Planning Board Special Public Meeting Minutes April 5,2016

                The following minutes are a summary of the Planning Board meeting of April 5, 2016. Interested parties may request an audio recording of the meeting from the Board Secretary for a fee.


Call to Order & Statement of Compliance with the Open Public Meetings Act: Chairman Nalbantian called the meeting to order at 7:39 p.m. The following members were present: Mayor Aronsohn, Mr. Nalbantian, Councilwoman Knudsen, Mr. Thurston, Mr. Reilly, Ms. Altano, Mr. Joel, and. Also present were: Gail Price, Esq., Board Attorney; Blais Brancheau, Village Planner; and Board Secretary Michael Cafarelli. Christopher Rutishauser, Village Engineer, Mr. Abdalla, Ms. Dockray, Ms. Bigos, and Ms. Patire was not present.


Correspondence received by the Board – Mr. Cafarelli said there was none.

Public Comments on Topics not Pending Before the Board – No one came forward.

“Whispering Woods”  Public Hearing on Settlement and Consideration of a 2016 Master Plan Amendment pursuant to Remand Order entered by Honorable Lisa Perez-Friscia, J.S.C. on the matter known as The Valley Hospital, Inc. v. Village of Ridgewood Planning Board, et al. Public comment and possible formal action to be taken – Following is the transcript of this portion of the meeting, prepared by Laura A. Carucci, C.C.R., R.P.R.:

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Good evening, everyone.  We're about to begin. 

We have a lot of people this evening, and, as we did yesterday, we set up in the senior center downstairs so that if we reach Fire Department capacity in this room, we have a live video feed downstairs so the people can participate. I believe we also have a signup sheet for people who are downstairs who may want to speak this evening.

As I always mention for everyone's safety, we have members of the Police Department and Fire Department, who assist us to manage the number of people we have here and also for everyone's safety. 

So at this time, I'd like to call tonight's regular Planning Board meeting to order, Tuesday, April 5, 2016.

VICE CHAIRMAN JOEL:  In accordance with the provisions of Section 10:4‑8d of the Open Public Meetings Act, the date, location, and time of the commencement of this meeting is reflected in a meeting notice, a copy of which schedule has been filed with the Village Manager and the Village Clerk, The Ridgewood News and The Record newspapers, and posted on the bulletin board in the entry lobby of the Village municipal offices at 131 North Maple Avenue, and on the Village website, all in accordance with the provisions of the Open Public Meetings Act.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Will everyone please rise for the flag salute.

(At this point in the proceeding all rise for a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.)

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Michael, will you please call the roll. (At this point in the proceeding roll call is taken with MAYOR ARONSOHN, COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN, CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN, Vice‑Chairman Joel, MR. REILLY, MS. DOCKRAY, MR. THURSTON, MR. ABDALLA, and MS. PATIRE present, with Ms. Altano and Ms. Bigos absent.) 

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  It looks like we have listed on the agenda tonight an executive session, however, we do not have business to conduct in executive, so we will skip to No. 3, which is public comments on topics not pending before the board. So this is an opportunity for members of the public who have comments on issues that are not related to anything tonight, other matters that are pending before the board, they may come forward.  

THE COURT REPORTER:  You have to speak up a little, Chairman. 

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Can everybody hear me?


CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  If there are members of the public who have comments on issues not pending before the board, what that means is if you have comments on things other than why we're here tonight or other matters that are before the board, you can come up and you can comment, otherwise we'll proceed. 

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Okay.  Seeing that there are no comments, the next item we have is topics on issues that relate to the community/commission/profession updates for non‑agenda topics. 

Anything to my left? 


CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  And to my right, Katie or Blais? 


CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  The next item we have the is the "Whispering Woods" Public Hearing on Settlement and Consideration of a 2016 Master Plan Amendment pursuant to Remand Order entered by Hon. Lisa Perez‑Friscia, J.S.C., on the matter known as The Valley Hospital, Inc. v. Village of Ridgewood Planning Board, et al.  Public comment and possible formal action to be taken.

So thank you again, all, for coming and welcome to this meeting which has been convened for the purpose of continuing the board's Whispering Woods hearing to consider a proposed amendment to the Village of Ridgewood Master Plan pursuant to the settlement terms reached with Valley Hospital following litigation which commenced in 2014. Tonight we will continue the process of public comment, which we started yesterday.  I believe we were able to get through everyone who wanted to speak yesterday, but we were made aware that there were others who wanted to speak tonight, so we will continue public comment tonight. 

Please remember that public comment began after two days of testimony and questions from both the board and the public, which is now complete.

I notice we have a number of children here tonight and typically we don't take public comment from children; however, this evening I think we will.  But please note that if they do come up to make comment, they will have to be sworn in, as all of us were.  So you can keep that in mind, and if there are children that you can assist with that process before they come up, that would be appreciated.

I'd like to remind everyone that the board is proceeding under the guidelines of the remand order that was issued by the court.  The order establishes a framework of a settlement and specific procedural requirements and timelines for these hearings, which we must strictly continue to follow.

Let me again now review the procedure for tonight's public comment.  When you arrived here this evening, you were asked to sign up for public comment.  If you signed up yesterday but left, you must sign up again tonight, we're starting a fresh list.  And, again, if there are folks downstairs, please sign the list, we're going to proceed in that order. 

When I announce that the hearing is open for public comment, we will call the names in sequence from the list and in that order.  So if you wish to speak and have not signed up, please do so now.  There will also be a signup list for those of you who are participating in the senior center downstairs.  When your name is called, you will be asked to move immediately to the microphone and slowly say and spell your name and street address for the record.  You'll also be sworn in at that time since all comments must be made under oath. If you change your mind about speaking when your name is called, simply indicate "Pass," and we will move to the next speaker. 

Please note that if you pass, your time may not be donated as extra time for another speaker.

Each speaker will be given five minutes to speak.  There will be a timer indicating when one minute is left and again when each speaker's time has concluded.  And we ask that you respect that time to allow for everyone to get their chance to speak. 

The five minute's time will be given only after the speaker has provided his or her name and address for the record and has been sworn in. 

We ask that each speaker strictly observe the time limits, so that everyone may speak.  You may read a written statement into the record, so long as it does not exceed the allotted five minute's time.

At the four‑minute notification, please finish your statement within the remaining one minute so that the next individual in sequence can have their turn.  As directed by the court remand order, everyone who wishes to comment will be given the same five‑minute time period.  I will call on everyone who is in line only once until everyone on the list has had their five‑minute opportunity to comment.  And I will try to get through everyone who has signed up tonight. 

Please remember that the remand order requires that each person who wishes to comment is permitted only that five minutes, so that if you already spoke during public comment last night, you may not repeat your time again tonight. 

Please keep in mind while the board will attempt to hear from everyone who wishes to speak, there is no obligation under the law or the remand order to entertain repetitious comments. 

After members of the public have had opportunity to comment on the proposed plan amendment and the matter has been concluded, the board may then take action to approve the amendment or decline adoption of the amendment.

Before we begin public comment, let me again say that not everything that is said here tonight during public comment is likely to be agreeable to everyone and, therefore, there is a level of patience, respect, and cooperation that must be maintained throughout this process by all of us.  When a speaker is at the microphone, please don't interrupt.  Shouting, applause, insults, or other disruption are not permitted. 

So with that, Katie, I don't know if you have anything you want to say at this time? 


CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  If not, why don't I take a motion to open to public comment.

VICE CHAIRMAN JOEL:  Motion to open to public comment.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Is there a second, please? 

MR. REILLY:  Second.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Michael, please call the role.





MR. CAFARELLI:  Mr. Nalbantian?














CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Thank you, Michael.

Okay.  The first name I that have on the list for public comment is Benjamin Ran.

Good evening. 

Please state and spell your name and provide your address.

MR. RAN:  My name is Benjamin Ran, B‑E‑N‑J‑A‑M‑I‑N R‑A‑N, 471 Berkshire Road, Ridgewood.

THE COURT REPORTER:  Please raise your right hand. 

Do you swear or affirm the testimony you are about to give in this proceeding is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

MR. RAN:  I am a teacher at BF.  I'm finishing my 11th year of teaching there and 16th year teaching middle school overall.  I hold a bachelor of science and two master's degrees in education‑related fields.  I want to say that I'm speaking for myself as a teacher and my students, and not as an official representative of the district or the REA.  By this point in my career, I have taught over 2,800 days of school, and at an average of five classes per day, I have seen over 14,000 classes so far. I have a pretty good sense about what it's like to be a middle‑schooler.  It's my opinion that this hospital expansion is going to be a huge distraction to them right from the start. 

The way a middle‑schooler's mind works, they're a distraction to themselves.  Hair, clothes, shoes, friends, parents, grades, homework, sports, it's all so much to them.  The hospital expansion adds noise, dust, traffic and alternate routes to the already full and growing bodies and brains.  And my most estimates, this would be a 6 to 10 years of construction, a full 2 to 3 generations of BF kids, which is roughly 700 to 1000 students. 

I teach eighth grade.  By now eighth‑graders are too cool to go running to the windows when a fire truck or an ambulance goes down Van Dien towards the hospital or the rest of town, but I still see some of them crane their necks to get a glance at what's happening.  When the siren is going off, I have to pause my instruction or the students have to pause their thoughts to wait for the trucks to pass, and then we start over again. 

When the landscaper is cutting grass across the street or the garbage truck is collecting trash and when the leaf machine is vacuuming up the leaves in the fall or the constant pounding of nails and cutting of wood for a local home renovation in the distance or anything else out there, all the [noise|nose] is a competition for their attention.  Even though all this [noise|nose] is very normal and very temporary, even as adults, if this were to happen to you in your place of business, you'd say, gosh, it's so annoying, I can barely hear myself think. 

So you can certainly imagine what it would be like for the attention of middle school students to endure 6 to 10 years of construction and construction vehicles right next door, all while asking them to concentrate and work their hardest. 

As much as schools are doing hands‑on activities and writing and typing, schools are still very much verbally centered:  Teachers talk to students, students talk to teachers, teachers talk to teachers and parents and administrators, students talk to each other, the [noise|nose] of this expansion will disrupt this communication. 

Now, I know some people think the answer to the problems of sound and dust are so easy, just close the windows, turn on the air conditioners.  If it were only so simple. 

While I'm thrilled we have air conditioners, they're wall units and they're loud.  I run them on my off periods just to cool the place off and I turn them off when the students are back in class.  If you don't think fresh air is necessary, I invite you to visit a middle school class on a warm day just after gym.  And it's not just the students in my class, there are 15 classrooms and the library on the Van Dien and Glen Avenue side of the building where all the construction vehicles are slated to pass by.  There are an additional 21 classrooms on the parking lot side of BF, as well as classes that go outdoors for phys ed, yoga, outdoor learning and lunch recess. They will all be affected by the construction [noise|nose] and dust.  No one will be sheltered from this for 6 to 10 years. 

From what I've heard, the hospital is now drawn up to be just 30 feet from the BF property line.  I took a tape measure outside this morning and measured the distance between BF and the Valley property line.  The total distance between the buildings would end up being about 200 feet apart.  It sounds far, but it's really not.  It's a distance of about six classrooms.  Six classrooms are just down the hall.  I can't imagine anyone thinking that putting a commercial building twice as high as it is now just six classrooms away is a good idea, and see that this is what this comes down to, the size and duration of this project is just not a good idea.

One of the things I love about middle school kids is their honesty.  They haven't learned how to be tactfully polite yet, they just say what's on their minds the minute it hits.  If this project goes through ‑‑

MR. CAFARELLI:  One minute remaining.

MR. RAN:  If this project goes through, a few years from now, when we're stuck in the middle of it all, we'll be looking at the hospital and the student will ask, "Whose idea was this?"

The obvious answer is this is Valley's idea.  What they really want to articulate is the attitude underneath the question, who signed off on this?  Who let this happen to our neighborhood?

The answer to those questions lie in your hands, because depending on how this goes, I can either tell them that even though the Planning Board and Town Council and local neighbors and residents fought as hard as they could, still a judge ruled against us and an injustice has been committed against our town.  Or I can tell them the Planning Board thought that this plan was good enough. And that's not okay, because Ridgewood has always been about excellence, never just good enough.  So please vote no to this expansion plan, because we should continue to fight for what's best for our kids and our town.  Thank you.


The next person we have is Matthew Salerno, Jr., No. 2. 

Hi, Matthew.

Please state your name and spell your name and then provide your address.

MR. SALERNO:  My name is Matthew Salerno, Jr., M‑A‑T‑T‑H‑E‑W  S‑A‑L‑E‑R‑N‑O. 

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  And your address? 

MR. SALERNO:  164 North Van Dien Avenue.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Okay.  She is going to swear you in.

THE COURT REPORTER:  Please raise your right hand. 

Do you swear or affirm the testimony you are about to give in this proceeding is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?


My name is Matthew Salerno, Jr., and I'm a seventh grader at Ben Franklin Middle School.

I'd like to thank everyone on the Planning Board for the time you spent on the Valley Hospital Master Plan Amendments.  I'm only 12, but it feels like this has been going on forever, so I can't imagine how you must feel. 

I'm here tonight with my mom, Ann Salerno, and my four little sisters; Bella is ten, Camellia is five, Alexander is two and a half, and Ellie is one. 

As a student at BF, I walk to school and from school every day.  I play touch football on the side field with my friends during recess and I run the track with PE for spring track and for field day in June. Most days most classrooms leave the windows open for fresh air, because it gets stuffy in our classroom. There's nothing like a nice cool breeze to keep you refreshed during the day. I walk home past the hospital every day. Some weekends and evenings, my family walks back to BF, passing the hospital, and we walk around the track. It's quiet and peaceful and safe for me to do these things. I'm worried that if the massive construction were to take place, my four little sisters will experience a very different BF. Every day they will walk past an active construction zone with loud construction noises and disgusting pollution. Every day they will play on a field only 40 feet away from the BF fence, which will become increasingly overshadowed by an enormous building. Every day they will deal with noise and pollution in class, if the windows are open and during outdoor recess. Or maybe they won't, because if this massive construction were to take place, my mom, like other moms, might just start driving them to school to avoid them having to walk past a construction zone every day, adding to the already congestion on the roads by BF. 

If the massive construction were to happen, maybe kids would stop going outside for recess after lunch to avoid the construction noises and the pollution. And after dealing with the construction noise and pollution every day, day after day, maybe the PE teachers will stop taking classes outside because it's too hard to communicate over the construction noise and because it won't be safe for the students to be running around the field and breathing fumes from the construction. Maybe the classroom windows will be kept closed, because construction noises will distract already easily distracted students, and the construction smells will disgust us. And after all of my little sisters have passed through BF, in over ten years of construction, never experiencing the safety and peaceful BF that I experienced, future generations of BF students, maybe my kids, will never know what it was like not to have a giant building sitting practically on top of our field. This construction plan is so detrimental, too big and it will take too long for over three generations of BF students, affecting over 1,000 students. I ask you to please reject this settlement for the good of current students, educators, future generations of students, like maybe my children. 

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Matthew, thank you very much.

MR. SALERNO: You are welcome.



THE COURT REPORTER:  Please raise your right hand. 

Do you swear or affirm the testimony you are about to give in this proceeding is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?


Vivian McWilliams, 431 Bogert Avenue. 

My mom comes to these meetings, and she told me about the problems this is making to kids that will walk to BF, and, even my brother, who walks to the high school or my sisters, because it will be noisy and dirty and can hurt kids walking to school and home.

Some people will have a hard time getting to and from school, because of all of the trucks.  Some people have problems, like asthma or allergies, and dust makes it worse.  If that happened near BF, it will put kids in danger. 

This is a lot of things to be worried about for a little kid.  Please decide not to build such a giant building in our neighborhood and next to our school.  Maybe you could change or alter the building and make it newer.  Please try to keep our neighborhood safe for kids and school. 

Thank you.


CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Thank you, Vivian. 

I have a question for you.  How old are you?


CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  You're seven.  Thank you very much.  You did a very nice job.



MR. JONES:  Pass.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Oh, okay.  Thank you. 

Janis Cross.

Good evening.

MS. CROSS:  Hi.  Good evening. 

Janice Cross, J‑A‑N‑I‑C‑E  C‑R‑O‑S‑S, 318 Pearsall Avenue in Ridgewood. 

THE COURT REPORTER:  Please raise your right hand. 

Do you swear or affirm the testimony you are about to give in this proceeding is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

MS. CROSS:  Yes.

Good evening.  I've never spoken at any of these meetings before, and I've actually attended relatively few of them over the years, but I was so surprised to have this issue come back up again, I felt like I had to add my voice to those others who have been speaking over the last few days, urging you to reject the amendment. 

At the very first meeting I attended, nearly 10 years ago, a representative for the hospital admitted that they would need a 30‑acre campus to accommodate a new facility similar to the one they envisioned in their expansion plan.  At the time, I thought that in itself would be enough reason for the Planning Board to reject the hospital's proposal as irresponsibly large for a 15‑acre site within the established residential community and in close proximity to schools.

Since then, the board has heard what I no doubt assume hundreds of hours of testimony and comments on substantial negative impact on our schoolchildren and community.  Testimony that was compelling enough for the board and the Village Council to reject the hospital's plan in 2014 as a disaster for our schoolchildren and for the very nature of our residential community. Now I find, sadly, that we have come full circle, as if the last 10 years haven't happened at all. And the new proposal reduces the original project size by a mere 3 percent.  Forgive me, but that really sounds regressive. The facts have not changed, as far as I know. The reasons for rejection have not changed.

