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Hertz's exit hurts, people of New Jersey town say

May 11, 2013
Residents and businesses of Park Ridge react to He...
Residents and businesses of Park Ridge react to He...: Residents and businesses of Park Ridge react to Hertz move. (video by Andrew West/
Edward and Delores Cornell are greeted by Lonnie Pellechia at the Ridge Diner on Friday in Park Ridge, N.J. Cornell, a former mayor, said he is disappointed that Hertz is moving. / Andrew West/
Students walk through downtown Park Ridge. The town is about to lose Hertz to Estero.

At a glance: Park Ridge, N.J.

Park Ridge is a 2.6-square mile residential community located in the north-central part of Bergen County. The borough is part of a nine-community area known as the Pascack Valley.
The population dropped by 63 people to 8,645 between 2000 and 2010. Meanwhile, formerly sleepy Estero, the Hertz global headquarters’ new location, woke up in the decade between 2000 and 2010 and soared to a population of about 22,000.
Park Ridge is tiny, but mighty in corporate wallop.
From the Park
Ridge website:

• In 1982, Sony established its North America headquarters ina 225,000-square-foot, three-story complex on a 30-acre parcel.
• In 1986, National Utilities Services took occupancy of a 75,250-square-foot office building for its international headquarters and in 1988 completed a 64,000-square-foot addition.
• In 1987, the Marriott Corp.opened a 195,400-square-foot, 289-room motel.
• In September 1988, Hertz Corp. opened its international headquarters in a 225,000-square-foot complex on a 15-acre tract.
• As of 2011, the total of these four corporate tax assessments is $88,250,000, or 5.4 percent of the borough’s assessments.


Map: Proposed location of Hertz world headquarters in Lee County

More coverage of Hertz moving headquarters to Lee County

PARK RIDGE, N.J. — In this tiny town, resentment and resignation mingle with recognition that the high cost of living, taxes, government costs and regulation probably drove Hertz out of its bucolic surroundings into the waiting arms of Southwest Florida.

Some workers and businesses in the quaint downtown area seemed to think that the company’s move to Estero was almost inevitable, the unsavory consequences of a rotten economy. But that doesn’t make it any less difficult to accept.

“Good for you, bad for us,” said Frank DeGaetani, a barber at the town barbershop, one of the mom-and-pop type businesses that make the center of town looks like it’s lost in time.

There’s a gazebo in the park, a vintage railroad station, and something Floridians consider extinct: Full-service gas stations where attendants actually come out and pump your gas.

Here, rambling estate homes share the lush green streets with corporate headquarters of the Big Boys — names like Sony, Mercedes Benz, BMW and Hertz. Now there will be one less.

“What are you going to do?” DeGaetini said. “Jersey’s an expensive place to live.”

Outside the shop, the same barber pole stands where it’s been since a shave and a hot towel was 10 cents. They have pictures to prove it.

Everything has a trickle-down effect, DeGaetani said. He’s seen a considerable drop-off in business from townspeople and Hertz employees who would drop by during lunch for a quick haircut — $17, buzzcut $16.

One block away, Edward Cornell, 83, sat at a table in The Ridge Diner with his wife, Dolores, just as he has for more than half a century.

“The food is always good and the portions unbelievable,” Dolores said. “You see people you’ve known for years and years.” Patrons also include some workers from the Hertz office who grab a quick lunch from time to time.

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Edward was mayor of Park Ridge in the early to mid-70s “I feel real bad about it,” he said of the move. “They should have come to us and the town first. “Most of the residents found out through rumors,” he said.

His administration worked long and hard for six years to get the woodland rezoned to industrial so Hertz could build here, Cornell said. “They owe it to us to at least keep us informed about what they want to do.”

Dolores also said both area businesses and residents will suffer. “The restaurants and everybody catered to them. They catered to the restaurants,” she said.

One of those restaurants is Esty Street, a longtime Park Ridge fine-dining establishment. On Friday, one of the specials created by chef Chris Curado was a 22-ounce, cowboy-cut ribeye steak, served with truffle creamed spinach.

“I know it’s definitely going to have an impact on us,” he said about the Hertz move. How much, he doesn’t know. The restaurant is often frequented by company executives and used for corporate functions. In fact, the company is having a dinner there Tuesday, Curado said.

New businesses also worry. Joe Eichner just opened his Creative Services Masonry Supply Center down the street from the police station in December. “It’s tough to say, other than a lot of local residents may potentially go to Florida,” he said. “Local residents are key to our business.” Contractors also buy his materials, so there could be a double whammy, he said.

“It’s going to have a big bearing on Park Ridge and the tax rolls,” said Barbara Colella, who lives in nearby Saddle River, across the street from Hertz CEO Mark Frissora. “You can’t pay people enough to live here,” she said. And there are too many regulations and government fees. In fact, her gardener just quit because the town now requires them to buy a permit to work, she said.

Colella, who wore a bright pink dress and a double row of pearls, said a lot of CEOS live on her street. So do theater people who work in New York City and music business executives who have limousines pick them up in the morning and bring them back at night.

Colella owns Valentino’s Italian restaurant in Park Ridge and is also a real estate agent who has sold some homes on the street. Richard Nixon once lived here and singer Mary Kay Blige has a $12 million estate here, she said.

The sprawling mansion owned by Frissora cost about $4 million and includes an indoor basketball court, she said. Here, homes costing $700,000 are considered low-end.

Hertz won’t be the last to move, she said. “I think some are already following suit and I think there are more to come.”

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