as we've seen in so many in New Jersey [cities]. And the question always was, you know, could you really do anything? So the campaign themes were how do you rehabilitate the public schools? How do you get the resources to redo your infrastructure? How do you create some positiveness and hope and, then, ultimately how do you meld together the communities that were willing to work, namely the corporate community, the government community, and the academic community with Rutgers, and then the citizenry as a whole. One of the more challenging tasks as we moved down the road was [that] the politics of corporate America and the politics of academia and the politics of government are so different and trying to understand each others problems and being able to make decisions and make commitments, I think was critical to the process.
And at the same, keeping in mind that you have to sell the public everyday about what's in it for them. And each project, each project, each acquisition, each eminent domain, each new infracture investment, I think, you have to try hard to convince the community as a whole as to why it works for them, and not just the provincialism or parochialism that you'll find in so many places where in one ward they'll say you know what's in it for me, I'm not getting anything out of the downtown. So ultimately when we started putting in major investments into the central business district, to ratable base, as well as the payments in lieu of taxes, we were able to, I think, clearly demonstrate that most of the improvements in the schools, particularly in the ability to spend money on schools, rehabilitating schools, and upgrading staffs and so forth, and most of the money that was utilized to rebuild the infrastructure with an aging water system and a sewer system and roads, etc., as well as improvements in the neighborhoods, all the way down to a shade tree were directly the result of the improved ratable base and then, of course, you go beyond that to demonstrate that all the things that were happening in the downtown New Brunswick whether it was the arts or planning or the basic community activities enhanced the whole community, and the arts became open and accessible to all segments of the community in one fashion or another.
Listokin: So, actually, if I could start, you were ultimately elected, of course, and then maybe if we can start with – you mentioned some of the different players, you know the university, etc., and the corporations, so, if we can start with J&J and their, you know, their involvement and their you know objectives in this, and then if we can then turn maybe briefly to, you know, Rutgers and others. If that would be . . .
Lynch: Yeah, I think that J&J, most people look at J&J as a deep pocket. In fact, they were more critical to the redevelopment of New Brunswick from the standpoint of the human resource, and, you know, I often have credited and still do, Dick Sellars, who was the original driving force and had the vision to see that you could do something and convince people that there was a goal that could be achieved here, and when he brought in American Cities . . .
Listokin: And what do you think was driving, you know, Sellars – at that time any corporate America or large corporations were leaving urban areas.
Lynch: Well, they were leaving there, yes, but it was also before the corporate culture changed so that they could make a direct investment into a community. Now it's a little more difficult for them. They're very much more careful about getting their fingers dirty in any way, shape, or form, and rightfully so, but Dick also was a political animal, for lack of a better term. He came out of the Republican world and was close to Christie Whitman's father Webster Todd, who had a big national presence, as well as his wife, and so he was pretty astute in the political arena, which was also beneficial here, and he had the courage to, I think, see that it would be also a good marketing piece for J&J to demonstrate their commitment a la the General Johnson credo, and that they could achieve financial benefits as well as benefits to their image by staying in New Brunswick, participating in its rebirth, and indeed in the early years providing a human resource throughout, because when I took over, staff-wise the city was very shallow. Attracting people of any caliber was difficult. We had, you know, so-called planners who wouldn't talk to the engineering staff, who wouldn't talk to public works, and so coordinating anything was very, very difficult. It took us a number of years to start recruiting higher-end caliber people who weren't in it because of turf issues and more parochial – and were willing to look at the bigger picture so, which was another benefit of the dollars we were generating, because we started recruiting people with headhunters, to fill spots in the city, and we had been using on a volunteer basis people from J&J and so forth in some of the planning, some of the financial issues, etc. They were fine, and they were sort of a stop gap. They didn't understand the government world. So, you know you had those problems, but Dick Sellars, I think, singularly had the courage and the vision to move this all forward, and I don't think a lot of people believed it that it could happen – that you could have a real rebirth of a city. You could re-energize it and recapitalize it, and that—and I think he understood more than anyone that I ever dealt with including some of the people that he brought in whose names you mentioned from American Cities. That this was a mosaic, and all the parts had to come together, and it would be a long process that really never ends, as we know. But you could build the momentum, and I think he convinced me, I know that, that we could move ahead. It would take a lot of discipline. There would be some hard knocks, and we would a lot of times disagree, but at the end of the day we never – we rarely aired our disagreements publicly as between the corporate sector, the academic sector, and the city. And also I think he understood that in order to achieve you really need political stability. You can't have what most of these towns and cities that were decaying had which was a transition of government every four years or every eight years or – always in a state of flux like Plainfield, for instance. And [Plainfield] was, when I was growing up, it was the queen city, and it was the high end. We were the blue collar in New Brunswick, but they never had any real [political] stability.
Listokin: So that's Seller's vision and what John Heldrich was then brought aboard . . .
Lynch: Well, Heldrich was part of the Seller's team, and of course he had a local presence living in Highland Park and concerned about New Brunswick. He was, I think Dick saw John because of his background in workforce, etc., and also on the soft side that he would be a perfect fit for New Brunswick Tomorrow with the community, the neighborhoods, the education parts, and healthcare, and the like. And, indeed, that was the role that John played the most positive part in throughout, up until today I suspect. He wasn't involved heavily in the hardware, but he also became, de facto, the liaison between the city and J&J.
Listokin: There was mention of looking to Hartford as, like, some early model. Is that your recollection?
Lynch: Well, I never visited Hartford. I knew Hartford. I'd been there on my own, and, you know, we looked at various models as you go down the road, and it was interesting that you always find the same dynamic, you seem to find the same dynamic, that you can try to stimulate even, for instance, on the retail side when we built the Ferren Deck and put a retail center there, for lack of a better term. It [was only] [ . . .] 60,000 square feet or whatever, but it was publicly financed and that was sort of like the jump start, and just to show some signs of life. But if you look around, as you do, you remember even better than I do, that when you see redevelopment occurring in the old urban centers, be they small or large, you start with [ . . .] some arts, restaurants, office parks, I mean office centers, a lot of government and, ultimately, you hope to attract and create a positive environment so that you can ultimately attract residential development, new residential development, which takes quite a while as we proved in New Brunswick and as cities like Cleveland prove today that they still haven't gotten there. They started doing so much in their center city, and it was all good, but they never quite got to that next level where they built a real living environment in their core, and until you do that you can't – you can't have competent retail, and it seems that everybody follows the same basic pattern.
Listokin: So, just as an aside, I never appreciated how long it would, you know, the time horizon on how long it has to be. It literally took 20 years of a nonresidential element to create the base for the residential.
Lynch: But you study this much more so than I, but it seems – that seems to be the pattern wherever you go, isn't it?
Listokin: Again, it's like somehow you think it happens quicker than it does. And of course the world changes too with them. You spoke some about J&J. If I can – where was Rutgers in all this?
Lynch: Well, when Bloustein was president – and he was very much involved at the table from day one. Day one of my tenure anyhow. I don't know when did come in from New England?
Berkhout: Around the seventies I'm going to say?
Lynch: Yeah, it was before that. Right. So it was – and he also provided a lot of human resource for the city, planning, arts, etc., as you know, and was at the table. There was an interesting dynamic always between the corporate and the academic. While they got along socially, their politics were much more difficult to make compatible than the politics of government, as I saw it. And, of course, Ed was very astute, and ultimately it didn't take that long where he realized I think, like I did, that you know we could really do something here, and assume a positive outlook, and when he got to that level, I mean, I think he started making more of Rutgers resources available, started putting more skin in the game, for lack of a better term, and then saw how Rutgers could literally move more into the urban environment. And we had the old town and gown artificial roles, you know, the students weren't downtown. Nothing was downtown, and I think when Ed was there when we moved the Mason Gross School of the Arts part of it down to the old PJ Young building on George Street, and – my memory is gone, that must have been in the . . .
Lynch: That was seventies.
Berkhout: Oh it was seventies, okay.
Lynch: I want to say it was when Mulligan was mayor somewhere in the mid-seventies.
Berkhout: Oh, okay. All right. I didn't realize it was that early.
Lynch: Yeah. And so that was a first – sort of a first step.
Listokin: I guess putting the college bookstore in the Ferren Deck . . .