A 10‑year construction project of a 1‑million‑square‑foot building on a 15‑acre lot next to a middle school serving half of the students in the Village and landlocked by an established residential community is still not appropriate and never will be. I have yet to hear anyone explain how this settlement resolves any of the valid reasons that led to the prior rejection.  I've been told that the judge has ruled that the board must consider the interests of the wider community served by the hospital, as well as the interests of our citizens. If that's so, rejection is still the appropriate action. The truth is the hospital has and always has had during this entire process other properties and other options available to it to modernize and expand without insisting that the entire burden fall on Ridgewood. Rejection of the Master Plan Amendment does not end the hospital's ability to serve its broader regional community, it just acknowledges the limitations on the existing site and requires the hospital to shift more of its expansion plans to other sites. Balanced against that is the now established harm to the local community, if the amendment goes through. Ridgewood families do not have other properties or other options to school their children, thousands of whom will be negatively impacted if this amendment passes, as you know and as you continue to hear. For those reasons, I urge the members of the Planning Board to reject the proposed amendment. 

Thank you. 



CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Next person is No. 6, Rodney Kopec.

MR. KOPEC:  R‑O‑D‑N‑E‑Y K‑O‑P‑E‑C.  I live at 471 Sterling Place.

THE COURT REPORTER:  Please raise your right hand. 

Do you swear or affirm the testimony you are about to give in this proceeding is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

MR. KOPEC:  I do.

I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak. To me, this project has a lot of costs, but I don't really see a lot of benefits, especially because there's other medical centers nearby that are state‑of‑the‑art.  And it doesn't seem to me that a good case has been made for Valley to jump from being a community hospital to a large medical center, especially in light of Columbia Presbyterian only being 13 miles away, Hackensack Medical Center being even closer. There are a lot of costs with this project and the costs, unfortunately, will be paid by the schoolchildren, the local residents, in the form of the pollution, the noise, the truck traffic that other speakers have mentioned this evening. And it just seems too many Ridgewood residents are going to pay the costs while only a handful of people are going to benefit from this: The construction companies involved, the medical suppliers to the hospital, so the chief service at the hospital will have better fund balances because of the larger medical center, and it just doesn't seem fair. So, for these reasons I recommend that you reject this proposal. 

Thank you.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Thank you, Mr. Kopec.


Please say your name, spell your name, and then tell us your address.

MISS KOPEC:  Sophia Kopec, S‑O‑P‑H‑I‑A K‑O‑P‑E‑C, 471 Sterling Place, Ridgewood, New Jersey.

THE COURT REPORTER:  Please raise your right hand. 

Do you swear or affirm the testimony you are about to give in this proceeding is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?


Do kids deserve this?  Do kids deserve trucks passing by their school 264 times per day? Do kids deserve air pollution and noise pollution every single day? Do kids deserve these things? Kids shouldn't have to pay the price for the hospital to receive increased profits. Kids shouldn't have to walk to school and be affected by the air pollution that will include diesel fumes and construction dust. Kids shouldn't be affected by the noise pollution and be unable to concentrate on their schoolwork in school. Kids shouldn't have to go to school and be Endangered by the increased truck traffic. You need to vote like you live on North Van Dien Avenue. You need to vote like you live on East Glen Avenue. You need to vote like you live on Steilen Avenue. You need to vote like you live near Valley Hospital. And you need to vote like your kids go to Travell Elementary School or Benjamin Franklin Middle School. And most of all you need to vote like you're representing us and not the Valley Hospital. Thank you for your time and consideration. 

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Thank you very much. 

Jack Hooban, No. 8.

MASTER HOOBAN:  Jack Hooban, H‑O‑O‑B‑A‑N.

THE COURT REPORTER:  Please raise your right hand. 

Do you swear or affirm the testimony you are about to give in this proceeding is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?


Good evening. 

431 Bogert Avenue. 

I live right in the area around the hospital, and I walk by the hospital every day. The machinery and the construction that would go on in this hospital would pollute the air and two schools full of children and most of the residential neighborhoods, including my own surrounding the hospital. This would make it dangerous for the kids to play outside, for people to have windows open, and many things along those lines. Many of the things that kids do as kids would not be possible for my four younger siblings, who are all entering the schools right around this area. On top of that, the traffic on Van Dien and around these areas is bad enough already. And the addition of a large‑scale construction project would not help the already problem with too much traffic. And despite the fact, like I said, that I have exited the schools in this area, I still have four younger siblings who are just entering these two schools. And this construction, in my opinion, will ruin the experience that I had at these schools. Thank you very much. 

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Jack, how old are you?


CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Thank you very much. 

And, Sophia, how old are you? 

MISS KOPEC:  I'm 11.


Okay.  Emma Joung.

Please tell us your name, spell your name, and then tell us your address, and tell us how old you are.

MISS JOUNG:  Emma, E‑M‑M‑A, Joung, J‑O‑U‑N‑G.  And my address is 408 Bogert Avenue.

THE COURT REPORTER:  Please raise your right hand. 

Do you swear or affirm the testimony you are about to give in this proceeding is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?


I am in sixth grade in currently Benjamin Franklin Middle School. Two of my younger siblings attend Travell School, and my younger brother will go to Travell.  I have been living in Ridgewood for seven years now.  I love Ridgewood.  I walk to and from school, to my friends' houses, downtown with my friends and many other places. 

If Valley is to expand, there will be many strangers around, and I will be breathing in pollution constantly.

Many students walk places when school ends. 

With construction workers everywhere, parents may not want them to walk anymore. 

Whenever we are outside, Valley's construction will also be affecting us in some way. Ridgewood is a nice, peaceful, suburban area, but with Valley's construction, all of that will change.  Ridgewood will always be noisy with big trucks going back and forth in front of our houses. 

If Valley expands, construction will be going on until I go to college. Kids that are younger than me will have to suffer through the noise pollution, traffic, and danger and constant construction. Ridgewood is not New York City, but that's what Valley's construction is turning the Village into. People moved here to get away from the city, not to come to another one. Already there's so much traffic when school gets out, with Valley's construction there will be even more.  Although crossing guards help a lot, they can't stop every accident from happening.  For example, I was walking home with my best friend and we were at the crosswalk waiting to cross.  When she gave us the signal, we started crossing.  Some crazy driver cut in between us and almost killed my friend.  The driver missed my friend by only a few inches, because I jerked her by the strap of her backpack off of the street. This incident was not the crossing guard's fault, but this story shows even with a million crossing guards, accidents still happen.  I know there are crazy drivers even without construction, but there will be even more due to the congestion of the road. I hope this will help to stop or at least reduce Valley's expansion. 

Thank you.



Nice job, Emma.  How old are you? 

MISS JOUNG:  Eleven.



MS. DOCKRAY:  Charles, I'm glad I'm not out there tonight, because I wouldn't want you to ask me how old I am.


CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Okay.  Jody McCambridge, No. 10.

Good evening, Jody.

MS. McCAMBRIDGE:  Good evening. 

Jody, J‑O‑D‑Y, McCambridge, M‑C‑C‑A‑M‑B‑R‑I‑D‑G‑E, 232 Steilen Avenue, Ridgewood.

THE COURT REPORTER:  Please raise your right hand. 

Do you swear or affirm the testimony you are about to give in this proceeding is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?


Good evening.

I would like to thank the board for all their hard work and the opportunity to address you tonight. 

I moved to Ridgewood with my husband in February of 1977. Yes, that was 39 years ago. 

Our two children were raised in that house and, yes, I knew that the hospital was there then. 

At that time, we were told that the hospital was a community hospital and had reached its maximum growth.  We were also told that many hospital employees, like Mike Gazzara (phonetic) lived on the block and that it was quiet and friendly to the neighborhood. Huh. That was 39 years ago. And this is the first time I've spoken too in public. Like other people have stated, I love my house. I love my neighbors. I love the location, in regards to the schools, the town, the Y, the library, and, yes, even the hospital. Our house is a full house. My daughter Amy is a soccer trainer here in town. Her husband Mark is a 34‑year‑old permanently disabled Iraq war veteran. And their two children, a 14‑year‑old high school freshman and a first grader at Travell live with us. At present, the noise level and pollution is incredible. It is a 24‑hour constant factory. Well, just this past Saturday, all the neighbors had to endure the hospital snaking of all their lines. It is a continuous, ongoing project. I would be a fool to say I didn't like the hospital.  Every member of my household has been in Valley for one reason or another: Surgery, emergency, or extended stay.  My 14‑year‑old grandson, who is a freshman, is a severe asthmatic and has already had several admittances on several occasions. My son‑in‑law, the war veteran, Mark, he's had spinal surgery when one of his vertebra collapsed. My seven‑year‑old grandson was born in Valley. My other grandson was born in Hackensack. And at first I thought, oh, no, I can't walk around the corner to see him. Yet, once I got in the car, it didn't really matter whether I went a mile or 10 miles away. Valley needs to realize that if it needs to expand, it can, at alternative satellite locations. For those of us that live in Ridgewood, the demolition and the new building will be unbearable. Last Saturday alone, April 2nd, BF had a track and field event with cars parking all over. They were at Glenn, North Pleasant, Hickory, Red Birch, parked all over the place. There had to be at least 25 buses parked at Maple Field, where competing schools had parked waiting for the event to finish. BF is not just used for our Ridgewood children, but for other many communities that participate in our town's activities along with everyone else. I ask the board to realize that there is a reason that this proposal was voted down before. I would like to think that I can trust our board members and feel confident that they will protect Ridgewood and their residents.  As in reality, nothing has really changed. 

Thank you.



Laurel Kennedy.

Hi. If you could tell us your name, and then spell your name, and tell us your address, and also if you can say how old you are.

MISS KENNEDY:  Laurel Kennedy, L‑A‑U‑R‑E‑L K‑E‑N‑N‑E‑D‑Y. 

Address, 346 Northern Parkway. 


THE COURT REPORTER:  Please raise your right hand. 

Do you swear or affirm the testimony you are about to give in this proceeding is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?


My name is Laurel Kennedy.  I am a student at BF Middle School, and I live just a few blocks away from Valley. 

I have Type 1 diabetes.  Since my diagnosis, I've learned ways of managing it and preventing high and low blood sugars.  But one of the things that is beyond my control, stress plays an important role in blood sugars. I can't imagine what the years of construction at Valley will do to my blood sugars. The constant noise from the construction, traffic jackhammering and many other factors will affect my ability to concentrate, which can also affect any blood sugars.  High and low blood sugars can have a very dangerous outcome. Even a person who doesn't have Type 1 will be subjected to these conditions. There's nothing I can do to get rid of my diabetes, but I can speak on behalf of others who have tested positive for diabetes. There are many causes for Type 1, such as genetics, but exposure to environmental stressors can lead to diabetes and diseases. There are also triggers that can cause an onset. The environment is one. My younger sister, Caylee, is a fourth‑grade student at Travell School. She has all the markers for developing type 1 diabetes. It is not known when she will develop it, but it can be triggered by one of these many things. It could be days, months or even years before she develops it. But why would you want to put any child at risk of developing any disease that can be triggered by environmental factors? 

This construction will bring pollution, dirt, dust, and many other things that will affect the environment. And, yes, there's construction that goes on around us every day, but this construction will go on for years. And it may not affect us now, but it can affect us later in life. This construction may not even be while I'm at BF, but I still live in the immediate area. A number of environmental factors may contribute to the development of the type 1 diabetes.  Air pollution contains a bunch of bad things. Traffic‑related air pollution from trucks and exhaust is one of the most studied type of air pollution related to diabetes, and there will be about 130 trucks per day in the immediate area of BF. Studies have shown that air pollution levels could be related to peaks of Type 1 diagnosis.  High exposure to the traffic‑related air pollution, such as the possible construction at Valley, can trigger the onset of type 1 diabetes.  I know I may be 12 years old and have a lot to learn, but I do know what can be bad for my health and the health of others. My family uses many doctors at Valley Hospital. Friends joke with us that we have an E‑Z Pass there. The one doctor we don't use there is for treatment for my diabetes and the monitoring of my sister.  I would love nothing more to not have to travel 45 minutes to a center for diabetes. Having it steps away from my house would be awesome, but as awesome as that would be, I do not want it at the risk of my health, my sister's health and the health of my friends in the community. I thought hospitals were to help us, not harm us.  This construction will do more harm than good. 

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Thank you very much.


CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  The next person is No. 12, that's Eryn Carius.

Hi, Eryn.


CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  If you can remember to tell us your name, spell your name, and then your address, and your age, please.

MISS CARIUS:  Eryn, E‑R‑Y‑N C‑A‑R‑I‑U‑S, 280 East Glen Avenue, Ridgewood, New Jersey. 


THE COURT REPORTER:  Please raise your right hand. 

Do you swear or affirm the testimony you are about to give in this proceeding is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?


My name is Eryn, and I'm a sixth‑grade student at BF Middle School. I live only several blocks from Valley. And I too, like many of my friends, are going to be directly impacted by this construction, if allowed. This construction that is trying to be passed at Valley Hospital is going to cause and make problems for all students directly impacted, those of us at BF and the kids at Travell. Imagine us trying to walk to school or hang out with our friends at 3:00 p.m.  Those days will no longer exist. Every day after school tons of groups gather on the front lawn and hang out for at least 30 minutes. Many of us play after‑school sports or clubs that take place on the BF field.  How can we do this with the enormous amount of debris and air pollution that we will encounter? The noise that will happen is not fair for us students as we are sitting in class trying to concentrate.  How do you expect us to concentrate with so many trucks and construction noise? Where's your priorities, Valley or the kids in our Village?

Thank you.



Next person is Marc Harris.

Good evening.

MR. HARRIS:  Hi.  Good evening. 

Marc Harris, M‑A‑R‑C H‑A‑R‑R‑I‑S, 243 Pearsall Avenue, Ridgewood.

THE COURT REPORTER:  Please raise your right hand. 

Do you swear or affirm the testimony you are about to give in this proceeding is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

MR. HARRIS:  When I graduated from college, over 20 years ago, my girlfriend at the time, now my wife, and I moved straight to New York City.  New York City was, as the stereotype goes, the city that never sleeps.  The price we paid for the luxury of living in the city was the stark reality of city living.  People move to suburbs like Ridgewood to escape things like towering buildings, bright lights, and nonstop construction zone in your backyard for decades. When 2003 came, and our little girl went from a baby to a toddler, we began to explore places to move that had quiet neighborhoods, quaint houses, and top performing schools in a wonderful community.  A place we could raise our children in quiet and safety and comfort without the worries of a city.  No long‑term construction zones, no towering buildings or parking garages. We looked all around the region, and we happily choose the Village of Ridgewood.  We were going to live in a village, imagine. We chose a house that was within reasonable walking distance to town and to all three schools they could attend: Travell, BF, and Ridgewood.  What could be better for our family? The local community hospital, we were told at the time and I've heard others testify the same, was as big as it could get from previous variances. That's what our realtor told us. And the worse that we would likely see, and going back to the history when I checked that was some renovation now and again for variances. Naively, we believed this was true, as we couldn't imagine in our wildest dreams the kind of massive permanent structures and the long‑term construction that have been debated could be in the cards, but here we are. I've attended most of these meetings, right from the very first renewal PowerPoint presentations by Valley CEO, Audrey Meyers. 

Hundreds of residents like me have shown up worrying about our kids, as you are seeing tonight, our community, playing David against the massive, deep‑pocketed Goliath of Valley. Watching in shock as the first and second Planning Board's ill‑fated decisions were thankfully rejected by a Village Council who saw some common sense.  And now here we are again, debating a proposal, a negotiated proposal to some, but to an average citizen like me still defies common sense, and has now reached the point of defying public decency. Many residents like me are outraged how their will and that of their representatives on the Council have been disregarded with a so‑called mediated compromise that ten years after attending the first PowerPoint presentation is still giving Valley almost everything they want. Valley has had many viable site alternatives since this began in 2006, including a financial crisis, I would note, that opened many large tracts of land in nonresidential areas around Route 17.  But it was simply too profitable on Linwood in the residential neighborhood they were in to not keep pressing lawsuits and hearings. This isn't a regional beneficial use, it's about big profit. 

As a resident, I've lost a lot of confidence in the Planning Board's ability to deal with Valley in saying anything but yes in ten years, and somehow common sense has not yet prevailed. As a resident, I have a total lack of confidence in the transparency of this mediation process and what amnesty the residents truly receive in those secretive star chamber‑like discussions. How can you, my representatives, spend the better part of the decade forcing me and you to spend massive amounts of time and energy on an application that remains wildly unreasonable?

Valley still wants to nearly double their square footage on the same land they have been denied to previously expand. The reasonable resident, Planning Board member, or community leader has to look at that knowing little else and say no, despite the bullying legal tactics of this massively profitable nonprofit hospital.  Some of the Planning Board seem to feel utterly constrained by a lack of what Valley may do to you or feel constrained by a fear of what Valley may do to you and this community. As a resident, my personal take is that Valley has no interest in leaving, and we have no interest in asking them to go. This is a highly profitable hospital and it will continue to be so. 

Their request is to double the size in an attempt to make it massively more profitable on the shoulders of Ridgewood residents. That's where I ask you, as a long‑term resident and respectful member of this community, you are tasked to represent in planning to say no to this Frankenstein's monster of urban planning. 

Thank you.



CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Next person is No. 14, it's Yishane Lee.

MS. LEE:  Hi.


MS. LEE:  The shirt is for Roger.  So heads up to Roger.  The spirit of Roger is here. 

Y‑I‑S‑H‑A‑N‑E  L‑E‑E, 235 Emmett Place. 

I'm not saying my age. 

So I wanted to start, I have prepared remarks, but I wanted to point out, these face masks are not because the children are sick.

COURT REPORTER:  I have to swear you in.

MS. LEE:  Oh, I'm sorry.

THE COURT REPORTER:  Please raise your right hand. 

Do you swear or affirm the testimony you are about to give in this proceeding is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

MS. LEE:  I do.

So I have prepared remarks, but I wanted to point out these face masks these children are all wearing are not because they're sick, it's because we're trying to make a statement of what it's going to be like to live next to a construction site. The particulate matter will be like living in Beijing.  I also want to commend all the children who came up and spoke so eloquently and so well. 


