Sunday, June 10, 2012

Closter Plaza

When this sign was new it must have looked like the Jetsons half a century ago. The future had come to Closter.  Closter, like much of Bergen County, remained farmland and some estates throughout the first half of the 20th century. Then the war came, and with peace, the suburbs. When the mall was built, which is adjacent to a country club, which has both a golf course and a miniature golf course, I wonder what people thought when the first saw this sign, when it was new. Finally a shopping center in our little village? Or was it more anger? Did the old timers, descendants of Dutch settlers, see it as a last straw? Did they resent the family who sold out their farm to the developers? Where they the last hold outs or the first to sell? And the new residents, families with husbands who fought in WWII then bought their first home with the G.I. Bill, escaping the grimy city to give their children the American ideal, did they see the sign and say just what this town needs or was seen as an omen of increasing disappointment – we didn’t move out of filthy Jersey City just to see our woodlands turned into a bunch of department stores! One wonders what they think of it now. Notice the word plaza, this was a smaller version of an “open-air” mall, which predated the enclosed mall, or the strip mall or the supercenter, which is a strip mall with a Target or Home Depot. Closter Plaza is not on a highway, just a two lane country road. Traffic could be a nightmare, but I doubt that’s much of a problem. The plaza is as rundown as the rusting sign. There’s a K-Mart, a dollar store, a massage parlor. Half the stores are closed down, out of business. Plenty of parking.  There was a time in America when suburbs flourished and cities decayed, but as a kid in the suburbs there wasn’t exactly a lot to do, so you went to a place like the Closter Plaza hang out.   Seems the opposite is happening now. A quick google search reveals that the plaza did file for bankruptcy in 2012 -- $50 million in liabilities, $ 10 million in assets. The plaza was part of a real estate holding based investment group, whose finances deteriorated as the housing bubble burst, another horde of locusts unleashed by Wall Street malfeasance during the Bush administration. According to one comment in a story I found, dated 2010:  "As a result, the finances of the shopping center deteriorated… and they became delinquent in some of their obligations, primarily taxes due to the town." As of March of 2012, the bankruptcy court organized the finances and a revival of the plaza is moving ahead. A Whole Foods is coming! What about the sign, I wonder. Can it be restored, recreated in the Mad Men style? Will it be torn down and replaced, even, renamed? Notice the square sign poles, I didn’t notice this until I cropped the damn shot. That’s barbed wire wrapped around the poles, one guesses to dissuade teenagers – well anybody, but let’s face it teenagers are the ones who think to do this sort of thing – from climbing up the poles to the sign. I’m sure it happened before the wire, let’s hope they took pictures. You think about doing that sort of thing growing up in a suburb because you’ve quickly done everything there was to do in town and you’re still too young to move away.

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