Lynch: That was the second step, and that was early eighties – Ferren bookstore, and then it was the arts, but Bill Wright and company, and that was an interesting dynamic how that got off the ground, and again it was a lot of people who were doubting Thomases and a few people who believed, like Bill Wright, like Dick Sellars who absolutely was instrumental in identifying the State Theater and acquiring it when it was a triple X movie theater and saw the wisdom of that, and . . .
Listokin: Well, actually if we can return to the Cultural Center a little later, if we can – because you've spoken some about J&J and Rutgers, the county? Middlesex County in all this? You know, in getting the redevelopment started, and . . .
Lynch: In the early years the county was not a big player. I mean they were supportive. We didn't have a major role for them. They didn't have the resources, the programs, etc., that we ultimately were able to bring them into, particularly with the art facilities, and also with infrastructure, a lot of new programming occurred later, and they became more and more active and – but Steve Capestro and Molineaux, and all those people were very, very supportive, and I'm trying to pinpoint particular programs where they were helpful. They were helpful, of course, with some of the housing nodes in a peripheral way, but they were not a big funding mechanism, and their planning department was not very active in terms of the [city] [ . . .] and its future, [ . . .]. Doug Powell, you remember Doug Powell?
Listokin: I remember, you know, they were talking about early fair share, but it was more affordable housing in the suburbs rather than housing in New Brunswick.
Lynch: The county had very little to do with it.
Listokin: The hospital in, you know the hospital's role in . . .
Lynch: You know we had two very positive hospital nodes. St. Peter's at that time was the bright light. Our old Middlesex Hospital, which had become whatever it was by the end of the seventies. It did have a new name. Had a new name of some sort. And then ultimately had gotten the affiliation agreement with the medical school, which was a huge step, but was floundering in terms of leadership and movement and identifying its vision for the future of the institution, and I think that made it more difficult to mature the relationship with the medical school early on, and then ultimately we were fortunate when Ralph and others – I think Ralph was one of the primary determinants of bringing in Harvey Holzberg.
Listokin: Is Ralph, just for the record, Ralph . . .?
Lynch: Ralph Voorhees who, oh, at the time was either chairman of the hospital board or he was de facto chairman for a long time. He along with I guess Bill Walsh from the [Robert Wood Johnson] Foundation, and they had a search committee for a new CEO at the hospital. They brought in Harvey Holzberg and Harvey had not only good skills as a hospital administrator, but he had good political skills, which was a necessary ingredient to moving this whole thing ahead as a healthcare city, and he really made that institution move. It jelled immediately.
Berkhout: Were those decisions made also in collaboration with the city that they saw the wisdom of improving the hospitals in the city of New Brunswick that somehow that would help the redevelopment?
Lynch: Oh absolutely. Oh there's no question about that. The affiliation agreement and the emergence of Robert Wood was everybody knew, I think, it was critical to the city in terms of its, you know, it's appeal, its job base, and the quality of life generally, but just as importantly, the perception of it changes the New Brunswick vision from afar. Because one of the biggest problems you have going in – going back – is people are, I said doubting Thomases, people are totally negative about cities in that era as they are today about a lot of the cities, the old cities in New Jersey, and so you couldn't get people from East Brunswick to come to New Brunswick, and the word always was, "It will never happen. They're not secure. You can't park. You can't do this. And how are you ever going to make this thing work?" The hospitals, in particular, and particularly Robert Wood Johnson and the medical school, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, brought a lot, a lot of people into the community who otherwise would not have been there. Created an aura of excellence that was very much involved in the rebirth of the city from the standpoint of not only actuality but perception, which is always critical. I mean they became to us what the Cleveland Clinic is in Cleveland, I think. You know Cleveland still has that credibility, not necessarily a whole lot more right now, because the economy is so bad, but they were a huge part of the rebirth of the city, whether it was intended that way or not, but I think most people understood the significance of their becoming a major health care institution.
Listokin: Other members of the business community? You know we spoke a little about J&J, you know, in again just getting it started. Some of the banks? Or . . .
Lynch: Well, I guess he died recently – Len Hill from the National Bank was, Dick Sellars would use him to fill gaps, which wasn't a lot of money, but in those days it was critical, so yes, he was, I think, Sellars was able to leverage some of those people in the early days, and then ultimately he leveraged Johnson & Johnson, he borrowed some money from them, which before he left, he paid off, 12 million dollars or something on the Plaza. He paid it off when he sold the Plaza projects to DKM, which we all had issues with, but because it was Dick Sellars and the fact that he had an obligation before he left town to pay off everything that was owed to J&J, nobody blinked because he was entitled to that level of respect no matter what he asks, given what he had put into the city and its credibility. I just don't think that we would have ever gotten off the ground were it not for him.
Listokin: So, if we could reestablish some of the scenes and some of the players.
Lynch: I hate saying that about a Republican, but . . .
Listokin: We're in an Obama period. Whatever that means, whatever that means. What do you envision is – looking back, some of the key projects and how they came about? You know you have spoken about the players, you mentioned the deck, and could you talk a little bit about, you know, the deck, the Cultural Center, you know just how did these things happen?
Lynch: Well the deck was critical to showing you could do something. You know, if you looked at from today's perspective you would say, "What was that all about? But it was putting some points on the board, changing the perception, creating an environment that would start to become attractive, providing more parking at the same and, mind you, the least publicized part of the redevelopment process throughout has been the ability to utilize the Parking Authority from day one, because they had enormous power under the law.
Listokin: All right. So that we don't lose that, because I think that's under appreciated, can you speak a little about that? And then we'll go back to some of the significant keystone projects. The Parking Authority.
Lynch: The Parking Authority, under the Parking Authority law in New Jersey, they have a broad base of power that actually is broader than redevelopment powers. They can buy and sell. They could acquire in futuro by saying it's going for parking. They can create good revenue streams. They can be – some people look at them as a typical authority that gets out of control. Well, that can be unless you have quality members who are acting in consort with a redevelopment process. So if you look at any project that's happened in New Brunswick in the last 25 years, the Parking Authority has played an integral role. And, indeed, in many cases it could not have happened without the Parking Authority, and you'll see projects being talked about today, whether it's the Easton Avenue/Somerset or Joyce Kilmer/Paterson, deeply engaged in [those projects] [ . . .] is the Parking Authority.
Listokin: And involved clearly providing some parking, but it was just so that it could be better appreciated or . . .
Lynch: Acquisitions that they can make – can be made through the redevelopment law, leveraging parking, which is critical. You can't build projects without parking, and you don't have the money in these projects that are thin to start with to provide parking, so they'll have an ownership and/or financing arrangement, in every one of these projects you'll see the Parking Authority. The hospital projects. The Rutgers housing that we did on Easton Avenue hill – that we had to fight for that became the number one attractive spot for students on their pecking order – could not have happened without the parking authority, and of course we got Harvey Holzberg to lease a lot of spaces, but he needed the parking and then we've always had to force the hospital to build more and more parking, but the Parking Authority is in it every step of the way. So if you look at – if you analyze any project that's been done in the modern history of New Brunswick, you'll find a major role for the Parking Authority, so we understood that early on that they had a wide birth of power, number one, and number two that they you could leverage them and so they are – they're probably the best kept secret in this whole process in terms of a redevelopment tool, and if you look at all the urban stories in New Jersey, I think one of the singular reasons that New Brunswick will stand out is because of how we use the Parking Authority as opposed to so many of the urban centers that have continued to do surface parking and not do the decks, and not make the Parking Authority a part of every process.
Listokin: So it's acquiring land, because it has broad powers. It's providing the parking, which is needed infrastructure. It has been mentioned that they can absorb some initial losses because they have a base of revenues from a larger base of that, which a private developer, you know, if it takes five years for structured parking to make it, so, you know, they can absorb that financially. Okay, so we'll followup on the parking, but if I can get back . . .
Berkhout: Is there a person who was in charge of the Parking Authority while you were mayor?
Lynch: Well, we had a few people. They were all very good. We had good board members. We always . . .
Berkhout: Was Jim Zullo there at one time?
Berkhout: Jim Zullo?
Lynch: Jimmy Zullo was there. He was at the Housing Authority, but he was at the Parking Authority. He was very good.
Berkhout: Right. He's our graduate.
Lynch: Jimmy Kopency was there. He was also a Rutgers guy. He left and went to another Parking Authority in the southwest somewhere, I believe. John Hoffman, of course, has been the attorney forever.