MS. LEE: I keep talking about what's going on at Valley as a horrible game of Whack a Mole.  We keep trying to whack the mole, Valley, and it keeps rearing its head elsewhere, it's the same mole.  Maybe it's 3 percent smaller, it lost a whisker in a fight with another mole, maybe one called "Hackensack," but it's still here again.  And this is the third time, since my family and I moved here nearly six years ago, that this highly contentious issue of the Valley expansion has come up. Valley was denied twice and yet we're still here again. Why are we here again? Why are you here again? This is a waste of time for all of us. Why can't Valley provide us with a viable plan that we can all live with? Most of us who are here keep saying we get it, we get the need to modernize and we're not against reasonable modernize.  Last year I took my five‑year‑old to the ER, after he had a run‑in with the wall and the wall won, and, yes, it was awesome having an ER right down the street so we could get there in minutes. 

But Valley's clearly profit‑based plan to double the size on the same lot size is, like another speaker said yesterday, like an awful playground bully that you just can't escape. We're all here, parents of young children, taking our time away from our families again coming to these meetings to be heard. It's made worse by the fact that all these years Valley continues to act as a bad neighbor. And it's been the height of irony to me that a hospital will potentially be the reason why our children will suffer from health ailments for years and years.  I mean, seriously think about that, a hospital is going to cause this. We renovated our house a couple of years ago and we followed the rules, and we were denied a variance that would have placed a front porch too close to the street.  It needed to be a 40‑foot setback. So what bugs me is that Valley thinks it can play by its own rules ‑‑ I don't want to swear ‑‑ who cares about the children and families. I also don't understand why any hospital would want to be a mile down a two‑lane road, whose speed limit is only 25 miles per hour.  Of course, those of us who live off Linwood know that they never go 25 miles an hour. I'm the one who is going to be going 25 miles an hour, and there are cars on my butt, basically. Won't you want to be right off a highway?  So I don't understand why you keep pushing this plan down our throats. I also want to know why Ridgewood is becoming increasingly urbanized. Is what? The legacy that you, members of the outgoing Village Council, want to be your legacy?  Valley, please be reasonable.  Any grade‑schooler, or even my kindergartner knows, a measly $0.03 off a dollar is hardly a bargain. A 3 percent reduction is not enough. Give us a true, workable solution. Be a good neighbor, and do not insult us, including those on the Planning Board, with the so‑called compromise. And one last thing, the hammer to whack a mole, is going to get a whole lot bigger on May 10th when we vote in a whole new Village Council.

Thank you.



CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Next person is No. 15, it's Mary Pilla.

MS. PILLA:  Good evening, Mary, M‑A‑R‑Y, Pilla, P‑I‑L‑L‑A. 

I live at 333 Meadowbrook in Ridgewood.

And you're doing a great job.  I'm going to try to speak slowly.

Don't get mad at me, if I go over five minutes.


MS. PILLA:  Have you ever seen the movie Groundhog Day?  This movie stars Bill Murray as an arrogant, misanthropic weatherman stuck in a time loop repeating the same day over and over again. 

Each morning Phil is woken up with the same song from this alarm clock, Sonny and Cher's, "I Got You Babe."  It alerts him that he'll be repeating the same hell from the day before. 

MR. DRILL, I would like to be able to say I got you babe, I understand, I get that Valley needs to make a 961,000‑square‑foot hospital with three‑fourths of the size of a residential home and the other side abuts a middle school with over 800 students and staff, but, quite honestly, I don't and I never will. 

The residents of Ridgewood are living their own Groundhog Day.  Their own hell, waiting for the next lawsuit from Valley, wondering:  Is today the day the Planning Board will fail us? 

Will the landscape of the eastside of town forever be changed? 

Will 90‑foot smoke stacks and 80‑foot buildings be our new normal? 

Will the children attending BF and Travell have to worry about trucks and air pollution?

Is today the day, after countless years of fighting the same battle with Valley Hospital, that we lose? 

No, today is not the day.  Tonight is not the night.  We will again say no.  We do not accept this new Master Plan. 

During these two weeks, we have listened to testimony from Valley explaining that even though their improved plan is just 40 feet or 13 yards from BF, they've plans in place so that children will not be impacted with air pollution.  I don't understand how 747 students will not be negatively impacted by the air pollution of Valley Hospital's expansion.  These students spend over 70 percent of their gym classes outside, enjoy outdoor class and recess steps from Valley, and the majority of students walk and bike to and from school.  Yet they will not suffer negative impacts from this construction?  Track and field events, soccer, lacrosse, and various community events are all held outdoors at the BF track throughout the year. Now, I'm going to note Exhibit A‑21 that was entered into evidence is completely inaccurate. It shows two empty ball fields.  BF Middle School has a state‑of‑the‑art track, and I will give you copies of this, that is only steps away from the parking lot or one of the new buildings of Valley Hospital. With over a decade of construction, how will these students have a healthy, active, peaceful quality of life? Are you so sure their lives won't be adversely impacted? On September 18, 2001, New Jersey's finest, Christine Todd Whitman, was glad to reassure people that the air around the Trade Center was safe to breathe, even though the collapse of the World Trade Center released nearly 2,000 tons of asbestos and hundreds of thousands of tons of concrete in the form of dust. The EPA's proclamation of safe air ended up being very premature, and, as it turned out, very, very wrong.  Over 2,500 rescuers and first responders have died due to contaminated air quality. Doctors state that we won't know the real impact of the World Trade Center on the residents living near Ground Zero, because the impacts are yet to come. In 2014, the people of Flint, Michigan were told their water was safe to drink. On March 12th, a private consultant group hired by Flint reported that the city's water met state and federal standards, they didn't report the specific lead levels. Due to increasing concerns over the water, the Flint city council members voted 7/1 to stop using Flint River water and to reconnect with the Detroit River. Yes, the Flint city council listened to their constituents. They were overruled, though, by the state‑appointed emergency manager, who declared the vote incomprehensible and water from Detroit is no safer than water from Flint. 

Three months later, a group of clergy and activists filed a lawsuit against the city claiming that the river water was a health risk.  The city attorney said the lawsuit was baseless, and in September the case was dismissed. 

In January 2016, the President issued a state of emergency for the water crisis in Flint. 

Ten people have died because of the water crisis in Flint, and we won't know the long‑term effects for the children of Flint, because the impacts are to come. 

These are two stories of people believing that their elected officials had their best interest at hand.

We elected you to be the voice of what we, the residents, want. Yet, you were doing what the elected officials of Flint did.  You are doing what the EPA did. You are not thinking long‑term effects of this expansion. You are thinking of yourself and your own personal goals, you are not listening to your constituents. Class action lawsuits have already begun in Flint, Michigan. The government of Flint did not listen to their people and they allowed injustice. You are all here, you are listening to these residents speak. They are frightened. They are worried about the safety and health of their children and the community.

You cannot guarantee that during the decade of Valley construction all of our children will be okay. 

Be warned, if you think these residents behind me are angry now, wait until our residents, our teachers, our friends, and our most important resource, our children, get sick. Each of your names will be listed on the class action lawsuit.

MR. DRILL, do you know how Bill Murray gets himself out of that continuous loop of the Groundhog Day hell? He changes. He doesn't make a 3 percent change, but a real change. Bill Murray becomes a different person, a new man.  He saved someone's life, he cares about people. If Valley started to do that, I would wake up singing "I Got You Babe." 


CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  The next person is Kate Mancini, No. 16.

MS. MANCINI:  Kate Mancini, M‑A‑N‑C‑I‑N‑I, 325 Meadowbrook Avenue.

THE COURT REPORTER:  Please raise your right hand. 

Do you swear or affirm the testimony you are about to give in this proceeding is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?


Valley's lawsuit is just another example of their primary motivation:  Increased profits at the expense of everyone else. Valley sued Ridgewood, because they alleged that Ridgewood unlawfully prioritized the interest of the local neighborhood over the interest of the region, because they believe only Valley can fulfill the needs of an inherently beneficial regional hospital. To help ensure only Valley could fulfill this role, in 2011, Valley sued the state to try to prevent the reopening of the Pascack Valley Hospital in Westwood. 

If Valley was really interested in the inherent benefits to the region, why would they seek to prevent the opening of another highly quality medical center? Back then, Audrey Meyers, Valley CEO, predicted devastation in Bergen County if Pascack Valley was to open.  She projected $24 million in lost revenues for Valley, and said allowing a hospital to open six miles away would destabilize the hospital and cause irreparable harm to the healthcare system in Bergen County. 

Valley's 2013 financial statements report total revenue of $57.1 million.  And in 2014, they reported $71.1 million in revenue.  An amazing 25 percent increase.  Now, I'm just a stay‑at‑home mom with a liberal arts degree, but I'm sure no one would call these results as devastating. And just as a sidenote, Pascack Valley is a for‑profit hospital, actually has paid the town of Westwood $1.7 million in property tax abatement, which according to their mayor helped the town of Westwood rebuild its growth infrastructure.  So, again, going back to the language of Valley's lawsuit, where exactly is the broader community and regional neighbors' interest been harmed? In fact, the exact opposite happened for the Westwood residents, not only do they have great health care options, they also have a great community partner who pays taxes to help improve their town. Recently, Valley has brought a lawsuit against New Jersey's largest health insurance company. Valley sued Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield because of one of their new health care plans, Omnia.

Omnia was created as an option for people who need to buy insurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act. 

Valley is unhappy, because its plan characterizes hospitals into two tiers, Valley was placed in the second tier, a high‑cost provider. What was really ironic is that Valley alleges Horizon breached its contract with the hospital, because they were not given the opportunity to negotiate participation in the new plans. Isn't this exactly what Valley did to Ridgewood?  We asked and asked to sit down and negotiate a renovation that would be mutually acceptable, but Valley did not give us the opportunity to negotiate. They just sued us to get their way. A consistent theme, no doubt. As Ridgewood residents, we recognize that Valley must be given some development flexibility in order to adapt to changing health care needs and standards, as stated in the H‑Zone. In Ridgewood, they did just that, when Valley wanted to expand their ER back in 2002. Being a mom with four children, I've been in Valley's ER on multiple occasions, and am grateful for their care. 

However, in the last couple of years, because of the changing health care landscape, I have many other options and have been able to avoid the ER and go straight to an urgent care facility. In fact, last week I fell and injured my foot.  I called my insurance to see where I could go, and in a five‑mile radius I had a choice of Valley ER or five other urgent care facilities.  An urgent care visit is $60 cheaper for me, than an ER visit, which provides a much more cost‑effective alternative than the emergency room. While urgent cares are absolutely not a substitute for emergency care, I'm just illustrating how health care and health insurance industries is ever‑changing. 

We should not assume everything always needs to get bigger, and in fact bigger is not always better. 

My iPhone has more computational power than all of NASA computers did when it launched three astronauts into space in 1969.  Patient health records that took up valuable floor space can now be held in the cloud. 

Telehealth is becoming more sophisticated, and, combined with other technologies, is expected over the next five to ten years to replace visits to the ER for certain non‑life‑threatening illnesses.

MR. DRILL said Valley does not have a crystal ball. Ms. Mediago stated she cannot conjecture what will happen 30 to 40 years from now. Valley CEO could certainly not predict just two years into the future what the reopening of the Pascack Valley would mean. However, what I can tell you with absolute certainty is that the footprint of this neighborhood will not change. In conclusion, what we do know is that there are 600‑plus BF students and 300‑plus Travell students, plus a countless number of student athletes using the BF track and fields.  These add up to well over 1,000 children per day in the area.  So why would you, our Planning Board, put at risk the quality of their lives, the quality of their education, and the quality of their health for a plan that is not in the best interest of our Village? I would ask each of you to stand up for our Village and don't back down to Valley's threats.  Your legacy in our village depends on it.



THE COURT REPORTER:  Please raise your right hand. 

Do you swear or affirm the testimony you are about to give in this proceeding is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

MR. DeVITA:  I do.

Good evening.  My name is Tom DeVita, 226 Sollas Court, Ridgewood. 

My wife and our six children have lived in Ridgewood for 14 years.  I'm here to ask you to reject the settlement proposed and apparently approved in principle by the Planning Board. The building and structure is still too big, if not worse, than the previous plan. This hearing, while suggested to be following the Whispering Woods precedent, seems off target. 

Finally, the proposed amendment does not address the concerns raised by the Planning Board, so it seems illogical that this settlement could possibly be reflective of a true settlement discussion. With respect to too big, the hospital continues to demand that 450 beds at just over 2,000 square feet per bed is required.  Just because it is required, it is still not clear to me it makes sense for this parcel. In Whispering Woods, the proposed settlement satisfied the majority of the board that initially rejected the change. 

Given all the secrecy, it is not clear if the entire Planning Board participated in the settlement, but certainly the reservations of many of the Planning Board voting no were not met.  In fact, the substantially similar requirement that MR. DRILL repeatedly reminds us about, confirms to me that no mediation or compromise was reached other than the bullied result we have here.  It's truly regrettable, as this hospital is valued in this village.  You are seeking to do in secret what you previously rejected in public. During the June 17, 2014 meeting, where the voting occurred, here are the concerns you raised. Mr. Mayor, your comments in voting no included the following:  And having sat through 15 months of testimony, having reviewed the submissions, and having reread the transcripts, and having thought through all of the relevant issues, having done all of this, I don't believe the hospital has effectively made a case of the proposed change would sufficiently "Protect public health and safety and promote the general welfare." 

Mr. Mayor, these few minor changes, to my mind, should not change your conclusion.  Had they moved more, you could make an argument. Ms. Peters, no longer on the board, also voted against the change to the plan.  She cited many experts in the 2010 plan, but, in the end:  I wish to just cite back to our planner, Blais Brancheau, where he commented that there are instances where the detriment of a project is so great that it can be rejected, even if there is a beneficial use. Again, she voted no. The rules prevented us from asking MR. BRANCHEAU the question again, but suffice to say I do not think the modifications support a change to the planner's comment.

MS. DOCKRAY, in voting against the plan, your concerns cited the size of the facility, the height change, and the setbacks.  While parking was adjusted during the process, it was not as you would have expected.  And to you the traffic was manageable. However, I think the current proposed amendment represents overdevelopment of the site and diminishes the compatibility of the hospital's operations and the surrounding residential neighborhood. On balance, I'm not convinced that the amendment before us is the best one, in terms of promoting public health and safety. Of interest and shock is that your comments remind me that during the last hearings there was no visual of the building, like we saw last week for the new structure from the BF field.  We had orange banners on the roof. Remember those? Two years of hearings, no visual. After settlement discussion and one appears quickly. Very troubling. Your concerns do not appear to me to be satisfied.

MR. REILLY, wonderful, by far the most concerns. With respect to traffic, personally I remain unconvinced. So in my judgment, eliminating the traffic problem caused by the project, more than merely mitigating it somewhat, was part of Valley's task and I've not been persuaded.  There's been no change to traffic plans. The length of the project, hence the impacts caused by the construction, even if they can be mitigated to a degree, have to be viewed in the context of an extended time period, which, in my judgment, escalates the impacts. No change to timing. With respect to height, however, the excessive height above the treeline of several buildings creates a visual impact that, in my judgment, cannot be adequately mitigated. A structure of that height in a different location might present a lesser impact. However, this is the part of the community that, excepting the hospital and a school, is low density residential. I do not see any reasonable way that the highest structures can be visually integrated into the landscape. And the impact is not only to the surrounding property owners, but to residents of several blocks away. And, unlike some of the other impacts, which I've looked at that can be corrected over time, it's permanent. Now, the settlement has reduced the height of the largest building by 14 feet, with a resultant spreading of the height over all the remaining buildings.

MR. CAFARELLI: One minute.

MR. DeVITA: The settlement should not change your view either. 

Mr. Joel for his part raised several concerns. It's too big. The residences in the area and the neighborhood would just be dwarfed by this project. I mean, there's a lot of adverse effects, you've heard some of the fellow board members running through them: Light, air, and space. The project would be overwhelming. Plus, you raised traffic. It seems to me your concerns were not addressed. Ms. Bigos, in fairness, voted yes and said it was an inherently beneficial use. And, finally, Mr. Nalbantian, thank you for chairing this incredibly difficult task, but even in your comments with a yes vote, you mentioned: "With so many variables in play to accommodate concerns regarding expanding underground, given dewatering and excavation and construction timetables, coupled with the need for desirable green space, buffers for neighbors, and setbacks, it seems allowance for a taller building in a single controlled location within the H‑Zone is a reasonable compromise, albeit a difficult one for me and most of us to easily accept."

MR. CAFARELLI:  Time is up.

MR. DeVITA:  Even with your yes vote, it's not clear to me why the height changes with the result of greater bulk and shorter setbacks, without other real changes, exacerbate your concerns that you raised rather than alleviate them. The settlement proposed is inadequate, as evidenced by the board's own concerns raised on rejection in the first place.  I realize that our quaint Master Plan and Zoning Ordinances puts us here, but I respectfully request that the hospital put forth a more reasonable change to the expansion plans. 

Please vote no. 

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  It's 9:00, I was asked by THE COURT REPORTERs if they could do their switch at nine. 

I have four names from the list.  Are there other people here who wish to speak who did not sign up on this list? 

(No response.)


Okay.  So let's take a short break.

MR. DRILL:  If there's only four others, don't switch.

MALE AUDIENCE MEMBER:  The taxpayers would like a break.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  It's 9:00, let's resume at 9:15.

(Whereupon, a brief recess is taken.)

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Okay.  Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats. We're ready to begin.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a sign‑in sheet. There are a few added names. There is one in the back as well so people who have arrived or have changed their minds and would like to speak, please sign up while we begin. 

Okay.  Why don't we continue, we have our new court reporter. Is there a motion to reopen to the public?



CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Michael, please call the roll. 





MR. CAFARELLI:  Mr. Nalbantian? 


MR. CAFARELLI:  Mr. Joel? 



MR. REILLY:  Here. 


MS. DOCKRAY:  Here. 






