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Sunday, September 2, 2018

First, the Borgs screwed Hackensack; now, they've turned their backs on sub veterans

The USS Ling, stuck in the muck of the Hackensack River, in April 2016. The wealthy Borg family have washed their hands of saving the World War II submarine from being scrapped or sunk for an artificial reef. Below, the Ling in a photo made today, weeks after vandals flooded the vessel with Hackensack River water.



Editor's note: On Sept. 14, 2019, a group of submarine enthusiasts launched an effort to repair the USS Ling and move the submarine to a proposed naval museum on the Ohio River in Kentucky. 

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- The Borgs are back in Hackensack. 

The onetime owners of The Record are planning to develop nearly 20 acres along River Street -- land they held onto after selling the family publishing company and its many daily and weekly newspapers to Gannett for $39.3 million in cash in July 2016, and laughing all the way to the bank.

But they've washed their hands of the USS Ling, the World War II submarine that has been tied up to their property since 1974 under a $1-year-lease with the New Jersey Naval Museum.

Then-Publisher Stephen A. Borg of Tenafly ended that lease in 2016, claiming the sub wasn't on family property.

A few weeks ago, vandals "cut locks and opened hatches to flood the submarine" with Hackensack River water, The Record reported in a story that was reprinted in the Hackensack Chronicle on Aug. 24.

Reporters Melanie Anzidel and Rodrigo Torrejon made no effort to contact the Borg family for comment about the vandalism or the sub's future.

The damage may be beyond repair, they reported.


Abandoned Hackensack

No one has ever measured the full economic and psychological impact of Stephen Borg's money saving decision to shut down the 150 River St. headquarters of The Record in 2009, and essentially abandon Hackensack, where the once-great local daily newspaper had prospered for more than 110 years.

Most employees were scattered to a Rockaway Township  plant, where The Record and Herald News had been printed since 2006; and to cramped offices in a Garret Mountain office building overlooking Route 80 in Woodland Park. 

Then, Hackensack restaurants like Naturally Good and other businesses on and near Main Street closed, and those that remained open, like Solari's, a onetime Borg favorite, struggled.

The decline in Hackensack news was easy to see, as was the increasing focus on Passaic County and Paterson, even though those stories were of little interest to the majority of readers in Bergen County, one of the wealthiest in New Jersey.

To save money, The Record stopped printing separate Local sections for news from Bergen and Passaic counties, cramming everything into one thin edition.

Downsizing

In 2008, Borg triggered the biggest downsizing in The Record's history, targeting the oldest and highest-paid newsroom and photography employees.

Then, the Borgs delivered the final blow, selling North Jersey Media Group, publisher of The Record, to Gannett, which eventually laid off more than 350 NJMG employees.





Luxury units

On Aug. 3, the weekly Hackensack Chronicle, which no longer has its own staff, reprinted another story from The Record, reporting the buildings at 150 River St. will be taken down this month.


Employees of the Vannuzzi Group, a demolition and recycling company based in Kinnelon, have been stripping the buildings since late April.

The property, which is in a flood zone, was assessed for $24,947,400, and Macromedia Inc., a Borg family company, has been paying $790,053.40 annually in taxes, according to NJParcels.com.

The project includes 600 luxury residential units -- 100 less than city planners had envisioned -- a public plaza and river walk, and retail along River Street, The Record's story said, quoting a Macromedia spokesman.

Poor editing

The story, by Melanie Anzidel, is an example of how poorly The Record is edited more than 2 years after the Gannett purchase:

"The former headquarters of The Record newspaper ...," the story begins.

But the reporter apparently was worried readers wouldn't know what "former" means, so she added the headquarters were "once housed at 150 River St. in Hackensack."

Here's the lead paragraph in its redundant entirety:

"The former headquarters of The Record newspaper, once housed at 150 River St. in Hackensack, is slated for demolition."

The Ling

Bob Sommer, identified as a Macromedia spokesman, said the New Jersey Naval Museum was "evicted," and agreed to vacate by Aug. 14.

But, Sommer added, the submarine "is not part of the redevelopment project, and its removal, which ... could cost millions, is not part of the eviction," The Record said.

"This was a despicable act," Sommer said of the flooding of the submarine, and the theft of plaques valued at more than $10,000, adding he hopes police make arrests and that the suspects are convicted and punished "to the fullest extent allowed."

3 developers

Macromedia is expected to partner with the Hampshire Real Estate Cos. and Russo Development to build on The Record site.

Jon F. Hanson, chairman of Hampshire, and Malcolm A. Borg of Englewood, former chairman of North Jersey Media Group, are close friends who once co-owned a private jet.



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