Lynch: And John is brilliant. He does most of the public service work. He's big on the regulatory side. He's big with the authorities, and he's done a ton of redevelopment work. So another quiet operative who's now chairman of the Robert Wood Johnson Hospital Board, and has been a significant role player throughout – mostly as an attorney, oftentimes as a volunteer, whether it's sister cities or hospital or med school where he served on the boards and so forth, but always does his homework. He's a real staple that keeps everybody on an even keel. Doesn't allow anybody to get carried away in terms of power, and brings the reality of the law, etc., to the table. So, I think that he's been a significant player in the Parking Authority game from day one. He moves across a lot of lines.
Listokin: If I can go back to some of the initial keystone projects and how they came about. So you spoke some about Ferren Deck, I leave it to you. You know, what do you think were the . . .
Lynch: I'm having difficulty in my head . . .
Berkhout: You mentioned Easton Avenue project that was about the time of the Ferren Deck? Right?
Lynch: Easton Avenue Rutgers?
Lynch: No that was later.
Berkhout: Oh it was.
Listokin: I guess the Hyatt. Your recollections of the Hyatt?
Lynch: Well the Hyatt was – the Hyatt was another Sellars vision. He saw it because of J&J's needs. He saw it in terms of the credibility. We had to fight our way through the federal bureaucracies. We were able to achieve Urban Development Action grant money at that time in the Carter administration. I think we were second in the country . . .
Listokin: Second on per capita base.
Lynch: Per capita.
Listokin: Yes. Yes.
Lynch: On achieving Urban Development Action grants. So we spent a lot of time at HUD in Washington, and we had . . .
Listokin: And that was just using the good services of J&J and others to secure these funds? I mean . . .
Lynch: Well, we were definitely partners in that process. We had to kick doors down politically and otherwise. So the city had a big role in that. In fact, we had some brawls with it, and we took a lot of heat for it with the keeper of the register on historic places because of the Hiram Market issues and things like that. So, which is an interesting aside.
Listokin: Which we should get to on . . .
Lynch: We'll get to eventually. But the Hyatt flows into the credibility of the city, and the symbols, as well as the general attractiveness, and it was good for J&J, but it was good for the city. A lot of people say it couldn't happen, it wouldn't happen, it did happen. Same thing with the retail of the Ferren, and you start building off of that. And I'm trying to think of – you know we started doing a lot of housing too, which the city hasn't been doing in recent years. Using all kinds of housing nodes from lease purchase where we had them lined up around the block before they could lease that place for a year or two, and then have a precast mortgage to buy the place for $50,000 or whatever. And they were a huge success, and then they sort of went passe, but the principles, I think, from a financial standpoint fell off. But then we built a lot of housing over in the second ward, and then we started ultimately downtown, which is critical. Now there's a private sector in housing, but it's really only downtown. And the current market doesn't allow for that, but it will reemerge. We still should be doing more neighborhood housing, new housing in various spots.
Listokin: Okay. If I could, since it's so important, your recollections on the Cultural Center and how it came about? I mean, you mentioned the objectives, you know, we want to bring people to the city, but who were some of the players, and how did the pieces fit together in making that happen?
Lynch: Well, as I said before, Dick Sellars had the vision to want to acquire the State Theater. We then put together some committees right away with Rutgers, community people, people that were active in the arts, friends – we called it Friends of the Arts," I guess it was, and that's when Bill Wright became very active from Rutgers, and a whole lot of community folks who had been very active. And I'm not sure a lot of them were believers, but they were definitely doers and there were some wonderful planning meetings to move that ahead and ultimately, as you know, we were able to achieve some good fundraising as well some assistance from the state originally from a bond issue that we did – that I did back in '86, '85 or '86, somewhere in there.
Listokin: Was that the Green Acres?
Lynch: We combined it. That was the first time we combined it. Tom Kean had, Governor Kean had – we had an ongoing issue where they would not fund arts infrastructure, and would always get left out of the budget, and he was a pretty easy guy to deal with, and we suggested to him that we could do a bond issue for Green Acres, historic preservation, and the arts with our aging arts infrastructure in so many of the urbans, as an alternative to funding this in the operating budget, which he wouldn't do, and he agreed immediately. We then put together a group, statewide, to try to meld the arts communities together, and that's when Arts Pride was created, because as I saw it from Trenton, the arts community was splintered, and they each had their own agendas and it was very difficult to get them to cooperate for the common good, and I think that was because there was not a vehicle, and because the state probably had been unresponsive, so they were all fighting for their own crumbs as it were. So Arts Pride became a major player in propelling the bond issue forward. Indeed, it didn't hurt to have Green Acres on the ballot with it, and historic preservation of course. That was the first time we ever did anything significant from a funding perspective, capital. So that turned out to be a big success. From today – looking back, it doesn't sound a lot of money, but New Brunswick got like 7 million dollars for the State Theater out of it in two traunches and ultimately we got the county to put up more money later on, three, four, five, whatever the number is now. There's just another one obtained not too long ago. So – but none of that could or would have happened until – unless people saw the credibility of that theater. It no longer looked like a triple X theater. It now had a real vision and an outreach, and, of course, when it opened in the first instance before it was redone, and the redo is magnificent, but when it opened it was a big success. People were attracted from all over. It opened up the city. It demonstrated the need for more parking, which is always the case. If you don't have a parking problem you're not doing good things as I see it. You – you always need more parking, hopefully.
Listokin: And hopefully supported, you know the Parking Authority.
Lynch: Oh yeah.
Listokin: You know with . . .
Listokin: Route 18, you know, which J&J were saying they wanted to see that build. Your recollections on Route 18 and how that helped move along the redevelopment?
Lynch: Route 18 going all the way back to the bridge, you know, because that was going on from the sixties, and it had been blocked repeatedly by, I don't want to say the environmentalists, but people who had concerns about the impact on the river, etc.
Berkhout: And the canal.
Lynch: And the canal, yeah. But the canal park does not come into New Brunswick. There were some people who drew the line at the New Brunswick border so the D&R Canal Commission who – you know, I support their work, but if they had had jurisdiction in New Brunswick, it would have made the redevelopment very, very, very difficult. Very difficult, because they would have had jurisdiction throughout the whole central business district, and too many cooks spoil the broth, and, you know, you can't have a hodgepodge of planning going on to make things come out correctly. You can disagree, and you can go left or you can go right, but you can't go both ways, and that's what they would have brought to bear, I suspect. But in any event, the bridge was finally approved, funded, and dedicated in my father's name because he had been one of the early proponents of it and fought for 20 years, and it was on my watch, which was purely coincidental because I wasn't even a mayor when they named the bridge after him, so . . .
Listokin: And the issue was whether it was navigable waters or, I guess . . .
Lynch: Navigable waters.
Listokin: That was going back and forth . . .
Lynch: That was one of the issues, yeah. Because I remember someone in the Assembly, I think it was Bill Hamilton, who is now the city attorney, walked across the river at one point, during a campaign in his boots at low tide. But the bridge was critical in that movement through the city which has been enhanced by the current upgrade, which is wonderful.
Listokin: They just had a dedication.
Lynch: Yeah, I saw. I just read this morning about the dedication.
Listokin: I guess the Home News had an editorial . . .
Lynch: Yes I saw that. So it was good timing.
Listokin: So that, you know, that was going on for years and years and years.
Listokin: It was just ultimately needed to get the Army Corps and others to finally sign off on the bridge and..?
Lynch: It was the Army Corps, and, of course, the state had their issues, too, because they were being peppered by people who were opposed, but it was one of those that regardless of how you look at it, it had to be done, but it just never should have taken that long to go through a process, but we've seen that before, but it really stymied the city because we became much like a dead end.
Listokin: Your perspectives on, you know, Hiram Market there was a controversy there.
Lynch: Well, I have mixed emotions about Hiram Market. I never – I – I always respected the opinions of the people who wanted to preserve it. Do I have my disagreements, Nelessen – even some of the activists. [ . . .] We had our public fights as it were, but none of the planners that I dealt with, or just using basic sense, I think, indicated that you could make a viable community out of Hiram Market given the circumstances that there wasn't enough there to make it work financially, and it would require an enormous amount of money, and there wasn't a lot to restore. We ultimately had the two restaurants, and people felt, a lot of people of thought I was opposed to them because they were very active in the preservation of the Hiram Market, and while we ultimately took it and went forward with redevelopment, everybody suspected we were taking them out. And, there was no way. They had made significant investments, they were both productive, and one obviously had a higher quality than the other, but we just worked around them. As a matter of fact, the city people [ . . .]were surprised – the city officials were surprised – that we just didn't want to do that. It made no sense. They could become an integral part of that residential community, and that has worked out pretty well. And indeed the residential community that is there was critical to the city and its future. And as with the rest of the housing nodes that have been implemented, including the most recent high-rise, I'm sure we'll see a lot more of that in the days to come once this current malaise passes us by, hopefully. Because I think the future of the city is there in terms of the housing.
