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East Rutherford, NJ wants adult entertainment zone in Meadowlands

New Jersey [northjersey.com]- An adult playground of strip clubs, porn stores, massage parlors and tattoo shops could be coming to an industrial area in the East Rutherford Meadowlands.

The borough hopes to create a special district for X-rated businesses on roughly 10 lots not far from Berry’s Creek. It’s an effort aimed at keeping sex shops and go-go joints out of residential areas, officials said.

But judging from the surprised reaction of some of the people who work nearby, establishing an adult entertainment zone will be anything but child’s play.

“This is the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard,” said Dan Shoman, general manager of Masque Sound, a company located near the proposed zone.

The zone would run along East Union Avenue east of the rail tracks to the dead end at Berry’s Creek, and also include a section of Murray Hill Parkway and a side street.

Thursday was the first Shoman had heard of the borough’s efforts to limit adult businesses to that part of town, which is zoned light industrial.

“I understand the concept, but it just sounds so seedy,” Shoman said. “I wonder if they’re going to vend crack on the corner. I can’t believe the citizens of East Rutherford would allow this to happen.”

Stephanie Alessio, who works for nearby Powerline Imports, agreed. “I think this is a bad idea,” she said. “This area is for businesses and offices. It’s not suitable for adult entertainment.”

East Union Avenue, a wide boulevard with bicycle lanes, is home to roughly a dozen warehouses and office buildings that are set back from the street with green lawns.

Across Berry’s Creek is the Meadowlands Sports Complex. A half-mile north up Murray Hill Parkway in Carlstadt, there are a couple of hotels. Stiletto’s, an adult nightclub, is on Route 120 near the hotels.

Mayor James Cassella defended the new ordinance, which passed its first reading on Tuesday. “We have an ordinance on the books already, but it isn’t specific enough,” he said. “We’re trying to do what the law says — that you have to designate an area. You can’t just say, ‘You’re not allowed.’ ”

The mayor said the ordinance is needed to prevent adult establishments from opening near schools, and that the negative reactions have taken him by surprise. “Nobody thought this was a big deal,” he said. “You have to start somewhere, so we introduced the ordinance.”

Next, the ordinance must be adopted by the Planning Board and submitted to the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission because the area in question falls inside the NJMC’s jurisdiction. If it passes those hurdles, which Cassella says may take months, the council could bring it to a final vote.

Cassella said neighboring Carlstadt was unable to stop an adult establishment from opening outside its adult entertainment district last year because a judge ruled that the borough had failed to get the NJMC’s approval.

But Carlstadt Mayor Will Roseman said that it wouldn’t make much difference: “I hate to sound pessimistic, but my experience is that these ordinances don’t help.”

Christopher Gale, a spokesman for the NJMC, said the agency would review the plan as soon as East Rutherford submits it, but would also take the court ruling into account.

“The judge ruled that a municipality cannot enforce an ordinance declaring a red-light district within the Meadowlands Commission’s district,” Gale said.

The plan did have its share of supporters along East Union Avenue on Thursday.

“The area is out of the way,” said Matt Molnar of Powerline Imports. “There are no schools or family oriented stores here.”

Marissa DeGrado-Gross of C&W Pressroom Products said: “It’s not going to offend us. We get in our cars at five o’clock and drive home.”

She said the avenue recently was home to some R-rated entertainment: “Part of the last episode of ‘The Sopranos’ was filmed across the street.”

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