MS. PATIRE:  Here.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Thank you, Michael.

Okay, we're going to resume as we did the last time. I won't repeat the rules. If you could just hold your applause.  Also, please allow your five minutes to be five minutes and not go over. Michael will identify when we're at four minutes.

And also I'll remind you to please keep your comments specific to the changes that were made to the Master Plan for this potential settlement.

The focus of this discussion is with regard to the settlement agreement which are red line changes in the proposed 2016 Master Plan that we have put forth and posted on the website and also there are copies, I believe, in the back. 

So the first person ‑‑ oh, yes, before we begin, Mary Pilla, you had some comments about questions ‑‑ about pictures before you wanted to bring them into evidence? 

Katie, will you please take ‑‑

MS. RAZIN:  Sure. 

MS. PILLA:  I just want to submit these again because I wasn't able to do that before.

MS. RAZIN:  Yes, we just informally marked them.  So I just want to ask, just ‑‑

MS. PILLA: Sure.

MS. RAZIN:  ‑‑ a couple of questions. 

I think you ‑‑

THE COURT REPORTER:   I'm sorry. Will the speaker just identify yourself?

MS. PILLA: Sure. 

MS. RAZIN:  Sure. 

MS. PILLA:  Mary Pilla, "P" as in Peter, I‑L‑L‑A. 


MS. RAZIN:  And you were previously sworn? 

MS. PILLA:  Yes.

MS. RAZIN:  Okay. And you have three photographs that you wanted to enter? 


MS. RAZIN:  Did you take the photographs yourself? 

MS. PILLA: Yes, I did.

MS. RAZIN:  Can you tell us the approximate date that you took the photographs? 

MS. PILLA: I took them today at 3:45.  That's approximate. 

MS. RAZIN:  And what do they represent? 

MS. PILLA: Well, it was ‑‑

MS. RAZIN:  Just generally is fine.

MS. PILLA: ‑‑ basically a reflection because I felt that the pictures that were on the website were not accurate of what BF ‑‑ the BF track looks like outside, so I wanted to just show a rendering of what the actual BF track and outside looks like.

MS. RAZIN:  So they were more current photos of BF today? 

MS. PILLA:  Yes, I think six years more current.

MS. RAZIN:  I'm sorry? 

MS. PILLA: Six years more current.

MR. DRILL:  Yes, I saw the photos and I have no objection to them going in as O‑2, O‑3 ‑‑

MS. RAZIN:  Well, I think we're going to do O‑2A, ‑B and ‑C.

MR. DRILL:  Okay, O‑2A, ‑B and ‑C.

(Whereupon, Three Photographs are received and marked as Exhibits O‑2A, O‑2B and O‑2C for Identification.)  

MS. RAZIN:  Great.  Okay.  Could I have them? 

MS. PILLA:  Of course.

MS. RAZIN:  Great.  I think there's only one set so I'll just pass them along and the board can just pass them back to me so I will mark them. 

Thank you. 

MS. PILLA: Thank you.

MS. RAZIN:  Thank you.  I'm going to hold them, Jon.  And I'm going to, just for the record, I will just hold them.  This is going to be O‑2A, O‑2B and O‑2C.  But I will write them ‑‑ I'm going to write it on there, as well.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Okay.  Thank you for your patience with that. 

The first person we have this evening on this added list for the second part of this evening that we have on the list is John Hersperger.

Good evening, John. 

THE COURT REPORTER:  Sir, if you could raise your right hand to be sworn in. 

Do you swear or affirm the testimony you are about to give in this proceeding is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? 


THE COURT REPORTER:  Please state your name for the record, spell your name and give your address. 

MR. HERSPERGER: John Hersperger, H‑E‑R‑S‑P‑E‑R‑G‑E‑R, 347 Linwood Avenue in Ridgewood. 

I am going to give you two reasons why I believe we are in this dilemma and I can offer you my three‑step solution for getting out of it.  First, the two reasons, I'm looking at them right now; our planning board chairman and our planning board legal counsel who have combined to get us into this mess. 

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN, you have a tough job and I will say that by and large you have been a gentleman and have handled yourself with composure under some trying times and I genuinely thank you for that effort. 

However, it is crystal clear that your views on Valley's proposal are diametrically opposed to those of the overwhelming majority of residents, and to every village council and board of adjustment that has ever rendered a decision or an opinion in this matter. As evidence, in 2010 you voted for this project when it was over 1.4 million square feet, and was thereafter rejected unanimously by the Village Council. And you did it again in 2014, you voted for the 1.25‑million‑square‑foot plan that five others voted against. Clearly you are swimming against the tide. And although you have always had a right to vote on this issue, I believe now, because of your ar‑out‑of‑the‑mainstream views, you no longer have the authority to lead in this matter. And here is where I am very, very concerned. I don't believe that the 2014 majority that rejected Valley's proposal would have negotiated a 3 percent reduction. But you would. So, if I am correct, and you have either led or in any way represented the Board in settlement discussions, I believe that would be a breach of your duty. Now, let's consider what role of our legal counsel played in putting us between this rock and a hard place, with a paltry 3 percent reduction offer on one side and a judge on the other. In my opinion they were the maestro of all this. First, in 2010 you guided the Planning Board that crafted a Valley Master Plan that, due to bedrock disturbance and dewatering issues, could physically damage 400 homes and the BF Middle School. Thank God our Village Council stopped that one. But unfortunately, your actions left that dangerous amendment in our Master Plan today. Let's move ahead to April 2013. At the commencement of those amendment hearings, Attorney Gail Price and CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN told us that the Planning Board had three options. The Board could accept Valley's proposed amendment, they could reject it, or they could even fashion their own amendment.  Based on that representation, we the residents raised funds and hired our own legal counsel and planner with the intent of constructively participating in actual amendment proceedings. 

Then a year later, in 2000 ‑‑ April of 2014, at a relatively quiet meeting, and in a rather casual off‑the‑cuff and sort of ‑‑ sort of way, Attorney Gail Price announced that Valley's proposal could not be modified in any material way, that any minor modifications would have to be acceptable to Valley first. Gail Price effectively ruled that neither the residents, nor the Planning Board itself could modify or even offer any changes to Valley's plan. It was Valley's way or no way. And that gets me to this overarching issue that we have in this village, which is Ordinance 3066.  You tell us it's just ‑‑ we're told it's just a "funding mechanism", but nothing could be further from the truth.  It's not the language of the Ordinance that is necessarily the problem.

MR. CAFARELLI:  One minute remaining.

MR. HERSPERGER:  It's how you, as counsel, apply it. Your procedural and evidentiary rulings permit the developers to use Ordinance 3066 as a hammer to bludgeon our Village. You effectively tie the hands of your own planning board. They can't actually plan, they just sit here night after night and listen to what the developer wants.  And the residents, who are trying like hell to participate are stonewalled by every single evidentiary ruling that you make, all in the interest of "preserving the record".  What a pathetic joke.  The only thing you preserved was the ability of the developers to pound us into submission, and bleed us dry for legal fees. 

For 10 years, our village has been in planning board hell in large part due to your legal guidance.

So let's get back to that 3 percent thing that's on the table, and let's get back to that rock and that hard place you have been so complicit in putting us in between. Gail Price, the attorney for this board, at court‑ordered settlement discussions, and in executive sessions, you presumably ‑‑ 

MR. CAFARELLI:  Time's up.

THE WITNESS:  Just a couple more sentences.. 

‑‑ you presumably advised the Board on its legal options in executive session. That's a scary thing for the residents to comprehend.  The person who is largely responsible for getting us into this legal dilemma, is now offering her legal guidance on how to get us out? No thank you, we don't need your advice any longer.  We will get out of this mess ourselves all by ourselves. And here's how we will do it. 

Step one, simply say no to the settlement. 

Step two ‑‑

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Please wrap it up.

MR. HERSPERGER:  ‑‑ fire Gail Price's law firm. 

And Step three. Go home get some rest. And know that we, the residents, will stand behind you in this decision. Thank you. 


CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Before we begin again, Katie? 

MS. RAZIN:  Just for the record, I'm not Gail Price, I'm Katie Razin. I've been here throughout the proceedings.


MS. RAZIN: Okay. So I just want to put that on the record because Gail Price isn't here today, I'm here. And I have been involved in these proceedings as well so...

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: And Katie's been great in the process. Thank you, Katie. 

Okay. Morgan Haley.

MS. HALEY:  We've been tired so ‑‑

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Morgan.  Morgan, I'm going to ask you if you can say your name and then spell your name and then tell us your age.

MASTER HALEY:  Morgan Haley.  M‑O‑R‑G‑A‑N, H‑A‑L‑E‑Y, 172 North Van Dien Avenue.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  And how old are you, Morgan?


CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Seven?  Thank you. 

We have to swear you in.  Please raise your right hand. 

THE COURT REPORTER:  Please raise your right hand.  Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

MS. HALEY:  Say yes. 

MS. HALEY:  Yes.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Take your time. 

MS. HALEY:  Well, sometimes when some people make trashes, some people need to clean them up so the Earth doesn't get all messy and all, so ‑‑ so the Earth doesn't get all messy and the Earth might get so messy, how are you going to ‑‑ how are you going to get through the trash?  You need to clean up by using your responsibility to do it. 


THE COURT REPORTER:  State your name.

MS. KUMAR:  Kristin Kumar.  K‑R‑I‑S‑T‑I‑N, K‑U‑M‑A‑R.  I live at 329 Bogert Avenue.

THE COURT REPORTER:  Please raise your right hand. 

Do you swear or affirm the testimony you are about to give in this proceeding is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

MS. KUMAR:  Yes. 

First I'd like to thank you for extending this one more evening.  I find it very commendable that you opened the floor up to the students of Ridgewood.  And thank you for the opportunity for allowing me to speak.  I made this little last‑minute decision about an hour before the session tonight. 

So I have been in Ridgewood for about five years.  I chose to move into the area of Valley Hospital right between Travell and Ben Franklin.  I didn't know what was going on in this town about Valley; therefore, I couldn't use that to impact my decision on moving here.  I'm just curious if the Board could raise their hand for those who live in the vicinity of the facility of ‑‑ in the vicinity of Valley.  Just show of hands.  Just one person on the Board.  So that's concerning from my perspective because it may not impact you as much. 

But what I have seen and learned in the last five years is the type of population ‑‑ the population including the visitors to Valley that roam the streets in my neighborhood, they smoke and leave their trash in my yard or on the streets, and they contribute to a lot of feelings of unsafety in the area. 

One of my other questions is, and I don't know if this is true because I have just started to really become involved in this situation, and I have learned that Valley owns the land, but they don't pay taxes; is that true? 

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  We're not at a point where we can answer the question.

MS. KUMAR:  Is that true? 

AUDIENCE MEMBERS:  Yes.  Yes.  Yes. 

MS. KUMAR:  So I am clearly a homeowner and taxpayer and that also concerns me because Valley is not held accountable in any way to maintain our town.  So we've heard a lot of accounts of ‑‑ and valid points of concern.  I'm not going to reiterate those.  I've already stated that Valley currently brings in people that don't care about our community and that concerns me. Some of the other things that I am concerned about is that the project planning, the timeline for the ‑‑ for the expansion.  I'm a project manager for an engineering company.  What I have learned in many years of doing this is that if the project is not done in China, it takes three or four times more to finish a project. So I have heard that it's two phases, take over 20 years to do.  It sounds like it could take a lot longer and the scope and budget always increases, so I'm not really sure if the town has thought about the future of the decision they're about to make tonight. This really comes down to being business and who's going to succeed.  So what does the town want to do to maintain their success? Do they want to help Valley succeed or does the town want to succeed forever? Because business fails. Is Valley going to be here in 20 years, 30 years?  And if they're not, what are they going to leave us with? I don't know if you have considered that. 

So I am young enough to have made the decision to move to Ridgewood to stay here for a long time. I don't know if that's going to be the case.  If Valley expands to this ‑‑ to the height that they are going to do, again, I do not know what research has been done.

MR. CAFARELLI: One minute remaining. 

MS. KUMAR:  But I question if the town has hired private research into the whole effort.  Thinking as a business, if it was my business I would want to know if Valley's at the capacity that they need to expand. 

Yes, they have had other properties that they can build on, but we have what we have here and we have to discuss what is best for Ridgewood as a successful community, and it's on the Board to make that decision tonight.  I hold you accountable and you have been voted into the position, and I have to put my trust in you. 

That is almost why I didn't speak tonight, because I feel like it's a fruitless effort.  But I do hold you accountable for it.

MR. CAFARELLI:  Time's up. 

MS. KUMAR:  I wanted you to see who I am and that I live near Valley and that this will affect me because if I don't speak up for myself, nobody else will. 

So thank you for your time. 



Christie Fitzgerald is the next person. 

MS. FITZGERALD:  Hi.  My name is Christie Fitzgerald.  C‑H‑R‑I‑S‑T‑I‑E.  Fitzgerald, F‑I‑T‑Z‑G‑E‑R‑A‑L‑D.  I live at 714 Midwood Road. 

THE COURT REPORTER:  Please raise your right hand.

Do you swear or affirm the testimony you are about to give in this proceeding is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.


I just want to share of couple of my thoughts about this so‑called compromise.  I would like to echo what a lot of people are saying about Valley not being a good neighbor.  We have heard promises from Valley before and Valley was supposed to follow certain rules but they do not follow through on what they're supposed to do.  There are light violations, noise violations, sanitation violations, landscaping violations, and that is with Valley's current design.  And again, they don't follow through with what they do ‑‑ they're supposed to do now. 

So now we're expected to believe the first phase of construction is only going to take six years, and then the second phase of construction is only going to take four years.  We are supposed to believe that Valley is going to follow through all of these proposed guidelines as far as background checks for workers and the demolition that is going to be controlled and that traffic will be affected along with all of the other things they say they are going to do. 

Just the fact that an actual red line item was to put in an outdoor eating area along the common property line with Benjamin Franklin middle school for any creep or any ‑‑ anyone who could be a danger to a child can just sit right next to a school should be a clear indication that Valley Hospital has no idea about school security and what is best for the children.  I know MR. DRILL said that they can remove that, but just the fact that they thought that was something that was positive and a selling point makes my stomach turn. 

Let's talk about the vegetation.  Valley has all of these renderings of the beautiful trees at maturity in however many years, and they look awesome in the pictures.  They're full, they're green and they're healthy. 

Has anyone looked at the Valley property now?  The "evergreens" along Van Dien are brown and/or bare and if they can't maintain the property now, how are we to believe that they will maintain this new giant campus they are proposing. Valley is telling us what they think we want to hear.  They act like they are willing to work with us and they have done nothing to lead us to believe that they will follow through with anything they say.  At three point ‑‑ a 3 percent reduction in square footage is not an acceptable compromise.  It's not significant, nor is it substantial, particularly when it is children who will be affected most. 

Thank you. 

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Thank you,   Ms. Fitzgerald. 

Matt Salerno? 

MR. SALERNO:  Good evening.  Matt Salerno, "S" as in Sam, A‑L‑E‑R‑N‑O.  164 North Van Dien Avenue, Ridgewood, New Jersey. 

THE COURT REPORTER:  Please raise your right hand.

Do you swear or affirm the testimony you are about to give in this proceeding is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? 

MR. SALERNO:  I do. 


MR. SALERNO:  Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Matt Salerno.  I am a partner in one of the largest law firms in the world.  My practice is mergers and acquisitions.  I routinely advise corporations who are pursuing multi‑billion‑dollar merger acquisitions and sale transactions, and a major part of my job is advising board of directors of public companies on their fiduciary duties pursuing these transactions. There, as here, the process is extremely important.  Get the process right and you get frivolous litigation. Get the process wrong and you get extensive, costly and protracted litigation for everyone involved. The process here has been simply awful.  First, the initial notice of the meeting was defective and failed to adequately inform the public that there would be a single hearing spread over the course of up to five days.  Instead, the public was informed that there would be five separate hearings on five separate nights at which the public would be permitted to comment. It appears, based on where we're headed, we might not hit that fifth night.

One need to look no further than the lackluster attendance at the first two days of hearings and the blockbuster attendance we've had the last two evenings for evidence that the defective notice failed to adequately inform the public and induce them not to attend these hearings. The remand order itself contained very clear and explicit language that could have simply been copied and pasted into the order and would have informed the public exactly of would have happened ‑‑ what's going to happen here tonight.  This ‑‑ perhaps posting the remand order could have cured this defect, but the remand order itself wasn't publicly available until four days after the initial notice was required to be given and on the second day of hearings. 

That defect cannot now be cured without giving the public an opportunity to hear the testimony live and Valley to cross‑examine the witnesses. Which brings me to my ‑‑ the second defect in the process.  The remand order clearly requires members of the public to be permitted to cross‑examine the witnesses.  Instead, what happened here was members of the public were required to submit oral interrogatories to the Planning Board and those questions were then asked on direct examination, not cross‑examination, by friendly counsel the Plaintiff's board [sic] asked his own by witness those questions.  I assure you that none of the legal counsel in this room think that is a valid cross‑examination if that was the procedure that they were required to follow in a court.  

When the Superior Court is advised of these irregularities, even if the board approves this amendment, it would be left with no choice but to once again remand these proceedings to the Planning Board for hearings to be conducted in compliance with the requirements of the remand order. As to substantive matters, this board is accused by Valley Hospital of having been arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable in having denied their 2014 request for an amendment to the Master Plan. 

In 2014 the board held extensive hearings and heard extensive testimony as to the benefits and detriments of Valley's proposed plan.  At that time the board concluded, based on that testimony and extensive evidence and investigation, that the detriments outweighed the benefits. This time around the board is being asked, based on a paper‑thin record that includes testimony only as to the factual elements of minor landscaping modifications of the plan and not a shred of evidence as to how those minor, insignificant modifications changed the relative mix of benefits and detriments. This has been a dog and pony show, and not a very good one at that.  There is not a single item of evidence in the record that permits you to even change your vote on the 2014 amendment, let alone any evidence in the record that requires you to do so. 