Listokin: Any other, you know, I just mentioned some . . .
Lynch: And Rutgers of course.
Listokin: Various projects. Any others that you think were particularly important?
Lynch: Well, I think the Rutgers Easton Avenue hill project was critical.
Listokin: If you could speak a little bit about how that came about and, you know, what were some of the . . .
Lynch: Well we had gone to Ed Bloustein, when he was still alive, talking about trying to bring more housing into the city from the university. Students were attracted by that time to the center city. They were traipsing through the neighborhoods. We had problems with the drinking laws. We had trouble with housing spill overs, etc., indeed to this day, Rutgers needs more housing, but in some ways that has been a big benefit to the city if I can just go aside for a second, because in the current environment there's a lot of housing projects that were built in the city privately, private sector in recent times that are still selling because of student housing. There's no other market so investors are buying and leasing to students and so forth, so they're not becoming a stranded investment as it were. But we wanted to get more and more vibrance in the center city. The students were already a part of it; having them closer to the community, being able to put more retail associated with that, and enhancing the retail that we had, and the arts, and so forth in downtown, we felt that in that context it was important to bring more student housing closer to the city, into the city, and so we had come up with this plan with regard to the Easton Avenue hill. Ultimately, we faced a little bit of resistance at the university, again, because of the change in administrations. But that was short-lived, and we had to bring Robert Wood Johnson into that project.
Listokin: And the new administration this was, what a new project or they hesitated moving into the city or what was?
Lynch: I think that Dr. Lawrence just simply didn't have his bearings at the time, and was unsure that he would get the support from within the university community.
Berkhout: So the Easton Avenue Project happened under Lawrence?
Berkhout: Was it started . . .
Lynch: It was planned before.
Berkhout: Oh, okay.
Lynch: But it was not in any way off the ground. It went through the same, similar, transition time as did the, your school and Mason Gross.
Berkhout: Okay. All right.
Lynch: In fact I think they were both built by Keating.
Lynch: So they couldn't have been more than a year apart in terms of their start.
Listokin: And, actually, if we can talk about, you know the Bloustein and Mason Gross building on 33 Livingston Avenue. Some of your recollections how that came about?
Lynch: The city – I had, and Frank Nero, Chris Foglio, or whoever was around at the various times – had interacted with the planning school as well as the Mason Gross School of the Arts, I forget that woman, what was the woman's name, the woman that was the Mason Gross?
Berkhout: Marilyn Somville.
Lynch: Right, Marilyn. And both leadership groups expressed a real interest in being in downtown New Brunswick, and so we had come up with a plan that we agreed [upon], [ . . .]. We started developing resources. We had Devco, we had a big city planning operation at the time, and we were doing a lot of housing and a lot of planning in a real sense for real things in the city, if, as, and when we had the resources to achieve them. This was one of those where that proved to be the correct thing to do. Because we had a project that was drawn out to put the planning school and the Mason Gross School of the Arts done in conjunction with the leadership at both of those entities and the city, and then maybe that's sort of where the administration [at Rutgers University] was left out. They weren't really part of that.
Listokin: The overall Rutgers administration?
Lynch: Rutgers, yeah, the central administration.
Berkhout: Had it begun planning under Bloustein as well as the Easton Avenue?
Lynch: Yes, yes.
Berkhout: It did. Okay.
Lynch: Yeah. He was very much supportive of getting those nodes downtown. Saw the wisdom of it. But it was really in its embryonic stage. We subsequently sort of like put pen to paper and mapped out how this could be achieved and what would be its cost generally speaking, and then we had a lot of support from the, your institutions at Rutgers as well as central business district people in New Brunswick, and there hadn't been a whole lot of fanfare about it, but it was there. And so when Governor Florio in 1992, early 1993, end of 1992 or early 1993, announced that they had this funding available through the Port Authority, leveraging of seven or eight hundred million dollars as I recall, and it was to try to get New Jersey moving again, and at the same time to try to get Governor Florio reelected, which, I say that in a positive way, we were – we went to Trenton immediately with hat in hand and said we have a plan. And we can move this ahead quickly. You can have ground breakings, announcements, all the right things at the right time, which, as you know in this, and I'm not saying this in a negative way, its part of the process. Timing is important. Politics are important, and you have to be aware of those, and you can't be – you can't be oblivious to what's going on and how to take advantage of that. We were prepared because we had good people who saw the wisdom of doing this, getting prepared, hoping that you can catch lightning in a bottle, and that's what happened with that project. That probably is the clearest symbol of being prepared of any of the redevelopment projects in the city, and taking advantage of a moment in time when the skies opened up.
Listokin: It was like shovel ready projects and the stimulus going on there.
Lynch: Right. Exactly.
Listokin: All right so that came about with Rutgers support with Port Authority monies that were a unique resources, and I think there were also some state EDA monies?
Lynch: Yes. But I think they were leveraging Port money, the EDA. That's how they did it somehow. I don't know the financing mechanism. I can't remember it. But it was that combination that I think the state through the EDA leveraged the money they were getting from the Port to put out dollars.
Listokin: New Brunswick was an early leader in using payment in lieu of taxes to help support redevelopment, you know, some of your thoughts on that? And how it was used in New Brunswick?
Lynch: Well, going back to the Johnson & Johnson project itself, and followed immediately, almost immediately, by the Hyatt Hotel. We had brought in lawyers who were involved in the – what was then called the Fox/Lance law payment-in-lieu [of tax program] [ . . .]. In fact, it was Senator Don Fox's son in-law, Angelo Mastrangelo who was a lawyer who we had hired, and I think Ronnie Berman and Dick Sellars were involved at the time. And to find out how this could work. What were the benefits to be derived? We had, unfortunately, received some advice that wasn't accurate that one of the benefits was that you didn't have to share these payments in lieu with the county, and so some of us, including myself, had to get involved in how these really worked, what would make them more significant and more attractive even though, as you know, the redevelopment law is not applicable to the urbans only. It can be employed elsewhere, but as a practical matter that's the only place that you were doing the major redevelopment work and you were doing the payment-in-lieu of taxes. Newark had done it with Prudential and a bunch of other buildings in Newark back in, I think, [Mayor] Gibson's time. And so we started becoming students of the payment in lieu and how you could best use it. Some people said manipulate it to the advantage of attracting investment as well as benefitting the city taxpayers from the standpoint of having net taxes, and there are benefits both ways. There are critics, but it's hard to criticize it when you look at the actual numbers as to how it works. Fortunately, we were able to pass a law that left the county out of the payments because they were a substantial beneficiary and we needed the revenue. Our county was not opposed to that law.
Listokin: So this, what, a change in the redevelopment law? Is that?
Lynch: A change in what was Fox/Lance Law, yes.
Listokin: In the Fox/Lance.
Lynch: Payment-in-lieu law. Ultimately that was revised . . .
Listokin: To five percent.
Lynch: [No payment to county] [ . . .], and then revised again [later]to have the county become an insignificant role player. But when – one of the funny stories as an aside, was I was in the Senate at the time, and I was in early years – early eighties, Alan Karcher was the Speaker, and the way the bill was worded, unless you were really paying attention, you didn't understand what was going on. And it's pretty sophisticated stuff, so most people didn't pay a whole lot of attention because they could have read the bill, and not known what was really going on. And Alan was the Speaker, and he posted the bill, in the Assembly after it had passed in the Senate, and then ultimately he sued on behalf of a community in Hudson County challenging the law, because he didn't know what happened, and I think Peter Shapiro didn't pick it up, and he ultimately, he had been the county – he was the county executive in Essex before he ran for governor in 1985 against Kean, and he challenged it as well. But it survived the tests of going up the ladder to the Supreme Court, I believe, and then ultimately was revised six, seven, eight years later to give the counties a little piece of it. All in all, it has worked out very well. The city has been able to take advantage of it because, as you know, we've done – using the payment-in-lieu we've done a de facto tax increment financing to pay for infrastructure and other parts, and so it allows you to get more flexible and creative, and you know more about that than I do.
