Update/Editor's Note: After this article was published, the Fort Lee Mayor and Council tabled discussion of the name change at Thursday's executive session.
With the Redevelopment Area 5 approval process continuing and the Fort Lee Planning Board holding ongoing public hearings, one of the issues that has prompted debate—perhaps surprisingly so to some—is the potential renaming of Martha Washington Way, a road named by Fort Lee students in a contest several years ago.
At an executive session of the Fort Lee Mayor and Council in early April, members of the governing body seemed to lean toward granting a request by Fort Lee Redevelopment Associates (FLRA), the developer whose plan to build two 47-story residential towers on the eastern half of the 16-acre, long-vacant property has already been approved, that officials change the name of Martha Washington Way to Park Avenue.
The issue is up for general discussion again, along with those of a dog park and a special improvement district in Fort Lee among others, according to the agenda for Thursday’s executive session. Only this time, the name change would be “Park Place” instead of “Park Avenue.”
“You have developers who are about to spend upwards of half a billion dollars who would like their address to have the word ‘Park’ in it, whether it’s from a marketing perspective or what have you,” said Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich at the meeting in early April. “I am myself inclined to go along with renaming that road, and I would defer to the redeveloper on that.”
But the mayor also said, “This request has spurred more debate than quite frankly I thought it would.”
And Sokolich may have been right.
A non-scientific poll on Patch garnered nearly 100 votes, with about two-thirds of readers answering “No” to the question of whether they were in favor of the name change to Park Avenue.
The article also generated a lot of comments, both for and against the change, including the following excerpts:
- “If he wanted to be on Park Ave, why didn't he build in New York City? The children of this town named that street and I think it sends the wrong message to them if we change it.”
- “Money talks obviously.”
- “Aren't there more important things that people can worry about than the name of an undeveloped, unpopulated street. It's a common practice for developers to name the streets in which they construct properties on.”
But one commenter, who identified herself as the mother of a student involved in naming the road after Martha Washington and even received a $500 savings bond for her contest essay—“ Behind every man is a good women pushing,” it read in part, according to the Fort Lee mother—said, “As her mother, naturally I was very proud. I myself have lived in Fort Lee for over 40 years. I have many memories of the ‘old days.’ It saddens me as Martha Washington Way will also be a memory and not a reality.”
In addition to the possible renaming of the road—this time as Park Place instead of Park Ave.—there is one item on the Mayor and Council’s Thursday agenda upon which it could take action, a resolution “approving additional and clarifying terms to [the] supplementary agreement with FLRA and Tucker,” the developer of the West parcel, whose plans are currently being scrutinized by the Planning Board.
The open portion of the meeting is expected to start “no earlier than 8:00 p.m.,” according to borough officials, and takes place in Borough Hall’s second-floor conference room.