There is no doubt in my mind and there should be no doubt in yours that the 2014 decision was the product of extensive testimony, careful and thoughtful deliberations and is in no way arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable, and there is no way that Valley could possibly hope to carry that burden in court.  There is also no doubt in my mind and there should be no doubt in yours that if the board proceeds to approve this amendment it will be this decision and not the 2014 decision that is the arbitrary, unreasonable and capricious one and it would be that decision that would expose the board to further litigation, not bring an end to it as it hopes. Running a hospital has changed in the 60‑plus years that Valley has been operating, but the neighborhood around it has not changed.  Running a hospital used to be a bucolic residential endeavor, one need look no further than Greystone Hospital and Bergen Pines to recall the days when that the theory was that bucolic and natural surroundings would speed the healing process.  In those days hospitals looked and operated a lot more like apartment buildings ‑‑

MR. CAFARELLI: Four minutes.

MR. SALERNO:  ‑‑ rather than the large commercial/industrial complex that Valley seeks to build in our residential neighborhood today.  I know that many of you have unanswered questions about this process. I know that several of you have wondered why ‑‑ what has changed since last time? I know that some of you wondered why a 24‑foot mechanical penthouse is treated as only one story, when if it was built on top of our own houses, it would be treated as two. I know that some of you wonder why a building that is twice as big as the building that is currently built on the property is a reasonable modification, a reasonable expansion. 

Don't allow yourselves to be pushed into the wrong decision by Valley Hospital,

MR. DRILL, the chairman, legal counsel or other members of the board. You know in your heart that this expansion is too big, that it was too big in 2014 and that it is too big now.  It does not take an expert in negotiations like me to tell you that this settlement is not a negotiated settlement, but a negotiated complete and unconditional surrender.  The modest changes elicited by the ‑‑

MR. CAFARELLI: Your time is up.

MR. SALERNO:  ‑‑ Planning Board in this negotiation are laughable at best. Valley Hospital is getting everything it wants and the Village is getting the shaft.  I ask you today to hold firm to your principles to do what you knew in your heart in 2014 was right, to do what you know in your heart today is right, and to reject this so‑called settlement, to continue the fight in court, where if justice is served, Valley will be unable to carry its burden. 

I can only ask and pray that you have the wisdom and the courage tonight to do the right thing. 

Thank you. 


MS. DeANGELIS:  Hi.  My name is Denise DeAngelis.  I live at 606 Witthill Road.  D‑E capital A‑N‑G‑E‑L‑I‑S.

THE COURT REPORTER:  Please raise your right hand. 

Do you swear or affirm the testimony you are about to give in this proceeding is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?


Okay.  First I just want to thank you for all your time. I know this has been very trying on all of you and honestly, I don't want to be here.  I really, really don't want to be here. I was here back in 2010 again saying similar things that I am going to say tonight and I'm not going to say anything new than what we've heard tonight and in the past couple of nights. You know, the proposed buildings are too big. They're too big, they're too big and they are too big for our town, and there is not much more to say than that. You can say it a hundred million ways.  And it doesn't belong in Ridgewood.  And the construction is too long, too vast, too dangerous for our children.  Why we're back here again, I don't know. I wish we weren't.  I hope we're not back here again next year, six years from now.  It would be really great if we could just end this. That is my sentiments. I was here last night, I was going to speak, I had to leave. Between last night and tonight a friend of mine asked me to read something for her.  Her name is Whitney Kline. She and her husband grew up here in Ridgewood.  They came back and they're raising their family here now and she could not be here tonight and she was here last night as well and she asked me to read this.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  We can't take testimony from someone else.

MS. DeANGELIS:  Okay.  That's fine.


MS. DeANGELIS:  That's completely fine.

MS. RAZIN:  Do you want to summarize some of the comments, the observations in your own words?  I don't think the board would have any objection to that, but you can't read it directly. 

MS. DeANGELIS:  Okay.  The basic gist is basically she's asking to remind you, the board, your duty under the Whispering Woods hearing.  That's basically the gist of what she was talking about.  She was citing quotes from that hearing, so she wants you to remember that.  And like I said, there's nothing more that I could say that's already been said other than a 3 percent reduction is not a compromise and we need to come to a, you know, a better compromise than that. 

Thank you. 


CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Dolores Carpenter?

MS. CARPENTER:  My name is Dolores Carpenter.  319 Steilen Avenue, Ridgewood. 

THE COURT REPORTER:  Do you swear or affirm the testimony you are about to give in this proceeding is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?


I have stood before Village planning boards many more times than I would like to count.  The reason?  Protesting Valley Hospital's expansions, of course.  The Bergen wing, the Cheel wing, and now for the last ten years, the Valley renewal.  Whatever happened to that name, by the way?  As a child ‑‑ I have lived in Ridgewood for a really, really long time.  As a child I watched from the windows of my home at 250 North Van Dien Avenue as the promised small community hospital on Linwood Avenue got built; and so it went, expansion after expansion.  Each time the hospital being told, last one, no more.  And yet, here we are again.  The bullies are back and they are striking again.  Each of you, our Planning Board members, have to know in your hearts that this is so wrong and it has to stop.  We all know that Valley Hospital owns real estate up the wazoo all over this area.  We also know that they are behaving like stubborn brats, wanting to stay only in Ridgewood, no matter what damage they may cause to our beautiful Village.  They don't care.  I just lost my place for a second. Valley will flourish in their health care industry no matter where it is located.  They outgrew that property once they left Linwood Avenue and they have no right to continue the destruction of our peaceful Village.  And so I challenge you tonight, Planning Board members, to stand up to the bullies to do what is right for Ridgewood and vote no. 

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Thank you, Ms. Carpenter. 

Jamie Cariddi? 

MS. CARIDDI:  Hi.  I'm Jamie Cariddi.  J‑A‑M‑I‑E, C‑A‑R‑I‑D‑D‑I, 467 Overbrook Road. 

THE COURT REPORTER:  Please raise your right hand. 

Do you swear or affirm the testimony you are about to give in this proceeding is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? 

MS. CARIDDI:  I do. 

Great minds must think alike because I also wanted to remind you all of the Whispering Woods hearing.  In Whispering Woods, the owner of a 275‑acre residential land wanted to build a golf course and 215 homes.  The Planning Board denied the request after extensive hearings.  The property owner then sued the Planning Board for its denial of its application.  Various entities including private property owners became aware that the Planning Board was negotiating a settlement without the public input and intervened. 

The court, in Whispering Woods, raised this question in it's written opinion.  May the parties to an action ever settle their litigation or must the case continue to a final determination?  After all, goes the argument, litigation such as this does not involve mere private parties, a public interest is always present.  The court stated it would be unthinkable that a planning board, for example, charged with proper enforcement of local planning and zoning ordinances denied an application only to turn around and negotiate a final binding approval of its modification form to settle the very litigation which ensued upon the denial. The Whispering Woods court stated that the settlement must necessarily be conditioned upon public hearing on the agreed upon ‑‑ agreed plan, just as if a new application were being presented to the board.  In other words, any settlement must lead to further official action by the public body.  That action is subject to all statutory conditions necessary to vindicate the public interest, notice, public hearing, public vote, written resolution, et cetera. The Whispering Woods court continued:  Courts do, of course, favor settlements, they conserve judicial time, but more importantly, represent a rational resolution of a problem by the parties most closely involved and effected. The principal applies with equal force, so long as the public interest is not disserviced thereby. Lastly, the court stated, if the settlement must be known to the public subject to the public voice and voted upon in legal fashion, the public interest has been served.  Under those circumstances, if the settlement meets with public approval, then necessary legal expenses of a full trial are saved. I submit to you, the Ridgewood Planning Board, that according to Whispering Woods, you are making known the terms of the settlement with Valley. However, based on the testimony heard from the public, the public does not approve. Although the Whispering Woods court favored settlement, the favor ‑‑ they favor a rational resolution of a problem by parties most closely involved and effected. A 3 percent reduction in size is not a rational resolution. 

Moreover, the Whispering Woods court stressed that the public interest should not be disserved.  Here the public interest, that being the children and teachers who attend and work at BF, the surrounding homes and the Village of Ridgewood itself is not being served if you accept this settlement. According to Whispering Woods, the Planning Board can and should reject the terms of the settlement with Valley. 

Thank you. 


MS. RYAN:  Denise Ryan, R‑Y‑A‑N, 370 Litchfield Street. 

THE COURT REPORTER:  Please raise your right hand.

Do you swear or affirm the testimony you are about to give in this proceeding is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

MS. RYAN:  Yes. 

I want to thank everybody here for your minutes, hours and years attending to this matter.  We moved to Ridgewood from Hoboken a few years ago and within the first month the fire department had to come to my house because we smelled gas. The fire department was at my house in a microsecond because, quite frankly, they're amazing. Anyway, our issue was resolved and the fireman said to us we had moved to a very special village.  Very special village. And we talked about that, we were very happy, and for a few years we were very, very happy. The reason we had moved here was because of the community, the town, the top schools, and the quiet suburbs, because we had moved again from a city.

However, now our very special Village seems to be morphing into a city, the very place that we had moved from.  We did not come here in hopes to have our kids educated among a construction site and we did not come here to be contaminated by both air and noise pollutants. I do agree that we do not need a dilapidated hospital next to us and we don't want it to fall apart and we would like to continue to be competitive within the health industry. 

However, we do not need a mega campus institution here.  We have Hackensack Hospital which is nationally ranked and is literally 8.7 miles from here. I sincerely urge you to say no to the insulting, small percent decrease.  It's an insult to all of us. If Valley wants ‑‑ is willing to play nice in the sandbox then let's talk, but if they keep throwing their pails and shovels at us then how are we supposed to get to a middle ground? I sincerely beg you not to change the landscape of this town. You will no longer attract families here, they can go elsewhere.  It's a true slippery slope. Is that the footprint that you want to leave here?  You do have the opportunity to make a real difference. You all do, you have the opportunity to do it, and I really hope that you take it and that you make a difference and that you say no to Valley, because every time we give them something they want more and more and more and more.  And that's never going to change. 

Thank you. 

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Thank you, Ms. Ryan. 

That was the last person I had on my list.  Are there other people who have signed? 

FEMALE AUDIENCE MEMBER:  No, there isn't. 



CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Is there anyone who didn't sign that wishes to speak who hasn't yet, either from up here or downstairs. Okay.  Seeing that there are no further comments, I would ask you if there's a motion to close this portion of the meeting to public comment.

VICE CHAIRMAN JOEL:  Motion to close the public comment.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Is there a second, please?

MR. REILLY:  Second.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Michael, please call the roll. 





MR. CAFARELLI:  Mr. Nalbantian? 


MR. CAFARELLI:  Mr. Joel? 












CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Thank you, Michael.

First let me say thank you to all of you who came this evening and also who came yesterday and especially the children who came and spoke to us this evening. At this time the next step is to hear closing remarks from Valley's counsel, MR. DRILL.  So MR. DRILL.

MR. DRILL:  I want to start by thanking everyone for putting the time in to see whether this litigation between the hospital and the Planning Board can be settled.  Pardon the voice.  I've got hoarse even though I haven't been talking.  Specifically, count one of the lawsuit which challenges the planning board's rejection of the proposed 2014 Master Plan Amendment to the H‑Zone. As I said when I made my introductory statement last week, through the mediation process Valley has agreed to revisions in its proposed 2014 upgrade and the Planning Board agreed to consider a new proposed 2016 Master Plan Amendment which would accommodate such a revised project. If the Planning Board adopts the 2016 Master Plan Amendment tonight, the Planning Board will have input into the ultimate parameters of the Master Plan Amendment and the project.  If the Planning Board does not adopt the new plan, a trial will proceed on count one and a judge will decide what the Master Plan Amendment will look like. That's one of the choices. I just want to make it clear right now, it's the 2010 Master Plan Amendment that's in effect.  The 2010 Master Plan Amendment is broader than the 2014 and the 2016. The 2014 Amendment provides for the North building to be the same height as in the 2014 Plan Amendment, but additionally that 2010 Master Plan Amendment provides for two below grade levels, not just the one below grade level that is in the 2014 Master Plan Amendment. The hospital's vice president, Maria Mediago was here, she presented the changes to the 2014 project that was heard to reduce the scope of the project and I am not going to repeat her presentation.  I highlighted two areas in my introduction.  It's just not a good use of time to repeat them here.  Everyone knows what they are. As I did in my introductory comments though I want to remind everyone what is not changing.  We have heard a lot of comments and some of the people weren't here through 2010 or through 2014 and I know that there are some new board members and I know you've read through the voluminous materials, but the first thing that's not changing is the one below grade level of the buildings. 

In other words, 2010 says two below grade levels; 2014 proposed one below grade level. The 2016 Master Plan Amendment will not be increasing the size or the depth or adding another below grade level. It's the same one level below grade basement, for lack of a better word, that was in the 2014 Amendment. This is important because it means there is going to be no change in the geological or hydrological issues related to rock removal, excavation and dewatering. And in this regard, I want to stress that there was undisputed expert testimony before this board in 2013 and 2014 from not only the hospital's geotechnical expert, but the board hired an independent geotechnical expert. The Board's own expert agreed that there would be no geological or hydrological problems resulting from the construction of the 2014 Plan Amendment. Again, and that's not changing the below grade aspect of it. Second, the same traffic intensive services that the hospital agreed to move off‑site as part of the 2014 Master Plan Amendment are going to be moved off‑site as part of the 2016 Master Plan Amendment. And again, this is important and people just are not realizing that again, there is undisputed expert testimony both from the hospital's traffic expert and the Planning Board hired an independent traffic expert and the planning board's independent traffic expert agreed that there ‑‑ the traffic to and from the site would decrease by 430 trips per day, not only would it not remain the same it would decrease by 430 trips per day.  The same thing's going to happen in 2016. 

The third, as to the issue that appears to be the most important issue to the public, the hospital presented unrefuted expert testimony during the 2013 and 2014 hearing from Dr. Shannon Magari, she is an occupational and environmental health and safety expert, Dr. Magari addressed the issue of fine particulate matter.  She concluded that construction ‑‑ the construction project will comply with all applicable air quality standards which will ensure community protection. The hospital agreed to implement and execute an air monitoring plan which would be developed by Dr. Magari and would include pre‑testing, monitoring testing during construction and post‑testing. The hospital did not contest during the 2013‑14 hearing and doesn't contest now that particulate matter can be harmful. The issue before the board in 2013 and 2014 and the same issue is whether the hospital would have a system in place to detect the presence of fine particulate matter to stop it from migrating where it could cause harm.  The Valley Hospital presented its proposed system and no one presented anything to counter it, and the hospital stipulated then and has confirmed those stipulations through the list of conditions that it will implement the system. And it's also stipulated that if any particulars in implementing that system, that if the board, if the Village want changes in that, the hospital will make those changes. Fourth, the time period for construction for Phase I is not changed. It's not ten years. The time period for construction remains the same as contemplated in the 2013‑14 Amendment and that's six years for Phase I. And that is with the basement of the West building now being ‑‑ that would be constructed as part of Phase I instead of Phase II. Still, construction of Phase I would be six years. Further, as part of the mediation process, the hospital agreed it would not commence construction of Phase II for at least ten years after completion of construction of Phase I.  So that is a change, but that is a change to the better. And the duration of Phase II was four years in the 2014 plan, remains four years.  Now, I want to remind everyone that the president of the Board of Education testified on October 29th, 2013, about the various construction projects that the board itself had completed. And I'm going to read a couple sentences from the board president's statement that she made on October 29th, 2013.  Her statement was actually admitted into evidence as Exhibit B‑6 on that date.  The statement differs a little if you read the transcript, she added a little detail. And I'm reading the transcript version.  First of all, she said a number of things, but I want to highlight two of the big things she said. She said that when additions were built to enlarge the Travell, Orchard, Somerville and Hawes schools, students were present while they did construction.  She also said that the board did extensive renovation of the Willard School, where they added a second‑floor addition with five classrooms and the media center built over the existing classrooms. The Willard School second‑floor addition was constructed while school was in session. Kids were in the ground floor classrooms below when the second floor was being built. The project took 18 months; only a portion of it was over the summer, the rest was when school was in session and kids were in the classroom below. The board president testified that construction can be done safely and not interfere with education provided certain conditions are imposed, and the hospital agreed to have the conditions imposed. And again, in that list of conditions, and again, if they want to condition ‑‑ if the Board of Education wanted some of those conditions changed, the hospital has said it will do so. Finally, I want to remind everyone that the Planning Board is charged by law with guiding the use of land in a manner which promotes the general welfare. And it's not just the welfare of the neighborhood around the hospital, its all the residents of the municipality and it's all the residents of the region. That the vast majority of comments that this board has heard the night before and tonight have been from residents of the neighborhood.  And we urge the board to consider the benefits of everyone in the municipality and the region by an upgraded and modern hospital that this 2016 plan will allow and provide. 

In closing, the hospital urges the board to approve the settlement and adopt the 2016 Master Plan Amendment.


MR. DRILL.  Does that conclude ‑‑ MR. DRILL, does that conclude ‑‑

MR. DRILL:  Yes, that concluded my presentation.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Okay.  At this time I would like a motion if we can to close the public hearing, I think we're done with the hearing process.

VICE CHAIRMAN JOEL:  Motion to close the public hearing process.



CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Thank you.  And Michael, please call the roll.





MR. CAFARELLI:  Mr. Nalbantian? 


MR. CAFARELLI:  Mr. Joel? 












CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Thank you, Michael.  Okay. 

At this time I am going to ask Katie Razin if she can present the legal perspective to us.