Listokin: And actually, I've learned from you on this, but I guess with the payment-in-lieu, and first if the normal property tax, you know, you would have the different components with county etc., and that would be roughly about 20 percent of the bill, so here the city is able to secure at one point almost all the county's portion, and now almost all, so that's one benefit. Two it all goes to the municipality so it gives municipal government in New Jersey just really doesn't have much.
Lynch: Right, exactly. So it's not for the schools technically.
Listokin: It also, if I understand correctly,
Lynch: Doesn't go in the ratable base.
Listokin: It doesn't go into the ratable base so it doesn't reduce some aids that you would be getting.
Lynch: Including school aids.
Listokin: School aids. Just as an aside to that, we were doing some work in Atlantic City. Atlantic City did all the redevelopment on a property tax basis.
Listokin: Their state aid went to nothing.
Lynch: I remember.
Listokin: So . . .
Lynch: All the casinos destroyed it.
Listokin: That's right. The irony is that it should have been redevelopment and it should have been a pilot, and that wouldn't have happened.
Lynch: Some of us went to their leadership on that very issue, but they didn't want to take it on. They also didn't want to use eminent domain in the first 20 years of Atlantic City.
Listokin: And I guess the benefit from the development end is that you can get, because of some of these advantages, you can get some discount off of the property tax, what the property tax payment would be. So are those basically . . .?
Lynch: That's it. Yeah. It's very attractive to the developer because they get a tax that stays in effect flat for 15 years or some graduation but minor, and, but, if you look at what they're actually paying in the first instance it's higher than based on the formulas, it's really higher than the actual taxation under the assessment practices. Over the long haul, they benefit, the property owner, but in the meantime the city is able to leverage their funds and have a flexible use of the funds, and so when you're doing redevelopment, you're leveraging all the time, it's a big enhancement. And ultimately that tax is going to be part of the base or if it's renewed, it's going to be much, much higher.
Listokin: The use of eminent domain in redevelopment? I know because of what recently, you know, Long Branch and elsewhere has become? Your perspectives on that? And on how that was used in the redevelopment in New Brunswick?
Lynch: Well, you know it has been used correctly, and that's a loose term
obviously. But you cannot assemble property in an old urban environment with 50-foot lots and 70-foot lots, and even in the central business district, you can't do it and make redevelopment work. There's not enough money to do that. The property owners are entitled to a fair payment, and, indeed, under eminent domain, if you look at the history, they usually get somewhere between 150 and 250 percent of fair market value in the process. In New Brunswick in many cases it was much higher. I don't want to lay this all off on the media, but in the early days of redevelopment in New Brunswick we had the media fighting us every step of the way, and that was one component that we never brought to the table. Bill Boyd who was the head of the Home News at the time – Daily Home News?
Lynch: Yeah, I guess that was the name, his father was a big player, Hugh Boyd, and he had his own world, and he saw things entirely different than we saw them, even though he wasn't active in any way, shape, or form, and they railed against everything we did, and particularly when it came to the eminent domain. And every day there was a story about somebody who was being displaced and we – in the first four or five projects that we did major eminent domain, we tried to get the media. And we said we would do the leg work, we'll help you do it, to track everybody whether they be a tenant, residential tenant, a property owner, commercial tenant, commercial property owner, track them on what happened to them and how did they fare, because we did a lot of that in many, many cases just to be sure what was going on, and we didn't do them all, but I dare say that 99.9 percent of them did very, very well. And you can't blame the property owner or the tenant, be they commercial or residential, from using the process and using the media to their advantage to stir up a hornet's nest, and to attract attention, because that's almost part of the bargaining. So they do that, the media plays into it, and you get all this fanfare, but nobody ever goes back at the end of the day and say, "How did these people fare?" Because they all walked away smiling, and they all did very well, and they all wound up in much better circumstances. They wound up – if they were a residential tenant, they wound up in an occupancy that met code, which didn't meet before, and was in a much better circumstance, and they usually had money in their pocket besides. So, and the same thing, when it came to retailers and commercial occupiers, tenants, they all did extremely well. So, nobody ever really tracked that as a full study, and I think that's part of the problem that you have with eminent domain – the advocates against eminent domain, that don't understand how you can't do redevelopment without that tool. And that you have to ensure, however, that the entities that are being acquired or the persons being acquired, or the tenants being relocated, they all have to be taken care of in a very significant way. It needs to be something to oversee that, track it in a way that everybody understands the outcomes, because you can't just rail about it and then have it end, and move onto the next redevelopment project without understanding what it is you just produced, and nobody ever does that. And we certainly couldn't get the news [media] to do that at the time. So it was frustrating.
Berkhout: So is there someone in the city working on that?
Lynch: Yeah, but we had our people involved in relocation, so you can retrieve the information, ultimately, we would be of assistance in most cases to relocate them, whether they be residential occupancy or retail occupancy, or even an office occupancy. So, we knew pretty much the outcomes in our files, but you'd have to talk to the people at the end of the day to see if they were smiling. And I know – I know a lot of them personally who wouldn't talk to me, and became very, you know, intractable, and a year later were smiling and having a good time, which is to their credit, you know, I don't object to that at all. I think that's part of the positives that flow from this, and indeed in Long Branch, which I have some decent familiarity with, that's what happened. Most of the people that didn't get what they would like to have gotten sold in a willing, by a willing seller, atmosphere in Long Branch, because a lot of those properties were acquired by the developers for the major [project] – whatever the name of the major project is, it was the biggest one – they were acquired in advance, because the developers saw the wisdom of doing that, banking properties, and not going through this. Then there were a lot taken later using eminent domain, and then they started a couple more redevelopment projects, some of which haven't gotten off the ground that had eminent domain power. The same – the same dynamic played out in Long Branch that played out in New Brunswick in terms of the publicity and the advocacies, and then you had all these legislators and others jumping on board to frustrate the use of eminent domain without having a clue as to the positiveness, the need for it, and they were the same ones that complained about the city as not being able to, you know, operate on their own, fund their schools, and do everything that needs to be done, and they won't allow them to have the tools to do it. And here you had the tools that were there. They just needed to be overseen correctly. Nobody from the state ever comes in and says well what are the outcomes? Are people really being tossed aside, and losing at the end of the day? And the answer, I think, is clearly they are not, but nobody ever puts that in a study and says, "Wait a minute, you're all railing about eminent domain and its outcomes, but nobody knows the outcomes."
Berkhout: Interesting. I don't know if you knew Don Krueckeberg? He was a professor . . .
Lynch: I know the name.
Berkhout: Who actually ended up purchasing one of the places in the Hiram District maybe what 10 years ago. He was living there. He passed away of pancreatic cancer, but leading up to when he got ill he decided his next book was going to be on eminent domain. So he was doing a lot of research on it, remember that? He had piles of articles, and he had gone down to Long Branch a few times, and . . .
Lynch: I bet the city still has files.
Lynch: I would think they still have to have them through the redevelopment agency, the housing authority, Hoffman would know. Hoffman is a good resource, because he was involved in a lot of the relocations as well.
Lynch: Both on behalf of the Redevelopment Agency and the Parking Authority.
Listokin: Speaking of another take on the relocation, Memorial Homes, and some of your perspective on that?