MS. RAZIN:  Good evening.  The first thing I would like to note for the record is that the certifications of board members have been received relative to transcripts of these proceedings and prior proceedings for board members that were not present.  So we have all ‑‑ Michael has confirmed that we have all transcripts.  I'm sorry.  All certification relative to the transcripts. So thank you to the board members for diligently reading and thank you to all the transcribers because I know it was a very difficult process.  As the Board and public are aware, this proceeding is a Whispering Woods process, which is a public hearing to consider and take action on a proposed settlement reached by The Valley Hospital and the Planning Board in the matter known as The Valley Hospital v. The Planning Board of the Village of Ridgewood.

Whispering Woods confirmed the authority of a local land use board to settle disputes with an applicant that challenges in an action in lieu of prerogative writs, a board's earlier denial on a matter.  Presently the 2000 Master Plan Amendment is in effect.  Valley challenged the Planning Board's denial of the proposed 2014 Master Plan Amendment which was reviewed in hearings in 2013 and 2014 before this board, and simultaneously included a count against the village governing body as to the zoning ordinance and its application to the H‑Zone. 

As part of that suit, Judge Friscia initially determined by way of order and rider to deny a motion to dismiss filed on behalf of the Village in May 2015. Subsequently, in the course of that litigation, the Planning Board and the Village engaged in a court‑approved mediation process with Valley led by a former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice, Virginia Long.

Through the mediation the Planning Board, after months of work, voted on the proposed settlement and then to proceed with the scheduling of a Whispering Woods hearing to review the proposed settlement and the amendment to the Master Plan, the latter of which is governed by Section 28 of the Municipal Land Use Law. 

A remand order was entered into by the parties and signed by Judge Friscia, the terms of which I reviewed earlier in these proceedings when I extensively, and in the very small print on the screen, went through and discussed in the beginning of these proceedings.  The board has operated under the direction of the remand order in this process which has provided certain timelines and requirements for the board, the public and Valley Hospital to follow.  We have all tried to work under these terms, understanding that it's been difficult to do so at times. 

Certain of the key elements of the Whispering Woods process have occurred so far.  Notice was provided prior to the hearings, we have heard sworn testimony regarding the settlement from our planner, as well as a witness ‑‑ from a witness representing Valley Hospital.  Both witnesses were made available for questions and cross‑examination from the public and the board.  We have also heard public comment on the proposed settlement and the Master Plan Amendment.  That process is complete.  Once I am done speaking the board must determine to move this matter to a vote, whether this evening or on Thursday, following which a resolution would be drafted and adopted by the board at a subsequent meeting.  That vote can be either to approve the proposed settlement and 2016 Master Plan Amendment or to reject them.  It is important that items outside the record must not be considered in the Board's deliberations and only relevant and material testimony and evidence should be considered.  That means testimony and evidence pertinent to the settlement and proposed 2016 Master Plan Amendment in relation to the 2014 proposed Master Plan Amendment be considered. 

To remind the board about some of the general standards regarding the Master Plan is the policy statement.  Although the Master Plan serves as the basis for a zoning ordinance, it is important to remember that it does not have the operative effect of a zoning ordinance.  The board is the only municipal body authorized under statute to adopt and amend the Master Plan.  That's pursuant to Section 28 of the Municipal Land Use Law. 

The Board's vote is the only necessary vote if the Village Council does not take action on the Master Plan.  Likewise, only the Village Council takes action to adopt ordinances.  Although prior to 1975, it was found that Master Plans were primarily generic in content, the Municipal Land Use Law and relevant case law have made it clear that specificity in the plan is essential and necessary to allow for proper review by the board. 

The legal framework for the Board's action here relative to the adoption of the amendment to the Master Plan may be found in the Municipal Land Use Law which went into effect in 1976.  N.J.S.A. 40:55(D), section 28, excuse me, authorizes the Planning Board to adopt a Master Plan to, quote, guide the use of lands within the municipality in a manner which protects public health and safety and promotes the general welfare.  It is your determination as the board to review the proposed 2016 Master Plan Amendment and settlement. 

It may also be helpful to keep in mind that case law entitles the board to change its position after a prerogative writ action is filed and the board is entitled to reconsider the advantages and disadvantages of a revised plan as part of a Whispering Woods hearing and as a result of the pending litigation.  The board may discuss findings to this effect as part of its deliberations. Thus, at the time of voting, the board may choose to approve the proposed 2016 Master Plan Amendment and settlement or reject them.  Voting to approve the Amendment would mean that the proposed 2016 Master Plan Amendment becomes effective, replacing the existing 2010 Amendment.  The 2010 Amendment will be superseded by the 2016 Amendment.  The board may also vote to reject the proposed 2016 Master Plan Amendment and settlement, which would leave the 2000 Amendment ‑‑ 2010 Amendment in place and operative.  A rejection of the settlement and proposed 2016 Master Plan Amendment would result in the pending litigation to continue to a trial for decision by the court.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Thank you very much, Katie. 

MS. DOCKRAY:  Charles, I'm sorry. 

Kate, can I just ask one question about Whispering Woods?  Just because there was a lady who read from the case. 

Are you ready? 

MS. RAZIN:  Yes.  I just want to make sure the public can hear you. 

MS. DOCKRAY:  Oh, I'm sorry. 

There was a lady ‑‑ I'm sorry, I forget her name ‑‑ who read from the case.

MS. RAZIN:  Jaime. Jaime.

MS. DOCKRAY:  Oh, okay.  

And in that I didn't know if I heard the statement correctly, whether she said that we were ‑‑ the hearing should provide for ‑‑ she used the word public approval, the word "public approval" came out.  It sounded like she said it's supposed to come back for public approval.  What does that mean? 

MS. RAZIN:  Well, I think that might be interpreted in different ways.  There's a requirement in Whispering Woods that certain standards and requirements met ‑‑ I think I touched upon them in my opening.  You have a requirement that the public interest be met in that certain standards and ‑‑ certain standards be met such that you hold a public hearing, you provide public notice, you hold a public hearing, you have testimony, you have cross‑examination, you open it to the public for public comment, you have a public vote, you draft a resolution. 

If you opened it to the public you've ‑‑ you've satisfied those requirements of the Whispering Woods proceeding.  You made the settlement known to the public.  The interpretation ‑‑ and, you know, I'm not ‑‑ I don't want to be argumentative, but the interpretation probably is just that, an interpretation. 

So there's no requirement in Whispering Woods to have a public approval.  It's up to the board to decide about whether to approve or reject the settlement.  That public approval process you would consider as you would consider any other proceeding how you would, you know, incorporate the public's comments, you would consider the public comments just as you would consider the public comments in any other proceeding.  You know, as you normally weigh them in your views. 

But it's not ‑‑ it's not a matter of subject to public approval because as long as you've incorporated and made the matter public, you've satisfied the Whispering Woods elements and you made the matter public, the settlement public.  That's the key ‑‑ that's the key of Whispering Woods is that taking them out, the settlement proceeding from private to public. 

MS. DOCKRAY:  And that's never been disputed, that interpretation. 

MS. RAZIN:  It's that ‑‑ well ‑‑

MS. DOCKRAY:  No, no, it's okay.  We'll go with it for now I just ‑‑  

MS. RAZIN:  I mean that ‑‑ that interpretation, I've never heard, I mean ‑‑

MS. DOCKRAY:  Any other interpretation.  Okay.  

Thank you. 

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN:  Also, I have a question.  This came up last week again, I think Matt Salerno raised it again this evening, in terms of just procedural cross‑examination of a witness and the manner in which this is conducted, where a series of questions are presented and then the resident is returned to his seat.  And then MR. DRILL was able to ask the questions of the witness.  And I just wanted to know, is that somewhere procedurally written or was that something you need to ‑‑ just so we can answer MR. SALERNO's inquiry.

MS. RAZIN:  I don't know if that exact ‑‑ I mean, I think ‑‑ I think what was happening was that there was an attempt to summarize the question again, but I don't think it was a, like a, redirect, so I don't think there was anything improper about the way the questions were asked.  I mean, the questions were asked and then the witness was entitled to answer them, but I don't think that there was anything ‑‑ there was ‑‑ I mean, I don't know how else to answer that.

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN:  Well, I'm asking procedurally, is there anything in writing how ‑‑ or is this something that you need to see how we managed this particular meeting?  I don't know, I mean just asking because it was raised twice about oral interrogatories. 

MS. RAZIN:  I guess I wouldn't qualify it as that, I just ‑‑ I thought the questions were asked and then between ‑‑ we were ‑‑ I think the process was that we were trying to ensure that the witness was asked the correct question.  I mean, I took very detailed notes so whenever there was ‑‑ if this was a misunderstanding about the question I ‑‑ I really tried to specifically assist with any wording that was missing or anything, I think that we were trying to get the full question and make sure the witness was answering the full question. 

So I don't think the questions were misdirected or misqueued, so I would like to think that the questions were answered and asked the way that they were intended.


CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Any other questions?  Okay. 

So at this point I will ask the board if it's prepared to deliberate and vote this evening and if so, we can begin that process and conclude it.  If not, we can begin Thursday.  Do you have any thoughts?

MR. THURSTON:  We're here.  

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN:  I agree, I think we're here and I think the people are here.  And I think that in fairness to the public, we should conclude this.

MAYOR ARONSOHN:  We're here.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Who would like to start? 


MR. REILLY:  Yeah, I'm the sacrificial lamb who goes first, I guess.  Charles is throwing me out there.

I was originally ‑‑ by the way, if I speak too fast or too loud, I've been known to shake the walls occasionally, just let me know.  I was going to speak extemporaneously here in deliberations.  I usually, by instinct and by training, I like to have a written statement, in the interest of time I think I'm just going to read my written statement that states my thoughts.  Anyway, to begin, it's obvious that this is a controversial hearing and there's a lot of passion that surrounds it.  I also understand the concerns of both the residents as well as the concerns over the development issues in general that have been coming up lately. 

I think you deserve an explanation of my reasoning on the issue before us tonight.  So if you bear with me for a few minutes, I'll do that.  In this I speak only for myself, I don't presume to speak for others who may reach similar or different conclusions for their own reasons. 

When the 2014 Master Plan Amendment was proposed, I voted against it for reasons which are set forth in the record at the time, I reread my statements from 2014 just to see how it holds up in context of litigation, and just in case I forgot those points, it was read back to me again tonight.  So I'm aware of what my points were then. 

We were instructed at that time to focus only on the evidence in the record pertaining to that amendment and not to return to the record of the 2010 Master Plan Amendment.  Hence while I was acutely conscious that the 2010 Amendment was valid, unless superseded by the 2014 Amendment, I was privately concerned that if we rejected the proposed 2014 Amendment, the much larger 2010 Amendment remained effective. 

But my analysis at that time focused exclusively on the record of the 2014 Amendment.  And I had some opinions at that time which rejected some of that evidence.  Today, however, we're in a different posture.  We're in litigation.  And I think a different kind of analysis was necessary. 

Although technically we're considering another amendment, realistically we've been exploring whether we resolve the litigation in a manner that protects the Village and achieves a further reduction of the scale of the project.  In this context, I think that the existence of the still valid 2010 Amendment becomes very relevant. 

I don't like ‑‑ I didn't like the 2014 Amendment.  I'm not especially happy with aspects of the 2016 proposed amendment, but I like the 2010 amendment much, much less.  And that 2010 Amendment very much exists, as was pointed out during the hearing last week.  I think in a sense it's our Achilles' heel in the context of the present litigation.  Subject to whatever action the Village Council takes or doesn't take, it will likely have consequences.  So in my deliberations this time, I'm thinking more defensively than was permissible for the vote of the 2014 Amendment.  I want to see the greatest feasible reduction of the Valley project and doing so basically rendered moot the 2010 Amendment. 

Again, this is settling litigation rather than taking a fresh look at a new application.  It's not a question of what I like, but rather what I can defend on the basis of the record evidence.  While not to go back over the prior evidence, nor to repeat my personal finding with connection to the 2014 Amendment, a couple of factors draw my closest attention that were discussed during negotiations. Without disclosing what was discussed over mediation, I will only say that it became focused more on the scale of the project and the visual impact than other factors.  I've said on a few occasions that I'm much less concerned with square footage, per se, than I am with the bulk of where it will be located and what it would look like. 

With that, I will turn to my review of the evidence offered last week in connection with the 2016 Amendment.  The court recently issued a tight deadline for us to come to a decision on the mediation.  Mediation is useful when a party may be uncertain of the outcome of the litigation. The present litigation presents risks, as I see them.  And I wanted to avoid the significant downside risk that the 2010 Amendment, which remains valid but which is inconsistent with the present ordinance, may be the one that eventually gets implemented. 

Now, I'm not ignoring that Valley too has risks.  It's a large project in a tight residential area. So both of us are going into litigation and possible trial, with our risks.  But I'll focus on what I think our risks are. 

Having spent 30 years or more working for judiciary, I am sensitive to how a judge may view the evidence in the context of a possible settlement.  Now, I don't know anything about this judge, except what I've heard.  The judge presiding over the case is very diligent, very attentive to the record evidence.  She reads the record.  She understands the evidence.  So that's what we're dealing with.  She reads it very closely.  And that evidence, not opinions, is what's going to guide her.  We can possibly agree with a lot of the opinions that you heard tonight; I have my opinions.  But the opinions are not going to carry the day in litigation. The judge's reading of the evidence is what's going to matter ultimately. 

Now, the court reminded us that hospitals enjoy a special status from municipal planning. That, I think, was a hint. 

As we are also reminded, the Planning Board voted in favor of a much larger project in 2010, then voted against a smaller project in 2014. The results of those votes seemed contradictory, except that on each occasion the board considered a different body of evidence and a different record.

And of course, there was different people on the board, but that really doesn't matter. The board speaks as a unit.

However, while different results can be reconciled on that basis, it is a significant risk that the court will gloss over that explanation and pinpoint the apparent incongruity.  We accepted the larger project, then turned around and rejected the smaller project. Still large, but not as large. I've also seen case law where courts have rejected an inconsistent later vote because of the section that was influenced by local controversy, rather than sound planning principles. That I can say with conviction was not the case with this board when it rejected the 2014 Amendment. But the court may well reach a different conclusion, that our outcome was arbitrary and capricious.  Maybe not, but maybe so. But when you start adding up the risks, you begin to see something of a pattern. 

We are bound by the record.  And our own evidence did not dispute much of Valley's case.  Hence, the court may promptly point to where our evidence, in 2014, actually supported aspects of Valley's evidence, which may shape the court's perception of whether we acted arbitrarily in rejecting the 2014 Proposed Amendment.  This is another risk of this litigation and with other factors may affect the court's outcome. Now, while I thought some of the impacts of the 2014 Proposed Amendment could be mitigated or the evidence showed they weren't much of an impact.  For instance, dewatering, in light of the evidence,  our evidence supported Valley's evidence, but ultimately I think it really matters in the long run. I think the real point of the dispute then was the effect on the neighborhood, the visual impact. But anyway, I thought that some impacts were not adequately addressed by the 2014 record or maybe they couldn't be mitigated. The board ‑‑ maybe they couldn't be mitigated. And that was the primary basis for my rejection of the 2014 Amendment. Those factors related mainly to the physical and visual impact on our neighborhood character during the period of construction, but also post‑construction impacts. 

To me, these factors included the scale of the project, items related to that was the height of the buildings and the timeframe of construction. So as we've gone through the recent process of personally attending to these factors. Bearing in mind that these impacts wouldn't be eliminated. I was looking for as much mitigation as I thought could reasonably be achieved. 

I was balancing what I thought would be achieved by negotiations, where we have some control over these impacts and in litigation, versus variances a downside risks if the court decided against us. The 2016 Amendment is a result of a legal compromise. And it's in the nature of compromise that you often end up in a different place than where you began. Here, because it was settlement of litigation, unlike when we made decisions in 2014, my own starting point was different. I started my own thinking knowing that I could not competently make guesses about Valley's operational needs. So I didn't. I took an approach that I think was more evidence‑based, which I thought would be the visual and functional impact on the neighborhood. On the scale of the project, my hope during negotiations was that we could get not only a reduction in square footage but a relocation of some of the bulk in a manner that reduced height. The evidence that was presented in this hearing achieved some of that. I would have preferred an even great reduction. I felt that I had no basis to support different specific numbers. And to presume that by prolonging mediation, we could achieve an even greater reduction, seemed to me to be speculative.  Any particular number, say we do, say holding out for another 50,000 feet or another 100,000 square feet or some other number pulled from the air, would not be based on the evidence. And I'm not making fun of the point of it, but the court definitely brought mediation to a close. 

So with the court's deadline upon us the decision was to go forward with whether to negotiate over several weeks or alternatively, to go to trial in the very near future and maybe suffer the consequences of guessing wrong about the outcome. Ultimately, of course, it would be the local residents who would bear the burden of an unlucky guess on our part. We have seen the evidence and heard from Valley witness. We also heard from Blais, who I think was his usual, very informative. I read the transcript this weekend, double‑checked my sense of the evidence. I think that the reduction in scale and the relocation of bulk, partially stepping back the bulk, helps mitigate the visual impact. 

The mass closer to the ground, I thought would be less of an impact, so by reducing the height by a floor, even if it's spread out more at the ground level, that that ‑‑ that spreading out of mass at the ground level, I thought wasn't that much of an impact. Again, I wasn't against the square footage per se, it's a question of where the square footage was. And my goal was to reduce height as much as possible. I also think that the so‑called green roofing and vegetative cover, which I find very intriguing, and expect a lot of engagement during site plan review, further helped reduce the visual impact, as well as the ground level vegetative screen. 

Would I have preferred a greater reduction? Yes. 

Do I think that was reasonably achievable? I don't have a basis in the evidence to reach that conclusion. That would be guessing about Valley's operational needs, and I didn't have the basis to do that. We also now have greater clarity as to the timeframe. My memory of the evidence of the 2014 Amendment was that while six years was the estimated time on Phase I, it could have been extended out to ten years. Eight or ten years.  And the demarcation between Phase I and Phase II was very fuzzy to me. We've now ‑‑ we now have a hard and fast representation by counsel for Valley that Phase I will be completed within six years and Phase II will not start until at least ten years after Phase I is finished.  That buys, I think, at least a decade of peace and quiet, at least as far as construction is concerned, after the main part of the project is finished.  I would expect that the village remained engaged to ensure that these timeframes are respected.  I can understand the frustrations.  Valley, over the years, keeps getting bigger.  And here we go again.  But the context of our decision tonight is limited to settle litigation based on the record evidence.  Ideally, Valley will fold its tent and undertake no more enlargements at all. Is that realistic?  I don't think so.  Now I do recall residents, including members of CRR, conceding during the 2014 hearings that they would acquiesce in some enlargement.  They just didn't want the proposed enlargement.  I took them at their word that they were not categorically opposed to any enlargement. 

So I think that in conclusion that some kind of project was always going to be in the works.  I think that it's unrealistic to assume that Valley, as it presently exists, will stay that way if we reject the settlement now on the table.  So we have to make the decision on this lawsuit. Is this perfect? No. But it's a legal settlement of litigation.  My own sense is that the downside risks of this lawsuit, based on the evidence, based on the seeming contradiction between the 2010 vote and the 2014 vote, based on the preferential treatment afforded hospitals are substantial. And as I said, Valley also has its risks. But I'm focused on our risks. 

If we lose we're left with the 2014 project, not the present proposal.  If we win ‑‑ and this is the irony, and I've said it before, if we win, and that is an uncertain outcome, we're left with the 2010 Amendment.  And I don't think anybody should comfortably assume that the 2010 Amendment remains effective, that the present ordinance being so far out of line with the 2010 Amendment, will remain unscathed. So I'm taking into account what I think are the risks of litigation and considering that I think we have negotiated additional mitigation which, while imperfect, seem workable. And I'm trying to avoid the worst‑case scenario. And a final thought, traffic, it was a major issue tonight, I can understand that. It was along the scope of this hearing, but I will address it. 

Our record evidence, unfortunately, you might think, support ‑‑ well, leave out unfortunately.  Our record evidence from 2014 supports Valley's position. When I voted against 2014 Amendment, my opinion was that traffic was going to be an impact. That the record evidence, which the court is going to be looking at, indicates that traffic will either be reduced or can be mitigated by a variety of devices. Tonight I don't feel that I'm free to ignore that evidence because the court won't. The court won't ignore it. So this is another risk of litigation that I think is incumbent upon us to avoid. 

Thank you.


Anyone else?  Wendy? 

MS. DOCKRAY:  I just ‑‑ I'm going to have other questions about the substance, but I have a question of Katie. 

To what extent is, you know, relative to Kevin's point, are we supposed to weigh in our personal opinions on what the risk of ‑‑ the risk of litigation is?  Because obviously that played heavily in Kevin's decision or his opinions as they stand now. 

MR. REILLY:  Well, it's my reading of the evidence ‑‑ 


MR. REILLY:  ‑‑ if you can call it opinion.

MS. DOCKRAY: Yes, but ‑‑ but you also ‑‑ you also said, you know, you didn't ‑‑ you were concerned about the risks ‑‑ 


MS. DOCKRAY:  ‑‑ the risks, the risks. 

MR. REILLY:  Yes. 

MS. DOCKRAY:  To what extent, my question is, are the risks supposed to play into our decision‑making about this, please? 

Thank you. 

MR. REILLY:  Well, we're here to settle litigation. We're not dealing with a fresh application, so the outcome of that litigation is fundamentally part of what we're considering. And it's not an opinion about an fact that I have, it's an opinion reading through the evidence that we already have. I'm not ‑‑ I'm not inventing amending facts here.

MS. DOCKRAY: Right. I didn't say you were inventing facts.

MR. REILLY:  You can interpretation rather than opinion. 

MS. DOCKRAY:  Right. 

MR. REILLY:  My interpretation.

MS. DOCKRAY:  I just want to hear from our board attorney as to ‑‑ on this matter.

MS. RAZIN:  I think that the context of this proceeding is one of the factors, one of the ‑‑ one of the factors that the board is entitled to take into account. So when you consider the evidence, when you consider the public, when you consider the context of the litigation, I think you are ‑‑ you can balance all of those things when you're looking at the proceeding as a whole. So you have to just weigh all of those different factors, but you're looking at the context of a settlement proceeding. I mean so it's ‑‑ this process is a Whispering Woods proceeding, so it's in the context of a settlement.  I mean, that's ‑‑ that's ‑‑ that's what we're here for, so I don't ‑‑ I don't think it can be ignored ‑‑

MS. DOCKRAY:  Right.

MS. RAZIN:  ‑‑ but I'm not going to give a percentage level because that's not for me to say what ‑‑ what percentage level you weigh each of the different factors.  But I don't think ‑‑ but that's my answer.  It's in the context of a settlement. 

MS. DOCKRAY:  I have to think about it a little.

MS. RAZIN:  Okay. 

MR. REILLY:  You want to keep going? 

MS. DOCKRAY:  Well, no, I ‑‑ truly, I have to think about it. I have to, because you were ‑‑ you know, a lot of what you had to say had to do with not risking, not risking, not risking, based on what you ‑‑ you had read and sort of what you heard and what you understand of the law. 

MR. REILLY:  And, well, that's based on the record, what's in the record.

MS. DOCKRAY:  Right. 

MR. REILLY:  And I ‑‑ 2014, as I said ‑‑

MS. DOCKRAY:  Right.

MR. REILLY:  ‑‑ I looked at it from a more opinion standpoint on the basis of the record. Now I'm looking at it much more defensively and it ‑‑ because we're in litigation, this isn't a fresh application.  So my ‑‑ my ‑‑ my analytical model changes a little bit.  And as I said at the outcome, I'm speaking for myself. Other people may absolutely reject the need to consider the risk or may see no risks.  That's ‑‑ everybody has a different point of view.  This is ‑‑ this is the way I'm approaching this. And it also explains why, in some respects, people say, well, what's changed from 2014?  This explains that.

MS. RAZIN:  And I think I mentioned in my instructions that there is case law that allows you to reconsider the advantages and disadvantages of a plan or a revised plan once prerogative writ is filed.  So ‑‑

MS. DOCKRAY:  Right.

MS. RAZIN:  So in that context you can reconsider, you know, revisions to a plan as part of this context, as part of the proceeding.

MS. DOCKRAY: Right, but we can only consider the changes that were in red in the amendment. We were told we can only consider and focus on the changes. We couldn't go back to the original ‑‑ those clauses that were not changed.  We couldn't go back and reevaluate traffic because it was not in ‑‑ in the ‑‑ between 2014 and 2016, it was not changed, you know, the amendment was not changed.  My understanding was we could only focus on those things that were changed.  If that's not correct, let me know.

MS. RAZIN:  The remand order, and I don't have it out in front of me, but the remand order talks about, I believe, that the questions and the public comment being the relevancy of that and the material elements of that being limited to those.  But I do not believe ‑‑ your considerations are not limited just to those elements. 

MR. REILLY:  I'm not even considering that evidence in ‑‑

MS. RAZIN:  Right, but that's not what the remand order says. 

Thank you. 

MR. REILLY:  Maybe, if want to see it this way, if there was any concern with this in ‑‑ in terms of what the instructions were and in terms of what we've been doing all along and the narrow scope of our function here.  I'm not reconsidering that evidence.  It is what it is. And in 2014 I had an opinion on some of it.  I'm now looking at it from the perspective of how is a judge going to look at this.  So the angle of vision has changed.  I'm not reviewing ‑‑ I'm not reconsidering that evidence.  I accept it.  It is what it is.  And I think that's part of what kind of binds us tonight.  The evidence is what it is.  Whereas in 2014, I felt much freer to have the opinion about some of it, for instance the traffic evidence. I don't feel I have that luxury right now.  And I am speaking personally.  So I'm trying to look at this from the perspective of how a court is going to look at it, if we go to trial, and how that court is going to evaluate whether we have to offer and what the consequences of that are, and if we don't prevail, what's going to be the remedy for Valley. So I think in a sense we're narrower tonight on what we're doing, but as to the outcome I think we have to look ‑‑ I'm looking a little bit broader than I did in 2014.


MS. DOCKRAY:  I'm not ready. 

Just go down there and come back.  I'm not ready yet. 


MAYOR ARONSOHN:  Thank you. 

First of all, I just want to thank everybody involved in this process, not just over the last week or so, but over the last several months and last several years.  That includes my fellow board members, Valley professionals, the Village professionals, and of course the public. I particularly want to thank those of you who spoke in very personal terms about what this means to your families, to your quality of life, concerns you have.  It takes a lot to come up in public and speak in the first place and to do so in a very personal way, I think it's important, so thank you for that.  I'm sure I speak on behalf of all of us, that helps us really get a sense of the gravity of the situation even more so, so we appreciate that. I did not prepare a statement. Maybe I should have because maybe that would keep me more disciplined.  But I had spoken to this issue in 2011 as well as 2014.  I prepared a couple of notes.  So if I sort of wander I apologize but I really wanted to, having dealt with this issue really for my entire time on the Council now, almost eight years, I wanted to speak from my head and my heart and address some of the points that were raised during this public hearing. 

Let me just start by saying I hate this issue. I really, really hate this issue. And I hate it because it's been so divisive and it just doesn't go away. You know, I said that, you know, I have been dealing with this my entire time on Council.  Actually I remember when I was running for Council in 2008 and I was walking through the downtown and introducing myself to folks, and I remember going up to somebody and saying, Hi, I'm Paul Aronsohn, running for Council, immediately she jumped right into my face in a somewhat aggressive way and said, What do you think about Valley Hospital?  And so I tried to sort of give my answer and I was trying to do it in a thoughtful way and before I got the words out she's like, Are you against the proposal, are you going to support Valley? And I was struck by how, not only the stridency of it, but it was a false choice.  It was a false choice then, I believed it then, I believe it now, and I'm sure many of us believe that.  I think I speak for a lot of people, it's not a question of one or the other. It's ‑‑ we can like Valley and not like the plan.  And, you know, that's sort of where I started on this.  You know, I felt it then, I felt, you know, I felt it through the entire eight years I have been dealing with this issue.  You know, I worked ‑‑ again, I was on the Council in 2011 when we took up the issue, the 2010 plan.  I was on the ‑‑ I have been on the Planning Board and I was here for the 2013‑2014, and I had a lot of the same concerns that many of you expressed, very strong concerns, I felt very passionately and, you know, for me, I sort of bucket the issue into sort of two buckets. One was sort of the planning and zoning issues, you know, and that's everything from height to setbacks, you know, looking at, you know, sort of the mitigation, all those issues. And then there was sort of the operational issue, if you will.  I don't know a better way to frame it, but very poor operational issues dealing with things like pedestrian traffic, traffic safety, air quality, noise pollution.  You know, those quality of life, those safety issues I think that many of you have addressed over the last couple of days. 

So I tried to bucket those issues.  I bucket them in the sense because the truth is, unless you're against any type of renovation of Valley, we're going to have to deal with those issues.  And, you know, obviously, you know, the bigger the project, you know, perhaps the bigger, you know, those set of issues, the bigger impacts those will have on us. 

But I am confident ‑‑ I think MR. DRILL spoke about some of the renovations that have been done in the schools, I'm confident that, you know, we as the community, the Village officials, school officials, Valley officials, whatever happens, will take great care, great care in providing for the safety and security of the quality of life. 

And, you know, I can assure you ‑‑ I'm not going to be here on this Planning Board, but I'm sure the Planning Board and the next Council will make sure, assuming this goes forward, that those issues are addressed.  Because you're right to raise them, you're right to be concerned about them, you're right to engage us on them, and I can assure you that everybody takes them very, very seriously.

So it was against, you know, against that backdrop with those issues that I spent a lot of time, you know, in context with both the 2011 and the 2014.  You know, asking my questions sometimes maybe a little too aggressively for Valley's taste so, you know, but asking my questions, raising my concerns, listening to the testimony of witnesses and, you know, I have ended up in 2011 being part of a Council that voted down unanimously the 2010 Amendment which is now part of the Master Plan.  I felt very strongly back then and voted that down.  2014, you know, what started off as a 90‑day process ended up being about 15 months and a lot of us spent a lot of time on that thought too, and even on that one I felt compelled to vote against it.  And I didn't do so ‑‑ none of us take joy in, take satisfaction out of voting somebody off the board, or voting something down, I should say, you know, that's not what we're here for.  We like to be proactive, we like to be for ‑‑ but I couldn't find it either in my head or in my heart to support this, so I was very strongly against this. 

But here we are, as Kevin pointed out.  We have a lawsuit.  We have been sued.  Valley filed suit against both the Village Council as well as the Planning Board.  And it's a real shame.  You know, it's a real shame when anyone sues you, particularly someone within your community sues you.  It's just not how it's supposed to be.  And, you know, they sued us because they didn't like the outcome.  They didn't like the outcome, they didn't like the process, they didn't trust the process.  You know, they said it was, you know, capricious, it was not reasonable. 

I disagree.  You know, part of the process ‑‑ the truth of the matter is, unfortunately, this is really unfortunate and I can tell you having been on the Council many years, Valley's not alone.  I mean, concerned residents sued us, too.  We had last year Citizens For A Better Ridgewood sue us.  They filed a suit.  We have got now residents very much in their right now petitioning decisions by the Council, even 5‑0 decisions by Council on the parking deck.  Again, everybody is in their right to do that, but it's just a real shame that we've gotten to this point where people don't trust the process and don't accept the outcome.  Again, everybody's in their right to do what they do, but it's a real shame.  So in terms of the Valley issue, we're here.  And we are, as someone said, between a rock and a hard place.  And it's not a great place to be.  And we have to make some decisions.  And as Kevin pointed out, we need to look at the risks.  We need to look at them very seriously.  And I can tell you through this mediation process, which included, for those of us on the Council, a full day session with the judge who compelled us to come down and spend the day with her and ‑‑ and ‑‑ and ‑‑ in her office, this is a real serious issue. 

And whereas in the past we were able to, you know, vote against the proposal, vote against the ordinance, vote not to go forward with the ordinance or whatever we did, we were able to do that and that basically at least temporarily killed the issue, we don't have that luxury this time.  I can tell you, I have come out of this process over the last several months, including our full day with the judge, concerned.  Concerned that we're not necessarily going to come out of the winning side of this.  And the Council, as you probably know, the Council could not agree to this so the Council is now appearing in court with Valley on May 9th and right now, you know, if nothing happened here or if we voted it down, the judge has the possibility of either, you know, requiring us to accept the 2010 or the 2014, both of which are worse than the 2016.  And we run a real risk here. 

And so we have to weigh that.  And I say that not just as a Planning Board member, I say that frankly as the mayor of this town. We run some risk. We run some risk of financial risk because going to court and then appealing a decision that we don't like costs a lot of money, a lot of your money, and we also run the risk of having something even worse than what we're talking about here today.  I can't tell you ‑‑ I couldn't give you a percentage on what the risk is. I can tell you it's very real though. And so we have to weigh that. And again, we are between a rock and a hard place trying to make a decision. I don't like this. I don't think a judge should be making our decision. This is our decision.  And I understand that hospitals have a regional benefit or however it's characterized. I get that. I recognize it. I'm in health care, too. I understand that. But at the end of the day, we should be able to make some decisions, particularly when they, you know, when you look at the decisions of the Council in 2011 and the Planning Board in 2014, they were pretty strong decisions taken by those two bodies.  Both.  You know, it's not a question of what I want or what I'd like.  It's a reality that we're in the middle of a lawsuit.  It doesn't look good.  And I'm not, you know, I'm not an expert on the issue, but based on everything that I have been able to gather, it doesn't look good.  And so we need to make the best of a bad situation.  And so, you know, I ‑‑ since I have joined the Council in 2008 and the Planning Board in 2012, I really have tried to do what is best for Ridgewood in my mind.  I've let that guide me on every single decision, big and small.  I let that guide me when I was, you know, fighting the good fight in 2011 on this issue.  In 2014, too.  But tonight I need ‑‑ to me, the best thing I can do for Ridgewood is to sort of mitigate the damage, try to protect our town as much as I can and for that reason, I will be supporting the settlement. 

Thank you. 

THE COURT REPORTER:  Can we take a bio break? 


(Whereupon, a short recess is taken.) 

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Ladies and gentlemen, why don't we take our seats so we can continue? 

Thank you very much. 

Michael, I'm going to ask if we can take the roll please? 

Ladies and gentlemen please take your seats. 

Michael, will you please call the roll?





MR. CAFARELLI:  Mr. Nalbantian?  


MR. CAFARELLI:  Mr. Joel? 



MR. REILLY:  Here. 








MS. PATIRE:  Here.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Thank you, Michael. 

Okay. We were about to continue deliberation with David. 

David, would you go next. 

MR. THURSTON:  I would be the happiest member of the board to vote no on the settlement of the lawsuit and amendment to the Master Plan. As you saw earlier today, I rose my hand I live two blocks from Travell school, where my kids went. I live four blocks from BF. I live four blocks from the hospital. I don't think there is a contention of building six years of construction which will be incredibly inconvenient to everybody that lives in our neighborhood.

And I also think that there's no contention that the hospital structure will change the neighborhood. I have heard my neighbors and some friends come to testify to these issues and others. And so from up close and personal I can feel their pain and their concern. However, as a member of this board, it's my duty to represent all the people of the village and not just my interests, my neighbors' interests. And to review the amendment and the litigation to determine the best outcome for all the people of the village.

I know our yes vote has consequences. And it's the duty of this board and every member of the board to review these consequences in connection with their decision. First, I think it's important to note that many, many people talk about it's very minor differences between the 2014 and 2016 amendments. That's important because that's what we're here to talk about during this time period. However, the real analysis and I think Kevin raised it and I think Paul raised it is, between the 2010 and the 2016 amendment because if we say no and we go to court and we lose, we will have spent all your tax dollars and end up with a potential problem which is 30 percent bigger than what the 2016 amendment provides. Also I think comparison between 2000 and 2016 is a false one because the 2016 [sic] board was not ‑‑ had the sword of Damocles over their head due to the litigation. And in that time point, at that timeframe, in that opportunity all they had to do was look at the facts. And that board determined at that point that they didn't like it. And that was their prerogative.