Lynch: I mean the Memorial Homes were built in, like, '53, and at that time there was a wave in the country to build high-rise, low income housing and build them in center city and in many cases build them in your prime land. Unfortunately, New Brunswick was a part of that, and then what happened with Memorial Homes is what happens with most of the high-rise low-income housing across the country – they're badly, badly managed. You know, housing authorities are allowed to screen tenants. It doesn't mean you have to have money, but that does mean if you, you know, if you have three people convicted of drug dealing and everything else, you know, they're not going to go in there. Or if you don't pay your twenty-five dollar rent, whatever it is, they don't operate them as a property manager, and this is universal through the country. Some of us advocated then allowing privatizing the property management aspect of these housing authorities, because, at the end of the day, you're making your own people the victims, and because of bad management. And the housing authorities become, through the HUD largesse, or the HUD culture, they became big political operations, and they go to a lot of meetings, and they go to a lot of seminars, and they go to a lot of fancy places around the country at taxpayer expense and they never learn what the housing authorities' basic is – property management. And to this day, I guarantee you, that's the culture, and I know a lot of people that are in this world managing property who – some of whom we've had look at our nodes in New Brunswick who just, they giggle at it, not giggle, they actually get frustrated, because it's so poor how these are managed. So the Memorial Homes took on the culture of all of these high-rise low-incomes. They became a haven for the drug culture. They became a haven for police problems. Anybody that was being chased by the police would – the police would have to cordon off Memorial Homes because if they got in there, they didn't necessarily live there, it was a compound. If they get inside the compound you were in a safe haven. So spilling out of there or into it were all kinds of community problems, and that is typical of what we've seen around the country. So trying to get HUD to move to recognize that, "Wait a minute, there's a better way to do this," you can leverage funds somehow so you can build alternative housing. You can relocate people under circumstances where they can live in peace and quiet, and you can manage them in a way that allows that to happen. Convincing HUD of that is nigh unto impossible, because they have their own politics. So it was a very frustrating thing. And then, of course, you have the media because every time you mention the word they start questioning their tenants. "Well you're going to be dislocated." I know I went to a rally at the Memorial Homes once when the Home News ran a front page, full headline, about the Memorial Homes being [torn down] – people being tossed out of Memorial Homes. There was no plan. I had to go down there that night with 350 tenants outside screaming and hollering, and we held a community meeting with, you know, New York TV and everything there. A cause celebre over absolutely nothing, but realistic, because these tenants were in fear of not having a roof over their heads when indeed most of the cities that are trying to provide alternatives to these high-rise low-income projects are doing it for the right reason, and I think Memorial Homes is a classic example. It's not as big as some of the projects in Newark or New York City, but again, you've seen the people all being relocated well, either with vouchers, many of which were wonderfully valuable vouchers or better residences and at the same time freeing up a piece of property that belonged in a better use. One can question the wisdom of what they actually did there in terms of the housing nodes that were put there, but that's a different issue. More importantly, it was a big plus for the people that lived there to be relocated correctly. But you can't, you can't manage it. And I can't repeat it enough; the housing authority culture is awful. They will not property manage. Property management is pure basics, and they will not do it. You know a residential project, be it low, middle, or upper, that's run right, is run right because they're sticking to the basics of property management and these housing authorities will not do it. They don't prescreen tenants. They don't maintain these properties. They don't enforce their own regulations. And they don't evict tenants for doing it.
Listokin: How transferable is what happened in New Brunswick to other urban areas? Think back things that were unique that really aren't transferable and maybe aspects that are transferable?
Lynch: Well, understanding that you have to have total – not total, but real – community support and have the support of your community leadership, be it the residential leadership or the corporate leadership, or in this case the academic leadership and the hospital community and that has to be worked on every step of the way, it is transferable. And you can never lose sight of that. Having political stability is critical. That's not necessarily transferable. Having some visionaries in the front end like a Dick Sellars, etc., is critical; not necessarily transferable. But that being said, I think most of the principles that are involved are transferable whether it's the proper use of the, you know, the Parking Authority, the redevelopment process, the leveraging of the community, the pushing of your resources back into the people to have them understand that this was about the community as a whole where the monies all generated go to the school and infrastructure, trees, etc. We were always very proud of being in tree city USA for years and years and years, and we brought in some people just to do that, you know, to jump start it because it's amazing what it does to a neighborhood.
Listokin: The size of the city? Some people have mentioned that they thought, you know, New Brunswick was of a scale you could wrap your arms around. Do you think that's a . . .?
Lynch: Oh I think that's probably true. Right, the principles are pretty much the same. We're big by day. I see New Brunswick ultimately, you know, putting another 25,000 people in the city or more. It's still a regional center. More so than it ever was, and I'm not sure that Newark, because there are 240,000 or whatever they are today, is any different in terms of principles and the ability to get your arms around it. They have, you know, they have enormous police problems. They have to get their arms around those as first things, since I don't know how you do anything else. The only thing I agree with Rudy Giuliani is that he cleaned up the perception of crime in the city and enabled it to then take on its luster again, and Newark has to do that. They certainly have the corporate community big time, more so than New Brunswick. They have the educational community, you know, they have Rutgers and several institutions of higher learning, and they have the location. I mean they're on the water. They're across from New York. What am I missing? So I don't know, and I don't know the current circumstance of Cory Booker's administration. I assume they have a lot of good things going on. Generally it's not a good time to be in the urban redevelopment game, but changing the image of the city, not unlike what we went through, is critical to the process because – it's the perception that probably is as important as any other factor in this whole process. If you can't change that perception, you're not bringing the people in that you need.
Listokin: Some people have mentioned to us the fact that some of the principal players, even if they moved out of New Brunswick, were near by. You know they lived in Highland Park or they would worship, come back to church on Sunday in New Brunswick. Do you think that was, you know, a factor?
Lynch: Well, it certainly helps. You had a lot of people who are New Brunswickers for lack of a better term who either went to Highland Park or North Brunswick, or in East Brunswick, Franklin Township, who still felt a part of the community, you know, and there were different dynamics to each. Take Franklin Township: we had a lot of the Hungarian community that was part of the history of the city and Johnson & Johnson who left the Somerset, Hamilton Street, fifth ward area, and moved into Somerset. They're still there. They still go to – a lot of them go to the – they go to the church. They participate in the community. They go to some Hungarian restaurants, and they still feel part of the greater community so that's – there is no question that is important. Like it is for Jersey City, where everybody is from Jersey City, no matter where you go in this country.
Listokin: If we could with hindsight – we all have 20/20 hindsight – looking back on redevelopment, are there things that could have been done differently? If we could look back, and then if I could ask you looking forward, like fast forward to New Brunswick, you know, 20 years from now what's your vision? But maybe if we could look back first.
Lynch: Well, yeah, hindsight is 20/20. There are a lot of things that would have been done differently. I would have to get into the specifics of project by project or what we did or didn't do that we could have done. I hate to keep bringing it up, but I always thought that we didn't put enough emphasis on neighborhood housing, and some people would say that you're building monuments downtown, and there is some legitimate criticism to that, although that's been the life blood of the community – perception, business, jobs, as well as taxes that help with your schools, your parks, your infrastructure, etc. So I always have that, but I don't think you can ever do enough housing. Project by project, there were some parts of individual projects that always were of concern. I mean, you can take Ferren Deck, for instance, and that retail space. What was that all about now? You have to put yourself back into the time. We were sort of wandering in the wilderness, and needed a jump start. Did some planning, but not the best planning for sure. Got Rutgers to buy in, which was critical to it. You'd do it differently today. Indeed, that will probably be out of there from what you hear and read now, that probably, in the next 10 years, will be yesterday's news for a lot of good reasons.
I'll tell you one of the biggest things that happened to the city that it's easy to say you didn't do enough or you could have done more or you could have done anything. I think that the city as a healthcare city that we collectively didn't do enough to propel the integration of the two hospitals because in their case two and two is 22. And a lot of competent people saw the wisdom of it, and wanted to do it in the worst way, and while it's easy to say that, you know, the church did their thing and waxed parochial on turf, whatever it was, I'm not sure that we who had some understanding and vision of this didn't move far enough to get to the right people to be part of the decision-making process within the church, and there were some people, I think, that were available that we just missed because when they took the second crack at that . . .
Listokin: This is the combining of . . .
Lynch: When they took the second crack at that and went to the Vatican or whatever, it could have been – it could have happened. Now there were some things on the ground that we'll talk about off the record, but, I mean, the diocese that made it very difficult, but if they were combined, and indeed they had an understanding of what all the parts would be, negotiated between the two institutions, and was signed off by the IRS because their both non-profits, they had to sign off on it, and everybody else, you know, the only remaining player was the church, the Vatican, or diocese or whatever. If that had moved forward, you know, the specialties could have been enhanced dramatically, the leveraging could have been enhanced dramatically, and I think that would have been – it was a really missed opportunity for the city, and for the greater central Jersey area, because health care is so critical.
Listokin: And that, combined, it would have accentuated just the city becoming this health hub? I mean is that correct?
Lynch: Yeah. The level of expertise would have risen. The specialization would have risen. The ability to stay as current as you possibly can in that world would have risen, and I think it's lost in the shuffle if you ask the people that were directly involved like a Harvey Holtzberg. It was big. It was big. And he was willing to take a back seat. Of course, he saw himself as time to go anyhow, so he really downplayed his role, and it wasn't about individuals, it was about the greater good of the community and the institutions and health care in general. It was a missed opportunity. And I think if you move forward, if you can talk about hindsight, if you go out 15, 20 years and look back it will be very obvious.
Listokin: Do you think more of the city's existing buildings could have been preserved or just, realistically, you know, you couldn't really do that. I mean is that . . . ?
Lynch: Yeah, I mentioned Plainfield earlier. We didn't have a lot of the character in our buildings other than you had a history in Hiram Market. But a lot of it, from the standpoint of structure, wasn't there. It was like when we had the Lock Tender House issue that Mack Babcock and them analyzed it for us, he said there's nothing here. I mean, yeah it's old, but it's been redone so many times and patched up. You had a lot of the same dynamic in Hiram Market, and there weren't a lot of other areas where we had real historic issues other than Hiram Market. Individual properties once in a while. Do you have any specifics in terms of – in terms of other areas other than Hiram?
Listokin: It's – you know, can say,"Well if you had the old mill buildings we'd have all these lofts," but then . . .
Lynch: We didn't have any mill buildings. That's 50 or 60 years ago. They were gone. I mean if you had – there were two or three loft buildings in Hiram Market. One where that guy had the hardware he had – what did he have every – he was like Restoration Hardware.
Berkhout: Right. I also took a gourmet cooking class from somebody who had a big loft up there. His name was David Willems. He was in the sociology department at Rutgers.
Lynch: Where did he have his loft? In Hiram?
Berkhout: In Hiram.
Lynch: But there were the two buildings, one had the place that was like Restoration Hardware, what was that fella's name, they moved him out to 27 and Somerset?
Berkhout: I don't remember that.
Lynch: He had every old junk thing known to mankind.
Berkhout: Yes, I vaguely remember that was there, but I don't know who he was or what happened to him.
Lynch: Yeah, he was a character.
Berkhout: But this was just upstairs, and it was a large loft because I know I actually stayed in a place in Manhattan on Greene Street at one time, and it was very similar, and he conducted cooking, culinary school up there for a while.
Lynch: Is that right?
Berkhout: Maybe for three years or so. Yeah.
Lynch: But there were so – you couldn't have had more than three or four of those buildings, and they were small.
Berkhout: Right. True.
Lynch: And they had all been redone in one fashion or another so that was, I mean the study that Nelessen gave was skewed, I thought. There wasn't a lot to get your arms around.
Berkhout: Well, one other building, because we also talked with Kenneth Wheeler, who was involved from the Rutgers side, that when the Kilmer Square was built there was some discussion about taking everything down, but the building that Old Bay is in and next door to it were actually preserved.
Lynch: Yeah. Well a couple of buildings on Church Street were preserved, and then because you had the old Public Service building on Albany Street, and of course you had the ultimate, the J&J mural on the side of the what do you call it, the center that Public Service had.
Berkhout: It still is. It was a transfer center or something, right.
Lynch: And that we had to put over in the park over by the bridge. That was one of the best stories of redevelopment. Because it was done by . . .
Listokin: Can we get your recollections on that?
Lynch: It was done by the Ivory Tower at J&J and they didn't like looking at the side of this building. Somebody had put – they put the mural up . . .
Berkhout: Richard Haas.
Lynch: And it was fabulous, so when it came time to get rid of the building . . .
Berkhout: Then there was a big protest right.
Lynch: It was great. I thought it was great.
Listokin: The future vision? We've looked back where New Brunswick, you mentioned a much larger city, but just some of your future thoughts . . .
Lynch: I think New Brunswick is going to flourish, and I think the central business district just gets better and better and better and there will be many more significant residential projects, which will enhance the potential for retail and restaurants and certainly the arts. The arts have been a huge part of the change in the dynamic of the central business district and the perception of New Brunswick, and the ability to reach out to this, you know, central Jersey community, and it's – you can't measure the amount, the credibility that has flowed from the Cultural Center, and to see them working on a project now that would even enhance that. And it might take quite a while to get done, but the very fact that you're moving down that road is critical, you know, and so that will only further enhance the body of life in the city, and, you know, the jury is out on what you can do to enhance the neighborhoods. You have a mixed bag with Rutgers in not having enough student housing, but yet their student housing is, the off-campus housing that's done through the private sector has also been a stabilizer in the city in many, many ways, and the properties are kept up. People are making, you know, a lot of money off the investments, most of them, I don't know how strong the city code enforcement is today, but most of them are pretty good. It's one thing the university will try to get them to do – going back is to – you know, and there's a coming body of law you think that maybe says the university is going to have to oversee the non-owned off campus housing to make sure that their students are housed in a safe environment that meets code; fire codes and everything else, because if you have a conflagration, one bad happening sets off a fire storm. So, but, in the meantime, I have no doubt that the university will start building a lot more housing and rehabilitating the housing that it has because there is so much private sector initiative to do those things today for the universities where universities can make money, have a better product, and the like. So it's a mixed bag from the city standpoint. You know, you'd like to see a lot of that closer to the central business district, and, indeed, it may be, but on the other hand it has been a real property stabilizer. Some of the old line residents don't like the students around, but, the fact is, it has been very, very beneficial over the long term. And that's not just in the sixth ward or the fifth ward, but it's now in the fourth ward, the second ward, and you know throughout the city you have that happening.
Berkhout: Were you involved in or do you think in the future there's a possibility for a downtown arena?
Lynch: Got close. We got close. I thought there was a great opportunity when Rutgers was looking at a different perspective on facilities, etc., and the state was indeed moving in the direction of helping build more athletic facilities. A lot of us saw the potential, and I'm not sure it's even there because of other developments that have recently occurred, of building an arena over Route 18.
Berkhout: Right. And I have the drawings that Peter Eisenman did hanging outside of my office.
Lynch: Yeah, we thought that was a great idea, and that it would really work for the university, and it would certainly work for the city, and it would almost as importantly, it would connect the city to the water, because it would be this huge structure that would, in effect, bridge 18 and you would have a direct nexus between the downtown and the canal, and the river.
Berkhout: So what happened?
Lynch: Well, I mean, off the record, we didn't get any – we didn't get any real support from the university, and they were looking in all kinds of different directions, and or, not looking at all.
Lynch: It was not unlike what we saw with a couple of the other projects that we talked about, but this was big. It really required a lot of involvement from the state, the county, the city, the university, but it was doable, and I think it was a missed opportunity, particularly, well, I won't say that, for both Rutgers and the city.
Lynch: I – I look at it from the city's perspective. I know it was a huge, it was a big missed opportunity, but when you look at it from Rutgers perspective and the standpoint of its facilities, and let's put it frankly, and its attractiveness to a basketball player, it was a much, much better situation.
Lynch: And if, you know, I'm an urban high school kid coming in to look at Rutgers, and I go out to see the RAC in Piscataway, or I come downtown center city New Brunswick and see this edifice that bridges the Route 18, and it is not unlike what you see in some of the cities across the country even in New England, I just think it would have been a huge plus on both sides of the equation. And yes it had a big price tag, but it was, I think it was definitely doable because you have so many potential participants.
Berkhout: There is a new athletic director who was thinking about a new arena.
Lynch: I hear good things. He's supposedly a quality person. Anybody know him?
Berkhout: He came to see the drawings. We invited him over to see the drawings, but you know there's also the Ferren Deck location by the train station, I guess, and other possibilities.
Lynch: It's possible, but very difficult.
Listokin: Do you see a future, you know, of a large supermarket now, so we keep on that thread, the city made numerous efforts to have a supermarket. Can you speak a little bit about what the city did to support the supermarket, and then maybe looking into the future on that front?
Lynch: Well there are some interesting asides. We had the small supermarket that was on George Street where it was owned by the Davidsons. They had a place in Belle Mead or Princeton and some other place [ . . .]. They sold the building to Katz or somebody like that. And they put a restrictive covenant that it couldn't be used for a supermarket. So we, of course, took it by eminent domain and tried to eradicate that, and it went up to the Supreme Court. I think we were successful. We might have had to pay him fifty thousand dollars for the covenant or something like that, but in any event, that's one step along the road. Then you had small stuff built out on Route 27. We tried many times to attract someone to downtown. In recent years, they tried to put somebody at – over off of French Street and Jersey Avenue. A major development over there. They had, I think the mayor told me going back a number of years, that they had a tentative commitment from an operator to put up a significant supermarket there, and now, in the most recent take, is they're looking to do one in that Jelen Street, Joyce Kilmer Avenue, Paterson Street, where the medical school has that old factory that was rehabilitated and where there is surface parking. You have Gowan's Used Furniture or whatever it is. And the plan had been going back, and I assume it's pretty much the same, to cut through Kirkpatrick Street over to French Street and wipe out Jelen Street. And then have one property from Kirkpatrick Street, which would go through next to that red brick office building all the way over to Joyce Kilmer, and there was indeed there was also an announcement by CREDA, recently that I saw, that they're putting funding into urban supermarkets. So, potentially – now, can you get an operator? I don't see how you're ever going to have an operator to build a 60,000- or 70,000-square foot supermarket, but there are more boutique kind of supermarkets. We're not going to get a Whole Foods like over at the Time Warner building or whatever you call it.