But in the context now we need to look at it with litigation, I think as both Kevin and Paul have said. 

Now, I'm the last one to back down from a fight. However as a recovering lawyer, in this circumstance, I need to look at the facts and the law and in my estimation make a determination what's best for the village.  I particularly look at it as if I were in England because in the British side, the lawyer who loses pays the other lawyer. So when you're making that decision there it's much, much more difficult one than it is here.  So what I decided was the fair thing for me to do was read everything everybody said here, go back and read all the testimony from the 2000 ‑‑ 2013‑2014 hearings. And read all the court proceedings that have happened today. 

It's my estimation that we are not a winner in that lawsuit. And I based it on a number of things.

First, the witnesses that were called by the board, in almost every respect, agreed with the witnesses of the hospital.


MR. THURSTON:  So when you go in a lawsuit before the court and your witnesses agree with the plaintiff's witnesses, you're in a pretty difficult position. 


FEMALE AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Who hired them, seriously? 

MR. THURSTON:  They were hired by the board ‑‑


MR. THURSTON:  ‑‑ the witnesses. 

Now ‑‑

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Please allow David to speak.

MR. THURSTON:  ‑‑ the more important aspect is now we have control of the process.


MR. THURSTON:  Valley has agreed through ‑‑

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Ladies and gentlemen ‑‑ 

MR. THURSTON:  ‑‑ their ‑‑

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  David, excuse me.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have taken some time. We've gone through a process. We've heard your comments, please allow the board members to speak at this time, thank you, without interruption.

Thank you.

MR. THURSTON:  We have control over the process for those particular items which Paul again mentioned.  And I don't need to repeat them:  Child safety, pedestrians, trucking, those are all items that we, working with Valley, will have a much better opportunity to control than continuing the fight.  If we continue the battle, we'll have no control over these issues.  So with all that said, I'll be voting yes on the amendment, but yet hold Valley's feet to the fire to ensure the concerns of the public are properly attended to.


Anyone else?



I'd like to thank all of the participants of the public, board members, Valley Hospital and the professionals for participating in this matter. The whole backdrop of this is the Planning Board and the Village were sued.  And there's a lawsuit and now we have a settlement proposal.  And we have to decide whether to approve or reject the settlement.  So it's basically to weigh the risks and the costs of an adverse result in this case versus a settlement with compromise and with a known result.

There's factors to consider in this.  The 2012 [sic] Amendment is still in effect, which is a much larger proposal.  The 2013‑2014 was a reduction and that was defeated, but then again we have this litigation and its associated risks and costs. The 2016 proposal is a ‑‑ provides for a reduction, mitigation and some concessions.  We also have to consider again the expert testimony that was provided, that's going to factor into the lawsuit that the experts for Valley Hospital and for the board, their testimony were kind of the same and supported the ‑‑ the expansion. Also the Court's going to consider that the hospital's an inherently beneficial use, throughout the region and in the village in general. And we cannot just make our focus just on the neighborhood. We don't necessarily want Valley to fail or leave. This would create a lot of issues within itself. So what do we have to do?  We have to balance and determine what's in the best interests of Ridgewood. This is a big project.  I do have concerns. And I wish Valley wouldn't pursue it, but you know, here we are.  A decision has to be made. If we deny this proposal the litigation will continue. There'll be high costs, risk of losing, and then just lose control of the process.  And I see a very big downside for that. 

If we approve we do take some control of the process. We replace the 2012 ‑‑ 2010 ‑‑ 2012 amendment. We achieve a reduction.  We mitigate certain detriments. We achieve certain concessions which are on the list of conditions.  And I believe this would be the better course of action. And it doesn't end with us.  We just make the policy statement here, then it's going to go to the Council.  The Council is going to take up the issue and further review it. And if it comes to pass that this project proceeds, then it'll come back for a site plan and developer's agreement and then they'll have ‑‑ there will be a lot more specifics to be worked out.  And we'll further consider any other effects and provide for them. This is a real tough decision and I think Paul summed it up, I hate this issue.  In a sense you wish it would go away. You wish there was just cooperation and that there could be a happy middle ground. And I don't take this decision lightly. And I'd rather not make it. But I think just taking all factors considered, it would be in the best interest to approve this settlement.

Thank you. 

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Thank you, Richard.

Someone else? 


COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN:  Thank you, Charles. 

So it's my turn.  You know back in the fall when the suggestion of mediation was proposed I jumped at the opportunity to engage in the process, hopeful that it would be a positive outcome for our residents and it would allow us an opportunity to embrace Valley and allow them to expand and modernize in a way that was appropriate to the neighborhood. I saw it as an opportunity to unify this very divisive group or issue and an opportunity to move forward and grow. What I learned in the process is that mediation takes two parties to be willing to compromise. And when the outcome of mediation is the benefits and the burden of the mediation are some inequitably distributed, it doesn't ‑‑ it's simply not a compromise.  I don't see this as a compromise.  Any suggestion that this Master Plan Amendment is an appropriate replacement to a grossly inappropriate 2010 Master Plan Amendment should be rejected.  I heard a colleague just use the term "inherently beneficial".  Inherently beneficial is a term exclusive to a use variance in a zoning application.  It has no place in this conversation, simply no place here.  I listened to residents speak and I wanted to use this quote that that shared this evening.  This is dated May 6, 2014, Blais Brancheau:  There are instances when the detriment of a project is so great that it can be rejected, even if there is beneficial use. I am a firm believer that we have the right and the obligation to zone within our boundaries that we, as the Planning Board, and themunicipal body, governing body, have the right to zone within our boundaries and to make those decisions. When I hear that sound planning is going to be based out of fear of litigation I have a very big problem with it.  Personally I do believe ‑‑

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN:  ‑‑ I heard another colleague this evening say that it's his job to not just represent residents that are here this evening, but all the residents of the Village of Ridgewood.  I think he erred in his assessment of his obligation; his obligation as a planning board member is to engage in sound planning, beginning and end of it. A resident this evening identified this board as elected officials.  That's not the case. This is a the Planning Board of appointed members. They are volunteers. They work hard. They're dedicated. They spend, obviously, long hours. God only knows long hours. We're all tired. But they're appointed. There are only two elected members sitting here that represent really the people, and that would be myself and MAYOR ARONSOHN. 

So when I listened to this whole argument and, you know I was actually there in 2010.  I was there in 2010.  I listened to all those meetings back then. I was at the George Washington Middle School in 2010 when the final vote came for the 2010 Master Plan Amendment. And the lone ‑‑ the only no vote that was cast was by former Planning Board Member Morgan Hurley.  And his no vote was very simple. He said, It's just too big, no. 

In 2014, Kevin Reilly stated, It's just too big, no. I do believe this is a detriment. There is a traffic impact that ‑‑ of trucks, hundreds of trucks a day, a hundred trucks a day.  I think the evidence would show that it is a detriment to the neighborhood. And the detriment is in no way, shape or form, outweighed by the benefits. So I am going be voting no. And my vote no will be very simple, it's too big.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Thank you, Councilwoman.


MS. DOCKRAY:  I'm glad Susan went before me and spoke so eloquently and so effectively about this amendment. I'm actually just going to take a few minutes to actually address the components of the amendment, which I thought we were supposed to do in evaluating the changes from the 2014 to the 2016.  So I am going to do that first and then I'll try to address some of the broader issues. First off, as we all know the enclosed floor area from ‑‑ is reduced from 1,056,400 square feet to 1,024,900 square feet, for a total of 31,500 square feet.  While this downward reduction is a plus, it represents just a nominal 3 percent change. I've heard that many times and I did my calculation. I think it's 2.98 percent. The mass of this building ‑‑ the buildings, clearly remains imposing as measured by this indicator. There is no positive gain from the 2014 to the 2016 revision in this matter, in this area, no real gain. On the positive side, the height of the North building is reduced by one story or 14 feet. Thank you for this concession. 

However, the photo simulation of the North building shows that combined with its width and depth of the structure, and its proximity to the property line, this structure will still have significant negative visual impact on the surrounding properties. No gain. On the minus side ‑‑ the two minus sides, there's a big one for me, the large reduction of the setbacks along Van Dien Avenue for both the North and West buildings from 120 and 100 respectively to 47 feet for the first levels, is a significant problem. Even though the setback is greater for higher floors, the fact that a 24‑hour, 7‑day a week commercial operation including a restaurant at that location with setback ‑‑ set back only 47 feet from the street lined with single‑family homes, to me this represents poor planning and will exacerbate the incompatibility of the hospital with the surrounding neighborhoods.  This provision of the amendment has clearly made the 2016 proposal worse. Looking to mitigate the visual impact of these large buildings, the proposal to green screen upper stories appeared on the surface to perhaps be a plus in favor of the amendment.

As you have learned from these hearings, however, the possible effectiveness of the green screening is likely to be extremely limited as only 15 to 20 percent of the mechanical facades could benefit from this treatment. 

Additionally, there was no visual evidence provided to me that confirms that this treatment will actually mitigate the visual impact the massing of these buildings.  So I see no positive gain, no real positive gain.  The addition of the campus‑like environment/landscaping clause, while a nice thought, I believe will not improve the site in any way that will positively impact the surrounding residential neighborhood.  The lot coverage here is enormous, we are dealing with huge buildings and lots of pavements thus limiting the ability of these techniques to create a parklike environment for people to enjoy.

This provision does not significantly enhance the 2016 amendment over the 2014.  While I appreciate the efforts of all sides in the negotiations which brought this amendment to the table, I feel strongly that this amendment does not represent a significant improvement over the 2014 amendment.  I hope we can do better for both the village and the hospital in this matter.  I am deeply disappointed.  I do not endorse the 2016 amendment. And I will be voting no on the '16 ‑‑ 2016 amendment.

MS. DOCKRAY:  And I actually ‑‑ and had I gone out first I would have called upon my fellow board members to vote no as well. Now in listening to ‑‑ actually most of the attorneys on the board and Paul as well, I am ‑‑ had a little bit of time to reflect on the risk factor. And I'm generally not a risk‑taker, not at all. Anyone who knows me, I am really risk‑adverse. I always put the money in the meter, you know when I park my car and that whole bit.

But in this case I think it behooves us to take the risk.  I think our role here is to provide a Master Plan Amendment that will create a vision for our community and commit a long standing vision for our community.  I think for years you can see it in our land use.  You can see it in our neighborhoods, in our downtown, Ridgewood has worked really hard to preserve its residential neighborhoods and character. It's protected its residential neighborhood. It's protected its residents. And I do not feel at this time that we should be steering away from that for fear of litigation.  I fear if we lose, at least we would have tried. And I am not ‑‑ I think consideration of the financial risk, I mean sometimes in public service, in government things come quickly and fast and they don't cost too much.  But sometimes they cost a lot. But they're worth it. They're just worth it.  And I think it's worth taking the risk to go forward to protect the integrity of our Master Plan and the Village of Ridgewood.

Thank you. 


Debbie?  Khidir? 

MR. ABDALLA:  Thank you all for being here. 

I wasn't here for the previous 2010 and 2014.  And I don't know if that's an advantage or a disadvantage at this point, but I read the transcripts.  And without going into a lot of details about the mediation process, I looked at things, I guess, you know, we have lawyers on the board and politicians. Looking at things from my perspective as a resident, first, also from my training as an architect, and my friend and colleague Isabelle is not able to be here, but, you know, I mean this one by far is very difficult for me.  When we went through the multi‑housing it was a little easier for some reason because it's downtown.  And there's a whole host of issues there that makes it a little easier.  But this one, in a residential neighborhood, and it's right next to a school.  So I went back to the original issue of air, light and mass.  And obviously the construction logistics associated with a six‑year ‑‑ six‑year project.  It is ‑‑ it is very difficult if I put myself in the shoes of my neighbors, my ‑‑ people in my community who are living right next to the hospital and having to go through six years of construction. But I also considered the fact that, amendment or not, if Valley Hospital decided that they will modernize, whether it's half a million or a million square feet, again, speaking from my background, also as construction manager, the inconvenience is almost the same.  So I put aside the construction and I looked at the air, light, space issues or call it mass.  And the reality is, during the mediation process there was a lot of improvement.  And, obviously, we all look at things from different backgrounds and from different training, even the evidence that we look at, we bring our own perspective and we bring our own training and experience into it. I really like the fact that Valley is committed to sustainability and they're willing to put green roofs and green walls. I like the fact that they are committed to treat the facades differently so they can break down the mass.  Even the setbacks within the building, itself.  So all and all I felt that the ‑‑ there was a great deal of improvement in this latest amendment and for that reason I am voting yes.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Thank you, Khadir.


MS. PATIRE:  Hi.  My name is Debbie and I am the newest appointee on the planning board.  I've been here, I believe, since the holidays.  So I understand the comment made about Groundhog's Day.  I feel like this is what we've been living the last couple of months. I would like to thank all the volunteers on our board.  We spent countless hours thinking about, trying to figure out what would be best for our village. When I joined the planning board a few months ago, I joined and I took an oath to make sure I made decisions that were best for our community. There was a member of the audience who spoke tonight about ‑‑ asked a question on who on the planning board lived over by Valley Hospital. And I try to look at it not as somebody who would or wouldn't live by Valley Hospital, but our community as a whole, and especially the neighborhood over by Valley Hospital.

So just because I don't live there doesn't mean I wouldn't understand things that would happen with construction.  I happen to work for a developer. At this point in time I do not believe that the plan that The Valley Hospital has put forward is in the best interests of our village.  If you look on the Valley website it states their values as "SERVE", "S" for service, "E" for excellence, "R" for respect, "V" for value, and "E" for ethics. What I and the residents would like to see are the same values applied to The Valley Hospital plan.  Yes, I am nervous about the lawsuit and I am nervous about the evidence that is in all the documentation that I spent the last couple of months reading.  But I do not believe that that is a reason that we should vote yes to this Master Plan Amendment. So I will be voting no to this Master Plan Amendment.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Thank you.  Thank you, Debbie.

First of all, I would like to thank all of the public, camera people who are here this evening, the police and fire departments, most importantly the students who came to speak to us this after ‑‑ this evening.  But also the board and my colleagues, Katie, our professionals, Blais, Laura and Kim and The Valley Hospital for participating in this process. In our process over the past several days there's been an attempt to settle ongoing litigation between the board and Valley Hospital. And, specifically, as it relates to the 2013 and 2014 Master Plan Amendment that the board had then rejected.

The 2014 Amendment was, an attempt to serve as a better solution over the less attractive 2010 Master Plan Amendment which is still in effect today as pointed out by my colleagues. So why would the board settle?  Boards in the midst of litigation such as this could make a decision to settle for a combination of reasons.  Here are a few that I considered.  A settlement can avoid having this matter go to trial and, therefore, save the municipality and taxpayers time and a great deal of money.  But I agree with Wendy, that's not the worse ‑‑ that's not the most important thing in my mind. What's more important is that settlement could also give Ridgewood zoning control and, therefore, avoid having the court make the final decision and potentially give the judge sole control. This, in my opinion, is key. Thank you again for your questions and comments. One comment ‑‑ one common thread that was throughout, that I heard throughout yesterday and part of today was that the reduction was only 3 percent in overall size. 

Yes, it's a small reduction over the rejected 2014 proposed plan, but in my view 3 percent is only one element of several that we need to consider, including the 14‑foot height reduction of the North building and important an opportunity to possibly control the visual appeal of any structure on the site.  I don't underestimate the value of those elements and I do acknowledge that there are compromises, big compromises regarding setbacks.

However, with this settlement we have also brought forward a lengthy list of conditions that impact the broader range of considerations including those that revolve around traffic, safety, construction, the impact with surrounding neighborhoods and, most important safety of our children.  And there will be more of those conditions going forward. 

Those conditions are a powerful starting point and they are placeholders that are meant to be further ‑‑ that are meant to further flush out ‑‑ to be further fleshed out and strengthened in the future as the process for establishing ordinance by the Village Council, site plan applications and construction agreements.  And I trust that through these and other future Ridgewood control processes, the safety of our children will be kept as the top priority. And I do agree with Paul on that point. I don't know how we would not. This is very important to my mind and without settlement there is no guarantee at all that any of them or all of them would be in place or that they could be built upon in a substantial way going forward. I, therefore, support the settlement and I am also inclined to vote in favor of the 2016 amending the Master Plan. Okay. With that, unless there are further comments by the board, what I would like to do is ask if there is a motion and a vote this evening.

MR. THURSTON:  I am going to make a motion to support the settlement of the litigation and adoption of the amendment to the Master Plan.


Is there a second please? 


CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Thank you, Richard.

Michael, would you please call the roll? 





MR. CAFARELLI:  Mr. Nalbantian?  


MR. CAFARELLI:  Mr. Joel? 



MR. REILLY:  Yes. 









CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Okay.  Katie, does that pass? 

MS. RAZIN:  Yes.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  So the motion is passed to adopt the settlement ‑‑ to approve the settlement and to adopt the 2016 Master Plan Amendment, proposed amendment.

MR. DRILL:  Thank you very much for your time.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Everyone, thank you very much.

Motion to adjourn tonight's meeting?  Motion to adjourn? 

VICE CHAIRMAN JOEL:  Motion to adjourn.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  We have a motion to adjourn.


MR. THURSTON:  Second.


(Whereupon, all board members respond  in the affirmative.)


(No response.)

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  We're adjourned.  Meeting is adjourned.

Thank you everyone. (Whereupon, this matter is concluded. Time noted 11:37 p.m.)

The meeting was adjourned at 11:37 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

                                                                                                Michael Cafarelli

                                                                                                Board Secretary

Date approved: April4, 2017  

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