Berkhout: Yeah, right.
Lynch: Have you ever been in that store?
Berkhout: Which? No.
Lynch: Whole Foods?
Lynch: Off the subway?
Berkhout: I've been in the original Austin one actually.
Lynch: Is that right?
Berkhout: It's huge. It's like five stories with three levels of underground parking. In Austin.
Lynch: Well the one over there you get off the subway, and you go up escalators and go to – and come out with their bags and down the subway.
Berkhout: I know, I know.
Listokin: Any further thoughts? And then if I can also ask, you know, you've seen some of the people we're interviewing, who might be others?
Lynch: Who have you interviewed?
Listokin: Okay. Do we have . . .
Berkhout: I don't have the list. I have it in my head. John Heldrich, Ralph Voorhees, Eric Krebs, Andy Baglivo, Jim Cahill, Pat Sheehan . . .
Listokin: Ted Hargrove.
Berkhout: Tom Kelso, Bob Campbell. We still have David Harris on the list, and we . . .
Lynch: David always has a perspective.
Berkhout: And Leo Molinaro we were supposed to interview, but his wife got ill, but we hope to do that again.
Lynch: Where's Leo living now?
Berkhout: He's in Philadelphia in a retirement community in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. Henry Cobb because I.M. Pei is not able to do interviews.
Lynch: Leo was more the hands-on person.
Berkhout: Yeah. Bill Wright is going to be coming up sometime in the fall.
Lynch: Yeah. He's written to me not too long ago.
Berkhout: He's now working . . .
Lynch: He's in Missouri, right?
Berkhout: No. He's in, he might be, I don't know, but I talked with him through a consulting firm called VOR, which turns out to be Virginia O. Record.
Lynch: Oh yes.
Berkhout: She's like development and consulting so he works with her so that's how we got in touch . . .
Lynch: Yeah, but I think he's – he wrote me, I think he was in Missouri, because he left Michigan State. He retired. He was doing some things on the side now.
Berkhout: Right. Chris Foglio we talked to. And Chris Paladino we have . . .
Listokin: We hope to talk to Frank Nero.
Lynch: Yeah, Frank was a major player. Chris was a major player. Frank, you know Frank was there at the time that we were transforming into something that gave us the power to do things.
Lynch: So he came at the right time, and Frank was good at creating a human infrastructure with agendas that had, you know, real goals. So he brought in a lot of talent, and they were pretty functional, and, of course, he was doing so well that he got recruited out to a higher end to run Jacksonville, and then ultimately the Beacon Council in the greater Miami area where he's got a big operation down there. Chris who studied under Frank and is great with the housing stuff, and then certainly with the Mason Gross School of the Arts. We worked on that daily. Bill Wright of course, without Bill Wright the whole arts thing never would have gotten off the ground, because he had a real passion for it, and he understood the dynamic of getting the Arts Pride community together for the bond issue. I mean he was involved in every step of the way in terms of the arts, planning New Brunswick, planning state wide, mending fences, bringing community together, bringing some of the business and financial leadership together. He did a great job. Krebs of course, Eric is Eric, but you have to give the devil his due. I mean the perception that the arts could succeed in New Brunswick was generated in no small measure by Eric, and what he did at a time when there was nothing. Back in the old Acme supermarket. It wasn't a supermarket.
Berkhout: Before that he had Brecht West, where he said Al Pacino was in directing at one time.
Lynch: Is that right?
Lynch: Well, Eric is quite a character. Dave Harris, you know Dave has been a very important player in the community. I've run against Dave, and we've had our days in back alley, but we still remain good friends.
Berkhout: We also interviewed Roy Epps and Ted Hargrove and Jeff Vega.
Listokin: And Pat Sheehan.
Lynch: Where's Ted?
Berkhout: Ted is retired. I'm not sure where he lives nearby, I'm not sure where.
Lynch: Ted is a real nice guy.
Lynch: He did a lot of work for Heldrich.
Lynch: Day to day. Roy is Roy. Roy had his own rules. And the schools, he went off on the wrong tangent on the schools. I like Roy personally.
Berkhout: He went off on the wrong tangent in the schools?
Lynch: Well, he tried to take it over himself.
Berkhout: Oh, he did?
Lynch: Yeah. He was like a super educator back in the second half of the sixties or early seventies. Up until . . .
Berkhout: How about in the schools? The current superintendant, or Penny Lattimer, who is . . .
Lynch: Penny is credible. Penny has always done really good things for the community at large. Developing the schools, the arts, and she brings a lot of credibility wherever she goes.
Lynch: Larson. We recruited Larson because we needed somebody to lead the schools, and, you know, on balance it's easy to criticize the public schools, because I always had my problems with public schools and the unions and all, but – and who really runs the show, but on balance, he straightened schools out and brought them a significant measure of credibility. Brought in some good people, and brought calm to the arena, because there had been a significant lack of that in the community. A lot of unrest in the schools. So, you know, there were no more security issues, and we had an issue with the schools going back where because of the perception in New Brunswick that after, when they used to have the old middle schools, people would leave neighborhood schools after the fourth grade or fifth grade, fifth grade, I guess it was at that time. So he got rid of the middle school. Maintained the community, the neighborhood schools, and people stayed in longer until they got in high school, and then in high school they disappeared. He brought a lot of order to the process in the high schools. I don't know whether today they're building a new middle school. I think they are. Going back to the old regimen. I still disagree with it. I think you're better off with the neighborhood schools.
Berkhout: But the new high school, I guess, is . . .
Lynch: New high school. Phenomenal.
Listokin: Your thoughts on New Brunswick – it has built a number of new schools, your perspectives on that?
Lynch: Well it couldn't have happened soon enough. You know, we had done the one under the redevelopment law in the replacement of Lord Stirling up on George Street?
Listokin: And using the redevelopment law gave you what advantage? I mean I can imagine, but . . .?
Lynch: You know, I forget the dynamic at the time, because we had somebody passing legislation that allowed you to do a school through the redevelopment law. Gormley, maybe, in Atlantic City, we were involved with them, but this is going back to the mid-nineties, and that was a long process. That school turned out to be built privately. You get to circumvent all that public, I hate to say, bidding wars are terrible, but they are, and you . . .
Listokin: Was that Devco or who?
Lynch: It was Devco and the city and the school, and it's turned out very, very well
Listokin: And it allowed you to just deliver more efficiently?
Lynch: We tried to do the same thing with even the maintenance of it, but I think the union forced their way into the deal unfortunately, this is about the membership.
Listokin: Okay, well we could send you a list of everyone, you know, interviewed or will and I'm sure there will be gaps, so if you could . . .
Lynch: If you see Leo tell him I said, "Hi." Bob Campbell.
Berkhout: Yeah, we've talked to him. Yeah.
Lynch: Was a huge player in terms of the hospitals and credibility. Bob wasn't directly involved day to day, but he would be involved with the arts. He would be involved in the health care community. He was involved as a designated hitter many times, Heldrich or someone would bring him in, because he always brought calm and credibility, and it was pretty hard to argue too loud if Bob was in the room, you know? He's a really, really great guy, and I mean there a lot of really strong personalities and players with different qualities and attributes, but at the end of the day, you now, everybody agreed there's always egos, and you know, they usually get in the way more than they should, but in this case, even though we had a lot of that, and we really had some serious disagreements and arguments, nobody ever went public, because again, the perception is so important. You got to – you know, a lot of people say it was a closed shop, it was a back room, it was this, or it was that, but there was a lot of disagreement, and a lot of contentiousness, but never out in the public domain.
Listokin: Okay. Well. Thank you, thank you.
Lynch: Anytime. If there is anything else, you let me know.
[end of recording]